Using Short Videos in Teaching Young People

Petr Krakora (Plzen, Czechia)

Archived discussion

About the presenter

Petr Krákora was born in 1973, and graduated in 1996 from the University of West Bohemia in Plzen, Czech Republic, with a major in Applied Mathematics. In 2001 he entered theological training for the ministry, and was ordained in 2009 as a pastor of the Czech Evangelical Lutheran Church. He serves congregations in and around Plzen, and teaches Religion at Martin Luther School there. He and his wife Gabriela Krákorova have three children, David 31, Romana 27, and Ondrej 19.

I. Why I chose to use short videos in teaching

As we all know, the entire world was struck with a serious transmittable disease. Our country was no exception. There was even a short period of time when the Czech Republic was dominating the statistics of the infection, taken relatively to the number of its population. As one of the state-ordered precautions, almost all schools in the country were closed for in-person education during most of the school year 2020-21. As a result, online schooling began to boom and bloom, with all its advantages and shortcomings. Our elementary Martin Luther School in Pilsen started to use WebEx for online video lessons for the subjects such as Math, History, Czech or English, and Google Classroom as an offline platform for creating, sharing, and grading assignments. Since only at most 40% of the regular time spent "in school" was recommended by the schooling authorities to be covered by online "on screen" teaching, the few time slots for WebEx were quickly taken up by the science and language subjects.

That was fine with me as one of the Religion teachers giving Christian instruction in grades 4 through 9, since I really couldn't imagine myself being "glued to the screen" while reading, narrating, or explaining Bible stories. I like to move around the classroom, use hand and face gestures, act out bits from the stories, making them "come alive" to the children. I prefer full-body communication with the little souls I teach. Therefore, I didn't mind having to use the offline means of Google Classroom. Then the idea came to my mind that, since the situation of being homebound is already stressful for the children and since they already work long enough before the screen, they can for a change just sit and watch a short film with a spiritual message that would teach them valuable lessons. Lessons for life.

II. How I found the appropriate short videos

It's simple these days. You go online and just type "short film with a message," or "award-winning short film," or "Christian short film," something along these lines. The trouble is, you get tens and tens of video results, most of them accessible on Youtube. Since our TV at home didn't support viewing YTB videos, I downloaded some thirty of them and brought them home on a USB drive, plugged it in, got a pencil and a notepad, lay down on a sofa, and enjoyed the movie night, composed of what seemed like an endless series of 5-minute films. Some were just funny. Some had sci-fi elements in them. Some promoted "alternative lifestyles." My task then while watching was to find those films which had a message consistent with the biblical worldview and one that would be understandable, at least for the most part, by children aged 10 to 15 years. When Bible verses and principles started popping up in my mind, I knew I had a good candidate.

One technical problem was that the absolute majority of the films were in English. My search for short films in Czech produced only two reasonable results, one of which was a film I had already been familiar with. Although the students at our school have extensive education in English, so that by the 9th grade most of them are fluent in it, I still wanted to make sure that everything said in the films was understood by every one of them, from grade 4 to 9. In addition, I was going to encourage the children to watch the films together with their parents, thus having a chance to discuss the meaning of what they saw within their family circle. (Some of the films might have still been above the comprehension ability of the littlest ones, so here the parents could help). To make a long story short, I learned how to furnish the films with Czech subtitles. It had taken me some time and effort to do so but from the feedback I later got from the children I knew that it was worth it.

III. What these short videos are about

Let me briefly introduce you to the films I had chosen. The first one is in Czech and is called 'Most' (The Bridge). It illustrates in a dramatic way what pain it must be for a father to sacrifice his son in order to save a train full of passengers. The allusion is, of course, to the heavenly Father giving up His Son in order to rescue sinful humanity. As the Bible says, "We have seen and testify that the Father has sent his Son to be the Savior of the world." (1 John 4:14) Yet, before I assigned this film to the students, I had changed my mind and chose the following one instead. I realized the film 'Most' is too drastic, geared rather to an adult audience (especially fathers and mothers), and might have left the children viewers in depression or anxiety.

Most (The Bridge) — father and son

'The English Teacher' deals with the heavy burden of guilt, and is about a man who failed immensely, now desperately seeking forgiveness and reconciliation. A Bible verse that comes to mind in relation to this topic is, e.g., "Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you." (Colossians 3:13) It's not always easy, as you see in the story.

