In the classroom, video means instant engagement, and making video is an increasingly important skill for youngsters to develop. We’ve put together ten exciting assignment ideas that will help elementary and middle school teachers get their students making great video! Parents, feel free to steal these ideas for rainy weekends, too.
Make Video Really Easy For All Students
Not all students will be able to access their own camera equipment, either due to their families’ budgets, their age, or parental permissions, and some may be a little too shy to be on camera. Remove obstacles by creating groups to work on each project, and consider setting up a couple different “studios” in the classroom. Then, come up with fun and quiet assignments that groups not actively filming can tackle, like script writing or prop-making, while others get their turn in front of the camera.
An in-class studio could be as simple as a backdrop with a tripod, or more complex depending on your school’s resources and the space you have to work with. If you are able to setup a couple different studios, more than one group could be creating videos at the same time, and, no one will be left out if they can’t get the right equipment.
Basic video equipment is really inexpensive in this day and age, especially for this type of kid-friendly production. A low-cost video camcorder from Amazon would likely suffice, and simple tripods are usually under $50. If you aren’t in a position to purchase equipment, you can always use a smartphone or tablet with a mini-tripod or similar stand, or a laptop with a built-in camera.
Editing the final video together might not be required for all of these project ideas, but it makes sense to check on the availability of video editing programs on school computers to see if it might be possible. iMovie or Windows Movie Maker are both free and easy to use. That way, any particularly inspired students can take their project to the next level if they’d like.
For sharing the video, it’s important to be sensitive to the privacy of the children participating, so consider sharing the video with a password or with login protection to make sure only the participants, or their parents, can view it.
Video Assignments for Elementary School Students
1. Task: Make a short video reviewing your favorite book.
Objective: Students should record themselves giving a synopsis of the book and sharing what they enjoy about it. Using age-appropriate props, younger children can shoot a scene from the book; older children can direct a scene featuring their friends.
In addition to putting thoughts together coherently, and learning how to write for film (for older students), this task will enable children to be comfortable in front of and behind the camera, and encourage collaborative group work.
2. Task: Make a commercial.
Objective: Take an everyday object – an apple, pen, table, lunchbox – and ask students to make a commercial trying to sell it. They should put together a script, create a jingle, and design a brand logo as well as filming the advert. Depending on the age of your students, they could work together, with each member of the group taking responsibility for a different element of the video. This is an effective task at showing students the power of persuasive writing, how to work effectively in a team, as well as the objective behind advertising.
3. Task: Create a video tour of the school for new students.
Objective: Pupils can share their school experience with new students by recording and narrating it. They should interview teachers and other students, as well as showing their classmates using the school’s facilities (outdoor play area, pool, computer room). In addition to learning filming and editing skills, this task enables students to hone interviewing and communication skills.
4. Task: Exchange video messages with other schools.
Objective: Students from a partnering elementary school exchange short videos with your class that explain what life is like at their school, or another agreed-upon topic. The idea would be to generate interest in another culture, or to introduce students from a far-flung part of the USA. Not only would this type of exchange expand their horizons, but it would help develop their story-telling abilities, too.
5. Task: Explain how to make your favorite food.
Objective: Have students make a short video about their favorite food, or a special family recipe. Use creativity for those who aren’t able to do any filming at home, such as having them bring in some of their favorite food to share, or using animated pictures instead of actual footage. As an alternative, assign students to different meal groups, like breakfast, lunch, and dinner, and have them work on the assignment in teams. This assignment will help students get to know and appreciate other food cultures, while also having a really fun time.
Video Assignments for Middle School Students
6. Task: Create vocabulary Vines.
Objective: Show a word on paper (perhaps a student could be filmed writing it), then record a visual representation of the term. Each Vine should be downloaded onto the school’s own intranet so students can easily access them. This is also a great exercise for foreign language classes.
7. Task: Make a two-minute video assignment about your hobby.
Objective: The student will learn to operate a video camera (or the video function on their smartphone or tablet), grab copyright free clips from the web, and edit footage. Part of the challenge will be to adhere to the two-minute time limit. Older students can be taught how to use industry standard editing software. Whatever level they are at, students will respond positively to being given free rein to get creative and produce original content about a topic that interests them.
8. Task: Create a video dialogue with a famous historical character.
Objective: Using the split screen effect, the student should record themselves in conversation with someone the class has been studying in history. They will enjoy dressing up and getting into character for this task! This video assignment challenges the student to demonstrate a deep understanding of the psyche and motivations of an historical personage. (Note: this assignment also works well as a conversation between the student and a character from the book the class are studying.)
9. Task: Film your science lab project.
Objective: Film a project from start to end, hypothesis to conclusion. Students should show footage of the experiment being set up, carried out, and concluded. They should add a voiceover explaining what’s happening and why in each shot. This assignment is two-fold: in addition to demonstrating their understanding of the relevant scientific principles, students will hone their filming and editing skills.
10. Task: Give your own TED talk.
Objective: Show students an age-appropriate TED talk that’s relevant to a topic they’re studying in your class. They should use it as a basis to put together their own presentation on that subject area. Encourage them to use visual aids and to adapt an engaging mode of presenting, just like the TED speakers. A cameo from friends, family members, or even pets makes for a great video!
For demonstrating to students that a ‘talk’ is more than just talking, we recommend showing them the following TED videos: The Shared Experience of Absurdity, The New Bionics that Let Us Run, Climb and Dance, and Einstein the Parrot.
Have you used video to engage students? Is your school starting to do more with video in the classroom? Share your most successful assignment ideas with the SproutVideo community in the comments section below!