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Using BrainPOP with summarizing and notetaking

By March 25, 2010June 14th, 201641 Comments

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, or do some shared writing with the class before handing out copies. Teachers may pick and choose notetaking tools provided on BrainPOP (closed captioninggraphic organizersvocabulary) 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.

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

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.)

McREL is a non-profit, non-partisan education research and development organization that since 1966 has turned knowledge about what works in education into practical, effective guidance and training for teachers and education leaders across the U.S. and around the world.


  • Christina Kohout says:

    I am beginning my Mater’s program in Adolescent Literacy and Technology and found the article “Using Brain Pop with Summarizing and Note Taking” very helpful. I was introduced to “Brain Pop” by a fellow Reading teacher and have used it to introduce several types of writing.I found the graphic organizers helpful to get students started in the note taking process and then to use as a tool later on.
    I have to admit that I have never thought about teaching my students how to take notes. I have assumed that they already knew how. I learned in about the middle of the year that this is something that I need to teach. Students need to know how to take effective notes, not just write down and highlight everything that is said. It was great to read that other teachers are using such techniques as letting students draw pictures to use in their notes. I used to think that letting studens draw pictures would get them “off task.” But I am finding out that they will remember a concept a lot more.
    I would also like to learn more about the book featured on the site “Classroom Instruction That Works.”
    Christina Kohout
    8th grade Language Arts/Reading

  • Leah Levine says:

    I am a graduate student at Walden University and I found your article: “Using BrainPop with Summarizing and Notetaking” to be very effective. Notetaking is a difficult task when students have not learned the proper methods. The amount of notes one takes throughout there school years is very high. With all the latest technologies some teachers have shifted gears to other forms of notes such as power points and handouts that can be viewed on line. But many teachers teach still use the overhead and require students to take notes and it continues to be our job as educators to ensure there notes are efficient and can be used for reviewing for tests. Using Brainpop to reinforce notetaking is an effective way to get the students attention and make notetaking fun and educational. I personally enjoy the ideas and short lessons the movies offer, and my students always get excited to watch a movie, even if only for three minutes it is a nice way to begin or end a class. I teach Special Education and I cannot tell you how student’s retention improved when they have visuals to refer to. I love the idea of letting the students draw a picture of key ideas and when they go back to review they will remember those drawings because they created them.
    Leah Levine
    Special Education Teacher 7-12 grade
    New York

  • Mary Ellen Deitrick says:

    I too am beginning my Master’s program, and your article caught my eye because I use Brain Pop for Science and Social Studies in my school. I liked the idea of using Brain Pop for note taking. I teach 4th grade Math, Science and Social Studies and Brain Pop has always been used as a review of what is taught in the classroom. 4th grade is really the beginning of note taking and outlining in our school. Having Brain Pop as a tool to enhance this skill will be valuable. This year is my first year to have a SmartBoard which has been a great way to organize notes for the students as well as making it interactive for them. I have found by making lessons interactive the students are much more engaged and focused. I have only used Brain Pop in the computer room. When each child is watching the movie they can move at their own pace which allows for differentiation. However having the smartboard will also allow us to watch and learn together as an alternative. I also agree with Christina that drawing pictures is a wonderful, effective way to help with retention because students can visualize what they have learned.

  • Stephanie Cunningham says:

    I found this blog to be very interesting. I am working on my graduate degree in Intergrating Technology in the Classroom. I have used BrainPOP for the past 3 years. The children love it! The quizzes are wonderful assessment tools. I personally have been working with these students since last year, when they were 3rd graders, on notetaking. It is amazing how they can watch the video and take notes on their own. I really like the new worksheet activities they have included. It allows for more within the lesson. I would recommend using BrainPOP in instruction to everyone. I have even gotten a lot of fellow co-workers to start using it.

  • Margie Branstetter says:

    I was very interested in the article, “Using BrainPOP with Summarizing & Notetaking” because I have been utilizing BrainPOP this school year and I am always looking for strategies to improve student learning. My students love watching BrainPOP, the quizes are great comprehension assessments, and I enjoy the technology and ease. I believe incorporating graphic organizers and teaching students how to take useful notes are essential skills for their learning.

  • Georgana Brown11th/12th Language Arts/Yearbook, Kansas says:

    Excellent ideas! I plan to incorporate this strategy in my English classes. Students don’t know how to do this learning device or how to go back and reuse the notes to study. Too often we assume they should know how to do something we take for granted and forget direct instruciton works sometimes!
    Georgana Brown

  • Elizabeth Hubbell says:

    Hi all,
    Thanks so much for your comments on the post! Georgana, I couldn’t agree with you more – that we sometimes assume students have certain skills. Since notetaking doesn’t seem to be taught as often, I think this is one of the first areas we should look at to see if students have good notetaking skills before jumping into a unit.
    Leah and Christina, I’m so glad when I hear of middle school teachers using these types of resources. Too often, I hear that quick movies like this are for “younger” students, but I disagree. Honestly, I use BrainPOP myself sometimes to remind myself of key points of something that happened in history or science.
    Mary, I’m so glad that you’re starting notetaking with 4th grade. (So much sooner than I got it.)
    Great posts everyone. Thanks!

  • Harry Rauch says:

    Thank you for your post “Using BrainPOP with Summarizing & Notetaking”. I have been using BrainPOP to preview and review lessons with my seventh and eighth grade pre-algebra students for the past three years. I usually use my own power-point presentations for direct instruction; however, I look forward to taking advantage of the activity, graphic organizer and vocabulary resources available to enhance student engagement for the BrainPOP animations.

