Vygotsky’s Learning Theory & Instructional Videos

The first time I ever heard of Lev Vygotsky’s theory of cognitive development, I wondered how I would ever teach helping.handsit to my child development class and have it make sense. Initially, it was a very simple lesson. Over the years it has evolved, but still I felt it needed something. Then, last year Laurie Lee, a FACS teacher from Glasgow High School in Glasgow, Missouri shared an idea she had on teaching preschool aged children how to do things by having her students create instructional videos.  Immediately, the light bulb went off in my head and I knew I could tie this to Lev Vygotsky’s theory.  So, below you will find the merging of these two lessons. Laurie says she and her classes loved this activity, both because the videos turned out great and anytime students have an opportunity to work with the preschool children it’s always a lot of fun!


  • Start with this bell ringer:  If I want you to learn to swim, I should just throw you in the water. Agree or Disagree? Explain


  • Projector & Screen
  • Electronic Devices with Videoing Capabilities


  • Show students the Power Point on Lev Vygotsky’s theory of cognitive development and explain the difference between the learning planes.
  • Begin with the Social Plane:  Vygotsky’s theory shows us that many of the skills we learn in life are first taught to us by someone else, typically a parent or caregiver.  This is known as the Social Plane. Examples would include:  learning to swim and learning to ride a two wheel bike.
  • It’s important for students to understand the Zone of Proximal Development (ZPD) that exists in what is frequently referred to as scaffolding.  The scaffolding is greater at the inception of the new skill and decreases as the skill is close to being mastered.  Discuss how scaffolding occurs in learning how to swim and riding a two wheel bike.  Those examples may initially include the use of devices like swim arms or training wheels.  One those devices are removed, the caregiver may graduate to holding onto you as you learn to float or ride without training wheels.  Gradually the caregiver will not help at all.
  • Once the child has internalized the new skill or made it their own, they no longer need the scaffolding because they can do it on their own.  This is known as the Individual Plane.  Example, once children learn they can float, paddle and swim without your hand on them or pedal their bike and keep it balanced without your hand, then they’ve made it their own.
  • Show students this video clip to summarize and give a complete overview to this theory.
  • Students will then brainstorm a list of skills they initially learned how to do with the help of another person.  They will choose one skill and create poster or Instagram (their choice or yours) showing the social and individual planes.  These can be hand drawn or students may find pictures from magazines to reflect their skill.  Both planes will be labeled (swimming and riding a bike may not be used).
  • Finally, as a culminating project, students will create an Instructional Video with their electronic devices based on the criteria, rubric and topics included in Laurie Lee’s project below. Topics include:  Washing Hands, Setting & Clearing the Table, Zipping & Buttoning, Brushing & Flossing, Choosing Clothes & Dressing and Tying Shoes.  Laurie Lee is lucky to teach in a K-12 building so they have easy access to the young children in order to try out their videos!


Image Courtesy of Salvatore Vuono at Free Digital Photos


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