Guest Blog: Collaborating With BrainPOP

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Learning to Embrace Bear-Hug the Dreaded “I” Word: “Integration”

A Guide to Awesome Specialist/Classroom Teacher Partnering!
by Renee Holden, Tampa, FL

In a time when schools and school districts look are looking to cut spending, specials teachers (Art, Music, PE) are finding that they must put their creativity to work in different ways in order to increase their “market value” in school systems. When budget cuts are announced, it isn’t math or science classes that are at risk. Music, Art and Physical Education programs are quickly becoming “endangered species” in schools around the country. Such programs are considered “extra”, and many specialists around the country are fighting to keep their programs alive in an environment where resources are stretched and the almighty standardized test score is top priority.

So what is a specialist to do? Classroom teachers want more time to teach grade-level expectations. Budgets are so tight that new textbooks are hard to acquire, let alone finding funds for art supplies and musical instruments. Classroom teacher or specialist, you know that your particular content area is, of course, the most important content area, so that is where time and money should be spent!

Rather than viewing this as either/or, them/us, and have/have-not situations, let’s explore a few ways that classroom teachers and specials teachers can work together to create amazing learning environments. It’s easy (and fun!) when you have the right resources. As a teacher and specials curriculum coordinator, my “go-to” place to find those resources is BrainPOP, BrainPOP Jr., and BrainPOP Educators.

As a specials teacher (Art and PE), I meet with classroom teachers and plan units using BrainPOP activities, assessments and animated lessons. For example, if I am doing a unit on the benefits of exercise, I look at that particular grade level’s science and math benchmarks. Then I find out from the classroom teacher when he or she will be covering 3-digit long division. Next, I make a note of that in my planner and introduce heart-rate calculation during that time-frame. This helps students make the connection between “learning math for school” and “using math in real-life.” Essentially, I just added a few more sessions of “practice time” to the classroom teacher’s unit on long division, and now the teacher can use that time for introducing new skills. In return, the classroom teacher uses the computers in their classrooms (that I don’t have in a gymnasium) to do some “front-loading” by showing the BrainPOP Exercise movie to our students.

Trust me, I know that classroom time is a hot commodity, but teachers are great at finding ways to “sneak” learning in! In one classroom at my school, the teacher sets up the classroom computer station with the BrainPOP Jr. Exercise movie ready to go. Students who finish their work in other subject areas early can go to the “Bonus Learning Station” and complete the (teacher-created) task card on their own. Even if there is not enough time for every student to go to the Bonus Station, I reserve time in my lesson so that the students who complete the BrainPOP lesson can share what they learn with their peers. This has became such a popular incentive that students are choosing to spend their “academic choice” time looking for other BrainPOP content that relates to what they are learning in Math and PE, such as “Heart” and “Arrays” (BrainPOP Jr.)! The secondary skills required for this lesson (reading, independent study, website navigation and information-gathering) are like icing on an already fantastic (and, of course, nutritious) cake!

Specialists can work together to integrate curriculum using BrainPOP as well. The school technology teacher can still teach his or her technology benchmarks while teaching an Art lesson from BrainPOP. The tech teacher does not have to be an expert in Art because the activities have already been researched and created by the BrainPOP team. Music teachers can reinforce math concepts by showing the “Patterns” animation (BrainPOP Jr.) as a part of a unit in “Rhythm,” which reinforces dance and physical education benchmarks, too!

The possibilities for integration of specialty subjects into core subject area content (and vice-versa) are often met with resistance. Why – when it can provide such a great learning experience for both students and teachers alike? It is probably because many teachers think it is a “good idea, but too difficult to do”. And this is often true; subject integration can be time-consuming…all of that research, the poring through lesson plan books, learning about a completely different subject area…yikes!

But that’s only if you don’t have resources that are well-researched, easily accessible and user-friendly. You have BrainPOP! in your teacher toolbox! So what are you waiting for?

Renee Holden
Teacher/Co-Division Leader (Independent Day School)
View Renee’s lesson plan, From Plate to Pyramid: Where’s My Food?
Thoughts? How do you use BrainPOP as a resource for collaboration with colleagues? Keep the conversation going by commenting below!