Teacher videos: 5 reasons why making your own videos can help with distance learning

You’ve probably used plenty of educational videos in your classroom in the past. But have you tried pre-recording your own videos for distance learning?

Teacher-made videos can be a great way to support all students, especially the 1 in 5 students who learn and think differently. When you make your own videos, you can tailor the instruction to the needs of your students. You can also bring a personal connection to the online learning environment. 

Here are five reasons why you — and even your students — might create your own videos. 

1. Make your written directions easier to understand with video.

With distance learning, you may be relying on written directions more than ever. But many students find it hard to read lengthy instructions. For one, students who struggle with working memory may have trouble understanding a long series of instructions. 

To make assignment directions clearer and more digestible, make a short video to go along with them. Students will benefit from being able to replay the video and hear the directions more than once. 

If an assignment has many steps, you can make multiple short videos to break the directions into smaller parts. These videos will lighten the cognitive load and help students who have trouble with focus. 

In your videos, talk through the steps of the assignment. Make sure to model an example and share your thinking aloud — two important steps in explicit instruction. To show an example on screen while explaining it, you can make a screen capture video where you record your computer screen with a tool like Screencastify

Watch how Understood Teacher Fellow Lauren Jewett uses Screencastify for a math lesson. This can also be a great way to explain how to do an assignment.

Written directions and video should share the same information. Make sure all videos include closed captioning and transcripts for accessibility, which is easy to do using YouTube or transcription tools like Otter.ai, voice typing in Google Docs, and Microsoft’s Dictation and OneNote.

2. Use video to make your lessons more UDL-friendly.

Making videos for your students doesn’t only help them understand written directions. Videos can also help them understand any part of your lessons, including the content.

Planning lessons with Universal Design for Learning (UDL) helps reduce barriers to learning by offering multiple ways to engage. Making videos can help you offer students more ways to access the information. 

The same thing applies to teaching content. For example, you might offer three ways for students to engage in a new topic, like learning about gravity. You might allow students to choose to read an article about gravity, attend a live video lesson (synchronous), or watch a pre-recorded video lesson (asynchronous). 

The pre-recorded video, in particular, can remove barriers to learning in many ways, including:

  • Students who need more processing time can pause and rewind the video.

  • Students who benefit from repetition can watch it as many times as they want.

  • Students can take notes as they wish at their own pace.

  • Students who are deaf or hard of hearing can read the closed captioning.

  • Students who benefit from being given notes can review a transcript. 

Notice how Understood Teacher Fellow TJ Thornton has enabled closed captioning (CC at the bottom right of the video screen) on their math video. Students can view a transcript by clicking the “more” menu (three dots) and then selecting “open transcript,” or read a transcript created using Otter.ai

Video can also give students multiple ways to represent their learning — a key part of UDL. In math, students can make a video to explain how they solved a problem instead of writing about it. Or they create a video of themselves reading a selection of text and orally demonstrating a literacy skill.

You can explicitly teach students how to use tools like Seesaw and Flipgrid so they can make their own simple videos. 

3. Make distance learning more equitable by pre-recording videos.

Not all students and their families can access learning tools at every moment of the day. In that sense, live video can be a barrier to learning for some students, including those who learn and think differently and English language learners. 

Some of your students may be sharing devices, have limited or unstable internet access, or need to leave their homes to get connected. Other students may have responsibilities at home, like helping a sibling, which makes it hard for them to meet at designated times. Younger students may need the help of a family member to access online learning. They may not be able to join a live video session if there is no one available to help at that moment. 

When you record videos for students to watch on their own time, you make learning more equitable. Students can access the videos when and how they want to. Here are some best practices to consider:

  • Give students at least a few days to watch the videos and complete related assignments. 

  • Make sure to schedule deadlines through the week (not just on Fridays), so students and families can watch them when they’re able, including on weekends.

  • With students and families juggling more responsibilities, they may not be able to watch every video. Make it clear which videos are the highest priorities to watch and which might be optional.

4. Build relationships with personalized video.

Positive student-teacher relationships help students learn — especially during times of stress or trauma. If you’re teaching students at a distance, it may seem harder to form those relationships. 

You can build relationships through live class meetings, personalized emails, and phone calls. Adding personalized videos to this list gives students another option for connecting with you on their own time. Students can use video to connect with each other, too. 

Knowing your students’ strengths and growth areas helps you create personalized videos that meet your students where they are. For example, maybe you’ve noticed that some students need help with note-taking. You can provide strategy instruction by creating a video to model different ways to take notes. 

Here are some other ways to use pre-recorded video to build relationships: 

  • Whole class teacher-made videos: Morning announcements, daily messages, read-alouds, personal stories 

  • Personalized teacher-made videos: Individual check-in messages, feedback on specific assignments, effort-based or behavior-specific praise messages 

  • Student-made videos: Introduction videos at the start of the year, weekly share-outs, responses to other students’ work, answers to fun community-building questions 

These videos can help you build relationships with families, too. Parents and caregivers may appreciate being able to see how their child is learning, since it may be different from how they learned in the past. If family members want to help with an assignment, they’ll be able to watch the videos to see a model, hear your thinking, and maybe learn something new themselves.

Watch the morning meeting video that Understood Teacher Fellow Lakrisha Howard created for her students and families to watch.

5. Use video to provide accommodations.

Providing accommodations during distance learning for students who have an (IEP) can be challenging. Video can help. 

For example, if a student has an accommodation to have a “designated reader” or hear instructions spoken aloud, your assignment videos can meet this need (while also benefiting all your students). Or, if an accommodation is for the student to be able to give responses in a preferred form (spoken or written), you can offer video responses as an option. 

Of course, making videos takes some time. But it can actually save you time in the long run as you don’t have to explain the directions or concepts multiple times. Once you start creating videos for your class, you may discover that you want to continue the practice even when you’re back in a physical classroom. 

Keep the production of these videos as short and simple as possible so they don’t become a burden to create or watch. There’s no need to make them polished. Be authentic and have fun. 

Keep reading:

  • Follow these seven steps to make videos that are accessible and engaging.

  • Read more about UDL best practices for videos.


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