Document Cameras

Have you got the “new technology blues”?  Is your document camera gathering dust in the corner?  The ideas below will give you new and exciting ways to use your document camera.  Using a document camera in the classroom will revolutionize the way you teach and the way your students learn.  Using a document camera in your classroom daily will take you and your students to a whole new level of teaching and learning you never thought possible.

Get rid of your old dinosaur overhead and kick it up two notches with a document camera!

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Ideas for using a document camera with young children:

Word Walls: Create mini thematic word walls in Word using clip art, print and lay under the document camera during writers workshop or journal time so the students can easily see the words if needed.  Free printable word walls are available on all of my theme pages (see resources).

Poems and Charts:

  • Letter Identification/letter sounds: Make Dr. Jean’s Letter Baby w/paper plate and put under the document camera. Play the song “I’ve Got the Whole Alphabet in My Mouth” while spinning the wheel with the song.
  • Letter Identification/letter sounds: Put an ABC chart under the document camera to use with Dr. Jean’s song “Who Let the Letters Out?”  Or you can use the chart when you are doing interactive writing and the student needs to find a particular letter.  This way the whole class can see and help in the selection.
  • Concepts of Print: Type out the words to the Frog Street color songs or any poem or song in Word, then put under the ELMO and have students follow along on the big screen with a big pointer as you say the poem or sing.  You can add clip art to make it look “pretty” and to give contextual clues to the students.

Morning Message: Use the document camera to project your morning message on the big screen.  Students can use wikki stix, pointers, highlighters etc to find punctuation, words, spaces, count words etc.

ABC Manipulatives: Use the ABC manipulatives from the Lakeshore ABC tubs.  Place the little manipulatives under the document camera and have the students name each object and listen to the initial sound.  This way all students can clearly see the tiny  objects.  Put one object that does not belong under the camera and see if they can figure out which one doesn’t belong.  Lakeshore also has word family tubs that you can do the same thing with.

Question of the Day: Project your question of the day on the screen.  Have it up and running when the students walk in so they can do it first thing in the morning before class begins.  Students can respond by placing their name card or clothespin in a can under the big screen.  I use coffee cans with a happy face on the “yes” can and a sad face on the “no” can.

Class Rules: Print your classroom rules in Word using clip art.  Project your rules on the screen using the document camera every time you are getting ready to use the cart or for reminders throughout the day.  Have your class helper (leader, star student etc) come to the screen and point to each rule for the class.  This is a very effective method and has been a lifesaver in my classroom this year.  Who can ignore the rules if they are projected on a HUGE screen?

Show and Tell: If you do show and tell make a new rule that all items need to fit under the document camera, and then let students show their items on the big screen.  Everybody’s sure to pay attention when they can all see everything, no more “I can’t see!”

Making Words: Using magnetic letters has never been more fun that it is under the document camera!  Use your letters to spell words; place some letters (you have secretly already pre-selected which letters) under the camera and let the kids come up and try to spell a sight word from their list.

Environmental PrintPlace a piece of environmental print under the document camera (see link to Hubbard’s Cupboard in resources) and ask the students to help you find where to place it on the word wall.  You can also place it in an envelope and slowly pull it out revealing only a little at a time and see if they can guess what it is.

Rainbow Writing: Place a sheet of white paper under the document camera and write a large letter on it using a black marker.  As you write the letter talk the children through it; “Where should I start writing my letter?  At the top or bottom of the paper? O.K., I’m starting at the top and now I’m going straight down and sliding to the right.  What letter is it?”   Next, have one student at a time come up and trace the letter with crayons using correct letter formation, talk each student through the letter just like you did before.  Each student chooses a different color to give it a “rainbow effect”.  Post these around the room for educational decorations.

What’s Missing: This is a very fun memory game.  Place several objects under the document camera (you can use the Lakeshore ABC manipulatives mentioned earlier) and then use the Freeze feature on your document camera and take one item away.  Now unfreeze the camera and have the students guess which object is missing- my kids LOVE this game and they have become pros.  This activity helps students learn to pay attention and notice details, which is a valuable skill when noticing letters, shapes of letters, and their similarities and differences.

Following Directions: If you do any type of art projects (TLC art etc) you will love this next idea!  Demonstrating how to do a project is always a hassle, the ones in the back can’t see the details, they don’t pay attention etc.  Now, just demo your lessons using the document camera and you will be absolutely amazed how much better your students will become at following directions- guaranteed!!!  I’ve taught cutting skills, gluing skills, how to roll the glue stick up and down, how to squeeze little dots of liquid glue etc with the document camera and my kids are all pros now!

Math Manipulatives: You can place unifix cubes, bear counters, or any manipulative under your document camera to show your students how to sort, demonstrate one-to-one correspondence, more/less, positional words, longer than/bigger than/taller than etc, the possibilities are endless!


  • Place real life objects like leaves, worms, cactus under the document camera to prompt scientific inquiry.  We showed the students how to plant their seeds using the document camera.  We put the dirt in the cup, poked a hole in the dirt, put the seed in the hole, covered the hole, and watered it.  Then the students planted their seeds independently. We checked the progress of our seeds each day under the document camera so the whole class could see.
  • We have caterpillars in our classroom for one of our science units.   First, we showed our real caterpillars under the document camera so everybody could see them clearly.  We discussed their different features and answered all questions the students had.  Every time we placed the caterpillars under the camera they started moving around a lot, maybe because of the heat from the bulb, the kids were fascinated.  Then, I showed a clip of the life cycle of a butterfly using United Streaming to the class to establish prior knowledge; the clip showed a time lapse of a caterpillar morphing into a butterfly- the kids were spellbound!

Centers: Use your document camera as a center in place of an overhead, no more messing with transparencies or vis-à-vis markers.  Your overhead has just been reduced to the status of “dinosaur”.

Picture Schedule: Show your students the daily schedule using the document camera.   Place under the doc camera and project on the screen when they arrive in the morning.  The sequence could have things like “1) put away your backpack, 2) put your folder in the basket, 3) get your journal…” etc.

Texts: Small books that you couldn’t otherwise use in large group are great for showing with the document camera (little readers etc).  The document camera is has replaced the need for expensive big books.

Name Activities: Leader name sentence strips w/mystery envelope use under the document camera, to view this lesson in it’s entirety go to the resources section and click on the link to Read Write Think.

Money: Using the zoom feature on the document camera place coins under the camera to show detail and prompt discussion.  This is especially helpful since many coins are now being re-designed and finding pictures of the new coins is somewhat problematic, especially if one of your objectives is teaching money.

Interactive Writing: You can do your interactive writing on paper under the document camera, no more losing the attention of the kids sitting in the back, now everybody can see.  My kids love to see their friends writing on the big screen.  You can use pencil pointers, wikki stix, highlighting tape, highlighters, etc to point out features in the writing.

Concepts of Print: Using real texts or student writing you can search for certain letters, spaces between words, words in a sentence, punctuation, show left to right progression, return sweep etc   Use fun pencil pointers, wikki stix, highlighting tape, highlighters, etc

Display Student Work: Using the document camera we project student writing in journals or surveys the students have taken from Read and Write Around the Room to show examples of good work and to point out features of writing.  This is a real motivator for writing, you will be surprised how your students will rise to the occasion.

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