How to Promote Discussion and Critical Thinking by Making Videos

How to Promote Discussion and Critical Thinking by Making Videos


Schooling during the pandemic felt like being in a constant state of transition. Between orbiting around siblings who are also trying to attend online classes, temporary returns, and hybrid learning, it has been tough to find consistency. In Zoomiversary: School on Screens, YR Media creators capture what it’s like to be a part of education’s ever-shifting landscape. In this lesson plan, we draw from this interactive format so you can help your students create a similar collection of video responses that integrate discussion-based learning and critical thinking as they identify topics and stories of interest to them. It also provides an intro into digital storytelling and video voice methods, as students become videographers making videos about issues that matter to them!

*Materials needed*: at least 5 phones or computers with cameras, headphones (optional), at least 5 computers with Powerpoint or Google Slides


What was a high-point and low-point of distance learning for you?

NOTE: Give students time to reflect on this question before answering; perhaps even setting aside a few minutes for them to journal the prompt before discussing. You may want to come up with your own answer to this question as a model for students. You can invite students to answer as a whole class, in pairs or small groups, using break-out rooms if students are not in person.


Give students 10 minutes to explore the YR Media story, Zoomiversary: School on Screens

NOTE: If students are in class, they will need headphones or will need to group up to listen to the young people featured in Zoomiversary: School on Screens. Otherwise, it might be too noisy. Alternatively, this first activity can be done as a pre-step at home. If students are at home, they can either explore the Zoomiversary story independently or go into breakout rooms where one person shares their screen. 


Is there one person whose response really resonated with you? Why?

Is there a response that really surprised you? Why? 

How would you respond to this prompt? 

What did you think about the teachers Allison Rafferty’s and Whitney Lim’s responses? 


Step 1) Divide students into breakout rooms or groups of 4-5 students.

In their breakout rooms/groups, students will take 5-10 minutes to come up with questions that they would like to respond to with their peers. 

It may be helpful for teachers to come up with overarching themes/topics (see note below re: YR Media Resource) related to whatever unit they are working on at the time, to guide students. In their groups, students identify a specific question to answer related to the broader topic. For example, teachers may identify mental health and wellness as a broad topic, and groups may choose to focus on mental health services they would like to see in their school, how students are feeling about the status of their mental health now that they have returned to the school building, or mental health practices that they want to maintain, etc.. Remind students to be mindful of choosing a topic that enables them to surface a variety of responses. 

[*YR Media Resource: Peruse YR Media youth reporting on various topics to help identify an issue or story students want to focus on in creating their video responses &/OR teachers may want to pre-select a specific topic area in advance, to establish a focus – Arts + Culture | Identity  | Tech | Health]

Step 2) Individually, students will draft their answers to the questions.

Encourage students to take time to list out their thoughts and then assemble them into a short draft. It should be at least a paragraph but no more than two paragraphs. 

If there is enough time, you can invite students to peer-edit each other’s drafts within their groups. They may ask each other: 

  • As a group, do we represent a variety of responses? If not, how can we shift the questions so that we do? 
  • As a group, do we draw on our specific personal experiences to answer the question? 
  • Is each response short and dynamic? Where should you cut a line? Where should you elaborate?
Step 3) After responses have been finalized, students will record a video of themselves reading their responses.

Students can use “selfie” view to record their own videos, have a peer or family member record them, or use the camera on their computers. Alternatively, students can record each other within their breakout rooms using the recording feature.

Step 4) Lastly, students will open a slide deck or presentation with their question on the first slide and embed their videos into subsequent slides

Students can upload their final slide decks to a shared drive. 

Invite students to explore and interact with their peers’ slides in the shared drive. Optionally, you can require students to make at least two comments on their peers’ work. Some prompts for comments are:

  • What did they find surprising? 
  • Did any one person’s perspective really resonate with you? 
  • How would you have answered the prompt that the group provided? 


What did you like about this activity? 

What did you find most challenging? 

Having done this activity, is there another topic you’d like to hear your peers’ perspectives on? 


Teachers, are you excited about the work your students created? As always, if your students love what they created please invite them to join YR Media’s community and pitch their pieces to our editors. And teachers, sign up here to receive email updates when new curriculum tools are published and become a member of our growing teacher network!

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Invest in the diverse voices that will shape and lead the future of journalism and art.
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