Five Ways to Increase Student Engagement with Video

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By NBC Learn

Video can be a great way to pique students’ interest in a topic, and with a wealth of educational videos now available online, there’s no shortage of engaging content for students. Here are some tips to ensure students get the most out of watching videos in your class.

  1. Keep it short

Try to keep video clips around 4 minutes or less (and even shorter for preK-5). Longer videos make it difficult hold students’ attention and by keeping it short, you save time for students to synthesize what they’ve learned through discussion and writing.


  1. Make it relevant

Video can provide a quick answer to the age-old question, “Why do I need to learn this?” Consider showing a profile of an engineer to set the stage for a math lesson, a news story on new medical research to show the scientific method in action, or a historical video to provide context for a novel. If students are more invested in a topic, they’re more likely to retain the content they learn.


  1. Provide a focus

Before sharing any video with students, provide a question or prompt to guide their viewing. Depending on where the video falls in a lesson, the questions can be comprehensive — e.g. summarize the speaker’s argument, name the steps of a process — or more analytical — e.g. compare the perspectives of two accounts, draw connections between examples. No matter what, setting a purpose helps students hone in on the key takeaways from a video.


  1. Embed your videos

Many sites with educational videos integrate with technology tools you’re already using. Google Classroom, Schoology, NearPod, and Canvas are just a few learning platforms that make it easy to embed videos into lesson materials, allowing you to supplement the videos with related texts or assessments.


  1. Brighten the lines

While videos are engaging on their own, showing a video at the beginning or the end of an activity is a great way to chunk segments of a lesson into smaller portions. As Doug Lemov suggests in Teach Like a Champion, changes to the typical activity or format like this can help ensure students pay attention because they sense something new is happening.

Melissa Cail is the Education Specialist for NBC Learn, an online video library with thousands of resources for K-12 classrooms. Prior to joining NBC, Melissa taught middle school English Language Arts. She is a graduate of the Relay Graduate School of Education in New York City.