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To me, learning is almost always fun. I never want to stop learning, and am always seeking out new things to try and new bits of information to know. I remember this not quite being the case when I was a child, however, and the same is true for most kids. School wasn’t always fun, even when the teacher tried to make it so. Some subjects can be dry, but a fun experience with a dry subject can keep you motivated to learn.
Regardless of whether you homeschool, like we do, or send your child to a public, private or charter school, there is always room for additional fun learning opportunities. Nature walks, museum trips, hands-on activities and countless other options are available to you. There are also many sites on the internet you can use in your child’s education, or they can supplement what the kids get at school. Some of these sites are excellent, but some are not so excellent. It’s often hard to tell the difference.
One site that I discovered many months ago is BrainPop. The main site is geared toward grades 3 and up, but it is part of a family of sites which also includes BrainPop Jr, for grades K-3, and BrainPop Español, seemingly for all ages. Separately, there is also BrainPop UK for grades 3-9, for those across the pond. While all these are pay sites, they all have some videos you can watch for free, and there are different levels of subscriptions. I’ve discovered that they are well worth the subscription price, however. They are full of information and my kids have really enjoyed them. While none of these sites is a comprehensive curriculum for school, they supplement and add on to schooling very well. Subjects range from reading and math to holidays and civic responsibility. The folks at BrainPop are always putting up new videos, sometimes at the same time as national holidays or special months, so even if you’ve subscribed in the past, there will always be something new.
Since my kids are included in the BrainPop Jr age group, we have spent most of our time there. They currently have about 120 videos which are divided up into six categories: science, writing, social studies, health, reading and math. Each video page consists of a video with Moby, a beeping robot, and Annie, a very sweet girl. Annie’s voice is very gentle, and she comes off as both knowledgeable and friendly. After you’ve watched the video on either regular mode or full-screen, there is a huge number of other things to do.
- Print Notebook: If your child is toward the upper end of the K-3 range, you might want to print out the notebook from the video. This will give your child a worksheet on which to answer, in their own words, all the questions that came up during the video.
- Game: This is an online game to play about the subject of the video. Some are spinner games (my daughter’s favorite), some are memory games or put-these-in-order games and others don’t follow a pattern. All are fun.
- Activity: This is a printable activity page consisting of anything from coloring a picture to solving math problems.
- Belly Up: Good for a chuckle, this is a comic page usually creating a pun around the video’s subject.
- Pop a Joke: When you click on this one, a joke pops up relating to the page’s theme, then you can click on the answer. I found I could guess the answer a good portion of the time.
- Word Wall: This mini dictionary of words from the video usually has larger words that your child might not necessarily know.
- Draw About It: This activity is essentially the same for each video. You can draw something relating to the video with different colors and crayon thicknesses, following the given suggestion or going off on your own. You can then print out your creation.
- Write About It: Each one of these activities has a page of stationary with an border relating to the video’s theme, and there is a given suggestion of what to write about. You could print out the page and then write, or type it on the screen and then print.
- Read About It: This option lists three books you could buy or get from the library to read more on the given subject.
- Talk About It: This is very similar to the activity page in that it is usually something to print out and complete. It can be a chart or a diagram, or it can be something to help your child discuss the page’s topic.
- Hard Quiz and Easy Quiz: Each video has two quizzes, each consisting of five questions. You can print out each quiz or do them online, in which case your child can mouse over the question and answers, and Annie’s voice will read them out loud. I’m not sure why these quizzes are separated into two parts, though, since we rarely found an obvious difficulty difference between the two. It is worthwhile to do both, however, as they always ask different questions.
In addition to the above, each video subject page has an Ideas for Grownups link, giving quite a lot more information for further study with your student or child.
The main BrainPop Jr page also has detailed information about each state’s educational standards, where you can search by state, subject and grade level to see how learning with BrainPop Jr applies to your child. There is also a grown-ups guide containing a variety of information, and Big Word Wall and Games sections, which have all of the site’s Word Wall definitions and games in one place.
Once we got started with it, my seven year old daughter practically begged and pleaded to do more BrainPop Jr. She found it endlessly entertaining, and didn’t mind doing the quizzes and learning activities. My four year old son enjoyed the videos, games, comics and jokes the most. We found that most activities and quizzes were good to do for advanced first graders through third graders, and kindergarteners will benefit mostly from the videos and a few of the games.
I was very pleased to see that the Thanksgiving video was accurate and was not the sanitized, incorrect version I was taught in school.
While it is technically above the age range of my kids, we watched dozens of the BrainPop videos as well. Since these target older children, the subjects and content are much more advanced. The videos still had Moby, but Annie was replaced with an older boy named Tim. He talks faster than Annie, but this should work fine with older kids. There were fewer extra activities on BrainPop compared with BrainPop Jr., and not every video page has every activity. There are currently over 750 videos divided into seven subjects: science, social studies, English, math, arts & music, health and technology. There are more videos in the science category than in any of the others by far.
- Quiz: There is just one quiz, but it has ten questions. Tim won’t read the questions to you, however. Again, the quiz can be done online or printed out. The quiz is much more advanced than those at BrainPop Jr.
- Activities: This section consists of one or more printable activity, graphic organizer or vocabulary worksheets.
- Q&A: If you have a pressing question about the video’s topic, this is where you can write in and ask. You can also read responses to other submissions.
- Timeline: This gives a very small history, if applicable, to the topic.
- Experiment: This section is usually an experiment to print out and conduct, but it can also be an activity sheet such as a word search.
- FYI: This is seems to be the spot where they put everything else. There is background information, quotes, information from real life, a comic and sometimes a variety of other information.
BrainPop’s main page also details state standards as well as providing other general information.
I know that when my kids are old enough to get more out of the regular BrainPop videos that we’ll subscribe again. You just can’t beat it when your kids are begging to learn!
BrainPop and BrainPop Jr have a five day free trial, if you want to try before you buy. Then there are quite a few subscription options. You can subscribe as a school, district, media lab, classroom, public library, homeschool, family or virtual school. Then within those categories, you need to decide if you want BrainPop, BrainPop Jr, BrainPop Español, a combination thereof or even a plan where you pay monthly. All options require an annual subscription. Discount codes are occasionally available.
If you are looking for BrainPop UK, they cover seven subjects: English, Arts, Maths, Science, Humanities, Technology and PSHE and Citizenship, and have a 30 day free trial. Again, subscription prices vary by the type of subscription you require.
Wired: Your kid can’t wait to learn something new, there is a wide variety of topics, it is a very high quality site. Also, there are many free videos and also a free trial to see if you like their service. Parents will learn new things as well!
Tired: It’s not free.