Concepts, Techniques, Lesson Planning, Room design
By Neil MacQueen
Please note: I’ve extensively improved and expanded the following article and posted it over at Rotation.org in their Video Workshop Forum where you’ll also find many other great ideas and techniques.
Teaching with Video
Concepts, How-to, Techniques, Lesson Plan Ideas, Room design
Most people know me for my work with computers in Christian Education, …but like many of you, I was teaching with multimedia long before the advent of computers, and continue to teach with other media. In fact, one of the reasons I helped create the Workshop Rotation Model for Sunday School (www.rotation.org) was to create a A-V workshop staffed by a trained volunteer who knew how to teach with audio-visuals. I knew from my own childhood, and from my teaching experience, that multimedia was a powerful learning tool.
Blast from the Past
As a child, I was excited to see a film projector or filmstrip projector set up in the back of the classroom. I get warm fuzzies when I recall the mesmerizing “clackety-clack” of the projector, or the “beep” on the record synced to the filmstrip. The dark of the classroom like a cocoon. The strange thing is that EVEN THOUGH the equipment has evolved, and even though our kids watch FAR more video than we did growing up, the excitement and opportunity is still the same. There is something magical and mysterious that happens when the human mind and body encounters multimedia.
Unfortunately, what we sometimes hear in church and culture is that visual media is somehow “not as good,” and printed words are somehow “better.” The brain scientist and educational researchers beg to differ, and so does God’s design for human beings. We are created to learn in a myriad of ways. For most of its history, the average person couldn’t even read scripture. For the past 1000 years, Cathedrals and religious art were our filmstrips. The Bible is God’s Word, whether it’s on paper or on the screen, whether it’s being told by a storyteller, re-enacted by actors, or spoken by a preacher.
Says Paul in 1 Corinthians 3:7, “It’s not important who (or what) does the planting, or who (or what) does the watering. What’s important is that God makes the seed grow.” Written, spoken, illustrated, re-enacted, expressed, played, interacted, sung, –these and more are the tools God uses to grow us.
The word “Vid” means “Power” and “Insight”!
The word “VIDEO” is actually a Latin word meaning “visual”. It comes from the ancient Indo-European root “Weid” of “Veid” -which means “to see, to find, to know”. “Vis” as in “visual” is a cognate of the Indo-European root “Veid.” It means, “power”, and can also mean “insight” (the word “wise” comes from it meaning: “in-sight”). “VISceral” means a feeling or sense of truth from the “gut” or “heart”.
Our brains and bodies are designed to see and remember audio-visuals, and they are almost always stored with emotional input. I see a picture of my grand-daughter, and it makes me smile. I see a re-enactment of Christ on the cross, and my soul aches. In Luke 19 I read Jesus’ invitation to Zaccheus, and my mind sees him up in the tree. But the illustration or video captures an even greater truth: how the crowd reacted to Jesus, and the stunned look of acceptance on Zaccheus’ face. How those images are presented to our students is less important than the fact that they are planted, and are watered. That’s what we’re doing when we teach with good multimedia.
One of the reasons I created the Workshop Rotation Model with an “A-V” or “Video” Workshop was because my volunteer teachers were NOT not using enough media in their traditional classrooms. I would push them to use it, but the teachers let the A-V equipment SIT IN THE CLOSET. Why? Some felt that a video disrupted their lesson plan that we had bought them. they didn’t have time to get the whole lesson plan in. And some of our teachers believed their wordy-ness was more powerful than a filmstrip and so resisted our push for more media. And then you had the traditional Sunday School teachers who avoided media because it seemed “too entertaining.” (Have we banished that demon yet? Hope so.) So I created a ROOM that ONLY USES MEDIA to teach and staffed it with teachers who LIKED to teach that way. They couldn’t avoid it. Sneaky, huh? Go Rotation!
The original design concept for the “A-V” –Audio-Visual Workshop was about MAKING audio-visuals as much as it was SHOWING Videos. I know because I was there in 1990 when we thunk it up. The creative curriculum resources we were borrowing ideas from were FULL of audio-visual making projects. And you can still find them so today.
NUTS AND BOLTS
What’s in a Name?
In the Rotation Model for Sunday School, we dedicate a room (and teacher) to teaching with audio-visuals. Typically this means “video,” but it can also mean other types of “a-v,” including, videotaping a skit, computers, overhead projectors, etc. The idea is to have all your equipment and ideas in the one room ready for the teacher and kids, rather than stuck in a closet or scattered across the building.
