For our second big project of the school year, my 6th grade MYP Technology class will be designing tutorials, inspired by Alan November’s presentation at our Bridging the Gap conference earlier this year.

I’ve also noticed that a lot of our students struggle to learn without direct teacher instruction – they don’t seem to be as independent in their learning as I’ve come to expect. I’m not sure if that’s because we are living in Japan, where literally every single thing comes with explicit instructions (e.g. the audio warnings everywhere you go, like “You are now on the escalator, hold the handrail and stand on the left,” or this interesting story about Crocs) or if they’re just used to being directly told what to do. I want to make sure that my students understand that they can learn anytime, anywhere, from anyone who is willing and able to share their knowledge. I want them to have the skills not only to be able to find out the answer, but also to share what they know. I’m glad to see that other teachers are trying the same thing too…

So, we’re making tutorials. Most likely they will be about anything students are interested in sharing, but I’m also thinking about potentially having them make tutorials for other teachers. Maybe coming up with a survey for teachers to find out what students at grade 6 or lower commonly struggle with, so my class can develop student-friendly tutorials. I like the idea of developing a library of student-created teaching materials, and having a very authentic audience and purpose for a project. But, I’m also conscious of not giving them a task that is too academically heavy – in my class we get to focus on the tech!

Here’s how the project is going to flow, following the MYP Technology Design Cycle:


For our first lesson, I handed students 3 blank sheets of paper. On the first sheet I asked them to draw a picture (something simple enough that they could draw in 2 minutes, but not so simple that it takes much less than 2 minutes). On the second piece of paper they wrote the steps to create that drawing. I then re-distributed the instructions to other students in the class and gave them a few minutes to re-create the drawings. (First complaint: handwriting, every time).

After they had enough time to draw their mystery object, we compared. Needless to say, hilarity ensued. Very few of the drawings were done correctly, and just by going through the process, they realized how important each step is to the final outcome – and how much more helpful those steps are when accompanied by visuals.

Next, we watched a simple drawing tutorial and used the third sheet of paper to follow along and draw the design. Not surprisingly, almost everyone was able to draw the picture perfectly. We then talked about the difference between the video tutorial and written steps, and determined some basic requirements for a good tutorial.

For homework, students watched and reviewed 3 – 5 other tutorials of their choice, using this Tutorial Research document. During the next lesson, they shared what they discovered with a partner. They also took their favorite tutorial, embedded it in a blog post and wrote a short description about why it was so effective. For homework, each student was asked to watch and comment on two other students’ posts.

Next, they thought about a simple tech skill that other students often ask them for help with, something they can do very easily. They partnered with someone else in the class and had them do that skill while writing down each step. For our next lesson, they will create a simple tutorial using Google Presentations, using screenshots and written directions to practice putting steps in the correct order and selecting the appropriate part of the screen to highlight.

Once their practice tutorials are complete, we will create a class list of criteria for what makes a good tutorial – reflecting on what we’ve learned so far. This criteria list will become their rubric for assessing their finished tutorials.


During this stage, students will create a storyboard for their tutorial, ensuring that they have included each step in the process. If we end up doing tutorials for other subject-area content, we will brainstorm ways to make their tutorials unique and entertaining. I’m thinking of having students come up with a theme for their class – almost like a video podcast about 6th grade learning, slightly different for each class that I teach. Maybe we’ll have some intro music that we create in GarageBand or maybe a specific title or theme for each class’ set of tutorials.

Of course, they will also write a script and the steps for their tutorial. As I always say when students make storyboards, they will need to be clear enough that anyone in the class can create their tutorial – without any help from the author.

Students will also have some time to think about which tool will be best to create their tutorial. We have QuickTime (simple screencasting), Jing, VoiceThread (might be good if students work in teams), iMovie (if they decide to film instead of screencast) and of course all of the online options. Whatever they decide to use also needs to be shared online.


The fun part! This is when students will actually create their tutorials, using the storyboard and script developed in the Plan stage. At the moment, I’m not sure if they will complete their tutorials independently or in partners. It will probably depend on how difficult the topic is and what students prefer. Before students finish their tutorial, they will have at least one Peer Reviewer using the criteria we developed during the Investigate stage give them formal feedback about their finished project.


For the final stage of the project, we’ll watch each others’ tutorials, share feedback and reflect on the process and product. If it turns out that the tutorials can be grouped well together, we might end up making a wiki or some other central portal to house all of them. I can imagine a wiki with links to all of the subject areas and grade levels with a few tutorials for each – it would be a great project to continue to build upon in the following school year.

Final Thoughts

So, that’s the plan. I’m super excited to see where the project goes! It certainly will be interesting to see if going through this process with help our students become more confident in this type of learning how to learn.

If we end up with a list of tutorial topics from other subject-area teachers, would anyone be interested in collaborating with us? It might be fun to see if our students explain the same concepts differently than others and to discuss why. It definitely would be great to have a resource of student-created tutorials from students around the world too!

