Improvising From Home

Unfortunately, I found myself sidelined these past two days with an unforeseen back spasm that has left me couch bound, and unable to lead my classroom’s learning directly. Due to this, the execution of my carefully crafted week of educational experiences was left up to my ability to clearly explain the intent, processes, and reasoning of the lesson. It is no secret that a teachers ability to effectively communicate the expectations of a lesson is essential for understanding. The best lessons are dead on arrival if they are presented to students in a haphazard or confusing manner. Ultimately, mediocre lessons effectively explained often have a greater impact on student learning than their superior, but less clear, counterparts. Student confusion and misunderstanding of a lesson’s processes, goals and rationale can lead to lost time, misplaced effort and missed opportunities.

This morning I received this email from a student.

Screen Shot 2017-03-23 at 8.38.29 PM

We all know that it wasn’t the subs fault, but some breakdown between my written instructions and my students understanding. So I tried this…

Tool used: Screencastify

Not ten minutes after sending that video to the student, here was his reply.

Screen Shot 2017-03-23 at 8.41.23 PM.png


When I am gone, I immediately worry about those students who may find my written explanation confusing or unclear. Even the best attempts of a substitute teacher to convey the ethos of a lesson I created, cannot compare to my in person delivery of the directions. This is because “effective teaching must be improvisational” (Sawyer, 2004). The directions I write in an email to a substitute are frozen in time and lack the flexibility needed to bend and twist around the needs of my students. Luckily for my students, their questions do not need to end with another attempt at rereading of my directions. While I have known about screencasts for some time, I have always viewed them as one of these premeditated tools. I felt that the screencast needed to be something that I sat down and mapped out. I was concerned that all screencasts needed to be motion pictures, with a story board, editing and some grand final message delivered to the audience. However, today I realized the potential of the improvised screencast. The ability to improvise, clarify my flawed instructions and hopefully improve that student’s educational experience for the day.



Sawyer, R. K. (2004). Creative teaching: Collaborative discussion as disciplined improvisation. Educational researcher, 33(2), 12-20.

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