History Resource Cupboard – lessons and resources for schools

History Resource Cupboard - lessons and resources for schools

Teaching Issues

Six strategies for using YouTube clips in the history classroom



Here are 6 Strategies for using You Tube clips in the history classroom.

black boardYouTube is such a fantastic resource that when you take a step back it is almost impossible to comprehend.

If you’d have told me 20 years ago that I could type a few words into a computer that was attached to my black board (yes I had a whirly one that went right around) and find tens, if not hundreds of short film clips on any topic I taught, I would have looked at you as if you had just escaped from Bedlam.

Back in the day it was brave teacher who used video in class. It was akin to running some kind of dangerous gauntlet – a Total Wipe-Out experience  of the electronic kind, only harder and much less forgiving.

videoFirstly you had to set the video to tape the programme you wanted. Often the educational programme needed was scheduled at 4 am.

I think they were put on at this time purposely as a test of ones steel and commitment. Either that or the BBC didn’t want anyone watching the filppin’ things.

Setting an old video recorder to record  required a PHD in button pressing. If you managed to the net correct episode, boy you had done well. But, there was no time for smugness. You were just at the start of your journey to providing your students with a multimedia experience.

Next you had to make sure that the clip you wanted to use was in the right place on in the video player.  A tricky job. Once you had loaded your video tape into the player when using fast forward or rewind all one could really see on the screen  broad bands of  horizontal crackly grey lines.

TV Once you had remembered to bring in your video tape to school, woe betide the  amateur who hadn’t checked all of the cables were in the right place at the back of the huge school  TV before you lesson.

This was the TV strapped to cumbersome trolley that housed the 70s TV and the video player.

You also had to make sure the TV was on the correct channel. And, you then had have ensured that you had booked it out at the allocated period in the correct week. If not someone else along your teaching corridor may well have  stroll in  and commandeer the bulky contraption.  ‘Sorry mate, I booked it for today, see.’  As they pointed to their scribbled name on the booking sheet hanging by a piece of string around the side of the TV.

I must admit on numerous occasions I  managed all the above stages only to find the video that I wanted to play got mangled in the out of date school video player, or the TV didn’t work, or the sound didn’t work, or the picture needed fine tuning.   I eventually gave up using films in lessons. That is, until digital clips came to us in the early noughties. There were some great CD / DVD sets that were available.

Now we have YouTube. WoW!!  Any historical topic you need is there. Its just a bit of a shame that no one is running training in how to use film clips to maximum impact in the history classroom. Often teachers just ask the kids to watch the clip. We can do so much better.

Below are 6 different approaches that you could try

6 strategies for using YouTube clips in the history classroom.

Clearly film can be used a hook, to engage your class, to provoke or to to pose a question as this clip does. Or you use it to create a hypothesis as this brilliant clip does just before the end.

Or, you can use film as an information gathering exercise. The classic they watch and make notes about to the topic you are studying. We do this in our enquiry to compare if Orlando Figes faked his description of the October Revolution. We compare his account to the classic clip from Sergi Eisenstein.

But the often under used approach is to get your students to evaluate film clips in different ways. This is the classic crap detector approach. Study the causes of WW1, get your students to work out what is wrong with this clip before they improve it. We have a great lesson on this.

Another evaluative approach is to get your students to work out which side the film clip is on. So when studying the Berlin Blockade crisis they can watch two clips and decide who they blamed / supported before giving them more context.

Or, they could watch trailers to work out themes of a topic. Neil Bates does this superbly in our Cold War movies lesson.

My absolute favourite, and one that will work a treat with the 2016 History GCSEs interpretations focus, is get your students to evaluate and rate a number of clips on the same subject.

Teach a topic, say AQA Germany 1890-1914 on the Kaiser. Arm them with the knowledge they need (you could use decision maker lesson on this).

Then, when they are ready,  compare 3 or 4 shortish film clips and ask the students to work out which would be best for teachers to use to teach this topic? Agree what it should include (ie the content the teacher needs to get across to the students), then agree what else makes a short film interesting – the style, the tone. Create a tick chart , then get em to watch and rate the films. Below we have chosen four.

Once they have decided which they think is best you can discuss provenance and purpose. Who made each one and why? By doing this you have just nailed how and why interpretations differ!

Clip 1

Clip 2:

Clip 3

Clip 4

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About the author
Richard McFahn
Founder of History Resource Cupboard, Richard has worked for 20 years as a history teacher, subject and senior leader, Advanced Skills Teacher, local authority adviser and history ITE tutor.