Teacher's Voice | September 1, 2020

Supporting All Learners with Instructional Videos

By Clemencia Acevedo

Teaching is a demanding profession. It requires us to be flexible, reflect upon our practice and continuously seek opportunities to enhance our craft. It requires us to engage and motivate uninterested learners and, most importantly, apply strategies to support struggling students. One of the biggest challenges teachers in urban settings face is honing their ability to tailor instruction to the learning needs of every child. It can be an overwhelming task: students arrive with different literacy levels, have different learning styles or are emerging English speakers. Teacher-created instructional videos are one of the solutions we can add to our toolkit to help ensure all students reach grade level proficiency.

Creating video tutorials has been one of the most effective strategies I have employed to help my multi-level students with special needs make progress in 7th and 8th grade math. As teachers, we know that when students find the content too difficult, they lose interest in classwork and feel discouraged to complete assignments. Instructional videos can help students approach grade level standards. Students can watch them in class or at home at their own pace, replaying and referring back to them anytime for more complex lessons. It’s a perfect resource for in-person and remote teaching. Using videos allows educators to save time by serving multiple students at once: You can conference with one group while another is busy watching your videos. Learners can take problem solving into their own hands because they know where to go to refresh their memory when struggling with an assignment. 

Using video in the classroom isn’t only about the students watching you: students can put their talents into practice by creating their own videos. Video creation assignments allow students to respond to lessons, flex their creative muscles, share work with peers, and give each other feedback. Media making in this way allows students to show mastery of the material, as well as learn from their peers. 

Benefits of Creating Instructional Videos to Support Instruction 

Working with middle school students over the years has helped me understand the factors that prevent students from achieving academic success. One major factor impacting students is that some are missing basic foundational skills they were supposed to acquire earlier in their educational  journey. Other dedicated students may struggle with memory retention. Then there is a subgroup with poor attendance. For all these different reasons and more, students feel lost and have a hard time engaging. Because the work is too advanced for them, they zone out, engaging in side conversations or browsing for entertaining videos.  

Instructional videos enable students to obtain the skills they were supposed to get in previous years, make up for missed lessons and refresh their memory for forgotten content or skills. Because learners who need chronic interventions interact with the videos directly, it doesn’t call out what level the student is at publicly. It provides a safe way for students to catch up, avoiding potentially embarrassing situations in front of peers. One of the major benefits is that we can use them every year. We can have teaching material ready to scaffold content and have all your students engaged. 

How to Implement Instructional Videos with Students  

So, what’s the best way to get started when it comes to video instruction? You  should first run a pre-assessment, measuring the skills students will need to build upon in the upcoming unit. After analyzing the results, you can assign specific videos to students based on their needs. It’s important to align each video with the appropriate standards. This way, you’ll know exactly what videos will best support each student.  

Once assigned, students can watch videos at their own pace, in class or at home. As their teacher, you can encourage them to utilize the videos to personalize their learning experience by replaying or pausing them in case they get distracted or want to take notes. Instructional videos give students flexibility and control of their learning tool, reducing anxiety and frustration.  

My students’ feedback has been positive.They report that the videos are useful, which helps me know they are engaged with the content. When kids find a resource that works for them, the likelihood that they will pay more attention increases. In my experience the level of participation improves and more students complete work after watching videos that support their understanding of complex content. Often my students with special needs require lots of pre-skills support. It’s comforting to know they can rely on resources they find useful and engaging to help them make academic progress throughout the year. 

Teaching Strategies 

Instructional videos are an excellent way to address below grade level skills, especially for math content. After conducting and analyzing student assessments, assign students videos to watch for homework or independently in class. Make sure you have a follow up activity that utilizes the skill modeled in the video. The student can submit the completed work digitally (a Google or Microsoft form is a good option) by taking a picture of their work and uploading it to the form. This allows  you to view student responses, analyze their work, and narrow specific areas where support is needed.  Following that, you can continue to assign video tutorials to address areas where the student still struggles. 

These strategies bring many benefits. Students will notice your attention to their individual needs and gaps. In return, they’ll put more effort into their work and ask questions about areas they struggle with. It’s a nice way of creating student-teacher trust. Teachers can also assign students to create their own videos to explain concepts and offer feedback for their peers, using platforms like Flipgrid. Video feedback is an excellent option for students who struggle with writing and it promotes the practice of speaking skills. I always advise my students to write what they want to say before recording, so that they organize their thoughts.  

