How to Create Games on YouTube

Screen Shot 2015-09-20 at 11.06.20 AMEvery teacher should work to move students from consumers of digital content to creators of digital content. This step is not as difficult as one would think, especially if students are creating simple math or language videos. When your students are ready for the next challenge, you can take advantage of YouTube’s annotation system to make interactive games or stories. For example, my third grade students put together these episodes of the “homophone game” (must be played on a computer, not mobile):
YouTube Preview Image
YouTube Preview Image

Games like this require time to create, but they are the perfect project for eager students who tend to finish other activities quickly. Students could take YouTube games in multiple directions, but let’s start by focusing specifically on how we produced episodes of the “homophone game”. My students used four applications:

  1. PicCollage on the iPad (any slide-preparing app would work)
  2. Doodlecast on the iPad (another screen-casting app would work)
  3. YouTube Annotations
  4. YouTube Audio (optional but recommended)
Step One – Create the Plan
Instead of breaking out the technology right away, we started with pencil and paper. Students IMG_0281chose a homophone, then created six or more sentences using the different versions of the homophone. We kept the best 4-5 sentences for the game.
Step Two – Create the Slides

Using the application PicCollage, students created colorful slides to illustrate their sentences. We collageused clear and simple slides for the example sentences (solid-color background, easy-to-read font), and they could do whatever they wanted to the “wrong answer” and “correct” slides. To make the game, we needed:

  • A Title Slide
  • An Explanation Slide
  • 4-5 Sentence Slides
  • A Correct Answer Slide
  • A Wrong Answer Slide
Step Three – Create the Videos

Using DoodleCast pro, we made 6-7 short videos for each game. The breakdown:

  • An introduction/explanation video with the first sentence (about 1 minute long)
  • 3-4 “right answer” + next question videos (about 30 seconds)
  • A wrong answer video (about 15 seconds)
  • A finishing video (15-30 seconds)

The best way to get a sense of these is to play the game. We usually waited until the end to create the introduction/explanation, since it had to be the longest and most polished. Also, having learned a lesson from hundreds of previously published student videos, I created a shared YouTube account for students to publish (so I don’t have to log in to my account every time).

Step Four – Link the Videos with Annotations

Although I’ve had success with students using YouTube Annotations in the past, this was the first time I’ve had them link videos together. It’s probably the most technically intimidating aspect of the project, but 8 year olds pulled it off without too many problems. This video explains exactly how to do it:

YouTube Preview Image


Step Five – Add Music

Technically this step is optional, but I think the music adds a lot to the game experience and energy of the videos. I’ve written a post about how to use YouTube Audio, or again, just watch this video:

YouTube Preview Image


Step Six – Share and Have Fun

It may seem like a long and complicated process for a 5 minute game, but the students love making them, and they are fun to play as well. I’d love to get other students playing these and creating videos of their own, so please comment if you’ve shared these with your students or if they’ve made one of their own. And as always, please let me know if you have any questions about the process.

Recommended App – Road Movies (iphone)

Time to revive the blog after a long hiatus, and I’m going to start by following up on some recommendations I made in the past.


I wrote about the iphone application Road Movies about a year ago. Please check out my original post to see see what it is and how it works, but basically it allows you to take quick and simple 24-second movies using a bunch of small clips. It edits them together and gives you a cool looking highlight video of a trip, a special day, or an activity.

When I first wrote about the application, we were in the midst of Coetail Course 3 on visual literacy, and it seemed like the perfect tool to play around with. I brainstormed a list of ways to use the application, and after publishing my blog post, completely forgot about trying them (I’m sure I’m not the first).

I even deleted the app from my phone, but when our third grade class took a trip to a sports park last month, I realized it was the perfect high-action day to capture with a “Road Movie.” I downloaded it on the spot, made a movie with 24 one-second clips, chose some music, and shared it with students and families. The students loved it, and the parents appreciated the window into what was happening with the classes.

We’ve since made brief movies of subsequent field trips, presentations, parties, and special events. Here’s a quick look at “Japanese Culture Day” that we held at our school last week:

YouTube Preview Image


I listed the possibilities for the app in my initial post, and I don’t think there are any dramatic changes from that list. If fact, I could list a a few minor downsides:

  •  Limited Musical Choices – There are only 14 songs to choose, and while some are cool, if you’re doing more than one movie, you will quickly run out of options. Technically, you could load the footage into iMovie and choose your own soundtrack, but the main appeal here is how quick and easy it is to shoot a movie and upload it straight from your phone.
  • Novelty Factor – The movies are easy to get excited about in the beginning, but the more you make, the more the novelty factor wears off.
  • Basic  – This is a simple, fun app, but it’s not earth shattering. You may be able to showcase student learning, but students learning is not at the core.

Nevertheless, many people have never heard of this, and it’s so simple and easy to use, I recommend it to any teacher with an iphone.

In other news, this is my first blog post in half a year, but I have several posts planned for the next couple of months, so please check back soon!


Student-Produced Images with “Draw Free” app

My third grade students are creating imovie documentaries on plants, a project first attempted over a year ago. One of the main tech lessons of the project is having student use “free-use” images instead of taking whatever photos they find on the internet. For some ideas, however, the students have had trouble finding images that fit with what they want to explain.


For example, two of my students wanted to illustrate the different zones of the ocean, but a google search for “free-use” images turned up nothing. Feeling more comfortable with the project a second time around, I challenged them to make their own image. This was the first time to do this, however, so I was unsure what was the best ipad application for the job. I heard about “Art Studio” at the course 5 presentations, but a quick search showed it cost $5 and probably had features that we didn’t need.

mzl.jsyghlzyAnother more reasonably priced app ($0), appropriately called “Draw Free,” did the trick. My students were familiar with Doodlecast Pro, which has similar functions, and they were able to independently figure out how to use it. Despite the similar logos, I’m sure “Art Studio” is a more powerful application, but for third graders trying to whip up a quick illustration for their movie, “Draw Free” will get the job done. Here’s what they came up with:


As my students get more into their movies, I hope more will be able to create their own images. We should be finished by the end of the week, so look for an update soon, and let us know if you’ve tried other drawing apps that have worked for your students.