The English Teacher — teacher and student

The following film, called 'The Butterfly Circus', brilliantly depicts how our defects, limitations, or inadequacies don't need to label us forever, and how, with God's calling to a new life in a new community, comes the discovery of one's gifts and the motivation to inspire others with them. As the Bible reminds us, "…those parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, and the parts that we think are less honorable we treat with special honor." (1 Corinthians 12:22-23a)

The Butterfly Circus — setting butterfly free

The Czech film 'Soukromé lekce' (Private Lessons) is a student film. In it, a single mother is so busy with earning money for the family that she neglects to spend time with her son. He, therefore, invents a simple plan to get more attention from his mom, helping her reevaluate her priorities. The film promotes true family values, and the book of Proverbs is full of useful advice with respect to prioritizing, such as, "Better a dry crust with peace and quiet than a house full of feasting, with strife." (Proverbs 17:1) The words of Paul written to Christians in Corinth might also be applicable here: "...I will not be a burden to you, because what I want is not your possessions but you. After all, children should not have to save up for their parents, but parents for their children." (2 Corinthians 12:14)

Private Lessons — mother and son

Afterwards came three animated short films. 'Spellbound' portrays how hatred, anger, and envy can grow out of control and consume us to the point that they become like a monster. The Bible confirms that, saying, e.g., "For a man is a slave to whatever has mastered him." (2 Peter 2:19b) The film suggests a solution in line with what the apostle Paul wrote: "Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good." (Romans 12:21). 'Snack Attack' warns us against misjudging strangers simply based on their outfit or some outward traits. The Bible likewise tells us: "Therefore judge nothing before the appointed time; wait till the Lord comes." (1 Corinthians 4:5a) And 'Volunteer Your Time' [Mr. Indifferent] encourages us to, well, volunteer our time — and get active in doing simple acts of kindness or otherwise improving life in the community we are a part of. The Bible similarly urges us, "Do not withhold good from those who deserve it, when it is in your power to act." (Proverbs 3:27)

Spellbound — Snack Attack — Volunteer Your Time

The short film 'Abandoned' is a Christian parable — teaching us that although we don't see our heavenly Father, sometimes even thinking He has abandoned us, He is with us always in His love, guiding us, protecting us, rearing us, and working all things together for our good. Indeed, as the apostle Paul says, "We live by faith, not by sight." (2 Corinthians 5:7)

Abandoned — father and daughter

'Frankly Speaking' is a short film highlighting the significance of our thoughts, of our true inner selves, which may greatly differ from what we tell others and want them to believe. The Bible says about God that "He will bring to light what is hidden in darkness and will expose the motives of men's hearts." (1 Corinthians 4:5b) Therefore now is the time that we sincerely ask God for that which king David had asked Him: "Hide your face from my sins and blot out all my iniquity. Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me." (Psalm 51:9,10)

Frankly Speaking — employees and boss

The final short film is called 'The Cliff'. It emphasizes, in a somewhat amusing and ironic way, the importance of telling the truth, however unpopular or painful it may be, to the neighbor who is in danger. Applied to the truths of God's Word, we recall Paul bidding Timothy: "Preach the Word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage–with great patience and careful instruction. For the time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths." (2 Timothy 4:2-4)

The Cliff — two friends

None of the films displays the Gospel in an explicit way. In other words, a viewer would not probably find salvation in Jesus, the Son of God, just by watching these short films. There may be some allusions to the Gospel, but the main points of the films revolve around different aspects of our human lives in general, and the Christian walk in particular. The films deal with relationships, values, fears, guilt, prejudices, truth, love, pretense, or roles in life — topics important not just for children.

IV. When watching short videos is not enough

In order to help the message of the films get across to the children, I created an online questionnaire or quiz to follow each film. These consisted of multiple-choice questions or fill-in-your-answer questions, all related to the story lines, to the possible motivation for action of some of the characters, or to similarities with Bible stories or events. Some questions stirred a larger discussion than others.

[English translation of graph: about VOLUNTEER YOUR TIME]
In the first part of the story, the young man had "hands in his pockets", Why? What did it symbolize? answers:
- He was cold
- He was not interested in helping
- He was hiding his dirty nails
Which among the following biblical passages urges the person to "take his hands out of his pockets" for others?
- Do not withhold good from those who deserve it, when it is in your power to act. Proverbs 3.27
- He who guards his lips guards his life, but he who speaks rashly will come to ruin. Proverbs 13.3
- Better a little with the fear of the LORD than great wealth with turmoil. Proverbs 15.16


For example, related to the film 'The English Teacher', by far the most perplexing question was: "Why did Robert run to see Jin in the end of the film? Did he want to beat him up? Forgive him? Or take him to police?"

