How to Use YouTube to Add to the Social Studies Experience

May 8, 2019
Ryan Crawley

Whether you are teaching Social Studies to elementary, junior high, high school, or even college students, if you teach straight out of the textbook you are going to have some problems. There is no quicker way to lose your audience with their continually shorter attention spans. After all, what do you do when you are bored? You instantly take out your phone because you are used to constant entertainment. Your students will tune you out even if they are not allowed to take out their phones for distraction.

Various Learning Styles

Besides short attention spans, remember as an educator that there are seven different learning styles you must be aware of when you are creating captivating lessons for your students. They are physical, auditory, visual, verbal, logical, social, and solitary.

If you really want to be able to reach all students, you should plan to include all seven styles to various degrees. One simple way to kill a few birds with one stone is finding a suitable video to complement your lesson.

YouTube Is Your Social Studies Friend

I remember when YouTube was just a place to watch silly videos for hours at a time. In fact, when I first came across it, I don’t think I did anything else for the next six hours. However, it has grown to become quite the aid to educators around the world.

No matter what topic you are covering in Social Studies, there will be a hundred corresponding videos on YouTube to show your students. Most of us have a projector in the classroom so you might as well put it to use every day and show a video or two along with your lessons.

Your students will develop the habit after a couple months of being able to tune your voice out completely at times. It is quite a talent to do this and they probably did it with their parents’ voice first. Don’t take it personally. You just need to up your game! You could jump up and down on your desk as you make important points about each lesson, but this will tire you out quickly. Plus, there is probably a good risk of injury. Instead, turn to YouTube and let someone else take over the teaching for a short amount of time. I am not talking about a 30-minute video since they will tune that out as well. Just find a video that corresponds directly with what you are trying to teach and have it be no longer than 15 minutes, ideally around 5 minutes.

There Are Risks

Playing a YouTube video for your class does come with a bit of risk. You can’t just choose at random a video that looks like it will go along with your lesson and then play it instantly for the class. If you would like to keep your job, you must do some planning ahead.

The first rule is that you should watch the video all the way through before you even think about showing it to your students. There are so many YouTube videos out there that you believe are perfectly educational and then they throw in a few naughty words and a couple questionable pictures and then you are left explaining to your students’ parents how you let this happen.

The second rule is to never scroll down while a video is playing in front of the class as you don’t want them to see the comments section underneath the video. Many people use the comments section on YouTube as a place to act tough or swear like sailors. Even the most harmless Disney video clip could have comments underneath that would make the most grizzled mountain man blush.

The Right Video Will Capture Their Attention

YouTube is an easy place to attain a video resource for your Social Studies lesson, but you have other options as well. Teacher Tube is another place to check out and they are said to have screened their videos already so there won’t be any questionable content. But what I have noticed with Teacher Tube is that the number of videos pales in comparison to what is available on YouTube. Still, you could find a few gems over there that will go along with what you are trying to teach in Social Studies.

I feel like Social Studies is rarely the favorite subject of students coming into my class. The struggle is real. It is up to us educators to ensure that we change that in the future. As we all try to identify more with other lands, philosophies, and cultures, videos are just one more tool to create a new connection between your students and the content you love!

Ryan Crawley is an educator from Illinois with a Master’s in Reading and Literacy. Before he entered the wonderful world of education, Ryan was a journalist for about 10 years. He enjoys spending his free time with his two dogs, Flair and Smoosh.

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