SOS: Pause and Play

Creative, research-based instructional strategies – presented by teachers, for teachers.

The Spotlight on Strategies series provides help, tips, and tricks for integrating Discovery Education digital media into your curriculum in meaningful, effective, and practical ways. The SOS series includes more than 150 different strategies you can use to engage students in active learning with digital media. Leave a comment and let us know how you’ll use this strategy in your class.

Pause and Play

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Watching a video for academic reasons is very different than watching a video for entertainment. Just pressing the play button does not ensure that students will understand or learn. Students need to apply comprehension strategies to make sense of material they watch, in much the same way as they do when they read written text. Pause & Play works just like it sounds: you use both pause and play when sharing a video segment with your students. This simple yet powerful process directs students to focus on understanding the content presented by the video. It provides them with multiple opportunities to fix up and monitor their comprehension before they engage in discussion and synthesis of the material.

Materials: Discovery Education video segment
To prepare:
  • Select media that aligns with your instructional goals.
  • Review the media, finding several places where it would be appropriate for students to pause and discuss or reflect.
  • Record the time stamp, or jot down notes to help you remember where those pauses occur.
  • Write a series of guiding questions or prompts for students to respond to when you pause the media.
  1. To use the strategy, first prepare students by telling them that they’ll be watching a video segment multiple times. The first viewing will be to establish the overall understanding of the material presented in the video. The subsequent viewings will use a pause and play technique to allow students to reflect and respond.
  2. Next, play the video segment straight through without pausing.
  3. Prepare students for a second viewing of the video segment by giving them a guiding question, vocabulary terms, or concepts that you want them to listen and watch for.
  4. Replay the video segment, pausing at the first pre-determined time stamp and asking students to reflect in writing by answering the guiding question, jotting notes, defining vocabulary words, or generating a list of questions they have.
  5. Play the video segment again, pausing at the next time stamp and providing students with time to reflect.
  6. Repeat process as many times as necessary to reach the end of the video segment.

If desired, play the video segment one last time, asking students to listen and watch for additional information they can include in their responses, or to find and fix mistakes in information they originally recorded. Finish up by having students engage in small group or whole class conversation about their new insights.

Use Pause & Play with younger students by posing a guiding question, watching and pausing the video and using public recording and group discussion to help students process information and answer guiding questions.

Try using an SOS that encourages summarization of information to wrap up the Pause and Play experience. SOS strategies such as XO Let’s Go (CDN Version), Pin It (CDN Version) or Instagram-in’ (CDN Version) could all work to help students synthesize what they’ve learned.

Switch roles with your students. Assign small groups of students the task of finding a Discovery Education video segment that helps them understand a concept or standard from your current unit of study. Have those small groups take on the responsibility of doing the prep work by reviewing, identifying where the pauses should be, and developing discussion questions. Those groups then take on the role of facilitator, helping their classmates discuss and debrief the information in the video. After the discussion is complete, see if you can correctly identify which concept or standard your students chose.


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  1. Roshan Jha said:

    I am going to use pause and play strategy from now on. Thank you so much for sharing this wonderful post.

  2. M E said:

    Wow. Thank you for sharing this! I will be sure use this method for my students on Tuesday. They’ll love it!

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