'The Butterfly Circus' inspired the question: "Can you really become anything you want to be in life? Do you have limitations and why? Do you have gifts and why?" In relation to the film "Soukromé lekce (Private lessons)" we discussed not only the possible reasons why parents don't have/make time to spend with their children, but also the reasons why children don't have/make time to spend with their parents. Some open-minded honesty was required in this area.

Each quiz contained the same last task: "Grade 1 to 5 how you liked the film, from 1 = not at all, to 5 = very much." I was happy to see that more than 90% of the reactions were between 3 and 5. Besides, I have received individual expressions of children being touched and moved by the stories and even parents being brought to tears while watching these films. The films did serve their purpose well.

V. Where to find the short videos cited above

If you were captivated by my description of this unplanned teaching project, you might finally want to get to see the short films for yourselves. I will appreciate if you tell me what you think of them and whether you found them worth watching.

Most (The Bridge) —(Czech, with English subtitles)
The English Teacher
The Butterfly Circus
Soukromé lekce (Private Lessons) — (in Czech only)
Frankly Speaking
The Cliff
Three Animated Short Films:
Snack Attack
Volunteer Your Time (Mr. Indifferent)

[Read about the Czech Evangelical Lutheran Church.]

Translate this page into your language
Return to original language with "show original" button at top left.


Claudia Schroeter (ELFK Diaspora South) 2021-10-25 7:50:04am
Thank you for giving the links to the videos and short content - this is a really good idea for catechism classes with youth (I'll share it with my husband, you know Jonas) or a starter just to get to talk with the own kids and their friends about ethical themes and what the Bible says about those things. - And for us and our kids it is also a good way to practice English.
Petr Krakora (Czech Ev. Lutheran Church) 2021-10-27 9:28:56am
My pleasure, Claudia. I hope the videos will stir up useful discussion among the viewers in your circle, young and old. You can talk with them about the point of each story and see if they can come up with their own applications in their lives. And please, greet Jonas for me. :-)
Don Moldstad (Bethany Lutheran College) 2021-10-26 2:37:13am
Thanks for putting this together. I tried to create some short videos (years ago, before smart phones) in hopes of creating another way to enhance my Catechism instruction. I found that it was so time-consuming that it was probably not worth the time. I notice that the videos you posted here were produced elsewhere. Have you ever done any of your own work to use in class? If so, what advice would you give?
Tom Kuster (Christ in Media Institute) 2021-10-27 3:11:17am
Don, I'd be interested in the IDEAS for the short videos you tried to create 'way back (before smartphones – or before phones?). Would they be good ideas for student productions? Maybe by Stone Path Studios?
Petr Krakora (Czech Ev. Lutheran Church) 2021-10-27 9:41:38am
With pleasure, Don. As for your question, to be honest, I have never even thought of producing a short video myself. I have seen so many of them, done by people of all sorts of shooting skills, and it confirmed in me the conviction that professinal, or at least semi-professional filming of a story makes a big difference from a pure amateur rendering. I would probably be able to think of a storyline, but then I would need to have skilled enthusiasts to arrange it and catch it on camera. However, if unlike me, you are good at directing and filming, you can do it all by yourself.
Tom Kuster (Christ in Media Institute) 2021-10-28 1:23:30am
The ideas for storylines are the hard part. Good writers are the greatest need in Christian production. I'm not saying that the filming, editing, and all the other aspects of production are easy to do well, but we have students at Bethany Lutheran College who have shown themselves capable of highly professional productions if they have good material to work with. Of course, it costs money too. But nothing happens without the writer who has the story idea.
Petr Krakora (Czech Ev. Lutheran Church) 2021-10-29 6:52:09am
I agree, Tom, a good storyline is essential. Now, as pastors and preachers, wouldn't many (or some) of the illustrations we come up with for our sermons make good stories, or at least outlines of good stories? Of course, the other step is just as important, namely to set up scenes, develop dialogues and create escalation in the story up to its main point or message. Creating the aha effect in the end, the punchline, is, I believe, the real art.
Elizabeth Kanzenbach (Martin Luther College) 2021-11-03 1:10:30am
Petr Krakorase,

Thank you for putting all of these videos together and adding a scripture explanation along with them. This is an excellent resource for online teaching that captivates the students while teaching them essential Biblical concepts.

