10 Smart Ideas for Using a Document Camera in Language Arts Class

An imaginative tool that makes English-teaching life easier? Yes, please.

Document Cameras in Language Arts

Teachers often describe their document camera as their does-it-all sidekick, especially for language arts class. Today’s document cameras can share writing and literature samples, record video, take pictures, and more. Individual work becomes teamwork with a document camera, offering deeper class discussion, more interaction, and increased focus. Imagine the possibilities! Give your language arts curriculum a boost with some of our favorite document camera ideas.

1. Improve note-taking skills.

Sure, if you want to up your Fitbit steps, you can go around (and around) to each individual writer’s desk to peek at their notebooks. But, that next bell is looming. Save time and use a document camera to show note-taking best practices to the whole class. Use the doc cam to project an outline of note-taking how-tos (transparency free!). At the end of class, students can share their notes via the doc cam to see if they are hitting the mark.

2. Level up student penmanship.

Improve penmanship with a document camera in language arts class.

Show your group of young writers the precision of the lines and curves of their ABCs on the document camera. Even your know-it-all middle schoolers who could brush up on their penmanship will appreciate a classroom-wide tutorial, courtesy of the cool classroom doc cam.

3. Dig deeper into your favorite book(s).

Best Middle School Books

Have only one copy of that perfect read for your middle-school bookshelf ? Keeping up your classroom library can be pricey, but a document camera in language arts class can help. Use your doc cam to expand your options with anything from the library or your own bookshelf. Document cameras let you show and tell about the literature the class is reading. Students can take turns reading aloud from the pages of a single book as the class follows along, increasing fluency. Demonstrate annotation basics for middle grades and up, too. 

4. Go big (like, really big) for storytime, too.

Every book is a big book when you use a document camera in language arts class. This trick is handy for early grade teachers with frequent storytime moments or ones with especially large class sizes. Everyone can see the beautiful illustrations and read along with you.

5. Get poetic with your document camera in language arts class.

Your budding Gwendolyn Brooks and E.E. Cummings will delight in your document camera poetry prowess. Work on construction and style as a group. As a class, write a poem together and put the unfolding composition next to a classic poem for comparison and discussion.

6. Up your class-website or Google Classroom game with your doc cam.

Language arts teachers tell us their document camera and Google Classroom tools are a perfect pair. Together, they help students engage with material, and they make teachers’ lives easier, too. Take pictures of student writing, classroom examples, and other resources to post online as study materials. Record lessons and classroom activities with a document camera, too. Post them for additional study materials or for absent students.

7. Create thoughtful, confident public speakers.

student uses a document camera to show work to the class

Source: @MissSchoffel

The document camera in language arts class gives students the chance to stand up and talk about almost anything. When you’re using it to share student work, solve problems as a class, or correct work, students can be on their feet, taking turns to guide the discussion. Presentation skills consistently bloom with this be-the-teacher approach. Record their work and presentation skills on the document camera at the start of the school year. Record again at the end of the year to show them their amazing growth! 

A document camera’s flexible head allows you to use it as a webcam for presentations, too—think literary debates, poetry slams, and exciting classroom events. Share it to a class page with a private link for parents or other stakeholders to access live or enjoy later.

8. Turn students into punctuation ninjas.

Use a document camera in language arts class to teach punctuation.

The document camera can demonstrate proper punctuation that sticks at any grade level. Students can create their own sentences under the doc cam, and you can discuss which punctuation is correct. Create your own sentences and have students come to the doc cam to insert the correct punctuation. Or, show the same sentence punctuated in three different ways on the doc cam. Have the class vote on which has the correct punctuation.

9. Model dictionary usage and skills under a document camera.

A dictionary and your document camera are the perfect language arts class pairing. Place a dictionary under the camera so students can locate words, understand their meaning, and learn to spell them. Another one-book-one-class conundrum foiled!

10. Capture a student’s best work.

A document camera’s digital camera feature can capture student language arts work on the fly. Snap pics throughout the year to save to a student’s portfolio. You’ll save time from having to sort, file, and find when you need to showcase a student’s work to administration or during parent-teacher conferences. Does your school do student-led conferences? Kids will love presenting their work to their parents and showing off their document camera skills, learned in their beloved language arts class!

Our friends at Epson have some of the best document cameras around. Check them out so you can try the activities above in your classroom.

Posted by Jenn Horton

Jenn is an editor for WeAreTeachers and SchoolLeadersNow. She used to work for Oprah for over a decade, teaching folks to "Live Their Best Lives" online and in real life...and she continues to try that herself too (mostly). Her work has appeared on WebMD, CNN, Amazon and various online publications. She lives in Chicago with her husband and two kiddos.

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