Guest blogger Christine Abdou reflects on teaching difficult content while addressing all learning styles with the use of BrainPOP.
As an elementary school science teacher, I often find myself having to explain very abstract ideas to very young students. I try to use relatable examples that will pique my students’ interest and help make science concepts more concrete. I do this by making popular children’s movie, TV, and video game references to explain scientific content. The children usually enjoy my references to specific Simpsons’ episodes, scenes from Finding Nemo, or Madden tips. This teaching style not only enhances comprehension in a fun way, but also earns me many cool points with my students. However, sometimes a handful of children, usually ESL students, do not get the pop culture examples I use during our discussions. These students have not been exposed to the specific references I was making. I realized that I needed to find an engaging form of media that we could all be exposed to.
Sorting and matching activities, playing with springs and Slinkys, helped make abstract ideas concrete for tactile and kinesthetic learners. Read alouds, songs, and discussion reached my auditory learners, but my visual learners were not fully comprehending the concepts of mass, force, and energy by looking at pictures and watching demos. During a discussion about mass in relation to potential and kinetic energy, I described Homer Simpson’s attempt to jump Springfield Gorge on Bart’s skateboard! Many students laugh and make the connection, however, some children have the glazed lost look like a deer caught in headlights. BrainPOP’s animated videos are funny, visually stimulating, and an instant shared experience that my entire class could refer back to during discussion, assignments, and even assessments. Tim and Moby are characters we all grew to know, love, and learn from.
After watching Tim and Moby talk about potential energy and taking the interactive quiz on the Smartboard, 3rd graders would recall specific scenes from the video to explain their understanding during class discussion. In their writing about kinetic energy, children would describe how “Moby rolls down the ski slope in a huge snowball really fast because he is a heavy robot with lots of mass,” demonstrating comprehension of the relationship between speed and mass. Children would smile and giggle during assessments when they saw Tim, Moby, or BrainPOP video references within test questions. My students also love taking the BrainPOP quiz after each movie, actually having fun taking tests. BrainPOP is an excellent source of effective and engaging videos that are always a fun component of many of my lessons.