In section two of your webpage, you said you downloaded about thirty of the films you found and brought them home on a USB drive. What were the deciding factors for those films you downloaded onto your USB drive? Were you looking for keywords in the titles? Did you pick the most interesting-looking videos or the first ones that “popped up” after searching?

I watched ‘The English Teacher,’ and it was definitely worth the time. At the end of the short film, the shocking event shows how hard it may be to forgive someone. I look forward to watching the other videos you have selected and applying the chosen scripture that harmonizes the taught lesson. Once again, thank you for your work and for providing this resource.
Petr Krakora (Czech Ev. Lutheran Church) 2021-11-07 11:16:39am
Thank you, Elizabeth, for your kind reaction a appreciation. With respect to your question, I really took the first cca 30 short films that had poped up in the search results, with a special eye on those "award winning" - to make sure the message in them is artistically depicted, generally recognisable, and touches on some "spiritual phenomena" that we share as human beings. But there were certainly more films I could have watched; I just thought I should be able to choose a handful of them from those first 30 I had picked. Feel free to do your own reasearch and who knows, you may stumble into some real gems! :-)
Natalie Luebke (Martin Luther College) 2021-11-04 1:44:03am
Petr Krakora,

What a wonderful perspective on using short videos in teaching! I really resonated with the statement, “Lessons for life”. You focused on not just teaching lessons to teach them, but rather fixated on your student being able to take these lessons with them. I appreciate your full effort to make virtual teaching still meaningful despite the circumstances set against you! It was also very eye-opening seeing how miniscule the videos in Czech were. As an American that has grown up in the heart of WELS/ELS culture, I haven’t deeply considered the challenges/setbacks international churches go through. I understand that it took a great deal of time to get subtitles on and decide which materials would provide value to the students and families learning. Your efforts, hard work, and consideration on so many parts are not only appreciated by those children and families, but for those like me, a future teacher, seeing the gospel being spread through different resources!

Like you, I too, agree that there are positive and negative aspects about virtual learning. It seemed like the feedback you received from your students was very positive! This made me wonder, Are you still in virtual learning? If not, do you still incorporate videos into your teaching and see value in doing so? If you are back to in-person learning, I believe that continuing to immerse these videos into your learning would still be of value to the children. It would add differentiation to the class and help with attention-span! They would also still be able to show their parents at home! What a great way to share the Gospel!

Thank you for your inspiring work to communicate the Gospel to young children even in trying times!
Petr Krakora (Czech Ev. Lutheran Church) 2021-11-07 6:39:38pm
Thank you, Natalie, for your appreciative reaction. The fact is, my project with short videos for distance learning wasn't completely unrelated to what I had done before and again do now when we are back to in-person learning. What I mean is that beginning with grade 6 I use the last 15 minutes of my REL class to have the children watch a Christian TV series for children made by the Czech Television (a state-owned national TV channel). It is called "Za obzorem" (Beyond the Horizon) and each part deals with a selected theme, such as Beauty, Relationships, Adrenaline, Games, Crisis, Extreme, Addiction, Past and Future, Differences, Tradition, Conflict, etc. The episodes are a bit longer than the short movies I spoke about here (cca 15 mins vs. cca 5 mins) and have a different format than a film. So here I answer your question: I do incorporate videos into my teaching regularly to keep the children's attention active and also to let them know that there is Christian program on TV too.
Natalie Hueske (Martin Luther College) 2021-11-05 2:15:22am
Pastor Krákora:

In the past few years with the emergence of platforms such as tik tok or youtube shorts, I have recognized youth’s waning attention span. When COVID-19 caused shutdowns across the globe, this truth became a more recognizable reality. I appreciate your understanding of this, and the efforts you put forth to convey important topics effectively under less than ideal circumstances. As I study to be a teacher, I am always striving to find the best ways to help grow - physically, spiritually, and emotionally. Getting students engaged can prove to be difficult and for them to profoundly interact with content, that is even more arduous. I appreciate the way that you appealed to the student's natural yet short lived curiosity. I think the questionnaires were a particularly pertinent aspect of your lesson plans. I think they helped students to get a lot out of little material.

Regarding the future impacts of these short stories, do you intend to implement this aspect of your lockdown lesson plans to in-classroom learning? I am curious if they are of the same value during a school day or if the pandemic was the sole place where these videos belonged. I personally feel as if they could have some value for in-person learning as well! I am also curious if these videos can be a platform from which attention span and curiosity can be improved in today’s students? Could these short videos lead to bigger projects, or is their simple nature the key to their success?

