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Teaching skills-based learning virtually has been a huge challenge for educators recently. YouTube videos have been a fantastic solution when it comes to demonstrating the processes involved in creating something. They allow children to choose their own pace of learning, recap learning as much as they want and share their learning with friends and family.
This isn’t something we can always offer when demonstrating skills from the Primary classroom. It can be challenging and daunting having to model a specific skill such as painting, drawing, sewing, pottery or any other craft that requires prior knowledge and practise. Ensuring everyone can see, the children are focussed, pace is maintained as well as standard classroom management means we sometimes have to compromise on the quality of our instruction. This can sometimes lead to the children feeling underprepared, under confident and mean the teacher ends up dashing around remodelling and correcting misconceptions.
However, now we have more experience with technology this doesn’t have to be the case. Is there a way to incorporate the use of video tutorials into our everyday practice in the classroom?
YouTube video tutorials were an easy way for me to simply show the children how to create something during the initial lockdown and virtual teaching. I could quickly search for a video that was suitable and the children could easily follow along as I shared my screen. When we had returned to school after the first lockdown, I started to consider if this would still be useful in the classroom for when I needed to teach a specific skill in my project lessons.
Instead of creating slides for my lessons which relied on 3 separate teachers intricately modelling watercolour painting at the front of the class, I decided to cut out the middleman and record myself modelling the task. I filmed myself modelling each step required to complete our watercolour painting using a visualizer. Sometimes I used a ‘my turn, your turn’ style and sometimes I asked the children to ‘paint along’ with me. After this I started to think about why this tool had to be limited to just the modelling element of my lesson, could it replace my slides all together? I slowly started to build up the video to include my ‘Do Now’, direct instruction, knowledge recap and reflection activity too, simply leaving pauses for children to complete tasks or suggest ideas. The lesson followed the same structure and content that my slides would have but only needed a push of a button to deliver.
After the lesson had been delivered, the feedback from the teachers was extremely positive. They said that modelling activities such as painting had always been dreaded, so this helped reduce their stress load as well as their workload, but still felt like a high-quality lesson. This got me thinking about what opportunities these videos opened up for the teacher during the lesson.
One of the biggest advantages of a video lesson is that the teacher is no longer required to give live direct instruction. This means that more time and energy can be concentrated on assessment and feedback – something most teachers feel can be difficult to build into lessons. In a 30-minute lesson, a teacher could spend at least 1 minute assessing each child and providing valuable live feedback. This gives the teacher an extremely rich and informative picture of how their class is progressing with this skill.
Live feedback is far more effective in skill-based learning. Being able to assess the child’s process as opposed to just the end product gives us a much more three-dimensional view of how their skills are developing. Misconceptions can be corrected instantly and the intricacies of a child’s craftsmanship can be recognised and celebrated. This in turn builds the children’s confidence and self-efficacy which is paramount when learning new skills.
More discreet social-emotional skills and attitudes can also be acknowledged with this form of attentive, observational assessment. Celebrating instances of children displaying the school values such as excellence, community, humanity, responsibility and openness allows a dialogue to be opened up about what craftsmanship looks like in the real world.
At School 21, a holistic curriculum that nurtures the head, heart and hand is a core that runs through all of our lessons. Video lessons can also cover the strategies, routines and protocols that promote all three strands.
Skills based learning heavily lends itself to an education of the hand. Careful modelling of the process and craftsmanship necessary to practise the skill being taught are easy to feature when recording. However, it’s important to consider that for some children a scaffold is needed to tie together the learning. In conjunction with the video lesson, a ‘Steps to Success’ can also be useful for children to refer back to during the lesson. If the children fall behind the modelling or just want further reassurance that they are on track to achieve, a short, simple list of instructions can really complement a video full of dialogue and audio and helps to ensure the process of the skill is fully embedded.
Whilst the development of a skill and product is often the final outcome of Project Based Learning, ensuring the knowledge surrounding the topic is being learnt, revised and recalled is essential. There is no reason that these two aims can’t be achieved simultaneously in a video lesson. Continuously rehearsing information is necessary to commit it to long term memory, so every opportunity should be taken to do this.
As the skill is being modelled, quick recall questions can be asked requiring the children to call out the answers to the screen or their partner. This helps to ‘connect the dots of learning’ between product and knowledge as well as keep engagement throughout the lesson. More thorough discussion points can also be built in by giving pause for children to consider their answers, talk in partners or jot down ideas. Techniques such as this can take a tutorial style video and turn it into a much more substantial lesson.
Learning new skills can be a daunting experience for young children. Therefore, it’s essential that opportunities to develop intrinsic skills such as confidence, empathy, peer and self-feedback, resilience and perseverance are built into video lessons. When a class is all together in a classroom and simultaneously creating their products it’s invaluable for them to practise critiquing and complimenting each other’s work. These opportunities can still be offered in a video lesson but can be far more child led.
Reflections at the end of video lessons are a great chance for the children to evaluate their own and others work and use their oracy skills to discuss and critique. Using open ended questions in the video, we can start in depth discussions and encourage children to think deeply about the process and product they have created, while the teacher can simply guide and observe.
Video tutorials are a great way to transfer a practise we are perfecting online into the classroom and rethink our roles as teachers during lessons. The chance to move from an instructor to an assessor in the classroom helps us further understand our children’s progress and be a more active part of their learning journey.
Once this tool has been used individually, there is also scope for extending it into phase or school wide planning. Can we explore the idea of creating a bank of these video lessons from a range of skilled practitioners within the teaching staff? These could then be utilised in any project where they are appropriate, making planning and teaching Project Based Learning much simpler in Primary, whilst still maintaining a high level of quality and balance across the curriculum.
In addition to this there is also now a lot of opportunity for using video lessons outside of Project Based Learning. Is there a way this can be experimented with in other lessons outside of Project? Can other procedural activities be taught and modelled through this medium allowing the class teacher to formatively assess hours before the books are opened for marking? Hopefully the answers to these questions could be a positive outcome to a challenging couple of academic years.
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