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Video production as a method for increasing reading comprehension

Moving images have always helped us capture meaning. It only makes sense then, that by creating moving images and creating sound, learners will understand the meaning even more clearly.


Benefits of Video Creation in the Classroom

I used to joke with some of my teaching colleagues that when my students read informational text, “it often went in one eye and out the other.” As soon as learners read a passage, many of them would forget what they read. Using fix-up strategies such as Talking to the Text (T4) was certainly helpful. However, when I wanted students to gain deep knowledge of a topic they were learning, I added video creation as part of the comprehension and inquiry process. 


As we model at the Summer Institute in Digital Literacy, when learners have the opportunity to slow down and spend time researching, writing, and producing videos about topics they’ve learned about in school, they become experts and are able to share their knowledge with others. Lynda O’Donnell is a fifth-grade teacher in the South Redford School District near Detroit, Michigan. The inquiry question in her science water unit was, “Where does clean water come from?” From the readings and research her students completed, they were asked to explain a concept in their video. This required planning and producing or recreating a scene for their water video. Through this process, they explained and/or retaught the material in the video which also helped them better understand and retain the information they read about. Comprehension achieved! 


Other added benefits from the video creation process are the critical thinking skills gained through problem-solving, learning how to use video technology, and synthesizing information in order to tell a story using video as a way to distribute newfound knowledge.

Fifth-grade students record their video on the water filtration process as part of answering their inquiry question, “Where does clean water come from?" Photo Credit: Kara Clayton

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Videos Across the Curriculum

How might you use video to increase reading comprehension skills in your classroom? Here are a few ideas. Your learners will amaze you with their own ideas as well!

  • Math - Demonstrate real-world math principles.

  • Science - Plant a garden and document the changes over time. Consider time lapse!

  • Social Studies - Video biographies of historical figures or video reenactments of historical time periods.

  • World Languages - Demonstrate word meaning or cultural celebrations.

  • ELA - Reenact a scene from a book, poem, or play.

Video Equipment and Video Editing Apps

When teaching elementary-aged learners how to record video, I typically use iPods or devices which are similar in size so their little hands are able to operate them easily. I chose iPods for recording because my young learners needed to be able to zoom in and out. This fine motor skill is more difficult for little hands to accomplish with true point-and-shoot cameras like the Sony Handycam or the Canon Vixia. And, while these two cameras are great for older learners, their smartphones work well for recording also. A classroom iPad or tablet could also be on hand for learners who do not have a phone of their own to use to ensure digital equity.


In order to purchase iPods for my classroom, I created a Donors Choose account and raised funds for two to three devices at a time. My school was considered an Equity Focus School. This meant we frequently benefited from matching donations through corporate donors associated with Donors Choose. Fundraising through Donors Choose was easy and usually quite successful. 

With the rise of social media platforms like Instagram and Tiktok, access to low-cost or no-cost editing apps has grown over the last ten years. Here are a few that I’ve used with learners in grades 3-12.

iMovie - iOS only - All ages; free

Inshot Mobile Editor - iOS and Android - All ages; free

WeVideo - Online Video Editor - All ages; free limited with purchase options

DaVinci Resolve Mac and PC - Advanced editing best for experienced editors/older grades; free limited with purchase options


I encourage you to give video production a try. Start small. Finished videos don’t have to be perfect. Don’t worry if you’re not a video production expert. You will find help from your learners who grasp recording and editing skills quickly and will be your “go-to” classroom assistants. You’ll also notice the learners who may struggle in other contexts shine as learners through project-based learning!



Reading Apprenticeship (date accessed: April 21, 2023)

Using Video Content to Amplify Learning (date accessed: April 21, 2023)

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About the author

Kara was part of the first cohort to earn their Graduate Certificate in Digital Literacy and later earned a Master's in Adult Education with a specialty in Digital Literacy from URI. With more than 28 years of secondary classroom experience in ELA, Media Literacy, and Video Production, Kara is passionate about learners seeing the connection between what they read and the impact of what they can create with video. Kara co-teaches two courses in URI's Graduate Certificate in Digital Literacy as an adjunct faculty member, and she is a PBS Certified Media Literacy Educator. You can follow Kara on Twitter at @KaraEClayton 

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