Video Format 

It is better to create short videos that model one target skill to increase engagement and retention. Don’t pressure yourself by feeling you need an hour long video lesson. Students do pay attention to the length of the video. We don’t want the student feeling tired before hitting the play key. Video “chunking” can prevent students from feeling overwhelmed by breaking up challenging information. In my math videos, I usually model one skill, then have the student practice a similar problem and submit their work in a Google form. It not only helps the student – it helps teachers monitor student progress. Sometimes students express they still don’t get it after watching assigned videos, so I follow up with new videos that reteach the same standard. Repetition always helps.  

Here is an example of one of my instructional videos created for my 7th grade class, Equations Involving Fractions 7.EE.B.4 7.EE.B.4a. 

Choosing the Platform to Store Your Videos 

Uploading your instructional videos to an online platform that allows you to add closed captioning and makes it easier for students to retrieve it is highly recommended. Closed captioning makes content accessible to people with hearing problems and for English Language Learners, so viewers can follow along and better understand content. Teachers can create a YouTube Channel and upload videos there; make them “public” or “unlisted” so that only those with the link can view the video. Teachers can enable closed captions or add translation to the video once it uploads. Refer to the tutorial in the resources list below.  A second option is Microsoft Stream, which generates closed captions automatically and only requires teachers to share the link with students. A third option is uploading the videos to Google Drive. Although this platform does not add closed captioning to videos, video links can easily be shared via Google Classroom or email. 

Video Production Tools for Teachers 

The tools I use to create quality videos include Quicktime, Screen-O-Matic, iMovie, and HoverCam, which is an excellent overhead projector that syncs with Quicktime. You can record your screen using Quicktime, move the clips to iMovie and add titles, transitions, audio or animation. Both are Apps built-in on Apple macOS. If you don’t have a Mac, you can download the Screen-O-Matic software to your PC and record your screen. Keynote is an excellent tool to model content: it has a variety of animation and transition features. If you want to model a skill on paper documents, HoverCam is a good choice. Step-by-step video tutorials on how to use the tools mentioned here are listed at the end of this post. 

Instructional videos have a positive impact on both teachers and students because they facilitate teaching and support the educational needs of all learners. The time you spend creating videos will pay off long-term, too. Teachers can recycle them every year and refer back to them for state test preparation activities (don’t forget to align them with standards!) Get started, don’t worry about creating perfect videos, and you will become an expert in time. Best of all, you will add a new skill to your skills set that you can share with colleagues. It’s worth the effort to venture into becoming a video maker, whether teaching remotely or in-person. You will reap the benefits for years to come. 

Step-by-Step Teacher Video Tutorial Resources

Using QuickTime Video Tutorial

Step-by-step on how to use screencast-o-matic 

How to use iMovie 

Add Close Caption (CC) and Translation to YouTube Videos 

The following Keynote tutorials were created by Mr. Alex Lochoff from Edpuzzle:

Keynote Basics Video

Keynote Math Video Walkthrough (Level 1)

Keynote Math Video Walkthrough (Level 2)

I referenced the following articles when writing this post. You may find the information in them useful as well. 

  • Ozdemir, Muzaffer, et all. “The Effects of Captioning Videos on Academic Achievement and Motivation: Reconsideration of Redundancy Principle in Instructional Videos.” Journal of Educational Technology & Society, vol. 19 n. 4, 2016, p.2. JSTOR, https://www.jstor.org/stable/10.2307/jeductechsoci.19.4.1. Accessed Aug. 18, 2020.
  • Evmenova , Anna S., and Michael M., Behrmann.“Research-Based Strategies for Teaching Content to Students with Intellectual Disabilities: Adapted Videos.” Education and Training in Autism and Developmental Disabilities, Vol. 46, no. 3, 2011, pp. 316-319. JSTOR, http://www.jstor.com/stable/23880588. Accessed Aug. 18, 2020.


Clemencia Acevedo is a special education teacher at Don Pedro Albizu Campos (PSMS161) in West Harlem, New York. She engages in evocative writing and professional research on teaching practices and digital literacy with #DrewTeach teacher writers at Drew University. Selected as Ed Tech Model Teacher 2020-2021 by NYC DOE and the recipient of New York City Department of Education Excellence in School Technology Award 2017