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How to Get 28 Teachers to Teach Alongside You

Do you wish you could just have one more teacher in your room helping you?

…or how about 28 other teachers?

Introducing, the video mini-lesson: your new co-teacher.  It’s just as simple as it sounds, but will change the way you look at differentiation in your classroom.  In this post, I’ll take you through my journey of recording my mini-lessons to transform my instruction and my classroom.

Video Mini-lessons as Sub Plans

My journey to video mini-lessons started when I was creating sub plans one day a couple years ago.  Sub-out days were at a high for me that year due to meetings (that was before I learned to start exercising my “no”), and I really needed to be there to explain the next part of my students’ project so they could have a work day.  I had just seen my friend’s flipped classroom, where he filmed his lessons every day and had students watch them each night as homework, and I thought, surely I can create ONE video.  

I searched and found a bunch of options for apps I could use to film my computer screen and record my voice, but I settled on Screencast-o-Matic, which was affordable (free for basic version, only $12 for pro).  

To operate it, I literally just had to log in, hit the record button, and start talking.  Whatever I do on my screen that’s inside the frame is filmed, and whatever I say is recorded.  There is even an option to record my face in addition to the screen.  After I’m done recording, it pops up with a button to upload to Youtube, and that’s it!  For those worried about time, it really didn’t take much longer than it normally takes for me to plan.  You just have to factor your actual recording (for me, my videos are hardly ever longer than 10 minutes, and usually run about 5-7).  Below is a screenshot of first ever video mini-lesson for a sub-out day.  It’s literally just a normal lesson, but recorded.  Also ignore how tired I sound.  It was December.  Enough said.

If I want to edit it (though you don’t have to), it has any option I could want (speed up, slow down, cut portions, add narration or add video).  As a Writing teacher, I love modeling writing and then speeding up the part I’m actually writing or typing, voicing over my thoughts as I was writing.  

When I’m done, I just copy the URL and put it in my sub plans.  

Why Video Sub Plans are Awesome:

  1. My subs RAVE about my plans when I do this (it’s like I’m there!) and beg to come back to our classroom.  Score.
  2. I tend to get much more work out of my kids the way I want it, too.
  3. We don’t have to stop everything we’re doing when I’m gone.  That means the kids win, too.
  4. If a kid was absent (who am I kidding, there’s always one; I really mean FOR the kid that was absent), just send them the video!

That was the start of my video-lesson journey.  Next stop….

Video Mini-Lesson as a “Co-Teacher”

One day, when I was gone for a half-day, I came back to the school and found that the video had worked very well for the kids in the morning.  Logical teacher next thought, Why not let the other kids watch it, too?

Enter, the Video Co-teacher.  

This was a lesson on turning your outline into an essay–something with a lot of steps, so I needed the kids with me. What better day than to have a co-teacher circulating (aka me) while I teach (in other words, play cyber-me on Youtube)??

When the kids came in and sat at their seats, I just pressed play and the room is quiet.  It is EERY how much better kids listen to a cyber-me than the real-me.  

Again, reminder, these aren’t feature-length films.  I do Writers Workshop, I always try to keep my whole-class, direct instruction under 10 minutes.  And I don’t have the time to make them absolutely riveting–they’re usually basically just a lesson I’d normally do, but filmed.  After 5-10 minutes, the kids are done, too.  But at least this way I am freed up to do more in the classroom while the video is playing.

The coolest part? While the video is playing, I get to be my own co-teacher.

Why “Video Co-Teachers” are Awesome:

  1. There is much less brain-multi-tasking-Olympics while I teach.I can circulate, re-direct, and handle student crises all while the cyber-me teaches away in the front of the room.  
  2. Because I’m a rather over-excited teacher sometimes, I can even co-present the information with myself, pointing to things as I talk or pausing the video to have kids discuss.  
  3. I tend to to be more succinct when I record myself–which means my whole-class instruction is shorter on these days, which gives kids more hands on learning time.  
  4. Recording myself gives me the opportunity to observe myself–not something that feels good and most teachers (myself included) tend to avoid.  But this forces me to do it.
  5. I notice that I am more patient and have more energy during work time and at end of the day when I use video mini-lessons.  I know my 9th hour appreciates that.  That means get more conferences done during Writing time and am a more pleasant teacher to be around, and all kids deserve a happy, patient teacher.  
    1. You know those super teacher-heavy days where you have to explain the same thing to several classes, and by the end of the day you’re TOTALLY spent?  Those are the days I really try to incorporate a video mini-lesson.

