20 video project ideas to engage students

Videos are engaging. They can be a powerful tool to draw students in and connect them to content in innovative ways. Here are 20 ways to do it.

>>> UPDATED OCTOBER 2018! <<<

In my classroom, video usually equals instant engagement.

Students like to record it — especially because many of them get to use their phones for school purposes.

But they like to watch them even more, and if those videos are produced by their peers, the interest skyrockets.

That power has huge potential to be harnessed for educational gain.

Integrating video projects into the classroom can be as simple or complex as you want. Just grab a phone, digital camera or tablet and your students are on their way.

Here are some video project ideas, divided into ideas for any classroom and ideas for specific subject areas:

10 ideas for (almost) any classroom:

1. Create a personal narrative — Everyone has a story, and when we share our own experiences, they can be a motivating factor for others — and help us reflect on our lives and choices. Narratives can be about students themselves, a fictional character or historical person. A few easy ways to record these include:

2. Record interviews (in person or virtually) — The people around us and around the world are living history. Their experiences, information, and advice is a treasure trove waiting to be mined. Use a video response tool like Flipgrid (flipgrid.com) or Recap (letsrecap.com) to record interviews. They could be in-person interviews where both parties sit next to each other in the camera’s frame. Or, they could be virtual interviews, where someone far away records responses to questions in a Flipgrid/Recap video (just share the link with them to record a video). They can be serious, silly … even fictional. The sky’s the limit!

3. Create a whiteboard animation — Set up something with a camera so it won’t move (on a tripod or otherwise). Aim it at a whiteboard or chalkboard. Record and start drawing. Use video editing tools to speed it up to four times its normal speed and add a voiceover (and music?). Here’s a great blog post with the basics on how to create these videos. Below is a whiteboard animation I created to illustrate a conference session I presented (my cropping was not the best!).

4. Present slides with a screencast recording — People communicate big, important ideas like this all the time using webinars. The slides let you present an idea step by step using uncluttered slides with a simple sentence (or single word!) or an image. Instead of presenting multiple bullet points on a single slide, break each point out into its own slide. Screencast recording tools like ScreencastifyScreencast-o-Matic and others can handle these videos easily!

5. Record a stop-motion animation in Google Slides — If you’re recording your screen, the first thing that comes to mind for many people is to record presentation slides. (See the idea above.) Let’s go beyond that and think of other useful websites and apps that you could record instead. For instance, create a stop-motion animation using Google Slides (click here for a step-by-step tutorial). It’s easy: create a slide, duplicate it, move something, duplicate the new slide, move something, etc. Repeat over and over. When you’re done, record it using a tool like like Screencastify or Screencast-o-Matic. Record your voice with a microphone so you can narrate what’s happening!

6. Make a tour of a significant location — If students visit a place — on a field trip, on vacation or any time — they can share their learning experience with others by recording video of it and narrating as they go. (If they’re at a museum or other such place, asking permission first is probably a good idea!) If they can’t visit it, creating a video slideshow with Animoto or in a screencast would work, too.

A virtual walking tour is an option, too. Use Google Maps Street View to view one of these fantastic locations virtually (or anywhere else). Record it (including the microphone for your voice) while you play tour guide and read some facts about the location from a script or extemporaneously!

7. Take your videos anywhere with green screen — Green screen apps let students superimpose themselves over an image or video background. This makes it look like they’re almost anywhere in the world (or beyond!) in these videos. Inexpensive apps like Green Screen by Do Ink can make it happen. (Here’s a video that shows how it works.) You don’t need a fancy green screen to stand in front of, either. A green painted wall, a green fabric background or even a green disposable tablecloth can work!

8. Create GIF examples of classroom content — GIFs are the moving image files. They’re kind of like silent video that’s treated like a picture file. By using a free GIF maker, students can create videos of anything class related and place it on a class website or share simply. Teachers can also make short animations to use for demonstrations. Here’s a post by Kim Snodgrass on the Dave Burgess blog about creating GIFs and how they can be used in class.

9. Make video with an app — Lots of apps (on the web or for mobile devices) are built to create fun videos that can demonstrate learning! Here are some examples:

  • Create book reports, step-by-step videos and more using Adobe Spark Video. Check out this guest post by Claudio Zavala showing how it works and what you can do with it.
  • Telestory is a mobile app that helps you create flashy videos with fun overlays. Create and record a TV show, make music videos, use night vision effects and more in your videos. Then save the video to your camera roll.
  • Chatterpix is a mobile app that brings an inanimate object or photo to life! Show the app where the mouth is in the photo and record some audio. It’ll make the mouth move along with your voice!
  • Triller is a mobile app that lets you record fun music videos. Find a song that fits with what you’re learning and record several video takes that show what you’ve learned. Triller splices a music video together that looks pretty slick! (Note: There’s no language filter for songs, so you might want to make these videos with students instead of turning them loose on the app.)

10. Get creative — Take cues from the things we LOVE to watch on video and find ways to adapt them to class. Record them with any of the apps or platforms mentioned above. Here are some examples:

  • Create a reality TV show and insert characters or content you’ve been studying.
  • Create a March Madness-style bracket with people or ideas you’ve been studying in the bracket. Have a SportsCenter-style show talking about your picks.
  • Create a TV commercial for a product or service that goes along with what you’re learning.
  • Create a how-to video segment. (These are SUPER popular on YouTube already!)
  • Create something that appears to be recorded live, like a live TV news report or a Blair Witch Project-style recording.
  • Create a game show or fun game like Cash Cab or Carpool Karaoke that brings in content from class. Script it all out OR record it off the cuff!
  • Create an OK Go-inspired video. They share lots of information, ideas and inspiration from their music videos at OK Go Sandbox. There’s plenty of math, physics and more in these videos!
  • Create a TV news program, complete with news anchors, reporters on the scene and more.

