Using educational games to build research skills

 
Using educational games to build research skills

Games provide an excellent opportunity to use knowledge and practice skills until you're confident with them.

A game provides a welcome break between chunks of more traditional classroom activities, injects a bit of fun, and provides a safe, low stakes environment to practice the research skills they've been learning.

  1. Because of the way games work you can be sure students are getting correct feedback and information. Get it wrong and they won't be able to progress further in the game.
  2. 'Points of faliure' gives ample opportunity for students to pause and seek help (which they may not have realised they didn't fully understand) as well as keeping more advanced students busy while they progress through harder levels.

Let's look at three games on BrainPOP that students can use to develop stronger research skills.


Search Shark

Search Shark is a great way for students to practice their search skills and develop their keyword strategies outside of the pressure of a real project.

In this game students learn how to choose effective keywords for searching online. They practice selecting keywords that are most relevant to a search prompt. Along the way, students discover hints for narrowing their search results.

Because student get instant feedback on whether their choices are correct this ensures that they both aren't distracted by thousands of unhelpful results and they don't become frustrated by not being able to work out why they haven't succeeded.

Sports Network 2

In the Sports Network 2 is an educational game where students take on the role of the Managing Director of a Sports Network that wants to appeal to the teen demographic.

Each quest is meant to represent “a day at work”. Students are continually presented with problems they must solve and choices they must make in order to arrive at their goals.

This is a useful game for general reading skills practice as well as practice finding and inferring the main idea of a text selection.

This game also gives students an opportunity to apply their reading skills to a real-world context and to career-related scenarios.

After The Storm: Day One

The After The Storm: Day One game provides opportunities to practice research, reading, and writing skills within a real-world context.

Through game play, students take on the role of a news magazine editor-in-chief, and must research facts through a variety of informational texts (such as press releases, email, and text massages) and then edit stories and coordinate social media to disseminate information to the community about a major hurricane.

After the Storm helps students learn about writing, editing, the importance of the main idea in a text, and balancing big-picture needs with the crucial details of putting together a news magazine.

 

BrainPOP Jr. - Let's talk about Annie's Notebook

 
Annies Notepad

One of the most important (and beloved) features on BrainPOP Jr. is Annie's Notebook.

You'll see Annie's Notebook to the right of every movie in BrainPOP Jr. It looks like a simple teaching mechanic but it has several benefits.

BrainPOP Jr - Annies notebook.gif

It displays the questions Annie asks in the movie

Not only displays them, but at important moments in the movie. Use these questions to prompt discussion or gauge understanding.

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Print questions in advance to scaffold learning

Hit the print button underneath the Notebook to print a PDF file of all the questions from the movie. You can use this as a summation/Q&A sheet for pupils, or just as an aide memoir for your lesson.

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Don't forget to perfect the pause!

The 'Pause' button flashes red whenever Annie starts to write in her notebook. This is an indicator to you, the teacher, that this could be a great moment to stop and reflect.


But of course one of the main reasons Annie has a notebook is to promote and value the work of note taking to your students.

They see Annie writing her questions on a standard issue lined notepad - something all your pupils will recognise - in a legible hand written font.

If Annie's doing it, everyone can try to do it.

If you regularly draw children's attention to Annie's notepad you are encouraging them to join Annie in taking notes, recording ideas, and perhaps most importantly, not being afraid to ask questions.

 

The power of the Quiz Mixer

 
BrainPOP quiz mixer

Have you ever wanted to make your OWN interactive BrainPOP quizzes?

Quizzes that are 100% personalised for a child's needs, or unique to a lesson, or using your own images?

You can with our very own Quiz Mixer tool. Teachers with My BrainPOP accounts can create, re-mix, and share their own BrainPOP style quizzes, polls, and surveys.

The quiz mixer

The Quiz Mixer allows you to:

  • Search and modify BrainPOP’s questions
  • Create your own multiple choice and open ended questions
  • Publish and share or assign with your students
  • Import and edit from thousands of questions generated across the BrainPOP community

Stuck for inspiration?

Here's some ideas that might spark some creativity...

A quiz that explores local history
Next time you're out and about snap some photos of local landmarks to add to a local history quiz, or ask a local history society or museum to donate some primary sources and questions. Maybe focus on a particular period, like Anglo Saxon or Roman.

A quiz in another language
There's nothing stopping you writing questions and answers in any language you like.

Pre-test quizzes
It's common to send home weekly spelling or maths rote practice homework, especially around SATs time. But why bother with paper? Use the Quiz Mixer to create sets of 20 practice questions and assign them to your class. Not only can they do the quiz online (and save your printing costs) their results are submitted to you, to view per pupil or as a whole class comparison. PS: Save them and use them again year after year!

Online Safety survey
Use open ended questions to build a poll to understand which social media tools children use or know about. Also poll the class on their knowledge of age restrictions, privacy concerns, copyright, online bullying statistics, etc. The idea isn't to get correct answers but stimulate debate, open eyes, and disabuse misconceptions.

