Video Lesson Ideas and Tips for distance learning

What an unorthodox time this is! I know this is a tough time for teachers, who are having to learn new technology and adapt to teaching via video rather than in person. I know you miss your students and your classroom. Until things go back to normal, I’ve put together some ideas that I hope are helpful in planning for your video lessons, whether live or pre-recorded.

Of course, you may not be able to do all of the ideas listed below, depending on your district’s requirements, resources, and participation. But I hope that some of these are helpful for your video lessons and I’d love to hear your ideas as well. Let’s help each other!

I’ve organized this post into the following sections:

  • Lessons and Activities
  • Management and Organization Tips
  • ZOOM video tips
  • My resources that are helpful with distance learning (you’ll also find links to other resources throughout)
  • A FREEBIE for you!

Lessons and Activities

Directed Drawing: after reading any book, have students follow you step-by-step in drawing something from the book. It can be anything: the main character, setting, etc. With a non-fiction book, maybe you want to make a huge diagram of the animal or habitat. After the drawing, ask your kids to label as much as they can and write a sentence about it.

Here’s a little “semi-directed drawing” activity I did with my class (actually my former students, but I do weekly lessons with them in a private FB group, so I still call them my class ☺). After reading Henry’s Amazing Imagination by Nancy Carlson, I had students draw themselves in the lower-left corner, then add a big thinking bubble and draw something in their own imagination. Here are some of their adorable pictures!

Blind Directed Drawing! Here is a fun twist on directed drawings. Choose a simple drawing and give students directions one step at a time, while NOT showing your example! Sooo funny to see how well they followed your directions (or how well YOUR directions were. As you can see below, mine weren’t so great?). This is a great challenge for kids to do with each other to practice for how-to writing as well!

Caption it- Display an image for your students. You can get images online, or scan a page from a book, Scholastic News magazine, toy store flyer, etc. I love using funny images for these and you can also use real images of a topic you are learning about. Ask kids to write a caption for it or even a story!

Show kids a funny picture and have them write a caption. This picture is from a Scholastic News magazine.

Describe it– Display a few objects and have kids pick one to describe while others guess the object.

3D Picture scene– Learning about the ocean or any other topic? Invite your students to create a 3D scene by drawing and cutting out ocean animals (or whatever applies to your unit of study) and making “pop-up strips” to make them 3D!

To make the pictures 3D, cut a strip of paper, then fold like an accordion. Glue one end to the paper and the other to the object.

Text Feature Hunt-Read a non-fiction book from a website such as Epic or Reading A to Z, or record your own book, and have kids point out text features like captions, headings, charts, and graphs, and how they help the reader understand the topic. If you have a subscription to Scholastic Kids magazine, those are great to use as well. Time for Kids is also offering its digital library FREE for the remainder of the year! Of course, you can then encourage kids to find text features in their own books at home and post a picture in your group.

Mystery Object- Show an object in a paper bag. Give clues about it and kids infer what it is! Other ideas include:

  • Place magnetic letters in the bag that spell a word. Tell students the word and have them tell you which letters are in the bag as you take them out to spell the word.
  • Place a magnetic letter or letters that make a blend and tell kids words that begin with the letter(s) so they can find the mystery letter.
  • Place pictures or objects that go with a main idea inside the bag. Take out one picture/object at a time until children can identify the topic or main idea. For example, pictures of different toys, items used for tooth care, different writing tools.
  • For math, place some counters inside the bag and some outside the bag. Tell kids the total number of counters and have them figure out how many are in the bag.
  • Mystery number- give clues about a number and students figure out the mystery number. “My number is greater than 8, less than 11 and has 2 digits.”

Scavenger Hunt- Have students go on a hunt in or outside of their homes. They can write or draw something that begins with the digraph ‘sh’ for example, take a picture of their work and submit it. There are so many different skills you can have hunts for! You can ask them to write objects they find with a certain letter or something for each letter of the alphabet, objects that have symmetry, of a certain shape, come in pairs, or objects that are living/ non-living in their backyards.

The Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium’s website has awesome hunts kids can do at home or outside! It also has animal videos to watch and learn. My daughter has done a few and they were a lot of fun. Click here and scroll down to view their hunts and videos.

Virtual Field Trip- Share your screen and visit an online site with virtual field trips! You can watch a video together or narrate as you show them pictures! Here is a page by We Are Teachers with 25 possibilities!

