Using BrainPOP with Summarizing & Notetaking

by Elizabeth Hubbell, Educational Technology Consultant at McREL, and Allisyn Levy, Director of BrainPOP Educators

(*Note: this post is the second of a series of collaborative posts between BrainPOP Educators and McREL’s Using Technology with Classroom Instruction that Works. These articles will be cross-posted on the McREL Blog and on BrainPOP Educators Blog.)

Think back to your K-12 years. Did someone actually teach you how to take notes? If so, in which grade were you? My earliest memory of actually being taught how to take useful notes (formal outlining aside) was in my biology class in high school. Our teacher had her trusty overhead projector and would stop during her lecture to capture key points of what she had just said. She didn’t use Roman numerals or capital letters, but rather a series of bullet points, arrows, stars, etc. She would ask us to jot down these items along with her and to draw small sketches out to the side to help us remember processes and concepts.

I remember her stating at the end of the lecture, “By the end of this unit, I don’t want your notes to look just as they do now. I want to see underlines, highlights, arrows… I want to know that you actually used them to help you study.”

Little did she realize that she was following the classroom recommendations that would eventually be published in Classroom Instruction that Works:

1. Give students teacher-prepared notes.

2. Teach students a variety of note-taking formats. (She demonstrated informal outlining, webbing, and using pictures, knowing that different students would prefer different styles of notetaking.)

3. Use combination notes. (She combined linguistic and non-linguistic representation of what we were learning.)

Students even as young as kindergarten learn to draw pictures to help them remember what they’ve studied. By upper elementary, students can, and should, have opportunities to see what good notes look like, for example, how to indent to show subordinate details.

BrainPOP movies and features include great resources to teach notetaking. They provide introductions to a wide variety of subjects and explain key vocabulary terms for students (using images, animations, audio, and print). They can also serve to review a topic already covered. All of BrainPOP’s movies have closed captioning. This feature, with any student, is an excellent literacy and visual reinforcement. Pausing at a key concept during a movie and inviting students to put the concept in their own words, or drawing a quick sketch to represent the concept, gives students the support they need to successfully learn and remember concepts. Each of BrainPOP’s short, animated videos offers ample opportunities to pause for discussions and time for students to take notes.

For example, a teacher may wish for her students to watch the movie on Franklin D. Roosevelt as they begin their unit on the Great Depression. Before watching the movie, she provides her students with a skeletal outline (see below). She may also choose to model notetaking on the typeable BrainPOP Vocabulary page (above), or do some shared writing with the class before handing out copies. Teachers may pick and choose notetaking tools provided on BrainPOP (closed captioning, graphic organizers, vocabulary) and use these to scaffold student learning during the movie.

Franklin Delano Roosevelt
  • Which number president? _________
  • Served 19__ – 19__
  • served ______ terms
  • The Great __________ was happening when FDR took office
  • “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.” What do you think this means?
  • Four key points of the New Deal in the movie
    • Unemployed ____________
    • Farmers _____________________
    • The stock market ________________
    • The banking system ____________
  • Vocabulary terms to know
    • Social Security ____________
    • fireside chats ____________
    • Eleanor Roosevelt ____________
    • isolationism ____________
    • United Nations ____________

By using a resource such as BrainPOP, students can watch a segment as often as they need in order to capture the main ideas. BrainPOP provides graphic organizers and activities that can serve to scaffold the process of summarizing, paraphrasing, and notetaking. Eventually, students will not need these scaffolding tools, but will be able to capture key ideas on their own. Instilling strong notetaking skills is a lifelong gift we can give to students.

For more information about McREL’s workshop on Using Technology with Classroom Instruction that Works, click here or contact Elizabeth Hubbell at ehubbell [at] mcrel [dot] org.

Are you a BrainPOP Educator? Sign up today for BrainPOP Educators, our free professional community, where teachers can find and share innovative lesson plans, graphic organizers, video tutorials, and best classroom practices. You may contact Allisyn Levy at allisynl [at] brainpop [dot] com.