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Tips and tools for integrating videos into teaching and learning

Thelma Golden, Museum Director and Chief Curator at The Studio Museum in Harlem, in front of William T. Williams, <em>Trane</em>, 1969, acrylic on canvas, 108 x 84 inches (The Studio Museum in Harlem)

Thelma Golden, Museum Director and Chief Curator at The Studio Museum in Harlem, in front of William T. Williams, Trane, 1969, acrylic on canvas, 108 x 84 inches (The Studio Museum in Harlem)

1. Decide how you want to experience the video–as a group, independently, or both.

Your time together as a class is limited and is best used by engaging in shared learning activities where collective inquiry and knowledge creation can thrive. Watching a video outside of class time can therefore prepare learners to step more readily into active learning as a group. Alternatively, watching a video together and pausing at key moments for discussion, close looking, and/or hands-on exploration of materials or techniques can also be an extremely valuable learning experience. The Masterpiece Moment videos support both of these approaches, as well as a combination of the two.

2. Get the most out of the rich content in each video.

  1. Whether watching alone or as a group, view the video the first time all the way through without stopping. Take it all in and get a sense of the full story about the artwork. Then, go back a second and possibly third time to pause for note-taking, close looking, activities, or discussion.
  2. Use this Video Watching Worksheet to capture key takeaways from the video and demonstrate understanding of the rich histories embodied in the artwork. You may find it helpful to review the questions on this worksheet before watching the video.
  3. It may be tempting to focus on the speaker when they appear in the video, but these are also important moments to catch glimpses of the artwork. As you watch, see if you can train your eye on the art as much as possible while you listen attentively to the important details conveyed by the speaker. 
  4. The video includes many views of the artwork–full scale as well as close-up details. Pausing to look closely and discuss what you see in these different views will enhance your experience of the artwork and deepen your understanding of its appearance and features. Additionally, you may want to use high quality reproductions of the artwork to support discussion or activities before or after watching the video. Begin your search by looking on the website of the museum that owns the artwork. This Smarthistory guide for finding images may also be helpful.

3. Promote close looking, making connections, and creative engagement through independent exploration and dynamic discussion of any artwork.

As the introductory essay to this teachers’ guide explains, we can make meaning from and create personal bonds with artworks before we learn anything about their art historical context. Such an experience is empowering for learners and can serve as a valuable primer for watching the Masterpiece Moment videos, which will introduce a great deal of new information to process.

With this premise in mind, especially if looking at art is a new practice for you or your class, the prompts below can support individual exploration or shared discussion of an artwork before viewing the video about it. The prompts can also be used to spark engagement during pauses while watching the video or even afterward. 

  1. Look at the artwork. Give yourself time to explore it fully, taking in the whole object at once as well as looking at specific detailed areas. Start with a short amount of time and gradually increase your time as you look at more and more works of art. You may want to do this in silence. 
  2. Describe what you see or experience. Try out some of these approaches to practice your skills of description:
    • Name the first thing that catches your eye and then pay attention to how your eye is drawn around the artwork, recounting this journey in written or spoken form.
    • Write or say a list of 5 nouns and then 5 adjectives that describe what you see in the artwork.
    • Select a section of the artwork to focus on and sketch what you see. Like with close looking, you might want to give yourself a time limit. Start with 30 seconds. 
    • If you are looking at a sculpture, use a material like aluminum foil or model magic–or even your own body–to recreate the artwork or a part of it. 
    • Pretend you are describing this artwork to someone who hasn’t seen it but should be able to recognize an image of it based on your description. What details will be most essential to share?
  1. Make a connection. Does this artwork remind you of something you have seen, learned, or experienced before? 
  2. State your truth. How does this artwork make you feel? Is anything you see or experience in the artwork confusing, unclear, or unfamiliar? Are you open to sharing your responses to these questions with others?
  3. Ask a question.
    • What else do you want to know about the artwork?
    • What does it make you wonder? 
    • What do you want to learn from the artist or someone who experienced the artwork in the time that it was made?
    • If you could talk to the characters in the artwork, what would you ask? 
    • Do you have a question for the museum that owns the artwork today?
    • What do you want to ask your classmates about their experience of the artwork?