How NOT to Give a Video Assignment

Elizabeth & Amy Make a Vocab Video

Making a video with an iPad is as simple as point-and-shoot, right?  After a summer playing around with my own device, and countless hours invested flipping my instruction, I certainly thought so.  That is, until I got to my 6th period English 9 class last week.  With about 20 minutes to spare in the period, I assigned each group to introduce a vocabulary word from our Sadlier-Oxford vocab text.  The words, pronunciation, definition, synonyms and antonyms were all provide; all the students needed to do was to write an example sentence with the word using our theme-of-the-week (in this case, food!).  But, as the bell was ringing and students continued to film – or packed up and headed out the door, unfinished – I saw that clearly, making a video requires a little bit more structure than I had provided.  My suggestions are as follows:

  1. Time – Set a firm time limit and communicate it clearly to students. I like using online stopwatch or the timer app my iPad, and I’ll always project it with an LCD projector.  That way, students can clearly see how much time they have left to complete the project, and I’m no longer in the role of the “hurry up” police.  In the case of my first video assignment, 10 minutes would have been plenty.
  2. Show a sample video, or better yet, make a sample in real time – In my case, the students wanted to make far more than I was asking for in this simple exercise, in which I was merely hoping that they would gain comfort with the camera app and uploading to YouTube.  Instead, they wanted to write scripts, act out their words,  create props, etc.  And that was all in addition to the hair-fixing and moaning that happened as soon as they saw themselves on the iPad screen.  A sample video – and watching the process of making it – can communicate to them exactly how much or how little I’m asking them to invest.
  3. Lay out the steps of the process in writing.  That way, students always know what comes next.
  4. Think about how students will submit the video – and show them how to do it. With freshmen, I’ve found that rounding them up after they’ve finished their videos, then modeling submission for them works best.  That way, they can see the naming conventions for the video and all of the steps after they’ve finished the fun part.
  5. Allow them to see each others’ videos ASAP.  Students love video because it allows them to be the stars of the classroom.  Providing an easy turn-around for the videos to your class – such as collecting YouTube urls in a Google spreadsheet or creating a shared Google Drive folder for video submission allows all of them that feeling of celebrity – and enhances the investment in the learning activity.

Happy filming!

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