Phonics with Hidden Pictures– Kids LOVE hidden pictures! My daughter gets Highlights magazines and the first page she turns to is the one with the hidden pictures. So, I created a new resource for word study via distance learning.

These fun slides have hidden pictures that go with a particular phonics skill. After introducing phonics feature, kids are given a few minutes to find the pictures and write the words down on a piece of paper. After the few minutes, reveal the answers and discuss! It’s a fun way to practice these skills and will make kids think it’s a game. Watch this video to see how they work!

Hidden Pictures Video

I’ve made you a free sample! You can grab it in my TpT store here.

Imitate a Mentor Author! After reading a book, challenge students to imitate the author by trying something they did out! Maybe they want to ‘show and tell’ like Julie Brinckloe in Fireflies, or add 5 senses in a story like Jane Yolen in Owl Moon.

One great author for K-1 students to imitate is Mo Willems! His books are just perfect for showing students how to bring stories to life with expressive pictures, speech bubbles, and onomatopoeias!

After reading any of his books, discuss the speech bubbles and why he chose to write some words in LARGE BOLD letters and some teeny tiny. Ask students to draw a scene with two characters and add dialogue with speech bubbles. It’s also a great opportunity to review different kinds of punctuation. Also discuss his use of empty space, enlarged faces, and movement lines. I just love his books!

I have a couple of resources that help to encourage adding dialogue and onomatopoeias in writing. My Adding Dialogue pack has pictures with familiar scenarios that students can complete the speech bubbles for, then write a sentence.

These are really great for transitioning from pictures to writing text, and for revising text.

I just added a free upgrade of a Google slides version to the pack.

In my Adding Onomatopoeias pack, children add sound words to the scenes, as well as their own detail to the picture, then write a sentence about it.

This also has a free Google slides upgrade.

Observe butterflies! My kids are so excited about our butterfly experience! You can order butterflies, ladybugs, or other creatures online (Insect Lore is a popular website) and watch them grow! Students can observe them via video and keep a journal with pictures and notes throughout the experience. I like butterflies or ladybugs because of the obvious changes students will get to see. I’ve made a FREE butterfly journal for you to use with your students. You’ll find it in my free resource library.

We also made butterflies to show how they help spread pollen. The instructions are in the freebie!

Exercise- Between lessons, try a game of Simon Says as a brain break. If you’re using Zoom or a platform where kids can interact, they can take turns playing the leader. You can also try acting out the life cycle of a butterfly, apple, or animal you’re teaching about. Of course, a dance party can be a lot of fun too!

Play Games- You can play games interactively with your students if you have a screen-sharing program. I have this free game in my resource library. It’s similar to hangman but they are connecting dots to complete a picture instead. You can use a pen tool to “write” on the screen. This is great for reviewing spelling patterns or sight words.

Another game you can play is this card game by Ashley at Third Grade is Fun. You show kids the top card and ask them if the next card will be higher or lower before you go to it. I love this fun way of comparing numbers!

Or, play a Scattergories-type game where you give a child a letter and category and have them come up with a word! For example, if the category is food and the letter is T, they might say tacos or tomato. I got this game from my daughter’s teacher, who played this at her Zoom meeting. 馃檪

Mixed-up Sight Words– Use a whiteboard to write a sight word, then turn it around and erase a letter. Kids tell you which letter is missing (or they can write it down).

Scrambled Words– Write a scrambled sight word on a whiteboard (or use magnetic letters) and have kids write the unscrambled word. To help them, underline the first letter.

Body-Spelling Sight Words– If you want to get your kids moving to learn, these are perfect! You can share your screen and have students do these from their own home. Each of the 198 words has its own PowerPoint presentation with 6 activities that get them moving. All they need is something to write on for the “write it” slide.

Optionally, for the “find it” slide, they can use post-its on a screen (in the classroom, I have them come up to circle the words on the board). Or, they can simply “sky-circle” and circle the word in the air, without actually touching the screen. To read more about Body-Spelling, read this post.

Theme Days– To help with planning, consider having theme days, if your schedule allows it. I don’t mean themes as in crazy hair day, although those can be fun too! I mean a set type of activity each day. For example, you can do directed drawings on Monday, scavenger hunts on Tuesdays, Science Experiment Wednesdays, etc.

Invite students to read- Have students take turns reading to the class! It has been so much fun to see those little faces daily and they feel super proud! Ask for volunteers and make a schedule for one student a day. It helps to keep the time consistent so everyone knows when to tune in.