Thanks again for this rich portrayal of your tried and true teaching method. It is so critical for instructors to learn from others' successes and failures and I’m glad I could partake in the wisdom you offered pertaining to education and media.
Petr Krakora (Czech Ev. Lutheran Church) 2021-11-07 7:00:22pm
I value your reaction, Natalie. It is a tricky task to make the best use of the short attention span of children. I have noticed how this span depends on so many elements, such as time of the day, the weather, the previous class, the overall activity level of the children, etc. I am well aware that I can't just sit there and read to them from the Bible for 45 minutes. My approach is rather to have a bunch of 5-15 minute "sections" that make up the total 45 minute lesson. (I know I am not reinventing the wheel here.) We have the Prayer time, we have the Revision section, we have the Q&A section, we have the New Bible lesson section, we have the Personal testimony section, and the last 15 or so minutes we devote to watching a Christian TV series for children, produced by the Czech Television (see my response to your namesake above). It's not that each and every lesson has to contain all these sections; one has to be flexible and adjust to the situation in the classroom at the moment.
Isaiah Loersch (Martin Luther College) 2021-11-05 5:45:52am
Petr Krakora:

Your efforts to provide your students with meaningful educational material while at home resonated with me. I have experienced watching short films as homework for one of my college courses, and I enjoyed the discussions the films created. In a relatively brief amount of time, good short films can deliver powerful messages. Your extra effort in adding subtitles is something I strive to emulate in my future classroom. You took extra time to learn a skill in order to better equip your students for success.

You were teaching such a broad range of ages while online, which must have been very difficult. How did you make sure that each film’s message was understandable for both ten and fifteen-year-olds? The way a ten-year-old thinks and the way a fifteen-year-old thinks is drastically different. Was there a particular strategy you used to ensure that the videos were beneficial for both the oldest and the youngest students?

Thank you so much for sharing this information. As teaching shifts more into the digital world, having engaging teaching strategies that use media are becoming more and more valuable. Thank you again!
Petr Krakora (Czech Ev. Lutheran Church) 2021-11-07 7:15:54pm
Great comments, thank you, Isaiah! Regarding your question how I made sure that each film’s message was understandable to children of different ages, I relied on the help of the follow-up questionnaires. In them, I often formulated the question in such a way that it, moreorless immediately, suggested the answer, thus helping every one of the viewers to "connect the dots". Some questions were multiple choice, so I made the correct answer stand out from the incorrect ones, for example by having the the wrong choices sound funny or absurd. This was intended to ensure the meaning gets across even to the "slowest of thinkers". Even though the way children of different ages think is indeed different, I believe each child could take in the main point to some degree. Suprisingly, some of the smartest answers to open questions that I received came from grade 4 children!
Anastasia Goelzer (Wisconsin Lutheran College) 2021-11-06 10:40:18pm
I love the use of videos and films to teach kids about God's Word. The new and interesting way in which they're learning these lessons are sure to be memorable and stay with them going into the future. I especially found it interesting that these films were not specifically made with a religious or Christian teachings in mind and yet we can use them to teach biblical teachings. They are great resources when we might not have the production capabilities ourselves. I think it's awesome that we can utilize technology like YouTube and short films to further the gospel. It has been especially beneficial in this time of Covid. I love to see what others are doing around the world to adapt to our ever-changing world. Thank you for sharing your work of communicating God's Word to his children.
Petr Krakora (Czech Ev. Lutheran Church) 2021-11-07 7:27:40pm
Thank you for your comment, Anastasia (great name, by the way! Resurrection! ;-) In our highly atheistic and materialistic Czech society it is essential to know how to get around the "wall of a priori rejection of anything religious", if you want to get the chance to communicate the Gospel to the people. Short movies or told stories from life can create such opennings that can lead to further discussion and spiritual enlightment. I like stories that touch on something deeper in us as a springboard for the presentation of the Gospel and its fruits.
Amanda Pautz (Wisconsin Lutheran College) 2021-11-09 4:17:20am
Thanks for sharing your unique approach to teaching in these COVID times! I was surprised to see that you were excited to use this short film video style of teaching as opposed to the more longed-for Google classroom format - but I commend you for it! As a student during the March 2020 shutdown, I found it increasingly difficult to stay engaged and interesting in the subject matter with most professors using recorded video formats. The integration of engaging videos with discussion questions and quizzes sounds exciting, especially for a theology class.

Did you find it to be significantly more time consuming to research for appropriate videos as opposed to just recording lectures or live classes? Similarly, do you feel the students education stayed at the same level it would have been without a COVID shut down?