10 ideas for specific subject areas:

11. Recreate a historic speech or moment in history for a social studies class.

12. Display the work and results of a science lab project from beginning to end, from hypothesis to conclusion. Add images of lab data in the project to show specifics of the results.

13. Write and record poetry or short stories that illustrate literary elements learned in an English class. Include Creative Commons or public domain music that matches the mood of the written work.

14. Bring story problems to life or record a whiteboard explanation of a math problem. Use subtitles to further explain concepts in the problem. A mobile app like Educreations or Explain Everything is perfect for this.

15. Create a conversation, explanation or skit in another language for a foreign language class.

16. Show off skills learned in a physical education lesson or impart wisdom for a healthy lifestyle for a health class.

17. Give cooking demonstrations or child development presentations for family and consumer science classes.

18. Record video presentations to take agriculture classes outside the school’s walls, giving demonstrations of live animals, crops or anything ag-related on a family farm.

19. Display the great service projects or school spirit events that extra-curricular activities are engaging in.

20. Send parent and student reminders from the guidance office and make connections from the principal’s office in regular video messages.

 How else can video be used for gains in the classroom? What other tools should others know about? Share your thoughts in a comment below!

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  • Frances Barnes says:

    Great ideas. Many that I can see a use for. Thanks.

  • These ideas are practical, diverse and important. Every teacher interested in using video can and should find ideas here. Thanks for sharing.

    • Matt Miller says:

      Thanks Carole! I’ve used some of these ideas and they’ve been a lot of fun AND good learning experiences for my students. I really like using video but struggle with the time it takes to produce them … I like to minimize time doing non-content-area things during class. Thanks for the comment!

  • […] and then share what they’ve found on Google with the rest of the class.  Finally, what about 20 Video Project Ideas to Engage Students….some terrific ideas […]

  • Our school district has has a video media class at the high school for four years, and is adding it as an elective for 7th and 8th grades this year. As a first year teacher who is piloting this program and taking over the high school class as well, I’m grateful for these suggestions. Some will be great as entry level projects for complete amateurs, and some will be a gateway to higher level filming and editing for the experienced kids.

    Some additional suggestions:
    * Periodic (weekly? daily) newscast of school announcements, athletics, and club activities
    * Silent film
    * Tutorial – there are several video screen-capture programs and apps, many of them free, that can be used for the student to live-record a demonstration of a program, computer app, or process. Great way to flip the classroom and get the kids sharing their bright ideas with each other.

  • Cherie Ollie says:

    I love your ideas! I can see how to adapt some of these, but do you have others appropriate for kindergarten aged students?

    • Matt Miller says:

      Hi Cherie! I’ve worked in high school my whole career, so most of my ideas come from that perspective … so if I offer some ideas for kindergarten-aged students, remember whom you’re getting this from! 🙂
      — I think collaborative videos would be awesome for this age. Have each kid do a small part of it. Then have them save those videos to one central place (or have students all record using the same iPad or camera). Pull all of those video clips together using a video editor (WeVideo, iMovie, Windows Movie Maker, YouTube Editor (youtube.com/editor)). They’ll have a video project they can all be proud of … and you’ll have something to share with parents!
      — Having kids just do simple videos where they explain things in their own words would be awesome. It’s great cognitive work for little ones to just explain things for us, and we LOVE hearing it in their little voices.
      — Get some paper cut-outs of characters, aim a camera (iPad, etc.) at a desk using something to prop it up, and let students do some storytelling. They can move the cut-outs around while they talk. Help them plan out the story first (storyboarding).
      — Telestory, Puppet Pals and Chatterpix are all great apps to help younger ones create some cool videos as well. If you haven’t seen them, do a search on the App Store and check them out!

  • Nick Milam says:

    H. P. Lovecraft’s short story “At the Mountains of Madness of Madness would make a great movie.

  • Karen Bowden says:

    Sadly, Screenr is no longer available. I’ve found that TinyTake is a pretty good alternative.

    • Matt Miller says:

      You’re right. I noticed that as well and thought I had updated the blog post, but apparently not! Thanks for the recommendation. I’ve updated the blog post with your suggestion.

  • […] use to recount some of the information she’s learning. I borrowed these two ideas (1 & 2) for a supplemental list of ways to demonstrate learning. I’ll leave it up to her to pick […]

  • […] 20 video project ideas to engage students […]

  • B.T. says:

    I haven’t read the rest of the comments but I LOVE these ideas. One suggestion or request is to include an example to see. You describe one but I think if I had something to show my students, it would really help. I love all your posts and get so many great ideas. Thank you!!

  • Tina Kraus says:

    Wonderful ideas. Will definitely use these in my classroom.

  • Gary says:

    Practical and simple suggestions….great change of pace activities.

  • […] Classroom Use – I wouldn’t use it in the classroom. But I mean, I am pretty picky after all. Depending on the technology available, I would either use Windows Movie Maker or iMovie. However, there are so many ways that technology, similar to this, can be used in the classroom. Students can write and record personal narratives, preform skits, or deliver a speech. They could also record interviews or make How-To videos. The opportunities are endless, but if you are interested, here are a few more great ideas. […]