Careful what you ask for…
In some churches, they’ve named their A-V workshop a “Cinema,” or “Theater,” and given it fun names like “Holy-wood Theater.” Unfortunately, “Cinema” and “Theater” convey “sitting and watching” and can become self-fulfilling prophecies. Sitting and watching has its role, but creating a creative viewing space can also take up a lot of space, …crowding out activities like “making” an audio-visual, for example.
Create an Exciting A-V Space
Theater seats are awesome if you have the space and can locate the chairs (surprisingly easy and often free from theaters that are remodeling). You can see a photo of one church’s A-V workshop below with theater seats. What you can’t see in that photo is the extra space they had AWAY from the seats to do other “A-V” activities. For portability or a small space, consider “director’s chairs,” or a pile of cushions. In my last A-V workshop, we purchased stackable plastic “Adirondack-style” chairs. The kids love them. They were comfortable, cheap, and easy to move.
I hope your church still owns a filmstrip projector. And I hope they haven’t thrown out their overhead projector. (If they have, get one of the new kind that uses a videocamera to show what’s on the table and projects it on the wall). And you don’t have to go “high tech” to be audio-visual. Transparency sheets can still be taped together to form “cartoon cells”. A 12″ high roll of butcher paper with dowel rods on either end can still become a “scrolling television screen in a box”.
Churches are bringing in cushions, popcorn, even FUN seating. Don’t forget to leave space to act-out skits, and tables to draw your own cartoon strips and do your Bible study around. Have a closet full of props so you can create a “sound effects studio” (a table full of gizmos and things that make noise) for the kids to use for ‘improving’ a video they are watching a second time around (yep, there’s a great lesson idea for you to resurrect a bad/old video and have some fun with it).
Whatever furniture you use, remember to leave space for A-V making.
Why all the “stuff” ??
Kids and adults pay attention better when our physical, emotional and creature-comfort needs are taken care of, and when our sense of “play” is excited by the presence of “stuff” (props) that our imaginations can run wild with. Some kids watch better when sprawled on the floor. Some need to be close. Most need the screen at eye level or below, not above. For some reason, turning off the lights and eating popcorn keeps kids and adult from fidgeting and distracting others. It also smells great -and attracts the attention of all the adults walking by . Funny thing about buying a “theater style” popcorn machine… people fret about the initial cost (couple hundred bucks), but nobody turns down the free popcorn, and it will suddenly find its way to other church events.
Tips on Picking and Showing Videos
Some of this may seem pretty obvious. But it is amazing how often folks pick lousy videos, or age inappropriate videos, or show a good video in a bad way. Or they think they are saving $29.99 by not buying a good video, without calculating the cost in lost opportunity or kids walking away bored. In the Rotation Model we should not assume our volunteers know how to teach with video, …just because they’ve seen videos all their life. So here are some tips from one who’s been doing it for 30 years and made my share of mistakes.
PREVIEW. Did I mention “preview”? Figure out what to show, what to skip and where to pause. This is especially helpful for younger children.
WRITE AN OUTLINE as you preview. Note “pause points,” places to comment, places to watch twice. List difficult vocab. Note whether it will be easy for kids to KNOW WHO certain characters are. Create a set of “talking points” and Key Questions to pose.
KNOW WHEN TO SKIP. I rarely use every part of a video. And often I’ll use some parts TWICE in the same lesson. Knowing what to show, what not to show, and what to show again are a big part of teaching with videos. Less is usually more.
PRE-BRIEF the students as to vocabulary, characters they will see, and the storyline. This is not only a good idea for all ages, but will particularly help younger students understand what they are watching. Tell they what YOU are looking for in the video.
USE THE PAUSE BUTTON! A surprising number of teachers will just “let the video run”. When I teach with video, I wear out the remote control batteries pausing it to make sure the kids understand what’s going on, or to skip back and watch a key section again. “Did you notice?” “This time look for”. If you get your classes used to pausing, they won’t fuss when you do it.
Caveat: Don’t stop the video too much or for minor reasons as it can bug some kids. Instead, pick your spots. See my suggestions below for how to get kids to “participate in the pauses.”
