Using video effectively in your lessons

Written by: Dr Neelam Parmar | Published:
Image: Adobe Stock

Film clips can prove a powerful pupil engagement tool for teachers, but what are the golden rules for using video in lessons? Dr Neelam Parmar advises

Students today are using educational videos as a tool for learning everything from boiling an egg to pet training.

Indeed, statistics from a 2015 eMarketer report suggest that Millennials actually make up 92 per cent of the digital video viewing audience.

Topics that were once difficult to teach and learn are now more than ever accessible and understandable thanks to the availability of videos online. With the volume of free videos readily available within YouTube, Vimeo and other online learning portals, it is no surprise that educators are also turning to them within the teaching and learning environment.

As a popular medium of choice with young children, it seems only natural that this familiar and widespread platform is also extended pedagogically into the classroom.

Videos can be an effective resource in the classroom and when used meaningfully they can enhance memory and allow students to see events as they have happened.

They can also reach children with a wide variety of learning styles and can bring up-to-date and timely information into the classroom.
A 2017 research study indicates that the use of short video clips also allows for more efficient processing and memory recall (Shekar et al, 2017).

Videos can help create an immersive experience for a learner and makes information processing easier – as we all know, while words can make an impact, a picture is worth a thousand words.

So, using video footage in the classroom can be a great idea but just pressing play is not enough. While full videos or short clips can be very useful in teaching, it is important to consider what you hope your students will learn from them. Certainly, we must remember that if used flippantly videos can possibly lead to a negative event.

Prior to the start of any video usage in the classroom, you may want the students to know why you think they should watch the video and what you hope they learn from watching it.

Videos should not be used to serve the entire lesson but rather more as an enhancement or a valuable asset to the unit of study or understanding of a topic.

When using video, you may wish to consider the following ideas:

  • Develop a theme to investigate and draw up a list of prompts for students to follow. Provide students with key areas to note while they are watching the video and use these notes as topic areas to question and discuss.
  • Use the media player to pause, adjust sound for effect, offer subtitles and change languages for students with English as an additional language, (as and when appropriate). Plan for access on multiple devices, or access from outside of school, when possible to extend learning.
  • While watching the video as a class, make it a point to stop the video and indicate what is important if you think it will be useful to them. Ask the students their opinions and push them for arguments. Encourage the class to debate.
  • Use short video segments throughout a lesson. Up to 60 seconds can be very powerful. Never show more than three to five-minute video clips without some teacher interaction or student collaboration.
  • Take the learning further and create an online tool in which students can answer questions, leave comments and give feedback. Produce an online worksheet for the class to tackle collaboratively while watching the video. Alternatively, you can have your students submit their answers in real time using an in-house school communication channel.

The Khan Academy – an non-profit online resource – uses video to reinvent education and describes the transformative impact that they can have on teaching and learning.

For the younger generation, video capture is not just a passive form of entertainment, but also a main mode of delivery for interactive communication (Skype, FaceTime, WhatsApp) and is used as information exchange on a daily basis. This comes quite naturally to our students and we as teachers ought to take advantage of this fact.

With help from videos, you can integrate the outside world into the classroom. Short footage, newscasts, documentaries, TED talks, dramas and even educational clips on the internet can serve as authentic real-world and up-to-date educational content. This in itself can create a unique, relevant and fun lesson to immerse your students in their learning.

There is no doubt that the vast majority of teachers will use video at some point during their teaching. However, the real trick is to use it in ways that will lead to a positive impact on student learning. We must try to turn the video activity into an instruction opportunity in which the students can engage.

I will leave you with some pedagogical ideas for using videos in your teaching and learning:

  • Show a historical video with no audio and have students write a script to explain what is taking place.
  • Get your students to re-enact a video they have just seen between themselves and ask them to record it with subtitles.
  • Show a dramatic short clip and have students create an audio track to match its mood and tone.
  • Pause a literary documentary and encourage students to make predictions or inferences in real time using an online collaborative platform.
  • Encourage students to create their own interactive scientific video using online tools (such as Edpuzzle) to create Q&A activities for their peers.


  • Dr Neelam Parmar is director of elearning at Ashford School and consults with Boclips for Teachers, an educational video platform developed for the classroom environment.

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