Image Credits:

15 thoughts on “Students as Teachers: 6th Grade Tutorial Designers

  1. Kim, this is such a great idea! As I’m helping write the curriculum for the new international school I’m working with, your blog has been a great resource for seeing exactly how things pan out within the MYP framework. I really appreciate your dedication to documenting these learning experiences with students.

    I was actually just sitting down to work on the tech curriculum today when I decided to procrastinate a bit and check your blog ;) I was coming up with great guiding questions and unit ideas, but having trouble seeing how to scale them for the different MYP years. This project has given me a lot of perspective on what technology teaching in MYP 1 looks like.

    I’m looking forward to seeing how the projects turn out! What a great idea.
    Mary Worrell´s last blog post ..Giving myself room to learn…and my film-making debut

  2. Kim,
    We would be happy to collaborate. My 5th grade students created How-to videos earlier this year and LOVED it so much they wanted to do it again. Their math teacher, my friend @wendye40 had the students make How-to math videos about an area of math they feel they are an expert. The kids would love others to see all their work so I’m posting the address of the wiki where we are keeping all of the student work: (this is the direct link to the 5th grade page).

  3. Kim, what a really well documented plan – I’ve already learned a bunch from reading through your thoughts on this. Thanks for putting it online!

    We would also be interested in colloborating on a group (Wiki?) site that we can build together. I’m thinking we’ll survey our PYP teachers, too, and see what needs list we can build; I LOVE this idea and I think our Design Technology teacher will, too.

  4. This is great and we should look into collaborating (as you suggested earlier). I see Debra is up there too. This could be global fun.

    Maybe we can set up a wiki/youtube channel or something like that with links to what has been made already – ‘teach the world’, something like that.

    The design cycle is a great way to keep kids organised. I’m looking to DC the personal project with some folk at UNIS. They have made big changes to the PP, so we’ll need to look into that first. My PP kids used it this year and loved it.
    Melissa Griffin´s last blog post ..Don’t Eat the Beans!

  5. Hi Kim,
    My name is John Russell Smith and I am a student at the University of South Alabama. I was assigned you as the teacher I had to leave a comment on this week. I read your post and I think this is a great idea. I like the idea of the MYP Technology Design Cycle: It lets the students learn on their own as well as learn from each other tutorials. I like the way that you want to help the kids with the learning skills as well as share what they already know. It was cool how you gave the students the three pieces of paper and had them to draw something on it and then write down the steps the just went through drawing the picture on the other sheet. This makes them realize that there are fundamentals to everything they do or create. A process to where or what they are making. The tutorials will help the kids to learn from each other as well as learn how each individual learning process is different. I really enjoyed this post. If you want to look up my blog, just go to:

  6. Can we join the group? I love this idea. I am just starting to embark on connecting my classroom learning globally. We have just started our blog which is also my first time at a real classroom blog. I teach Grade 7 ELA and Math. I really would like to use this project as a tool to represent their learning. I have not provided any opportunity for this type of collaboration. Students learning from students, sharing their understanding. Hmmmm sounds grand! Extra benefit will be all the learning I will get to do too.
    Marilyn Pavier´s last blog post ..March 10 class work

  7. Kim,

    As usual I love reading your stuff. I immediately passed this on to our tech teacher in the HS as a great model. Thank you for sharing your video of making a Google presentation – detailed yet concise. What application did you use to record the video (with voice)?

    Thank you,


  8. I had a similar inspiration from Alan November when I was in Yokohama. We just started a Tech Tutors club after school where students will create video tutorials showcasing the tools they already know how to use. My hope is that these videos can then be used by other students and teachers to promote the idea that they can learn anytime, anywhere.

    In addition, we are starting Team Geek, another after school activity to train students to become “certified” tech helpers in the classroom. After the training, students will receive a certificate and bracelet that shows they can “save the day” when technology doesn’t work exactly as planned in the classroom.

    I am interested in developing a portal for the videos, similar to the Khan Academy or MathTrain where students can learn from students. What to join forces?

  9. Kim,

    I’m writing this response after the earthquake and tsunami, so first and foremost, I pray you and your husband are well and able to return to Japan soon and that your friends and students are all okay. I pray Japan is able to recover without any more problems from the nuclear plant. That being said, I am responding to this post as part of Dr. Strange’s EDM310 class. I have read quite a bit lately about the importance of really engaging students in their education by giving them some of the control over their own learning. This sounds like what you are doing. I do wonder if it is cultural like you think with why your students seem to have issues with independent learning, but I do not believe they are alone. Although some of my students last semester enjoyed learning on their own, or having the freedom to choose, most wanted me to hold their hand and they are in high school. I think they are just so accustomed to teachers spoon feeding them because the teacher has to get the entire curriculum covered in such a short time, or else the standardized scores will reflect poorly on them. They are taught to memorize here and not to think critically nearly enough. I look forward to seeing some of the videos when they are completed. Good luck!
    Lisianna Emmett´s last blog post ..Blog Assignment 9

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

CommentLuv badge