Quizzes for differentiation
You can easily make multiple versions of the same quiz. Simply create a quiz, duplicate it, and adjust the language and questions accordingly. This could be very useful for targeted assessment, remediation, or 'drill style' practice. Also consider students who have English as a second language - you can prep a quiz that uses simpler language but achieves the same test outcome.

Still stuck?
Search the BrainPOP community database to tap into thousands of teacher made quizzes. One's bound to leap out and grab your attention!

Don't forget to tag your quizzes and make them public. There could be a teacher on the other side of the world that might appreciate your work.

 

Exploring opportunities to promote literacy using BrainPOP and BrainPOP Jr.

 

Engaging students with literacy across curriculum subjects is a priority for all schools, and Ofsted. BrainPOP provides multiple possibilities to improve literacy knowledge using animated movies, concept mapping, interactive features, multimedia resources, and more.

Ofsted seek to see literacy being emphasised outside of an English lesson, across curriculum subjects. Effectively, literacy learning should have a place in all lessons.


During inspections, Ofsted will place a stronger emphasis on effective whole-school literacy policies and their successful and systematic implementation across the school.
— Literacy Guide for Secondary Schools, 2012-2013

In each BrainPOP and BrainPOP Jr. topic in each subject there are many moments, both explicit and implicit, to promote literacy in different subjects.

How can you use BrainPOP to address literacy in every subject?

SUBTITLES

  • Every movie shows subtitles as standard. Subtitles encourage reading even when the student doesn’t realise they’re doing it. This extra practice will help improve reading and spelling, punctuation, and grammar skills.

KEY VOCABULARY & NATURAL PAUSE POINTS

  • Key vocabulary is highlighted in each movie. Students can easily pick out and learn key terms.
  • In BrainPOP listen out for the beep! BrainPOP movies have natural pause points. When Moby beeps is usually a good moment to pause as this often indicates the beginning of a new section of information within the topic. This gives the teacher time to assess how well the class is taking in the information, answer any questions, or to allow for student to finish any note-taking.
  • In BrainPOP Jr. look out for the pause button turning red. This indicates a question is about to be displayed in Annie's notepad. Ask a pupil to read it out to the class.

KEY LITERACY SKILLS

  • Specific topics like Reading SkillsContext Clues, and Note-Taking Skills help students make their literacy skills useful in every kind of lesson. Improving student’s confidence in using skills such as these – regardless of subject – encourages them to use and practice them more across the curriculum.
    • Tim speaks at a gentle pace in BrainPOP movies, which helps student’s comprehension and also gives time for student’s note-taking.
  • Quizzes for reading comprehension and/or listening comprehension – whether students are taking the quiz individually on a computer or tablet or taking the quiz as a class they will need to read and/or listen to the quiz questions and answers in order to complete the task.
    • Students can also take turns reading the questions and answer options aloud to the rest of the class as extra speaking practice.
    • Teachers with 'My BrainPOP' accounts can make their own Quizzes using the Quiz Mixer.
    • BrainPOP Jr. has easy and hard quiz options. Not only are the questions different, the easy quiz language is simpler.
  • As a discussion tool – in BrainPOP use the Newsela tool as a class discussion stimulus about items in the news or national events. The articles are lexia levelled and the article can be dynamically adapted depending on the student's ability. It’s a great way to encourage children to not only investigate an issue themselves but to form their own opinion and confidently discuss it in class.

Spoken language – (6.2) Pupils should be taught to speak clearly and convey ideas confidently using Standard English. They should learn to justify ideas with reasons; ask questions to check understanding; develop vocabulary and build knowledge; negotiate; evaluate and build on the ideas of others; and select the appropriate register for effective communication. They should be taught to give well-structured descriptions and explanations and develop their understanding through speculating, hypothesising and exploring ideas. This will enable them to clarify their thinking as well as organise their ideas for writing.
— From the 2014 National curriculum in England: English programmes of study

ACTIVITIES

Activities are worksheets that are available for every BrainPOP UK topic regardless of subject. Activities can include:

  • Recall questions
  • Essay questions
  • Graphic organisers so students can easily organise their thoughts or create clear notes for revision material
  • Practical tasks such as building a rocket

Activities can be typed into and printed off filled in as typing practice or printed and used as handwriting practice.

VOCABULARY SHEETS

  • Vocabulary sheets list all the key terms used in the movie and students must explain each of the terms in their own words.
  • This provides key literacy practice, helps students memorise subject specific key terms, and helps teachers check student’s comprehension of the terms and concepts used in the topic
  • Can be printed and glued into exercise books as a spelling guide and a revision tool.

FYI (FOR YOUR INFORMATION)

FYIs provide extra non-fiction texts around the subject to encourage further reading and research by the student which provide extra reading practice. These can be particularly useful to raise literacy engagement with boys, whom research has shown react well to non-fiction texts.

