Hi, Everyone! I’m Lessia from I am Bullyproof Music. Thanks so much to Rachel Lynette for inviting me back. Such an honor! Here’s hoping my tips inspire one and all.
Teachers frame ideas for students daily. Videography is a natural next step. By making lessons visual and personal, we can make them truly memorable. Biggest piece of advice: Don’t sweat the small stuff. Focus on hearts and minds.
The more original your video theme, the more imaginative your kids will be. Generic themes set kids up to mimic the familiar. Choosing a theme outside the box inspires more critical thinking. How about creating a meaningful video around a book being studied in class? Surprise your kids with questions like, “How is soccer like life?” Cover a favorite film’s meaningful message, or have students pick a time in history during which they’d love to have lived. Heroes are fun. Here’s how we save the world with Einstein. Inspiring quotes are great. We once covered one about a barn.
Kids love deep topics because pondering life makes them feel grown up. Brainstorm ideas as a class and be amazed at all the colorful responses. No need to take the most traveled path. We filmed our monkey lesson to remind kids that worrisome monkey thoughts are mood deflators. During our shoot, one of our kids shared her fear of being eaten by hippos. We became curious about hippos and googled them. Turns out they’re quite ferocious. Who knew?
Be brave, teachers. Go wherever quirky conversations lead you. Oh, the things we can learn!
Pick an Angle
I film students from all angles, and then we scrutinize each take. This empowers students as they learn to be more objective about their appearance. My young co-producers soon discover how different we all look just by changing the “point of view” from which we’re filmed.
Which point of view is the real one? Ooh, there’s a good question. Writing prompt? Video with different points of view? Here’s a song about that on TV. And by the way, don’t be fooled. Air-brushing and Photoshop are the new norm. You may want to alert your kids.
Overhead lighting makes us raccoons. Solid black or white clothing washes many out – colors work better. Different necklines affect the shape of our faces – experiment. Be careful with T -shirt logos, or standing in front of walls with distracting words. Hats and caps add interest. Cameras flatten faces. Shooting from a slight angle is better.
Notches: When kids are thinking, they tend to look to the side. Don’t let them do that on camera! Encourage animated behavior. “Take it up a notch” or “take it down a notch” directs energy nicely. Kids love the whole “notch” thing.
I kept hearing, “I’m this, I’m that,” which annoyed me greatly. I thought, “You’re too young to know what you are!” But rather than express my disapproval, I declared, “Let’s make another video!” During filming I suggested to fourth grade Taty she might say something like, “Don’t ask me who I am, I don’t know yet! I’m still new to this planet!”
Taty took to my idea and presented it beautifully in our fearless video. My words plus her charm? Unstoppable. Don’t mind the teacher behind the curtain. She has no shame – she’s a teacher!
I can’t begin to share the amount of appreciation I’ve received over the years from kids whose sweet brains I’ve infiltrated with cleverly worded “suggestions” tucked into song lyrics. These days I’m being just as sneaky with videos. All it really takes is a catch phrase. (At least that’s my theory!) Feel free to follow my lead.
Rap it up – Have students write and film a positive rap on any topic. This assignment can inspire many a reluctant writer to write. Here’s one of my students (all grown up) as a nonconformist. The story, and many of the words, are his own.
“Write me a fun paragraph on our topic.” Kids who come up with the coolest ideas earn the most camera time. Some students require a set-in-stone script. Note the last girl on whatever – a female Yoda! Other kids are stellar just vamping on the spot. The Asian boy in this gratitude video blew us away with his intuitive wisdom. The blonde sprite in this spooky video is an endearing mix of scripting and her love of camp. Make sure to remind kids that what’s vital is delivering their point. No empty calories. Just like with life – keep it real.
Friendship matters – a sweet idea: Take candid shots of kids being extra supportive of each other. Tell no one! At the end of the year, surprise your kids with a celebrate friendship video that makes everyone’s heart smile. Were you a good friend this year?
