Video can be a powerful tool for classroom learning, and it’s safe to say that teachers have never had more videos at their fingertips than they do today.

But with so many videos on YouTube, how do you find the good stuff? You know, those perfect, one-of-a-kind, just-right-for-your-lesson videos—the ones that make you think, “Oh, my students have to see this!”

The best YouTube videos for the classroom are the ones that teach or—better yet—show something you can’t otherwise do in your classroom. Videos that are more than flashy attempts to spice up a chapter from a textbook. Videos that go beyond zany talking heads doling out CliffsNotes for the digital age. Classroom-worthy videos on YouTube shouldn’t be replacements for your lessons; they should be additions to the awesome lessons you already teach.

Whether they’re an intriguing hook or the spark for a thought-provoking reflection, the best videos for school bring the world and all of its wonder into our classrooms. See below for a few of our favorite YouTube channels with useful videos for your lessons.

Above the Noise

From PBS Digital Studios and KQED Education, Above the Noise offers an investigative dive—albeit a brief one—into the research behind a variety of popular and newsworthy topics, ranging from technology and climate science to free speech, economics, and beyond. Each video dives into a specific, thought-provoking topic, and the channel’s sensibilities are right in line with what high school to college-age students are talking about.

Standout videos:
Is Video Game Addiction Real? — A discussion of some of the science behind all the reporting on so-called “Video Game Addiction” and “Gaming Disorder.”
Can Procrastination Be a Good Thing? — Explore some academic research behind the question: Why do people procrastinate?
Why Do Our Brains Love Fake News? — A brief primer on confirmation bias, and whether or not it’s something people can actually avoid.

The Art Assignment

An engaging look at contemporary art, as well as art history through a contemporary lens. While not specifically for K-12 students, plenty of the videos here can nonetheless work in school. The best of them are shot on location and bring art from around the world into your classroom.

Standout playlists:
Art Trip — Video field trips to various art locales, from London to Tijuana to Columbus, Indiana.
Assignment Episodes — 60 (and counting) episodes highlight various artists and works of art, each involving a related “assignment” for viewers.

The Brain Scoop

As “chief curiosity correspondent” at Chicago’s Field Museum, YouTube star Emily Graslie offers dispatches on a variety of natural science topics. Topics cover a range of (mostly natural) science content, and some videos have a certain gross-out factor. But Graslie gives the videos a decidedly friendly and personable tone that may resonate with some younger kids.

Standout playlists:
In the Lab — A behind-the-scenes look at what goes down in the Field Museum’s lab as the crew preps various exhibits.
Amazon Adventures — Ride along on a trip to the Peruvian Amazon to view life in the wild.

About the Author:

As senior producer and content strategist for Common Sense Education, Jeff Knutson helps creates and publish content for teachers aimed at helping them learn new, innovative, and effective ways to use edtech in the classroom. Prior to his work at Common Sense, Knutson was an editor and classroom teacher. He’s an advocate for the creative, thoughtful, and responsible use of technology, and he thrives on sharing his knowledge, experience, and perspectives with others.


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