Video Modeling: How do I use it?

Three Types of Videos

  1. Video Peer-Modeling: Video of a peer completing the routine. Students attend best to video models that share similar characteristics to themselves (Bellini & Akullian, 2007).
  2. Video Self-Modeling: Video of the student completing the routine. Videos depicting the targeted student must only show successful attempts of the targeted skill. Strategic taping and editing must be used to show the child successfully completing the routine (Bellini & Akullian, 2007).
  3. Video Perspective-Modeling: Video of a routine filmed from the perspective of the student.

Check out an example of video perspective-modeling here.

Phases of Intervention

Phase 1

Introduce the edited video of the desired skill to your student by first simply playing it in the student’s presence—no expectations or demands at first.

Phase 2

Watch the video with the student. You can either listen to the embedded audio or mute the videos and speak your own simplified narration as the routine plays. It can be helpful to pair steps of the video with visual icons to provide greater visually cued instruction. After viewing the video model, practice the skill through discrete practice sessions or role-playing (this is the production process of observational learning). Offer prompts, cues, immediate models, and redirection as needed for the student to be successful.

Phase 3

Consistently watch the appropriate video before completing a targeted routine to ensure sufficient exposure to the model. Each time the student completes the routine fade prompts and cues to scaffold to independence. As the student becomes more successful with the routine periodically review the video models as professionally determined.

A Note About Motivation

Encourage the student attend to the videos using verbal redirection cues but remember attention is not a prerequisite skill for learning and research has indicated modeling and frequent exposure are sufficient to support learning without hand-over-hand assistance and use of external reinforcers or punishments (D’Ateno, Mangiapanello, & Taylor, 2003).

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Evidence-based Decor Decisions

Are highly decorated classrooms distracting?

Several researchers (Fisher et al. 2014 & Rodrigues & Pandeirada 2018) have found that children are more easily distracted in highly-decorated environments resulting in poorer learning opportunities and achievement. If you spent a few minutes with a young child in a toy store, this should make perfect sense to you. 

Imuta and Scarf (2014) published a response to the Fisher et al. study citing several other research articles analyzing the development of visual attention in children and the impact of the classroom environment on learning potential.

Imuta and Scarf first remind the reader that many psychological studies involving children rely on the developmental cognitive strategy of attending to and preferring novel stimuli. Therefore, their first rebuttal to research indicating highly-decorated classrooms as a distraction to learning is the habituation effect. Basically, when children first enter your learning space, they may be overloaded by colorful displays, but overtime, they will adjust, and the decorations will have a transient impact on their attention.

The authors further cite additional research that has found carefully curated classroom decorations, such as visuals made by students and educational references, can serve to support our students. They recommend keeping classroom decorations the same and in the same spot to take advantage of habituation and support student access to the visuals.

Image of speech therapy bulletin board featuring A Perfect Blend Teaching Interactive Language Bulletin Board
My speech therapy room’s bulletin board featuring Perfect Blend Teaching’s Interactive Language Bulletin Board set available on Teachers Pay Teachers.

What environmental factors impact student attention and learning?

Barrett et al. (2013) took a holistic approach looking at several environmental factors and their impact on student learning. Seven factors were identified to best predict student progress: light, temperature, air quality, ownership, flexibility, complexity, and color.

As SLPs, we are often lucky to have a dedicated space, nevermind one with optimal lighting, temperature, and air quality. Those factors are generally outside of our control. Though if you are trying to make the case to get out of your broom closet, there is research available to support your argument.

What we do have control over is the individualization and stimulation level of our therapy spaces. Here are a few summary points from the findings of this article:

  • Visual displays created by the children established a sense of ownership, which was significantly correlated with optimal learning outcomes.
  • The flexibility and comfortability of classroom furniture were correlated with optimal learning outcomes.
  • Younger students exhibited better learning engagement with varied, defined learning zones, while older students performed better with consistent, dedicated learning zones.
  • Students performed best in rooms with light or white walls with a feature wall or well organized colorful displays.
  • Students of all ages performed best in places with an intermediate level of visual complexity.
Image of my speech therapy classroom

Special Considerations

“The visual appearance of the classroom can be conceptualized as a nonverbal statement about the teacher who has structured this learning environment.”

Weinstein & Woofolk (1981)

Cheryan et al. (2014) investigated the impact of classroom decor on student achievement. Here are the most important findings:

  • Multiple research studies indicated that decor decisions favoring the majority (examples: Christian religious displays, images of only white students, pictures of diverse students filling only stereotypical roles) directly impacted the educational performance of female students, Black, Indigenous, and students of color, and students of minority religious groups.
  • The research indicated that small changes to classroom decor improved learning outcomes for all students and helped reduce racial and gender achievement gaps.

Whether they acknowledge it or not, our students notice the objects, pictures, and decor decisions in our classrooms.  Therefore, we should be careful not to feature objects that acknowledge only high-status or majority groups or make students from historically underrepresented groups feel excluded. The authors urge you to keep in mind that the objects and decor added to your space to reflect students belonging to minority groups and cultures should be carefully curated in an effort not to constrain students to limited, stereotypical roles.

