Digital Literacy: Reading video in K-2


The first time I saw a teacher model close viewing of a video clip was at TCRWP (Teachers College Reading and Writing Project.) I signed up for this afternoon session to learn more about integrating technology into the classroom. Amanda Hartman took a 45 minute session and blew my mind. She made the connection between looking closely at text and looking closely at visual media.  Instead of reading the words to understand non-fiction information, Hartman suggested observing a video clip closely.  The lesson felt like a guided reading lesson, but for viewing. After the presentation, I felt empowered to teach non-fiction in a new way.  This different type of engagement for students could be a powerful add on to text or to stand alone.  As I write this post I need to give Amanda Hartman credit for this thinking.


Even though most American children are raised in a culture of visual media, most children are ingesting it passively.  As teachers, we need to help construct the meaningful thinking process they will use to engage in our society constructively; to help solve our world’s problems.  When we teach children how to read, we think out loud, slow down the reading process, ask guiding questions, give students a chance to practice.  Applying this kind of thinking to viewing makes sense.  That’s exactly what Amanda did on that August afternoon.

First she made the reading / viewing connection.  We looked at a clip of a whale.  I believe she let us watch it all the way through first without any comment on her part. She then masterfully led us through the clip more slowly, without dialogue, pausing after about 10-15 seconds of video showing a big blue whale swimming deep in the ocean. She started with open ended questions like “What do you notice? Turn and talk with a person sitting next to you about what you think is going on here.”  Then she continued to slowly reveal the more subtle parts of the clip and let us, the learners peel away the layers of meaning.

It has taken me a few years to digest the one presentation by Amanda Hartman.   I have shared it with other teachers.  But, the need to put this into practice still exists.  Honestly, I have used this strategy in maybe five lessons this year.  I don’t claim to be any kind of an expert.  I am interested in hearing about how other teachers are using videoclips to support the learning of content.  But creating my own model lesson here for teachers may benefit my own instruction and improve the instruction of others.  My first post is going to be for the novice teacher.  Then next week I will do a follow up post more in depth.

Teacher Tip: Looking for a video clip

Finding the right clip takes time.  For the purposes of this public space I will be using You Tube.  In my classroom, I have access to Discovery Streaming and World Book Kids.  Some other teachers may have use to sources like Pebble Go or National Geographic Kids.  When I am looking for a video clip there are a lot of things I take into account.  I want to make sure it is less than five minutes.  It should be a high interest subject for the age of students.  If there is narration with the video it should be simple language.  The clip should be beautiful to look at. If there is any chance to turn on closed captions, they are always helpful.

Strategy: Using a video clip like you would a mentor text

Watch this video clip one time.  Then come back and think about how pre reading strategies could apply to viewing a clip for the first time. View until 2 minutes and 41 seconds. (Don’t be afraid to laugh a little at the goofy whale sounds.  You know your kids will.)

Previewing is like reading for the first time or taking a picture walk through a book.  The first question I always start with is: what am I wondering about as I watch this video?  What do I notice?  Why do I think that?  Encouraging children to wonder in an open ended way invites all kinds of different observations.  I may have some in mind.  But, often, my students will notice things I do not.  Here are some questions I repeat throughout the year across all subject areas

What do you notice?

IMG_0395Why do you think that?

How do you know?

Where does the (text/video) show you?

What does it all mean? Are you developing a theory?

What will you do with this information?

Much of this thinking also comes to the surface after spending several classes with Kristi Mraz, a kindergarten teacher and staff developed at the TCRWP.  She helped me to use this clear language repeatedly with young people, so they would start using it with me and with each other.  These questions are the same questions I use over and over through the year in math as well as reading.  Without even knowing the power of this approach, my students became curious, logical, reflective students who used data to support their theories.  It was like magic.


This exercise when practiced again and again with different topics in different areas will result in a variety of critical thinking habits in young minds.  They will start to ask these questions of each other in small groups.  They will share evidence for their thinking more naturally.  Their conversations will demonstrate the elements sought by the creators of the common core.


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