My Brainpop

Guest Blogger Nili Bartley on My BrainPOP, Grammar and the Flipped Classroom

Posted by Andrew Gardner on

Today’s guest blogger, 4th grade teacher Nili Bartley from Hopkinton MA attended our first “Certified BrainPOP Educator”  workshop at ISTE 2014 in Atlanta. Read on to learn about Nili’s success using BrainPOP’s newest features, such as Make-a-Map, Sortify and My BrainPOP class quiz score summaries as the foundation for her October grammar unit.

Three short hours at ISTE changed the way I teach and as a result, changed the way my students are learning. I was highly impressed with the new “My BrainPOP” features I learned about in the workshop I attended at the conference. This inspired me to do some extra work and become a “Certified” BrainPOP Educator. I also decided to create a special unit for my incoming fourth graders that would implement each of these new features. I knew I was taking a huge risk in trying something I had not tried before, yet isn’t this what we ask of our students daily?

I based the unit on four essential parts of speech for the upper elementary student; nouns, verbs, adjectives, and adverbs, as I knew this could be applicable for all teachers.  I titled the unit, “The Power of Words,” and structured it much like an online course. My goal was to use “My BrainPOP” as the learning platform and take a blended, self-paced, and differentiated approach. Now, just three weeks in, student levels of engagement and learning have already exceeded my expectations.

Students began the unit by discovering BrainPOP content and all the new My BrainPOP features as they studied sentence structure. The Subject and Predicate topic provided them with a foundation and reason to dig deeper – this would, ideally, help them become better writers. Students were motivated to explore related BrainPOP topics, and also to share their discoveries with each other. The next step was to take a baseline assessment on parts of speech using the quiz. Thanks to My BrainPOP’s class summary feature, I was able to get an immediate overview of students’ understanding and differentiate groups within minutes.

The next step was to begin our four week “parts of speech” adventure – a “flipped classroom” experience in which we dedicated a week to each part of speech. Each Monday I asked students to watch the corresponding movie and read the Q&A feature at home. So far, this approach has been invaluable. Students seem more confident as they attack the tasks ahead, and we’re able to clear up misconceptions in class. From Tuesday through Friday, they are responsible for completing assignments using BrainPOP’s activities, their game Sortify, and the concept mapping tool Make-a-Map to practice, improve and demonstrate their understanding for that particular part of speech. I also added an “Extra Extra” portion for students who are ready to extend their learning by reading the Related Reading.  The  week ends with the quiz when the students feel ready.

Students playing sortify nouns

Students in Mrs. Bartley’s class playing “Sortify,” BrainPOP’s playful assessment categorization game.

Though all features help students directly apply what they learn from the movie,  Sortify and Make-a-Map truly stand out in allowing students to challenge themselves at their level of readiness. Possibly the most amazing discovery of all is that both features do much more than merely serve as content assessments. These tools enable students to engage in higher order thinking, and Make-a-Map in particular provides insight into a student’s mental process within seconds.

We are officially half way through our parts of speech unit, and students seem more at ease every day. I am thrilled to continue with adjectives and adverbs and am anticipating results that will show significant growth during our last week. I am convinced that student scores will improve with their final quiz and I believe that their final Make-a-Map will prove to show not only where students are with parts of speech, but also with higher order thinking.  I look forward to writing a second blog entry highlighting BrainPOP assignments and assessments, as well as how they were used to help students throughout their learning experience.

Implementing this unit and modeling ways to use each feature takes time; some teachers may cringe slightly when they hear this!  About a week ago, as we launched nouns, I was actually starting to feel nervous, as we have other subject matter and expectations to consider. But in the past week I realized two things:  1) Time and modeling are essential to helping students learn anything new, and  2) Results of student learning have made every extra second worth it.