You may, or may not, have read my extensive article in ASCD Educational Leadership on the support class we have for Long-Term English Language Learners (see Research in Action: Ramping Up Support for Long-Term ELLs).

The article touches on how we used – and continue to use – Brainpop as part of it, and I thought readers might or might not find a more extensive explanation useful.

Years ago, Brainpop had an individual classroom plan that let you purchase access for your students (see A LOOK BACK: A PRETTY INTERESTING YEAR-LONG ED TECH EXPERIMENT to learn how I used it then).  Unfortunately, they discontinued it in favor of either school or district subscriptions, or a plan that let a teacher purchase access for three simultaneous viewings.

I’ve maintained my teacher subscription for years – the videos are great supplements to the Social Studies classes I teach to ELLs, and the Brainpop, Jr. clips work well for my ELL Beginner classes.  The follow-up quizzes work well as class-wide games with mini-whiteboards.

A couple of years ago, I invited a handful of my most highly-motivated students and, even more importantly, my less motivated ones,  to use my teacher log-in to use Brainpop at home and email me their test results.  I was pleasantly surprised to see that both groups eagerly use the site.  It was the highest amount of engagement I had experienced with any kind of homework over the years.  In addition to the English-language videos, the Spanish-language ones were helpful in providing important background knowledge for upcoming lessons.

That experience prompted me to talk to Brainpop about the Long-Term ELL support experiment we were going to undertake.  Not only did I think students using it on their own would be helpful, but the science and math videos would help me support subjects where my knowledge level was not at its highest.

Unfortunately, Brainpop requires a schoolwide subscription to enable individual student access (I hope they will re-add an individual classroom feature some day).  However, they agreed to provide our Long-Term ELL class an eighteen-month subscription at no-cost, and graciously included access to their ELL program for our other classes.  I was particularly interested in the ELL program to see if it had improved from when they first unveiled it – I had been underwhelmed by it when the program first came out.

Brainpop was as helpful to our Long-Term ELL support class as I had hoped it would be….

The science and math videos were invaluable.  Without them, the support I would have been able to provide to students for those classes would have been minimal.  I used the videos to support writing instruction (see A Look Back: Two “Writing Frames” For ELLs & Everybody Else).    Many students also accessed the videos at home (see Strategies I Use To Encourage Students To Do Additional Academic Work Outside Of Class).

I was pleasantly surprised to see that the quality of Brainpop’s ELL program had improved substantially since my initial analysis, and, at my invitation,  my student teacher wrote a laudatory new review: Guest Post: Brainpop ELL Summer Review.  Students were clearly engaged and learning from it.

One of the great advantages to individual students having access to Brainpop is their being able to use the tool easily make their own animated videos.  Students in both the Long-Term ELL support class and in my Social Studies classes were able to benefit from that ability (see A Look Back: Student-Created Summary Videos Of U.S. History Units – Handouts Included).

Unfortunately, because of our district’s ongoing financial crisis, which may include our being subject to a state takeover (see A BEGINNING LIST OF THE BEST RESOURCES FOR LEARNING ABOUT OUR SACRAMENTO DISTRICT’S FINANCIAL FIASCO), we were unable to purchase a schoolwide subscription after eighteen months.

I’ve continued my personal subscription, though, and through it, both our second year Long Term ELL support class and my Beginning ELL class have been able to benefit from the videos, albeit without access to the Movie-Maker app and to the specific ELL support video program.

Over the years, I’ve regularly recommended Brainpop as one of the few web tools out there that are worth purchasing by schools – even well before they provided us with a free subscription during our Long Term ELL pilot project.  And I’m continuing to pay for a teacher subscription – out of my own pocket – because it benefits my students AND makes my teaching life a little bit easier to have it readily available with a click of the mouse.