Step-by-Step Instructions for Planning and Recording Virtual Minilessons


With so many unknowns about what the upcoming school year has in store, many of us are turning our attention toward upping our teaching skills for distance learning. Here at Teacher2Teacher Help, we recently offered a free webinar to help teachers begin to plan and prerecord virtual (flipped, asynchronous) minilessons. Christy shared many practical tips and strategies:

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This post is a review of the main points from the webinar. Want to skip right to the tutorial video? You can request a link to the recording at the bottom of this post.

First, a few key terms. Pre-recorded lessons are often part of the flipped learning model or an asynchronous learning model. These concepts are not new! They have been part of the educational landscape for many years, but our current situation is forcing many of us from formerly traditional settings to explore these options. While some may view this as a “necessary evil” right now, we actually believe we can leverage the use of prerecorded minilessons in both our face-to-face, virtual, and hybrid classrooms.

Why Would We Want to Prerecord or Flip Lessons?

Flipped lessons:

  1. increase engagement
  2. build independence
  3. give students the opportunity to watch and re-watch teaching
  4. differentiate instruction for different learners
  5. are great tools for conferring and small group instruction
  6. allow teaching and learning to continue even when we have substitute teachers
  7. can be used in all settings: face-to-face, virtual, and hybrid
  8. free the teacher up to spend more time coaching students

How is a Prerecorded Minilesson Different from a Face-to-Face Lesson?

The traditional minilesson, as taught in the Calkins Units of Study, includes these 5 parts:

  1. Connection: a way to engage students at the beginning of the lesson
  2. Teaching Point: the focus of the lesson, including a skill and a strategy–a what, how, and why
  3. Teach: demonstration, step-by-step modeling
  4. Active Engagement: guided practice; a time for students to “give it a try”
  5. Link: lesson closure; an invitation for students to try the new skill and strategy

The flipped minilesson follows this same structure, with a few modifications. Here are some of the main shifts:

  • Pacing: In a traditional minilesson, we shoot for 5-7 minutes with our primary students and 10-12 with intermediate and middle-grade students. In a prerecorded lesson, we trim that down to 4-5 minutes for young students and 8-10 for older students.
  • Connection: In a prerecorded lesson the connection is much shorter–usually just a quick intro: “We’ve been working on… Today we are going to…”
  • Active Engagement: Instead of asking students to turn and talk, you may want to add another mini-teach or demonstration so kids see the skill and strategy one more time. Alternatively, you can ask students to pause the video, try it on their own, and share with a caregiver, pet, stuffed animal, and turn the video back on after trying it out.
  • Link: When we invite students to try the skill on their own, we also provide them a way to share their work using a digital platform such as Seesaw, Fliggrid, Google Classroom, etc.

The teaching point and teach remain the same in both face-to-face and virtual lessons.

Tips for Planning and Preparing for Virtual Minilessons

1. Preparation is key! It takes longer to prepare than actually teach the lesson.

2. Instead of a “prep-record-prep-record” cycle, consider prepping a series of minilessons all at
once and then recording a bunch of lessons in a row.

3. You can record a series of lessons on the same day–just change your shirt for each lesson!

4. Use a planning system. Here is Christy’s planning template:

This is a blank template for planning a virtual, prerecorded minilesson.
Download this free template.

5. If you need sticky notes for an anchor chart, stick them on the planning template:

This is a sample of using

6. Be sure to plan ahead how you want students to share their work (Seesaw, Flipgrid, etc.)
7. Have all materials ready before you start recording.

Tips for Recording Virtual Minilessons

  1. Use a document camera or doc cam hack to display your anchor charts and other visuals. We recommend the IPEVO document camera or the iCODIS. These are both very easy to use and are of great quality. Unfortunately, many people are looking for document cameras for their remote lessons, so the prices are a bit higher than usual. If you don’t have access to school funds or grant money, you might want to consider this very affordable document camera hack–the Tryone Gooseneck Phone Holder. Jenna and Annemarie have both used this hack and love it. You simply log your phone into your virtual meeting app (Zoom, Google Meets, etc.) as a separate user. Attach the phone to the Tryone clamp and turn it face down toward your visual displays. Your face will show up in one window and your “doc cam” in another. You can use this hack in both your synchronous teaching or in asynchronous, flipped recordings.
  2. Choose a screen recording application. Some options include Screencastify, Screencast-o-matic, Loom, QuickTime (included on Macs), Zoom. Select whichever application works for you and stick with it–no need to try them all. They all work great.
  3. Stick to “one-takes”! It is not an efficient use of your time to re-do lessons. Our face-to-face teaching isn’t perfect and our recorded lessons won’t be either. Adopt these mantras: Good is good enough. Done is better than perfect.

Want to see this in action?

Click here for a sample, prerecorded flipped minilesson.

Also, be sure to check out our post on how to teach explicit, engaging minilessons where you will find more strategies and video links.

And finally, if you would like to actually see Christy give you her step-by-step instructions, click here to get the free tutorial webinar delivered to your inbox today!

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Megan Birkett-Brazier
Megan Birkett-Brazier
3 years ago

You are all amazing. Thank you for sharing and for your incredible support now and always!

Annemarie Johnson
3 years ago

Thanks, Megan! We appreciate your enthusiasm!

Would love your thoughts, please comment.x

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