These Free Lessons Will Get Your Students Making Cool Explainer Videos

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Video creation is all the rage—among both adults and students. Not only is it a fun and engaging way to reach students, it’s a valuable skill for adults. Enter Adobe in a Box, an interactive project by Adobe and Khan Academy that guides students to create their own explainer videos. The project videos are paired with an educator guide and student worksheet that can be adapted to fit any class across grade levels and subjects.

For even more engagement, be sure to tell students how to join the Student Explainer Video Challenge by submitting a 1-2 minute explainer video on any topic by January 10 for a chance to win a mobile video production kit. To get started making explainer videos with your students, here’s what to do:

Learners can’t make videos until they generate ideas for what to explain. If you’re just getting started, choose a topic you’ve already been working on to get kids comfortable making explainer videos. The cool thing is that every subject-area teacher can do this assignment. Say, for instance, your class is studying chemical reactions. Try providing different groups of students various common chemical reactions like photosynthesis, respiration, or digestion. Groups can make explainer videos to demonstrate their understanding of the outcome of each chemical reaction, getting learners comfortable with the program in the process.

Other explainer video subject ideas include:

  • Math students can create visual proofs for common theorems or formulas, like the Pythagorean Theorem.
  • English students can create explainer videos on the etymology of common Greek allusions, like Pandora’s box, Achilles Heel, or Herculean, linking to a study of Greek mythology.
  • Activism and Civics students can analyze the history of student protests and activism, educating their peers on things they can do to make positive change in their community and school.
  • PE students can make explainer videos on optimal form for throwing a spiral.
  • Arts students can demonstrate the best techniques for chiaroscuro or analyzing perspective in photography.

Teacher tip: provide students with a guiding theme and essential question, such as: What might the world be like without systems? A universal theme like this slightly narrows the scope of your students’ ideas while allowing for choice in what they learn. Looking to open it up even more? Ask students to create their own passion projects or start a Genius Hour.

Once students have chosen a topic, it’s time for them to roll up their sleeves and get started! Experts in explainer videos, Sal Khan and “Voodoo Val” speak to the value of simplicity. Whereas, Hillary relies more heavily on scripting and storyboarding. This helps kids find the right path for themselves. Since the Adobe tools are easy to use, that means video editing will be easy if students make errors while recording.

Encourage them to build a simple outline or storyboard first, and for students who need extra support, provide them with a template that includes a “hook” with a main idea, space for subtopics, and a closing that keeps listeners wondering or calling them to action.

Don’t forget to share success criteria with them! Structure is valuable in open-ended projects like this, so be sure to create your own rubric or use the one that Adobe recommends.

Now the real fun begins. Using their outlines and storyboards, students can begin recording. For students who need extra support, or students who are learning English, consider using a teleprompter app like BigVu. For those who don’t need it, encourage them to either memorize their scripts or talk without a script entirely. This builds public speaking skills and will come across as more genuine. Remind them that mistakes will happen and not to get too hard on themselves when they do.

Teacher tip: don’t worry if you don’t know how to use video production tools because there’s a production guid eand tutorials links included in the lesson.

Feedback is an important part of the explainer video process. Especially if you want your students to become more independent with video making, creating opportunities for short feedback loops will be critical.

Before feedback begins, remember to strike up a conversation about what makes feedback helpful. It needs to be specific, and it must be actionable. You might want to use some of the guiding questions that Adobe offers:

  • What worked well?
  • What didn’t?
  • Did the hook grab your attention?

Consider having students complete a formal reflection after they’ve received their feedback. Have them cite strengths, challenges, and action steps they’ll take next time to improve their explainer videos.

But remember, too, that formative feedback is important. After each step of the process, make time for informal feedback in groups or whole-class reflections where students can process successes and challenges as a group.

Students (ages 13+) can also participate in the Student Explainer Video Challenge by submitting a 1-2 minute explainer video on any topic by January 10 for a chance to win a mobile video production kit. Submissions details and official rules.

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