Read aloud videos: How to engage your students remotely

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Most teachers would agree that reading aloud is one of the most important activities to do with budding young readers. It both nurtures their engagement with text and cultivates language development. However, you might not realize that reading aloud can still be done effectively remotely! Like Betty White, Dolly Parton, Jimmy Fallon, and other celebrities who are bringing their acting skills to children’s stories, I’ve taken up remote reading too, but I’ve added my own teacher twist. 

I’ve started developing sets of videos on Prezi Video and sending these out to my scholars. In these videos, I read a story aloud, and then spin that story out into an easy home project for my scholars. Since I collaborate with all the teachers in the school, what better way to stay present with all of our 400 scholars and get a little ‘face time’ with them? For me, it is also a great time for me to be silly and funny as my scholars expect that from me!

How to make a video series for your scholars

I have two different methods that inspire my video sets: I either start with a book or with the standards. I can’t say which is better because I use both depending on the situation. Sometimes I find a perfect book and that gets the ball rolling; other times a particular standard drives me to find the best book.

Once I find the book and standards I am going to use, I decide what 2 to 3-minute lesson I am going to pull out of the story related to science and STEM learning. Then the book, standard, and lesson drive the project-based learning experience, and I use Prezi Video to create videos that act as cornerstones of the project.

For instance, the set of videos I made for the Carrot Seed, I did a read-aloud of the children’s book, a mini-lesson on seeds, and a set of instructions for creating a home terrarium. In the read-aloud, I made sure to pause and ask questions. While this may feel a bit unnatural at first, the think time is needed for students to pay attention to the words and images for beginning readers.

Check out the mini-lesson on seeds:

See the video with instructions on how to build a terrarium:

Grab their attention by making your presentation more interactive

In the terrarium video, I made sure my scholars understood what a terrarium was and how it functioned. This led them into an at-home, hands-on project which is way better than getting a packet of worksheets!

To cap the set of activities, I do an online reflection for the students using Flipgrid. Closing the learning with reflection is just as important as the read-aloud launch. And as an extension in this time of remote learning, I connect the Prezi videos to a cool curated set of virtual field trips.

Once I have all the pieces mapped out, I pull it all together. I like to build my presentations in PowerPoint, and I love that Prezi Video allows you to pull them into the video very quickly and seamlessly. Prezi Present is also just as easy to use. I suggest trying both to see which works best for the way you want to present!

Prezi Video has been a game-changer. And the fact that I can use different tools along with it makes my work really POP! Once the videos are done, I use the quick links to send them out to my scholars…no need for docs or worksheets!

How to create a video series for students

Here is my down-and-dirty on creating a fun, engaging, and tight series or unit:

  1. Create a great read-aloud and make it fun. Bring your personality into it because this is what your scholars deserve! 

  2. Create several shorter videos instead of one long video. This gives your scholars time to digest each part. Shorter videos are also more like our teaching in the classroom. 

  3. Keep them as short and tight as possible. Don’t drone on…as teachers WE CAN TALK but let’s keep it to the point!

  4. Use your phone to photograph the book pages you are using. There are also a lot of FREE pre-created PowerPoint versions of books out there. Search for them, and work efficiently — not harder!

  5. If you make mistakes, just run with it. If your dog barks during the recording work it in…remember: we are not professional newscasters!

  6. Practice before you record.

  7. If your videos show you having fun your students are going to have fun.

  8. Play with the different templates. I change them up depending on what content I am delivering.

  9. PLEASE give credit to the authors of the books. Adding a link in the video description to direct scholars to a site to purchase the book is a great way to support their work! It’s perfectly legal for you to read books aloud online, but it is always good practice to give authors the credit they’re due.

The Prezi teacher community is creating a lot of different types of videos that can help provide both ideas and inspiration. There is also free live training and on-demand online training that is helpful to getting started.

Jamie has been in education for over 15 years. He is currently an elementary STEM/Science Educator New York City DOE. He has been acknowledged for his work in education over his career: 2019 Microsoft Innovative Educator, 2020 SpheroHero, Prezi Board of Advisors -Education, 2019 LittleBits BitStar, 2015 Henry Ford Innovative Teacher of the Year, 2014 MOHAI Teacher of the Year, 2013 Academy for Arts and Science National Innovative Teacher of the NSTA Outstanding Science Text Committee. See Mr. Ewing’s Location for Educational Mind Explosions for his full set of read-alouds.

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