Interactive Projects Engage Students

Kids explore a world of learning by watching video clips and producing movies.

by Tanya Roscorla / June 26, 2009

The second-grade kids in Melissa McBride’s class scooted their chairs away from their desks. They slipped their arms through the straps of the backpacks that hung on their seats and “buckled in.”

“OK, hold on,” McBride says.

She fires up the LCD projector, turns on the mimio device to make the whiteboard interactive and flies the kids to the District of Columbia using Google Earth. As they hop from monument to monument, they learn about each one by watching two- or three-minute video clips from Discovery Education streaming.

“They’re like, ‘Whoosh! Ooooo! Whoa! Duck! The planet’s coming!’” McBride recalls. “They come up with everything.”

The kids spend 45 minutes on a virtual tour of American landmarks throughout the country before landing back in their classroom in Jupiter, Fla.

Watching video clips and making videos in class engages students and brings subjects to life, teachers say. The more ways they can learn about a topic, the more it sticks.


Welcome to the production studio

Instead of writing an essay about Pecos Bill, the fifth-graders in Christine Southard and Lisa Parisi’s class at Denton Avenue School in New Hyde Park, N.Y., create videos. The kids write scripts and spend about a month and a half on each project, Southard said.

They can create a narrated photo slideshow with Microsoft Photo Story, make cartoon movies on the Web site Xtranormal, and record clay animation videos with Tech4Learning Frames. These activities help the special education students who are mixed into their class learn better and meet the state’s English Language Arts standards.

Southard posts the videos to YouTube and imbeds them on the Herricks Union Free School District collaborative site.

“The kids now have a motivation for writing,” Southard said, “and their parents are excited because then they can go to our Web site and watch the movies that the kids created.”
 

Reviewing math after class

In Memphis, Tenn., math teacher Ashley Garner posts videos online that she makes for the sixth-grade students at the all-boys Presbyterian Day School. She explains topics and works through problems using ScreenFlow so that students who missed class that day can catch up.

The videos also help parents see what she’s teaching the kids so that they can reinforce the concepts at home.

“My plan is gonna be to get the boys to make them on their own and post them, because I feel like that lets them practice it more,” Garner said, “and if you can explain how to do something to someone, you can usually do it as well.”
 

Engaging students

Back in Florida, McBride says that using videos in class brings landmarks such as Mount Rushmore to life. She could tell her second-graders about the presidents who are carved into the mountain, but they don’t understand until they see pictures, find where it is on the map and watch video clips.

Watching Discovery Education streaming video clips, working on Photo Story projects and analyzing what they see in the clips grabs the attention of kids, especially visual learners and children with limited English language skills, said Sarah Johangiry, a fourth-grade teacher at Grant Elementary School in Fontana, Calif.

She had her students watch segments of videos on the state missions and read about them. Then they broke up into small groups to compare the text to the video and analyze the creation of the missions from both the Spanish and Native American viewpoints.

Sometimes educators place limits on what students can do, but they can accomplish some amazing things, Johangiry said.

“I just think that we as teachers have to keep up with the times and keep up with what’s engaging to the children.”