 

Explore a Topic – Maya Civilisation

 

Since the Maya Civilisation was added to the Key Stage 2 history programmes of study for the 2014 National curriculum in England to teach “a non-European society that provides contrasts with British history”, we often hear…

  • How difficult it is to source good age appropriate educational resources about the Mayan Civilisation
  • That primary school teachers generally have little to no knowledge of this period of history

This isn’t too surprising considering the previous history curriculum have focused on Egypt and Aztecs. But Tim and Moby to the rescue!

We’ve got plenty of amazing resources on the Mayans. Their culture, their advances in architecture, maths, art, and astronomy are all covered. Topic resources includes:

  1. An animated video on the Mayan Civilisation
  2. An interactive multiple choice quiz
  3. Maya lesson ideas
  4. Maya (and other ancient civilisations) learning games
  5. Maya activities, graphic organiser

Use these resources to introduce the Maya Civilisation, then encourage your pupils to explore further into this fascinating period of history with our topics on MesoamericaInca CivilisationConquistadors, and Aztec civilisation.

  • Tim and Moby explore this highly advanced pre-Columbian culture.
  • Learn why the Maya civilisation wasn’t exactly an empire, but still constituted a unified culture.
  • Explore the Maya script, the only complete written language developed by indigenous Americans and the role of religion in Maya society.
  • Discover how the Mayas were slowly subdued by the Spanish empire, and how Mayan is still spoken in Mexico and parts of Central America today!

Time Zone X - Maya Civilisation

Develop an understanding of the rise and fall of the Mayan civilization with our Time Zone X: Maya learning game. Do well and students can start to combine historical facts other ancient civilisations!

LESSON IDEA ON MAYA CIVILISATION

In this lesson plan which is adaptable for years 3-12 and P3-S5, students will use BrainPOP resources to analyse a world history topic through the lens of an essential question; Conduct collaborative research and share findings both verbally and in writing.

In this lesson plan which is adaptable for Years 7-13 and S1 – S6, students use BrainPOP UK resources to learn and synthesise information about the ancient civilisations of Latin America. They will create a three circle Venn diagram to compare and contrast the Inca, Maya, and Aztec civilisations. Students will also design a “graffiti board” on which they write messages and draw pictures to illustrate their understanding.

FYI – NON-FICTION TEXTS ABOUT MAYA CIVILISATION

  • The Final Frontier – Learn about the Mayan’s views on astronomy
  • Sports – Read about ‘Pitz’, the Mayan’s favourite ball game
  • Etc – Cool facts about Mayan culture
  • Unsolved mysteries – What happened to the Maya?
  • Dates and Times – Learn about the famous Mayan calendars
  • In Practice – Study Mayan fashion

PUPIL ACTIVITIES FOR MAYAN CIVILISATION

  • Activity – Complete the story
  • Graphic organiser – 5Ws + H chart
  • Vocabulary sheet – A list of terms that need explaining in your own words
 

Concept mapping with Make A Map

 
Lights

Make-a-Map, BrainPOP’s concept mapping tool powered by Ideaphora®, invites students to make meaningful connections between concepts using BrainPOP images, keywords, and movie clips.

Students and teachers can create maps to take notes, organise ideas, study vocabulary, tell digital stories, and more.

Every topic page in BrainPOP, BrainPOP Jr. and BrainPOP ESL contains a 'Make a Map' button. Anyone can use it, but only My BrainPOP student and teacher accounts can save and submit their maps.

Connect concepts

Make a Map allows students to create interactive concept maps as they explore our resources, developing ideas using BrainPOP movie clips, audio, images, and key vocabulary.

Students can include a written explanation of their thought process and submit maps to a teacher for feedback.

As students learn more they can revisit saved maps, extending their understanding and demonstrating progress.

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Easy to use

  1. No need to scour Google for images - simply select from thousands of official BrainPOP images, relevant keywords, and movie clips
  2. Drag and drop directly into your map
  3. Connect words and images to form ideas and show understanding
  4. Save your maps for future improvement or submit to teacher for feedback

Awesome tips for Make a Map

  • All the keywords are topic related AND audio extracts from the movie! Drag the keyword into your map and hit the play button next to the keyword to hear Tim use it in the context of a sentence.
  • No more scouring Google for images - you can find illustrated elements from any movie in BrainPOP. Simply select 'Images' from the navigation bar and type a word into the search box.
  • Use Templates to give your maps a structure. You can use static templates when you start your map, or add one from 'More' in the navigation bar. Why not try the 'Storyboard' map before embarking on a piece of creative writing?
  • Take notes! Go to 'More' in the navigation bar and choose 'Notes'. This gives you a way to record your thoughts as you go.
  • You can select each snapshot “node” and change its colour. Colour coding is a great way to organise, categorise, and take notes. 

Make a Map explained in 2 minutes