how to engage examine and extend learning through videos

How to Engage, Examine and Extend Learning Through Videos

How many videos can you remember watching in school when you were a student? Though I know we watched dozens and dozens of movies (and FILMSTRIPS!!), I can only remember two. TWO! One of them scared the living daylights out of me, and the other I remember because we watched it every single year. It dug itself deep in the memory stores of my brain, and there it still remains.

In my classroom, I am always looking for ways to use short videos to target specific skills. Each time we watch one, I have students follow the same routine so they are able to enjoy what they watch, learn something new, and think more critically about what we see. We called it Engage, Examine and Extend (or E³). Students have come to know the routine, which helps frame their thinking and expectations. Here’s how it all goes down:


Face it – kids just want to watch a video without having to take notes, or answer questions, or have a teacher stop it midway to point out something. Our Engage step allows students to just sit back, relax and enjoy. An added bonus: it also encourages all students to gather materials and transition more quickly so they don’t miss it! Before hitting play, I remind them about the importance of this first viewing: to engage their minds.


This second viewing is what students are traditionally required to do during a first viewing – take note of what is important and write it down. Unfortunately, it can be a challenge for students to watch AND write, especially on a first run-through. By already having viewed the video, students know better what to expect, and improve their note taking skills. Notes taken during this step are often fact-finding: vocabulary, dates, names, places, and ideas. We aren’t climbing any critical-thinking ladders in this step, but that’s okay! We have one more chance!


This is always our favorite viewing of the video, and I know students are getting the hang of the routine when they start to share deeper thoughts after a third viewing! I often tell them video producers go through a lot of trouble to share information. It is not our job to just smile, collect facts, and move on. It is when we have deeper connections with the content that learning becomes more meaningful. Isn’t that why people go through all the trouble of producing videos in the first place? During this step, students have several options to add to their paper and/or Google Doc journals:

  • How did you connect with the video, and why?
  • What techniques did the author use to convey information to students?
  • What questions do you still have?
  • What would be a better title for this video, and why?
  • What advice or suggestions would you give the author to make the video more effective?

It’s time to face it: Gone are the days when teachers could plunk students in front of a 40-minute video while sitting and correcting papers. In fact, according to YouTube, their average video length is 4 minutes and 20 seconds. In that amount of time, I can hardly decide what color pen to use, let alone assess student work! And with our attention spans reportedly less than that of goldfish, we have to carefully consider the way we are using video in our classrooms.

Do you want to see how it works? Use this E³ reference guide, and watch the following 2-minute video (try it with your students!!). Feel free to answer the questions (or say hello!!) in the comments below.

So, get out there and collect some awesome videos! Students love commercials, human interest stories, music videos, tutorials, current events, cartoons – you name it! Your students will connect with them because they are short, informative and fun. You will be scaffolding their critical thinking along the way.

With millions of videos available to share with students, teachers have myriad opportunities to electrify the learning environment. Provide your students with experiences worth remembering. They will thank you for it someday.

Come learn from Suzy in Boston! She will be leading two Innovation Labs during the November 17-18 EdTechTeacher iPad Summit.



Featured image via Flickr

Written by Suzy Brooks

Assoc. Dir. of Instructional Tech @ Mashpee Public Schools | MASCD Pres-Elect | FableVision Ambassador | DENStar | MassCUE Pathfinder | SMART Exemplary Educator

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