Getting Started with Cloning Yourself in the Classroom

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Here’s another great post by guest-blogger and teacher, Gillian Andrews. Enjoy!

You may have read my previous blog post, Need More Teachers in the Classroom? Clone Yourself!, and thought this looks like a great idea in theory, but who has time? I get it! I’m a teacher. Hopefully this post will offer you some suggestions – where to start, how to simplify, how to get your first one going.

These “teacher cloning lessons” are created and recorded by you, the teacher, to be used inside of your classroom. This enables you to provide students with lessons, be it review or new material, so that you are free to work with other students. If this is a new concept for you, think of Sal Khan’s math lessons that so many teachers are familiar with on Khan Academy. The big difference here is that you create them, giving your students the advantage of accessing your voice, your tone, your personality, your style.

As I mentioned in my previous post, my first cloned lesson was recorded in the basement at Teachers College in NYC. I didn’t plan for it. In fact, I hardly did much thinking about it at all. I recorded my first lesson on my iPhone and I must admit, it is definitely not my strongest cloned lesson.

The important thing though, is it helped me to get started. So if you’d like to get started as well, read on for some ideas and advice I’ve collected as I’ve worked with creating these lessons.

Set Your Goals

Think … what are my students struggling with? What are a few things that I find myself re-teaching over and over again? Jot those down. You now have the beginning of a list of lessons you might record.

Choose Your Lesson

  1. I suggest starting with something you are very comfortable with. Get specific–if math is your thing, think about something your students need frequent reminders about. Perhaps it’s place value, decimals, or specific geometry terms such as parallel, intersecting and perpendicular lines. Or maybe you want to start with some simple writing strategies such as using quotation marks in dialogue or proper capitalization.
  2. Jot down some ideas by subject. Since teaching writing is what I am most confident with, I started there. I made a list of ideas about the writing process–stamina, focus, generating ideas, planning. Then another list about writing narratives–lessons that students would find really useful relating to structure, development and mechanics.
  3. The important thing here is to not be too picky. Don’t spend a whole lot of your time thinking about what one to start with–just pick one. Once you have one, it’s time to plan the lesson.

Choose One Teaching Point

Make sure you have one–just one–teaching point that you stick with throughout the entire video. The best videos are short and sweet. There are two ways of thinking about the lessons you create. One way is to determine a very specific need in your classroom. Another way is to create a broader more generalized lesson that students can apply to a variety of tasks. The table below gives you some examples of both. The most important thing is to start with something you are comfortable with!

Record and Upload Your Lesson

As you get ready to record and share your lesson, you’ll need to think about three things: How to record your lesson, what format you’ll use, and where’ you’ll upload your lesson so students can use it.

Recording

I suggest you make it simple to begin with. Try a device you are comfortable with! For me, it was my phone. I later graduated to more complicated methods. There are many videos and books on the technical how-tos of recording a lesson. I recommend that you take a look at the various types of videos I have recorded and determine what might be best for you to start with. I have ordered them according to practicality, time involved, and ease.

  • Record your lesson using a phone and a notebook. Click here for a sample.
  • Record yourself on your computer. Click here for an example. For this one I used my desktop and Screencastify to record a lesson for a day when I was out. There are dozens of youtube videos on how to upload and use screencastify. Click here for a brief example that’s thorough enough to get you started. 

Formatting

Again, keep it simple! Try videotaping yourself, or ask a friend, to record you on a phone. Try one of these simple formats.

  • Record a slideshow you’ve created. Click here to see one I created with my laptop and Screencastify. 
  • Record a slideshow with an embedded webcam Here’s another I created using my laptop and Screencastify.
  • Record using a whiteboard screencast. This is a bit more advanced, so you might try this after you’ve experimented with other methods.  You’ll need  a video screen recorder, a drawing program, and an input device (any hardware device that sends data to a computer, allowing you to interact with and control the computer). While the basic concept is simple (you plan your lesson, then record what you draw using the drawing program while you narrate) it is not necessarily user friendly. The advantage is that the input device allows you to draw or write on a tablet rather than trying to use the mouse. Here’s an example of one I created using my computer, Screencastify, Sketchbook and a Wacom tablet.)

Uploading

It is very simple to upload videos to the following places if you have an account. Consider using one of these three platforms: Youtube, Vimeo, or Google Classroom. Each is pretty straightforward.

You’re Ready to Go!

Once you’ve experimented and made a lesson or two, you are ready for students to access your cloned lesson! Student might watch lessons alone, with a partner, in a small group or as a whole class. They might explore them as needed during work periods or in a structured station activity. The possibilities are wide open!

If you want more information about how to clone yourself by creating videos , try this book: Flip Your Writing Workshop by Dana Johansen and Sonja Cherry-Paul. While this book addresses how to flip your classroom in a writing workshop, it walks you through the technology used and various methods of creating the lessons. You can also reach out to me through email, and I’d be happy to help.

Gillian Andrews, the author of this article, is a fourth grade teacher at Deerfield Elementary School in South Deerfield, Massachusetts. She is also a literacy consultant, trainer and presenter who helps educators hone and develop the skills they need to lead effective reading and writing workshops and to improve the quality of their literacy programs. Gillian has co-written curriculum units and provided professional development to educators in conjunction with the Hitchcock Center for the Environment, where she serves on the Board. She has been wishing there were two or three of her since she began teaching fifteen years ago! You can learn more about Gillian and her work through her classroom website and a LiveBinder she has created on using Text-Based Debates in the Classroom. You can also connect with her on Twitter!

  • Mike Anderson

    Mike Anderson is an education consultant, award-winning teacher, and author of many books including The Well-Balanced Teacher, The First Six Weeks of School, The Research-Ready Classroom, and Learning to Choose, Choosing to Learn. Learn more about Mike and his work or invite him to work with your school or district through his website: www.leadinggreatlearning.com. Connect with Mike on Twitter: @balancedteacher.

  • 7 Comments
    1. This is awesome! I just read Flip Your Writing Workshop last month. And your book Learning to Choose, Choosing to Learn is one of my all-time favorites!

      • Thanks so much, Kristin. I’m glad you enjoyed this article by Gillian. She’s doing some fantastic work with her students! I’m also happy to hear you’ve enjoyed Learning to Choose, Choosing to Learn!

        • I’ve been known to quote from it during workshops I lead. 🙂
          LTC,CTL felt really validating for me. I worked as school library media specialist for 10 years (before becomng a tech integration coach) and it’s where I saw open-ended project type work fall off the rails every single time – when we didn’t provide sufficient scaffolding. Thank you!

          • So cool! Glad it’s been such a great resource. You might also consider checking out my first book, The Research-Ready Classroom. It’s all about how to facilitate high-quality research projects with kids. It might be a great fit for your work with tech integration and your background in library media!

      • I’d love to hear how it goes. Good luck!

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    Leading Great Learning

    Mike Anderson is an energetic, experienced, and highly sought-after educational consultant who helps facilitate great learning in schools all over the United States and beyond. He has over twenty years of experience as a teacher, consultant, presenter, and developer and has authored many books and articles about great teaching and learning.