Elias, 2009.

High School Confessions is an exercise suitable for small groups of High School students that will generate a funny and insightful representation of the school experience. Students will share both real and imaginary stories about themselves or their classmates to create a basic video.


  • 5 – 15 High School Students


  • Chairs
  • Space
  • Video Camera
  • Tripod
  • Computer with editing software


  • 2 hour workshop
  • 2 hour post production


Sharing Stories

  1. Begin the workshop with a warm-up
  2. Everyone takes a seat and sits in a circle.
  3. Here we establish that later on, we’ll be improvising a story to the camera, but firstly we need to generate some stories and ideas that we can act out later.
  4. Ask for responses to the list below. It is best to go around in a circle and have everyone share their story, however if the group is shy then just allow the confident ones to share. The discussion topics:
  • What is the funniest thing that has happened to you or someone else at school?
  • What is the most embarrassing thing?
  • What are you looking forward to at school today?
  • What are you not looking forward to?
  • Share a story about a moment of conflict, either between students or a student and teacher

You can add your own questions, but be very aware of the mood of the group. Some questions can be more personal and provoking than others, so this exercise should be done in a safe environment with a strong level of trust. Remember that the stories don’t have to be about the student personally. They can be things that happened to others, or funny ideas about what might happen at school. This will help the more reticent students to share a story, as they get more comfortable. It will also provide lots of ideas to make up stories from. The facilitator should keep in mind the best stories and ideas, or write them down. You may need to refer to them later.

Performing and Recording

  • Setup your camera on a tripod and have it facing a chair against a wall, as demonstrated in the photograph above. Do not have a light source (such as a window) behind the chair.
  • The task for the students is to now sit in the chair and improvise the telling of one or more of the stories that was shared earlier, directly to camera, like a video confessional. It is not important to have a script or to say everything in one go, they just need to sit in the chair and make up the story. Mistakes don’t matter, they can be edited out later.
  • The camera should have one student operator at a time, with another student checking that sound is recording by wearing headphones plugged into the camera. Students can rotate and share camera and sound duties in between takes.
  • Once a student is sitting on the chair, the person behind the camera yells “QUIET!” They then press Record on the camera and say “Camera rolling….ACTION!”
  • The student starts to tell the story to the camera. All other participants should be silent. Keep the camera rolling, even after the student finishes their story, as the silence will encourage them to say more about the experience. Leave the camera rolling until there is a very uncomfortable silence and then yell “CUT!” and stop recording.
  • Keep the framing of the shot consistent and don’t move the camera! Only adjust the camera to people’s different heights when they are in the confession chair. See the video above for an example of the wide framing. Do not zoom in, that is something that can be done in post. The goal is to capture a clear story being told to camera.
  • It may be necessary for the facilitator to demonstrate first to get the students more comfortable with the idea (in the video above, Elias with the Space Invaders t-shirt was the facilitator and related a story that happened to a teacher of his). After seeing you do this, students will begin to volunteer to go next.
  • If students are too nervous to talk or think they have nothing to say, remind them of some of the ideas that were shared earlier and encourage them to say them to camera.
  • Remember that the students can share stories that are not their own, or are fictional, but they must address the camera as if the story was their own.
  • Once the students have all had a go and the stories seem to be dried up, you can end the exercise. Usually by the end there will have been some very funny moments, as well as a few serious or even touching moments.
  • Have one or more of the students record themselves saying “High School Confessions” or “The London High Confessional” or whatever they wish to call the segment. This audio can then be used in the final video, in between confessions. Recording straight to the camera is fine.

Editing the Video

  • The workshop can go two ways now. (1) Most of the students are finished, and a few who are keen on editing the footage can do so. Or (2) the students take part in the edit, however many will just be watching and unoccupied.
  • Capture all the footage into your editing software.
  • Create a “splash screen” which can have just words or images to be in between each confession, like the “High School Confession” screen in the video above. Be creative, make it appropriate to your group. You may wish to create this as a JPEG in an external program like Photoshop, then import it into your video.
  • Combine the splash screen with the audio recorded at the end of the filming so it can be easily copied and pasted. You may wish to distort or add effects to the audio if its possible in your editing software.
  • Begin watching the confessional footage. There will be a lot of dead space and boring bits, the trick is to just cut them out entirely. This will create “jump cuts” where the video visibly jumps ahead in time. This is fine for this sort of video, especially if you keep the pacing fast and don’t leave too many gaps.
  • If your editing software can “zoom” into footage, you can do this with certain shots to make the jump cuts feel more natural. This is what has been done in the video above. This is not supported by all softwares however.
  • Copy and paste the splash screen and audio in between each confessional as you edit and assemble them on the timeline.
  • Once edited, arrange the confessions in an order that works best; for example you might want to open with two or three funny confessions before sharing a few of the more dark or heartfelt ones.

Finally, show the completed video to the class! You should end up with an insightful and entertaining video, as well as having engaged high school students in a fun video exercise.

Note: reference videos no longer online

Storytelling Prompts | Finding Topics to Explore

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