Video Lessons as Self-Paced Differentiation

Finally, this year, inspired by this Cult of Pedagogy post about a self-paced math classroom, I took it a step further.  My planning counterpart and I needed to take students through a series of mini-lessons on revisions, and thought they might need more explicit, in-the-moment instruction than we could manage with stations.  So, we decided to create a self-paced, video-mini-lesson day.  

We created 4, 2-5 minute videos with corresponding Google Form quizzes, and gave kids chromebooks and headphones.  The kids were supposed to watch each video, make the corresponding revisions to their essay, then fill out the form to let us know how it went and check for understanding.  Here is the link we gave the kids to manage their self-paced learning–you can see a screenshot below:

Before, they started, I showed them how Youtube gives them the capability of both speeding up and slowing down the video (this made kids on both sides of the needs spectrum cheer), as well as how to get closed captions to show up.  If they got confused, they could replay parts or the entire video before needing to ask someone else or me.  

When I set them free to do it, it was CRAZY QUIET.  While the videos played, I could touch base with kids that needed catch-up time or private conversations, as well as read kids’ work over their shoulders to check for understanding and confer if they needed it.

Making this self-paced environment with recorded lessons totally transformed my space as a teacher.

Why Self-Paced Video Lessons are Awesome

  1. Kids can slow down, speed up, and replay videos as much as they need.  
  2. Absent kids can follow right along at home!
  3. When you have to teach kids how to use a new piece of technology, I’m a big fan of using these videos.  That way, if kids miss a step (which all human beings

    Made this over lunch so that I wouldn’t answer the same question 75 times in the afternoon. <3 my kids.

    do when learning a new technology for the first time) they can just watch that part of the video again, rather than be one of the 15 kids raising their hand and panicking.  This picture is of a video I made over lunch where I show kids how to take a screenshot.

  4. Students can move ahead in the unit if they are ready, and with many kids managing themselves, you are freed up to circulate and help students who need more structure and help.
  5. It’s a great thing to mix it up and keep kids engaged.  Kids really enjoyed the change of pace that day.
  6. When I went back to give kids feedback in their writing, if I noticed a kid not employing what one of the videos talked about, I could just paste the freaking video to their Google Doc for review.  Obviously, some of them might need more and different instruction than the video, but it is a nice way to knock out the 80-90% of kids that failed to incorporate the skill just because they forgot.

Extra ideas:

While it was by no means perfect, and like any new method, you gain some things and you lose some things.  These are my next steps in playing with it:

  1. Replace my normal mini-lesson with a recorded one for a crazy class–have kids log on and watch it on their own, while I give individual attention to kids that don’t respond well to whole-class instruction.
  2. Incorporate questions kids have to answer in the videos before continuing, as well as create several videos for the same topic in case kids are confused with the first and would like another example.  
  3. Have kids partner up with another student with a headphone splitter, and have the video instruct them to pause the video to discuss a question with their partner before continuing.  I often do turn-and-talks during mini-lessons to engage students and as a formative assessment, and I love the idea of staggering partner-talk so I could eavesdrop more easily.  
  4. For links: is a site that enables you to create custom links, so kids can type them into the browser with ease (this one I have done before).
  5. Use Blendspace to organize my mini-lessons cohesively–which is just a site that lets you arrange links in an easy to follow way.  It’s how I organized the lessons on the self-paced day.  You could just as easily organize lessons on Google Classroom, too.

Isn’t it amazing the possibilities when you restructure an age-old practice like whole-class instruction?

How have YOU structured self-paced learning time or videos in the classroom?  Or if you’ve never tried it, how might some ideas in this post be useful for you?  I would love to hear your thoughts and ideas!

You might also be interested in:

20 Ways to Help Reluctant Writers in your Classroom–a list of ways you can make your classroom more friendly to students reluctant to write, as well as trouble-shooting ideas for students who refuse to write.

Why Your Self-Care is More Important than your To-Do List–It’s counterintuitive, but it’s true. Self-care=higher productivity AND higher happiness. Win-win.

Teaching Writing Pinterest Board–My spot to collect all the most useful resources I can find for teaching writing–if you like this post, you’re sure to like this collection.

ELA Resources Pinterest Board–A collation of engaging, best-practice resources for ELA teachers.

My Teachers Pay Teachers Store–If you liked this, you’re sure to like resources in my store.

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  1. What a fantastic post! I’ve begun using smaller videos with my students to avoid explaining the same directions over and over, but I hope to start using them for mini lessons soon too!

  2. SUPER excited to try this! We have 20 days of school left. Not sure who is more over it… Me or my kids. I definitely think “cyber me” might have a better chance of keeping their attention than real me! 🙂

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