VIOLENCE and SEXUAL CONTENT ISSUES happen, even in Bible videos. Different kids and teachers have different sensitivities about violence and sexual content, even in Bible stories. Always preview your video and decide what to skip, or what needs some additional explanation. Years ago I blundered into a wonderful Christmas video with a multi-age group -forgetting about the scene of Herod’s slaughter of the innocents. It was tame by most standards, but too much for our Kindergartners who had to sit through it because my remote battery was dead.
TAKE NOTE OF theological, cultural and gender role issues. Most videos are produced by ecumenical publishers, so you should expect they will contain some variant beliefs and ideas that you will need to address. Cultural and gender role problems tend to occur in older videos. Newer videos tend to be more sensitive to these issues. Do not avoid or gloss over the differences. Teach your children how to handle them.
EXPLAIN to students when a video is “adapting” or taking “artistic license” with content. Some videos add to the stories to make them more kid friendly. That’s not bad, it just needs explained. Make sure students know the difference between what’s in the Bible and what’s in the video
A Typical Lesson Plan for Showing a Video
1. Open the lesson WITHOUT the Video
Always introduce the video before showing it.
Tell them what the story is going to teach.
Give some Biblical context, such as, where it’s found, timeline, etc.
Note what you want them to look for.
Give them a Who’s Who in the story.
Explain ahead of time the Vocabulary and Concepts they’ll hear.
Write “Key Question to Consider” on the board for all to see.
For pre-readers: draw the concept/question in a pictogram.
If your video closely follows the Bible passage you are studying, you do not necessarily have to READ the passage from the Bible. The Bible is God’s Word, it’s not about the paper or plastic. While it’s usually a good idea to include reading from scripture, in the A-V workshop the scripture can be what you see on screen! …depends on what you are showing. (If you are making an A-V or just showing media clips, you will definitely want to crack open your printed Bible.)
2. THEN….Show the Video
a. Use the PAUSE button at key places. It’s your most powerful “video” teaching tool, not only to make sure they get it, but to give their brains time to process what they’ve just seen before they move on. Some videos are too breathless in their pace (I find that this is particular true of the Veggie Tale videos…they are a bit too quick witted).
b. Don’t be afraid to view an important scene a second time. Kids (and adults) watch movies over and over all the time. Point out facial expressions, reactions, things happening in the background, etc.
3. Always Debrief & Process Video Content after showing it.
This is one of the most important, yet most neglected parts of teaching with video. Too often the video runs long and class time is up. If that’s the case, you need to skip some things in the video so that you are not neglecting the all important step of processing and reflecting on what they’ve just seen. If you dont’ have at least 5 minutes at the end of a video to debrief it, then you need to cut 5 minutes out of the video.
A Debriefing Strategy: Immediately following a video, I will often ask the class to shout out what they saw, -writing on a whiteboard (yeah, a free-for-all because they like that! and it gets participation). Then I ask them to help me put it in the correct order. This is a very important step because not every student will have a quick memory of all that they have seen. Then I will add things that I saw and begin to ask a bunch of questions.
Some good process and reflection questions:
What was your favorite part?
What was your least favorite part or character?
What part was confusing to you?
What do you think this character meant when he said …..
What part would you love to see again.
Did anyone notice when this happened… __________?
What was the reaction of this character when this happened…. _____________?
How did ________feel when you saw……?
What would you have said to so-and-so in the story?
If your mom asks you to tell you what you learned from the video, what would you say?
Debriefing as you Pause
Depending on your video, age group and intentions, you may want to “debrief” throughout the video at key pause points. Just don’t pause a lot or the kids might get annoyed. Instead, pick your spots and perhaps “game” your pauses with variations of the following pause approach:
Prior to showing the video, write down on the board or on a set of cards “things to look-listen for” during the video. Assign those items or pass them out on cards and have the kids yell “pause!” when the video gets to their point. The card can have a follow-up question that the student can ask or try to answer. Creating this sense of anticipation and accountability will also improve their attention.
More ideas for following-up your videos…
Working in teams, have them create a storyboard of the video, putting different scenes on different cards or transparencies (and project on overhead). Then play a “memory” game seeing who can get them in the right order.
Role-playing: Show a key scene from the video with the sound turned off. Have students come forward to attemptp to narrate the dialog. Stop the scene and ask the rest of the group if the narrators were close enough. If not (and probably not!) have two more kids try it. This is a great little game to see a key scene over and over and have the kids rack their brains trying to remember it!
