5 Minute Activities for Photo Booth in the Classroom

Photo BoothBased on the popularity of my recent post about video story problems, and a comment from somebody Susan thanking me for the reminder about the usefulness of Photo Booth, I thought it was time for a post highlighting Apple’s very handy, yet often overlooked, photo and video recording tool. This is doubly timely because all of the teachers in my district have recently been given new MacBooks Pros, and are on the lookout for creative ways to use them, but more importantly, simple and practical ways to use them.

iMovie is great for creating those slick student projects that you have lots of time to invest in, but realistically, most teachers (especially around this time of year with conferences, holiday performances, etc.) don’t always have the time to invest in capturing, importing, editing, and finally publishing video projects. Which is why I love Photo Booth. Not only is it free on every Mac (we love free things here!), but thanks to the built in webcam, it makes it really practical for short activities that can have huge impact in the classroom.

Video Story Problems

This is probably the easiest way to use Photo Booth, and requires the least amount of prep and/or technical skill. If you can find Photo Booth in your applications folder, or on your dock, then you can do this in less than 5 minutes. Just find a few good visual props (food works well), or find a place to video that’s authentic (like your living room), to engage the students a bit more. You don’t have to be perfect, and if you keep the problem short enough, even if you mess up terribly you can always get a couple of takes in under 5 minutes. Once you’re done recoding you’re all set! You can just bring up Photo Booth when you get to school, and play back the video problem, or find the video in your Movies folder.

Even better, you can have your students come up with their own video story problems while at school, thus reducing your investment of time even less. It takes about 2 minutes to show students how to find and click the record and stop buttons on Photo Booth.


This is another example of a student-run project that requires very little technological know-how from the teacher. There is however, a significant amount of time which has to be invested in student planning, writing, and editing before they actually sit down in front of the laptop to record. Nothing’s worse than having someone unprepared to tell a story with a line of students waiting to record. The amount of time wasted on mistakes, oopsies, and “do-overs” is huge. Not only will they want to stop at each and every little mistake, only to start over from the beginning, but without a well-rehearsed script, many students will often forget what they wanted to say, or repeat themselves.

Once a solid, and well practiced story is ready for the camera, then it’s just the same as the video story problem; sit down, record, make sure to go all the way through to the end despite mistakes (sometimes it lends authenticity to the piece), and then stop and review. Students could tell stories about what’s going on in class that week, an important realization or learning objective they’ve met, or just have a video performance for a piece of fiction or non-fiction they may have written.

Reader’s Theater

Like the storytelling, only with a small group of students. Would be a great way for theater teachers to have students assess their facial expressions, emotion conveyed through a dramatic reading, or even analyze the timing and delivery of lines. Sure, you could do a simple audio recording, but having the visual piece would lend itself to a more realistic analysis of a rehearse. Kind of like the football team going through last Friday night’s game footage for highlights and areas to improve upon.

Daily Video Journal

This is probably my most favorite idea, because after a little bit of modeling at the beginning of the school year, it could be completely student run. This would work especially well at the elementary level for those teachers that have “star students” each day or week. Likewise, if a teacher has multiple jobs within the room, it could be an assigned task for one student to record the days learning experiences to then reflect upon, upload to a school website for sharing with parents, or to help students organize their thoughts after a long day. You could have either one student, or a group of students collect notes throughout the day about the big learning objectives and goals reached, or activities participated in, and then do a simple video digest of the notes towards the end of the day.

However, the technological abilities of the teacher would be the heaviest with this option at the elementary level, as the teacher would have to be comfortable uploading video to a site for sharing (read my thoughts on a great video sharing site for schools here), and then either embedding the video on a school website, or linking to it for viewing at home. The use of Photo Booth however, would still be pretty short, simple; click, talk, stop, and poof the video is ready.

Could these ideas be improved upon? Heck yeah! Could the videos themselves be put through iMovie or some other post-production tool to add titles, music, etc? Sure, it would even add to the whole idea of students as professional learners to have their own daily learning video digest complete with theme music and title sequence. Is it necessary though? Probably not. Playing around with new tools, and letting students explore a bit on their own goes a long way in the classroom, without the need for fancy bells and whistles.


  1. I’m the original “somebody” who thanks you for the reminder, and I’m back to say thanks again! These are great ideas: achievable, fast and useful in so many areas of education.

    1. You’re absolutely right, Susan! I’ll have to go make that edit to the original post 🙂 Photo Booth really is overlooked as a useful tool; most educators just use it to create “fun” or “goofy” looking pictures, which is a great start, but there’s so much more.

  2. Oh, we love Photobooth in my class. We are currently using it as a time lapse experiment. Kids have to take their pictures with it everytime they walk into the lab. They will be able to make a cool slide show by the end of the year!

  3. My students use PhotoBooth to create nametags to help me learn their names. I work with the entire school population (520 eager learners!) every week. Early in the school year, kids take a quick photo, add name then create a Wordle with first name/last name and a few “faves” listed. Both documents are put into a sheet protector that comes in handy for me, for substitutes, for creating table groups.

  4. In my class last week, I used Photobooth on my Mac’s. It was really fun and everyone seemed to enjoy using it. They love using any type of technology, and especially when they can see themselves or take pictures of themselves. We could use photobooth to take pictures of students to use in the classroom, for example, signing up for lunch count, they could take a picture of themselves and I could use that picture as a magnet, that they can sign up for lunch every day.

    1. The good old desire of human ego to see oneself in a mirror is exactly why Photobooth is so engaging 🙂 The danger however, is not getting past that “really cool new play thing”, and start incorporating the video as a regular part of your instruction. For example, in a music classroom, it would be interesting to see how effective recording the conductor or director as they lead the band, orchestra, or choir, and then share that video with students as an “at home” conductor.

      I like the idea of using Photobooth to then create some useful physical object in the classroom like your magnets.

Comments are closed.