Guest Blog: Whole Group to Differentiated Instruction

Boy was I excited when my principal and media specialist announced that we finally purchased a BrainPOP subscription for our school. I jumped right in and started using the movies with my 4th graders in social studies. I am fortunate to have been awarded a $15,000 technology grant from my district that allowed me to get a tricked out 21st century classroom – a brand new Promethean board, a class set of Activotes, 15 wireless Dell net books with webcams, plus a whole lot more. Don’t be put off by that, anyone can use BrainPOP with just a computer. Having a computer connected to a projector allows for whole class viewing (which is all I had for years).

Let me tell you about our classroom journey from whole group instruction to differentiated instruction with BrainPOP.

For several weeks I did whole group instruction and showed all of my students how to login to BrainPOP and find a movie to correspond with our lessons. I would show the movies on the Promethean board, demonstrating how to change to full screen and how to turn on closed captioning (CC). I really love the CC feature, as many students grasp the information better by seeing the captions from the movies. The first time we watched a movie, I would just let it play from beginning to end. Then we would watch the movie a second time and I would pause at key points to lead a discussion with my students, and answer any questions that might arise.

The second step of my teaching with BrainPOP allowed me to divide the class into two smaller groups. One group did their independent work, while the other group worked with me to learn how to take notes from a BrainPOP movie. Again, I would let the movie play from beginning to end the first time through. During the second showing of the movie we made sure the CC was turned on and learned how to take notes by paraphrasing what we were seeing on the CC portion of the movie. The first few times we did this I had a flipchart open on my Promethean board so I could write a note each time I paused the movie. My students were able to see how I took the CC wording and changed it so that I was not just copying word for word – I was paraphrasing. My students soon got the hang of taking notes from a BrainPOP movie.

Now I was ready to start letting my students work in pairs to access the BrainPOP movies on their netbooks and record their own notes. I moved each pair to a place in the classroom where they could view the movie without interfering with the other pairs. They had to show me their notes at the conclusion of their viewing, which counted toward their class participation grade.

I also use Edmodo with my class. I love that my 4th graders can have access to a social media site like Edmodo without having to have an email account. I just set up a group in Edmodo and give my students the code to join the group. When they go to login, they click on the “I’m a Student” button and are asked for the code. Once they enter the code, a username, a password (email account is optional) and click on submit, they are now a member of the group. I am able to set up assignments within Edmodo for the whole class, a subgroup, or an individual student. I started to assign BrainPOP movies within our Edmodo group. The students knew the routine by now, so they would click on the BrainPOP link, watch the movie, record their notes, and then send me a reply within Edmodo that they had completed the assignment.

I recently took my BrainPOP integration one step further by posting the assignments in Edmodo. I now ask my students to take the graded quiz after each movie. They now watch the movie together with their partner and take notes, but now each student must take the graded quiz. There are several options at the end of each graded quiz, my students select email the results. I showed them how to put their name and my email address in the required spaces and send me the results of their quizzes. They still add a reply in Edmodo stating one thing they learned by watching the movie. When I receive their results I can allow them to move on to another assignment or require that they repeat the assignment and resubmit the graded quiz to me. With this integration I am meeting the individual needs of my students.

I am finally ready to really differentiate my instruction with BrainPOP. While there are many BrainPOP movies I want all of my students to watch, I also recognize each student’s individual interests. Now I am setting up individual BrainPOP assignments within our Edmodo group based on individual differences. Evelyn likes music, so I direct her to the BrainPOP movies on that subject. Timmy loves learning about famous people, so his assignments now include movies from BrainPOP’s Famous Historical Figures collection. They love seeing their individual assignments when they logon to Edmodo and appreciate the fact that I know about their interests.

All of these lessons took months to complete mainly because I was learning as I went. I knew that I needed to go slowly through this process with my students. They needed to master each part of the process before we moved on. When you walk into my social studies class today you will see my students in pairs or individually sitting all over our classroom completing their assignments using Edmodo and BrainPOP. I love it!

Paula L. Naugle
Bissonet Plaza
Metairie, Louisiana
4th Grade Teacher

Join Paula and BrainPOP Educators in a free webinar this Wednesday, 4:30 p.m. (EST) to learn more about Paula’s Journey. Have you differentiated instruction using BrainPOP?  Share comments, tips, and ideas below.