“[Our decor choices] signal to students whether they will be valued and encouraged within the classroom.”

Cheryan et al. (2014)

Considerations for Teaching During the COVID-Pandemic

The authors of Designing Classrooms to Maximize Student Achievement (Cheryan et al. 2014) reported that the same evidence-based practices, summarized above, for in-person classrooms apply to virtual classrooms. So, if you will be using a Bitmoji classroom this fall consider the level of visual stimuli, incorporating student ideas, representation of all students, and defining your learning zones.


Thanks for reading!


Barrett, P., Zhang, Y., Moffat, J., & Kobbacy, K. (2013). A holistic, multi-level analysis identifying the impact of classroom design on pupils’ learning. Building and environment59, 678-689.

Cheryan, S., Ziegler, S. A., Plaut, V. C., & Meltzoff, A. N. (2014). Designing classrooms to maximize student achievement. Policy Insights from the Behavioral and Brain Sciences1(1), 4-12.

Fisher, A. V., Godwin, K. E., & Seltman, H. (2014). Visual environment, attention allocation, and learning in young children: When too much of a good thing may be bad. Psychological science25(7), 1362-1370.

Imuta, K., & Scarf, D. (2014). When too much of a novel thing may be what’s “bad”: commentary on Fisher, Godwin, and Seltman (2014). Frontiers in psychology5, 1444.

Rodrigues, P. F., & Pandeirada, J. N. (2018). When visual stimulation of the surrounding environment affects children’s cognitive performance. Journal of experimental child psychology176, 140-149.

Teaching Narrative to Young Learners

My favorite goal to target in speech therapy is narrative expression. First of all, it is a powerful skill. The world is mediated through language…just try to go a day without telling someone a narrative. Narrative expression is required in both academic and social interactions! It is even included in common core standards. Second, it consistently shows up in research articles as an evidence-based practice for widespread gains in developing expressive and receptive language skills.

I work on developing narrative expression with nearly all of my elementary-aged language students. One study I have been referencing a lot recently has been:

Adlof, S. M., McLeod, A., & Leftwich, B. (2014). Structured narrative retell instruction for young children from low socioeconomic backgrounds: A preliminary study of feasibility. Frontiers in Psychology, 5, 391. doi:10.3389/fpsyg.2014.00391

There is tons of literature available that looks at the benefits of shared book reading in young children for vocabulary development and the benefits of narrative instruction in older students, but a big missing gap looking at the impact of narrative instruction in developmentally young children.

The authors of this study were specifically researching the impact of narrative instruction on young learners from low socioeconomic backgrounds. Their results indicated significant gains in the areas of vocabulary, narrative expression, and grammar.

The clinicians in the research study implemented a specific protocol for targeting narrative with the young learners. Here is a brief outline of the Structured Narrative Retell Instruction (SNRI) Protocol: ⁣
1. Read aloud a picture book with a true narrative structure. Meaning it has a character, setting, at least one problem, at least one attempt, and a resolution. ⁣
2. Guide the student(s) through think-alouds as you read the story (e.g., make predictions, draw attention to story grammar elements, define Tier 2 vocabulary), using visual supports to scaffold success during and after reading. ⁣
3. Review story grammar elements in the story through comprehension questions. Provide “modeling, prompting, recasts, and expansions to encourage more complex language use.” ⁣
4. Students retell the story using visual supports and verbal prompts from the clinician to scaffold success.⁣
5. Students further engage with the story through an art project.

Using the information from this study and my clinical experience targeting narrative expression in early elementary-aged students, I created the Story Grammar Review Boom Card Deck Bundle to help me systematically target story grammar elements in a consistent, visual, and interactive way. ⁣

The Bundle is available on both Boom Learning and Teachers Pay Teachers. It contains two products, which I will describe below:

Story Grammar Review Boom Card Deck

Introduces and reviews each of the story grammar elements (i.e., character, setting, blast off, emotional reaction, plan, actions, resolution, and wrap-up) through:

  • Say & check definitions
  • Fill-in definitions
  • Sorting tasks
  • Interactive instructional tasks (Examples, design a character, design a setting, create a blast off, match the emotion, match the plan, identify the actions, and match the resolution)

Two graphic organizers to use with any narrative, includes visual supports.

Five open-ended scenes with story grammar element checklists to support students in independently creating their own narratives.

Book Companion Story Grammar Review Boom Card Decks

Each of the book companion Story Grammar Review Boom Card decks were specifically designed to follow the format of the SNRI protocol outlined in the Adolf et al., 2014 article. ⁣

1. Picture books with true narrative structure were chosen for instruction
2. Story map to aid with think-alouds during reading ⁣
3. Story grammar comprehension questions
4. Story retell organizers with and without visual aids from the story
5. Open-ended scene, which can be used to support students in independently retelling the story, as well as help them further engage with the story through creative expression

Slide show of Book Companion Story Grammar Review Decks available in the Story Grammar Review Decks Bundle on Boom Learning Now

Thanks for reading!