MY RESOURCES: Many of my resources are ideal for distance learning, but here are some of my favorite digital ones.

Video Management & Organization Tips

  • Set a consistent routine, so your students and their families know what to expect and when to tune in. If you can keep elements of your regular classroom, like morning meeting, familiar songs, etc., that may also help.
  • If you have a Facebook group, make your group picture an image of your schedule and important notes, such as where they can find files or website links, ways to communicate with you, and your “office hours.”
  • It may be helpful to post a reminder before your start time, listing materials students will need for that day’s lesson.
  • Set ground rules if you are using a program like Zoom, where kids will see and interact with each other.
  • Name each video with the date so you can easily find them through search. You may also want to add a description, like the title of the book you read or the skills you covered.
  • Facebook groups allow you to “tag” posts with keywords so they’re easy to find in a search. This helps with organization as well.
  • PRACTICE! Make a secret Facebook group with a fellow teacher friend to practice and give you feedback on sound, picture, etc. You may even want to do a practice video with your students with no agenda but to say hi and make sure your setup works.
  • Keep key points about your lesson near you on a post-it note so you don’t forget.
  • To keep kids engaged, try to incorporate gestures and interaction. For example, ask kids to give you a thumbs up if they know an answer or like something, say BINGO when they hear a special word, read in different voices (robot, shout, whisper, etc).
  • Ask parents to take a picture of their children’s work and post in the comments (if in a FB group) so you can see it. Or, if using a program like Seesaw, they can upload the picture right into their student portfolios!
  • Ask students to keep all their work in a folder and notebook. You can easily modify many activities by having kids write answers in a notebook rather than print out sheets. Any printable work can go in a folder.

ZOOM tips

  • In your Video settings, uncheck “mirror my video” so students don’t see any text backwards.
  • Did you know you can also check off “Touch up my Appearance” under video settings for a little smoothing? You know, for those rough mornings!
  • Use the mute button when you are teaching so kids don’t speak over you. Unmute the students as you call on them so they don’t speak over each other.
  • Enable the waiting room for students who sign on early.

Make it Fun!

  • Dress up like a character with a wig, hat, or make your own headband with clip art and a sentence strip!
  • Use props when you can.
  • Tell jokes! If you are reading a non-fiction book, find some jokes online about the topic and break up the reading with a few jokes between sections!
  • Change your background! You can buy backgrounds to put up on Amazon, but this can get expensive. If you use Zoom, if you stand/sit in front of a solid background (or hang up a green curtain behind you), you can change your background for a virtual one! Very cool! You can also upload your own images to set as a background!
  • Use a Snapchat filter to make a video! 馃檪
  • Have a special guest- Invite a family member to read, or a community member to join via video and tell about their job.
  • Celebrate birthdays with a shout-out! Maybe students can make the birthday child a special card or poster, take a photo, and post it!

Above all, I think giving yourself (and your students’ families) grace is the most important. This is hard for most and you have a million things to do! Learn new technology in many cases, plan and execute lessons, assign meaningful activities, maintain student relationships, communicate with parents, troubleshoot technology… the list goes on and on, not to even mention if you have your own children that are “distance learning.” Share ideas and responsibilities with fellow teachers, talk through challenges, and work together to plan.

Some families also have bigger challenges than others: families may have more than one child trying to complete assignments, limited resources, internet service or technology, working providers and limited time, or a multitude of other challenges. The more streamlined your messages and organized your information, the easier it will be for parents who are also balancing a lot.

Remember that you are doing amazing things and of course, things are not going to be perfect! If you are feeling down, know that everyone is having those moments and it is normal. You can do this! You are awesome and your students are so lucky to have you!

Did you find any of these ideas helpful? Let me know if you will try any and add your own to the comments! Share this post with other educators if you got some great ideas!

Need ideas for lessons to teach via video during distance learning? Here are 25 + ideas and tips on teaching virtually, including activities, organization, management, and ideas for making it fun! Includes a freebie too! Perfect for kindergarten and first grade students to do at home. #tejedastots #tptdistancelearning

2 responses to “Video Lesson Ideas and Tips for distance learning”

  1. Rose Aviles Avatar

    This is very helpful, thank you for creating this post! I really appreciate the zoom tips you offer. We need as many tech tips as we can get these days. – Rose Aviles, Community Services Coordinator at Yonkers Public Library

    1. Brenda Avatar

      Hi, Rose!
      Thank you so much. I’m glad the tips are helpful. Thanks for all you do! 馃檪

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