You can also do this in ‘reverse’ by having the characters stand in front of a tv screen which the audience can’t see, but can only hear. The actors have to act out a key scene. Again…this gets the kids INTO the story in a fun way and opens up discussion.
Create “movie advertising posters” for the video to hang on the wall. These will have the title, characters and key ideas/scripture written in “movie language” (ex: “See Jesus heal!” “Relive the Amazing Hole in the Roof Story!” Produced by… Directed by…. “Special Guest appearance by the Angel Gabriel” “Starring Jesus as himself” “Forgiveness the whole family will enjoy”. etc).
Create a “Bible Star Review Panel” …kids seated at a table with microphone are quickly dressed as characters in the video. The rest of the student pull questions from a jar (written by the teacher) and ask the characters to respond. Ex: “Miriam, what were you thinking there when the waters covered the Egyptian army?” “Rich Young Ruler, why did you walk away from Jesus?” “Zaccheus, what advice would you have for young people looking for Jesus today?” After several questions, switch in new kids to assume roles.
Make up a giant refrigerator box to look like a fancy TV. Put an opening on either side for actors to slip in and out of to do “commercials” for Manna. Or…”BREAKING NEWS REPORTS” about what they’ve just seen. “We interrupt this program to bring you some breaking news, Moses has just come down from the mountain…and here he comes, can we get an interview?”
Make a Teleprompter: This is a long sheet of paper that scrolls down a box which you’ve created prior to the class (and is very re-usable). The kids put their QUESTIONS on it about the story and go interview Moses (one of your teenagers in a goofy beard). You can also give each kid a “cue card” to put a question on. The cards can then be held and flipped through next to the camera just like in a tv show.
Hold an Awards Ceremony: Debate who should get which awards, then have the kids cast “secret ballots”. Now have them dress as the characters (or scenes!) and the teacher “MC’s” the award show giving them a small statue you’ve crumpled out of tin foil and tape a strip of paper as a nameplate around it (these should look gnarly and they can take them home). “Person in the story most likely to follow Jesus”, “Best Supporting Person Who Still Probably Doesn’t Get It”, “Best Part of the Story”, “Person Who Appeared in the Best Scene of the Movie”, “Strangest Part of the Video”, etc. (make your awards story-related). When the ‘winners’ come forward to get their award, the MC interviews them and the kid has to explain why they deserved the award.
(These ideas and techniques are all dependent on the story. You don’t want to make fun of something serious, but you do want to get the kids to express their thoughts and key concepts in a memorable way that feels like “Godly Play.”)
Years ago when I first posted this manual, I “suggested” churches purchase an LCD projector to hook up to a DVD player. They were expensive, but really, not more expensive that the $700 film projector I remember my church having to purchase back in the 1980’s! And now you can get an LCD projector for under $500… so let’s get real here. You’re a teaching enterprise, so you need teaching equipment. If you can’t afford a new LCD projector, buy a used one on Ebay, or from a local big business that turns over its equipment. (And btw…you’ll still need a VCR to play Video cassette tapes.)
1. Get an LCD Projector for your DVD player. Projecting a video LARGE on the wall really attracts the mind’s attention and creates a more immersive experience. That projector can also be used with a computer which can play DVDs as well. Do not mount it on the ceiling. Keep it mobile so you can use it for many different ideas.
2. Buy a good set of large amplified Computer Speakers to plug into your DVD player or VCR. Then, go to RadioShack and ask them for a plug that converts the computer speaker plug into an RCA-type plug so that you can connect your DVD/VCR’s AUDIO OUT to the computer speakers for sound that fills the room.
3. Buy a big mobile cart. I once made the mistake of buying one that was too small. You need a nice big rolly cart to hold all your equipment and teaching supplies, and things like “spare remote batteries” if you’re smart!
4. Attach a BIG KEY RING to your remote control so it doesn’t walk out of the room or end up lost between cushions or papers.[/b] This advice right there is worth the price of reading this far in the manual! Keep the remote locked up with the DVD player or VCR is not in use, and keep an extra set of batteries handy.
