Sunday, March 25, 2012

Using BrainPop to Enrich Math Instruction

This has been my first year to use BrainPop and BrainPop Jr. . I have heard of these sites via Twitter but haven't had the opportunity to explore them. Let me preface this post by saying that I am not endorsed or represent these sites in an way. With that said, here are the ways I have used the resources on these sites to provide enrichment for my 3rd graders.

1. Whole Group Review

The site offers a great selection of videos that explain and illustrate many different math concepts. My students enjoy the videos and find them very entertaining.

2. Math in the Real-World

To apply skills, I like to have my students complete the activities that are included with each lesson. Many times, I find word problems that incorporate the concepts in a real world setting, such as creating a menu by using estimation skills. The Read More section on BrainPop also offers some real world examples of Math in everyday life. Usually when I show this section, my students have an "aha" moment of how they can apply and see math in their lives.

3. Thinking and Collaborating
Some of the activities provide opportunities for writing and discussion. I especially like the BrainPop Jr. format that provides sections on Write About It, which I use as journal prompts, and Talk About It, which I use for small group discussions. There is also a section called, Read About It that lists several popular children's literature titles to further explore the concepts.

4. Online Quizzes

After each lesson, the site provides the option of printing a quiz or taking it online. I usually opt for the online version and have my students take the quiz as a class. First, I have them read the item and start eliminating a few choices. Next, I have them choose from the ones left, discuss with a partner why they chose that option, and further justify their selection for the class. Sometimes my students are in agreement with their partner, and other times they change their answer after talking to their partner. I feel that this discussion needs to take place to assist in their thinking.

Overall, I am very satisfied with both sites. I highly recommend them to teachers who would like more interactive ways to review and apply skills across grade levels and content areas. I am still in the process of exploring how to integrate other lessons and resources into my gifted curriculum.

How do you use BrainPop or BrainPop Jr. in your classroom or gifted program?

Make New Friends, But Keep the Old: Using Skype to Keep in Touch

Skype has been an integral part of my classroom and our gifted program. In previous posts, I have outlined the different ways to utilize this program to create authentic and engaging learning experiences for students. Just recently, we have explored yet another way to implement Skype. This year we've had some of our teachers and students move to different parts of the country and even the world. So we decided to keep in touch via Skype!

1. Saying Farewell to a Fellow Student

When we heard the news that a student in our gifted program was moving we were crushed! Being tech savvy paid off because she was able to talk to us on her iPad as she was traveling to her new state. Needless to say, it was a very emotional call and we wished her the best at her new school. We still keep in touch with her via Edmodo and I am working on scheduling a Skype call with her gifted education teacher.

2. Chatting with a Teacher on Leave

This semester we have a teacher on leave due to medical reasons. This transition has been a tough one for both her and her students. A Skype call was the best way for them to communicate without her coming to the school. It warmed my heart to see the excitement of her class as they saw her appear on the screen! Have a look at some snapshots of our call below.

3. Keeping in Touch with Teachers

Last year we had one of our teachers move to another country. She now currently teaches in an international school in Serbia. This was a great opportunity for her former students, who are now in our gifted program, to reconnect with her. It was also a learning experience to compare life and her school in Serbia to ours. Since my students still had questions after the call, we decided to post them on our class blog. To read our post on the call click here.

As I conclude this post, I wanted to share this song we sang during our call. I think it beautifully captures the theme of this post; making new friends and keeping the old.