Take No Prisoners
Before each shoot, I warn everyone involved that we’ll be on the clock. When time is limited, I take no prisoners. “That was great!” can be followed by “Eww. Pathetic!” Me afterwards: “Was I too rough on you?” Student: “Nah, you cracked me up – you were funny. You warned me you’d be tough!”
Being directed in a video helps a kid develop grit. “Wow! I don’t need to always overreact; I can just laugh. That’s so much better!”
Bless the Mess
I once patched a rough spot in a video by throwing a random photo into the flow. Response: “I love how you tucked that one photo in. You’re so creative!” Ha! It was a fudge! Truth be told, I fudge a lot – especially with lighting issues. And lately, I haven’t just been making my own videos from scratch, lovely Retta London (Rainbow City Learning) has been sending me clips taken with her iPhone of her own brood. It’s inspiring to co-create, but I’m left with so much less control! Scary business.
If I were a perfectionist, I’d be going bonkers not being present at the actual filming. My biggest lesson has been learning to be flexible. I love that my kiddos can witness me making do with what I have. It’s too stressful always trying to be perfect. The ability to gracefully fudge is a terrific life skill. Bless our mess!
Color combination iffy? Make those parts black and white. Kid too far away? Zoom in during editing. Don’t be afraid to cut off the tops of faces, frame from one side, film from odd angles. Think “collage.” Mix things up!
Share clips that aren’t working with your kiddos and ask for input. They love being asked! Explain about happy accidents. “How can we fix this?” inspires everyone’s highest creativity.
Lead with Lyrics
Have students search for songs that support your theme. Making videos provides a great opportunity for kids to become more musically aware. As kids search for lyrics that matter, they often notice that most current hits lack depth. Here’s the inside scoop on why.
A video simply made with photos can inspire great conversations. Do you believe the world is flat? “YAY! – songs I can learn from!” I get that a lot. Being exposed to deeper lyrics not only teaches kids to rethink sloppy attitudes, but it also inspires them to write more thoughtfully themselves. Having parents help find background music creates family bonding. “What meaningful old song do you love?” There are so many to learn from. Here’s another.
There’s always at least one parent with techno skills in the wings. Don’t be shy to ask for help if you need it. I use Vegas Pro, but there are lots of choices these days: iMovie, MovieMaker, and many more. Most parents love to help.
Fun secret: The parent below actually lip synced on a music video of ours because our young singer was out of town. Sometimes it really does take a village. Fooled you!
More parent jobs: lighting person, snack provider, making sure hair is brushed and collars lay flat, helping with backdrops, keeping waiting performers quiet, and collecting release forms if you’ll be sharing your videos with the world.
Include student art if you can. Fun drawings tucked inside a video keep it personal, student-created boards work as backdrops, and frames that “pop” add an artsy touch. I made a lyric video recently for no other reason than an urge to play with frames again. I love a good frame, and here’s why: Doesn’t how happy we end up usually depend a lot on how we frame things? I remind my kiddos of that all the time. I’m sure you do, too.
Here’s a lyric poem freebie and discussion questions that might make a powerful classroom video. May all your videos be amazing!
ALL KID PHOTOS USED WITH PERMISSION. MOST VIDEOS SHOT WITH A PHOTO CAMERA.
Lessia Bonn is the songwriting and producing force behind I am Bullyproof Music. Her wisdom-packed studio recorded songs feature young voices, lots of piano, and Justin Timberlake’s drummer. She co-creates powerful ELA/social skills units as Bullyproof Rainbow, and recently co-created Awesome Sauce – an informal little art store for those in search of a frame. She lives in northern California not far from the Golden Gate.
OMG so kewl- makes me wanna go out & make a new Vid! Txs!
Sally Utley says
What great tips! I especially love the point of view tip and the ways to fix the messes (they always happen!). Thanks!
Laine Parnell says
I wanted to try video but couldn't get past how much I didn't know! This will do the trick – so much creative flexibility.