Create a Structure Zone for Video Success

Create a Structure Zone for Video Success

KIDS LOVE VIDEOS – Whether they’re watching cartoons, music videos, or action stories, a child’s appetite for screen time seems insatiable. But how do you turn that love of screens into love of learning?

One of the advantages of video learning is that videos are simple to implement and repeat. Tablets and phones turn every setting into an impromptu classroom – in the car, or a waiting room, after dinner, or before bed.  A teacher, parent, or therapist can use video modeling to teach academic, social, functional, and vocational skills.

But how do you keep them engaged with video learning when the novelty has worn off? Or if they resist altogether? The key is to create a Structure Zone of consistency, predictability, and follow-through around video learning. 

Here’s how:

  1. ESTABLISH A VIDEO TIME – Pull out a big sheet of paper and create a video learning schedule. Draw seven columns: Monday through Sunday. Enter a daily 15- to 30-minute time slot and write “VIDEO LEARNING TIME.” Set up your timer app for reinforcement. You can even download a fun ringtone to signal completion (For example, Porky Pig exclaiming, “That’s all folks!”).
  2. REINFORCE THE LEARNING – For the first week, sit side-by-side during the entire session. While your child views the videos, say the words along with the videos. Don’t be the instructor. You’re there to enjoy making the sounds as well. “COW, DOG, PIG.” If you’re having fun, she will too. Offer praise as you go.   
  3. PRACTICE IN THE WORLD – Extend the video into the bigger world. If you see a package of bacon at the store, point at the picture of the pig and pronounce, “PIG.” On the way home, if a dog walker crosses the street, point and sound the word “DOG.” Even if your child can only muster the “D” sound, offer immediate praise.
  4. PRACTICE WITH A TEAM – Talk to the child’s teachers, camp counselors, grandparents, and anyone who’s in the child’s world. Let them know your child is on a fast track to talking and you need their support. Explain the tactics you use (identifying the object, annunciating the sound, and offering praise).
  5. TRACK PROGRESS – Whenever you observe progress, make a note of any new tactics you have employed. Maybe you added members to the team, broke the learning into two fifteen-minute sessions, created videos of your own, or include the grocery store as a learning opportunity. Record the new words and sounds and share the vocabulary with your team. If you make changes to the schedule, mark it on the calendar. Keep at it for a while to see if any changes are producing better outcomes.
  6. REMAIN PATIENT – It’s easy to get excited about a new program, but if progress is slow, it’s even easier to slack off. With video learning, consistent practice and repetition build skills in language development. You child can only learn stick-to-it-ness if you practice it as well.
  7. REPEAT EXPOSURE – Don’t assume your child isn’t learning if you don’t see results. Repeated exposure is needed before the learning kicks in. Professionals test whether a therapy works based on the number of sessions or exposures. Think like a professional.
  8. MAKE YOUR EXPECTATIONS CLEAR – If you expect 15 minutes, make that clear. If you need to sit alongside, or allow coloring, or finish the video with a treat – that’s okay. But the expectation – 15 or 30 minutes of video time must be firm.
  9. IT TAKES A VILLAGE – Collaboration with family members, teachers, friends, and therapists builds a unified front to accelerate learning. When the child is immersed in a supportive environment, the learning opportunities multiply.
  10. SHARE YOUR DATA – When you collect accurate information on a child’s progress, you help your support network of teachers and professionals adjust their interventions to match. Again, think like a professional.


About the Author: Dr. Maria Gilmour, PhD, BCBA-D, LBA is a Board-Certified Behavior Analyst at the doctoral level and a Licensed Behavior Analyst working in Oregon and Washington. Dr. Gilmour has 21 years of experience working in the field of autism, behavior disorders, traumatic brain injury, and ABA. She became the Chief Clinical Officer of Gemiini Systems in 2015 and is the owner and Chief Executive Officer of Wynne Solutions Behavior Services.