Thursday, April 10, 2008

Using Videos to Teach Social Skills

I knew my students needed to learn social skills but I needed a way that was interesting and not insulting to their age. Luckily I found a way to connect videos with this skill that would keep my students engaged. Each unit (video plus lesson) took about 2 weeks to complete during our 50 minute class periods.

First I had to choose which videos I would use and what skill I hoped that they would learn from this video. I needed to plan this very carefully because I needed to get administrative approval and parental approval for my students to watch videos in class. Parents were sent a letter about the project and told that they would be informed on the skills being taught so they could also work on it at home. Many people see watching videos as a way to get out of doing class work and only use it as a reward but in my class of special education students, videos are an important instructional tool. I had students all in one class with a variety of disabilities and needs so I needed to find the right videos that could teach a variety of skills and be able to show the administration that these videos were necessary for my instruction. Some videos that I chose were Finding Nemo, Remember the Titans, Big Daddy, Miracle, To Kill A Mockingbird, Field of Dreams, Ice Age, Fly Away Home, The Outsiders, Rudy and Renaissance Man. I didn’t plan to use them all, but wanted a variety to choose from depending on my class make up and what social skills I wanted to work on.

Before we started watching any videos, I gave the class an overview of the plan and what the objectives were. They were also told that if the objectives were not met, we would discontinue the project of watching videos.

As an introduction to the video, I introduced the basic concepts and conflicts presented in the film. I also gave a short summary of the video if anyone had not seen it before (usually my students had seen the movie I chose before so I didn’t need to do this.) After viewing the video, I would ask the students to discuss the plot. Then we would discuss the essential components of the video such as type of conflicts, personality traits, motivation for actions and decisions, and their outcomes. Students would write about whether they agreed or disagreed with the character’s actions and why they felt this way. I would then put them in groups (I made sure each group had a mixture of ability levels) to discuss their opinions.

The next step was for the group of students to create, perform, and videotape a skit about a specific social skill. In order to do this, students got into groups and chose parts of the film they found interesting that demonstrated the social skill. Students personalized the events by relating it to an event in their own lives and how they may have acted. The fun part began when students dramatized the personalization through a skit or puppet show and had to write a script for all group members. It was amazing to watch how sensitive the group members were towards others with reading weaknesses or had an extreme fear of performing. Students videotaped the dramatization so it could be reviewed and analyzed. When all the groups had performed and were videotaped, the class watched the videos in order to critique them. Students offered feedback on feelings, actions, and consequences. It was also a time to discuss whether the action taken was appropriate and if not, what other actions could have been taken.

I was extremely pleased with how successful these lessons were for my students. Even though they may have seen this video, they were looking at it from a different perspective. By personalizing the event, students were able to look more objectively at their behavior in relationship to the video. This also helped them take criticism of their behaviors less personally and could discuss consequences and more appropriate actions that could have been taken. The students reacted favorably to the assignments. Parents were kept informed about the lessons and what skills we were working on so they could be reinforced at home whenever possible. Sometimes students came into class to share how they had acted differently since using their new skill. It is times like those that made me feel happy with choosing to be a teacher!

Photo credit: Untitled by mixergirl


Karen Janowski said...

What a wonderful instructional approach! I love the way you described the educational rationale for using popular videos in your classroom and how you extended the activity.
Having Flip digital recorders available would make this activity easier than ever to integrate into your classroom.
Please continue to share this approach whenever you present - the wisdom of retired teachers must be shared. (Roland Barth talks alot about that).

Thanks, Pat!

Mathew said...

Great ideas.

Films have the same power as books to start conversations and teach concepts if teachers use them as you have...framing the conversation, talking about it, following up. Thanks for emphasizing that it's not just a matter of putting the tape in and pressing play.

loonyhiker said...

mathew: I hate when teachers pop in a video and use it as a babysitter so they can do their paperwork. What a waste of great teachable moments!

Bill Gaskins said...

I think video in any subject area are great use of technology. I am a big fan of Discovery Streamline/etv streamline. Videos are great ways to put hooks in learning and building background knowledge about a topic.

In reverse I think the creation of a video, podcast, or digital story line are great uses of technology. I see the day will come in SC that will be a necessary part of the k-12 curriculum. Our kids need laptops. I see it happening in the future and then homework in social studies can be meaningful. We can have them create podcast/story lines about what they are learning.

Great post!

Mathew said...

I meant to add this when I first read this post but it took me until now to find the link. is a site that has lesson plans to go with films to use in the way you're talking about here.

loonyhiker said...

Mathew: Thanks for the link. It looks pretty good and will add that to my Friday's post of useful sites.

cherring said...

What a great approach! I loved how you used videos to help your students learn new social skills. By having them work together, they were also gaining social skills as well. This is a great idea and one that I will probably try in the future. Thanks!

Anonymous said...

I think that it would have been more useful if you had explained how you used the various videos.