Interesting “Other Stuff” & “Techniques”
a) Get a microphone and small amplifier (like a small guitar amp). This will come in VERY handy for playing games, interviewing characters in skits, and making sure your video camera picks up the audio on its cruddy little mike. Microphones also have a funny way of GETTING KIDS TO TALK.
b) Have some costumes and “Bible props” handy. I’ve taken some videos, and the second time through had a few of the kids stand in front of the projected image for a short scene… and then ACT like the players do on screen. It’s pretty funny, and creates a wonderful opportunity to ask the kids some questions. “Hey Moses…why’d you throw down those tablets? Not very godly of you…what’s up with?” I once had three Jr. High boys sing along in-costume with the Prince of Egypt scene where we hear “There can be miracles” -much to everyone’s delight, which was a great “crowdbreaker” for the question: [i]”How is Belief a Miracle? Why do some people not believe?”
c) Purchase a cable that allows you to plug your iPhone into your TV or LCD projector so that you can show videos made with your smartphone. Smartphone cameras are great for shooting videos of skits.
d) Have a pointing-stick you can use to point to things on the screen, or have kids use to point with. Funny how props help!
e) Get a “selfie stick” to attach to your iPhone to take photos and videos with. Kids love that, and it’s great for doing skits.
f) Have a tripod for steadying your camera/iphone.
g) Hold “auditions” after the video. Write out the dialog or speech from a key scene on posterboard “cue card” and have students quickly take turns dressing as the character and dramatically auditioning for the role. (Videotaping this will also be great fun.) This is a really sneaky way to reinforce and help them remember a key scripture/idea spoken in the video.
h) “Rocky Horror Picture Show-i-size” Some Videos
Any of you old farts remember going to the midnight showing dressed as characters, throwing rice during the wedding scene, bringing a newspaper for when it rained in the movie? Some videos….particularly one you might videotape of the kids…. can lend themselves to this type of fun interaction. Jesus stills the storm. Jesus walks on water and splashes a bit. Stop the video and have your kids speak through a megaphone to play “what would Jospeph yell up the well at his brothers!” You can ASSIGN various “interactions” to specific kids and tell them what to do when that part of the story rolls around. THINK SOUND as well: Cellophane crackling for the Burning Bush. Crowd mumurs. Preview the video and make a list of possible places to add interactions.
Why do this? Because “gaming the video” is a technique similar to playing a game in the game workshop. It creates a sense of anticipation, and a focus to be ready. It drives content deep into memory, gives you great opportunities to ask questions during their high level of interest, and gets them to come back the next time! But obviously, it has to fit the video and story. You don’t ‘game’ the cross.
i) Have an ample supply of LARGE PAPER to put up on the walls to CREATE VISUALS. Backdrops for videos, scenery, places to write comments. The idea is to make the VISUALS IMPRESSIVE to their eyeballs, so that the content gets driven into the brain. Notebook paper can’t compete. GO BIG.
Rotation Model Note:
A Video “workshop” doesn’t just have to be about video. It can incorporate many other techniques/media. You can do art projects, skits, and make videos. Incorporating other teaching techniques is also a great way to deal with a SHORT video.
There is a lot of mis-information in the Church about the use of videos. Some of it is due to the industry itself and their scary FBI warnings. Some comes from the dis-information put out by for-profit licensing companies, and a lot comes from people’s misunderstanding of copyright vocabulary. I have researched and written about this issue at my software website. The Federal Copyright statutes are clear. Even the Motion Picture Licensing Corporation –which would love to sell you a blanket license, agrees: (from their own website) According to US Federal Copyright Law, Section 110(1): Films may be shown without a license to non-profit educational institutions for “face-to-face teaching activities.” CANADIAN copyright laws are almost identical, btw.
Non-teaching situations, however, such as, “movie night on a retreat or in worship, are not protected, and you will need a license to show some videos in those non-teaching situations. (Yes, “worship” is classified as “public performance” by the courts, and not “face to face teaching”.) The key is your intent and actual use, and what the publisher says.
US Federal Copyright Law also gives you the right to make excerpts/compilations and backup copies of videos for your face to face teaching use only. These cannot be distributed.
This document was written by Neil MacQueen and originally posted at www.sundaysoftware.com. Permission granted to use it and/or reproduce it for local non-profit teaching uses only. Copyright, all rights reserved. And extensively improved and expanded version of this article is posted over at Rotation.org in their Video Workshop Forum where you’ll also find many other great ideas and techniques.