  • Brandi Kotsalis says:

    I loved this article and can’t wait to look into BrainPOP more! I taught 5th grade Social Studies this year and my students struggled with note taking skills. I didn’t realize that they had not been formally taught different strategies. Students spent a lot of time learning the various ways to take notes and figuring out what worked best for them. As stated in the article, I wanted to see evidence of the notes being used. I am excited to find a program like BrainPOP that helps teach these important skills to students.
    I, too, am very interested in the featured book.

  • Amy Horesco says:

    I as well am a graduate student at Walden University. I love that I was turned on to this website through my masters program because I have the book “Classroom instruction that Works” and I cannot wait to begin reading it.
    This article struck home with me because I have taught middle school, high school, and adult learners and with all three groups have found that many students do not know how to take notes. I love that several teachers on this blog have commented about starting to teach the note-taking process so early. I don’t know when or if I ever formally learned how to myself.
    What I really liked about this article as well was the graphics embedded so that Ms. Hubbell could actually show us what she was talking about.
    I as well plan to research BrainPOP in order to learn more. Thank you!

  • Cassidy says:

    Students need to learn formal note taking skills. Truly, this could help them to learn organizational skills for life. Half the battle of understanding the information is the meditation on it. While many students attention span is limited, even if it wasn’t note taking skills are essential to be able to go back over information and new findings introduced at an earlier time.
    I have this book for one of my masters classes and am glad to see how useful and informative it is. I love to see students recreating a method taught to them in a different discipline. This is when they really have mastered it. The concepts found in this book are profound, but also common sense put on paper.

  • Amber Hicks says:

    I am a 3rd grade teacher in Tennessee, and I LOVE BrainPOP. I am also a graduate student at Walden University. I just completed my first year of teaching, and I used BrainPOP at least 3-4 times weekly. However, I had never thought about using it for developing note taking skills. In 3rd grade, we do not take a lot of notes, but we do use a lot of graphic organizers with our reading series. BrainPOP has wonderful tools to utilize regarding graphic organizers.
    I cannot wait to incorporate this into my classroom next year. It doesn’t hurt to start teaching my students the essentials of note taking this early. As the years go on, they will be using those strategies much more frequently.

  • Michelle Pick says:

    I have just completed my second year teaching 5th grade language arts and social studies. I have used BrainPop often, as I was introduced to its benefits during my first year and fell in love with the site immediately! I never took into consideration the benefits of teaching notetaking. We usually just use the “Take a quiz” aspect of the site. Thank you for your post, as I will incorporate this idea more in my 3rd year. My notes usually consist of a study guide with blanks to fill in, much like the one in your graphic. However, it would be simple to use pictures and short phrases in order to connect learning for my students. Thanks again for your post!
    Michelle Pick
    5th grade Language Arts/Social Studies

  • Cindy Sawyer says:

    I currently teach 3rd grade and I am also a Walden University student in Curriculum and Instrution. To be honest, I think BrainPop is an excellent resource. I found it a few years back, and have used it in a variety of subject/skill areas: reading (main idea and summary), math (different components of measurement), science (density, volume), and social studies (wars). I have never used it for note taking, but I will soon, probably during the next school year.

  • Taiese Robinson says:

    I currently teach 6th grade and I am so glad that I found this blog! I am also a graduate student at Walden University.
    I have been looking into various ways of developing my students notebooks into tools that they can actually use to study after they leave the classroom. I have been inspired by quite a few Dinah Zike workshops and am learning to use manipulatives to aid in the organization of notes. (She is amazing).
    As mentioned earlier, many teachers are now shifting over to the use of PowerPoint as a means of modeling note taking. (PowerPoint has certainly been my method of choice). However, making sure that students record information effectively is another story.
    Note-taking is a skill that teaches organization and is valuable for both students and adults. Prior to reading this blog, I hadn’t known that you could use Brain Pop for teaching note taking. It is great to hear insight from other teachers and I know that I will certainly integrate the ideas from this discussion into my classroom.
    Taiese Robinson
    6th Grade Reading Teacher

  • Jacqueline Jewell says:

    My district has been studing Marzano’s high yield strategies for the past two years. This year we focused on note-taking but didn’t see an increase in the use of this strategy in instruction. I am so glad I came across this post. The graphic organizers and scaffolding ideas are great!

  • Tiffany Fink says:

    I teach third grade at a small private school. I am also a Walden University Graduate student. I have never heard of BrainPOP until i read this post. It sounds like an amazing resource and an exciting way to keep your students involved. I have wanted to help my students develop the ability to take notes, but have not found an engaging way to do it yet. This sounds like a great way to do it.
    Since I am not familiar with BrainPOP, could someone give me tips on how to use it other than this note-taking strategy and how to use it with only one computer in the classroom? I am excited to explore this resource. Thank you for your help!
    Tiffany Fink
    3rd Grade

  • Ginger Johnson says:

    I was introduced to BrainPop at the end of the school year. My students loved it! I think that it is a great way to get my students interested in topics we discuss. I had not thought of using a graphic organizer as a way to help my students take notes. I am really excited about trying it with my students this year. Although my students are first graders, they should be able to take notes using a simple organizer. It is very important for students to learn note-taking skills. BrainPop will be a great way to introduce this skill to my students. Thank you all for your wonderful ideas!

  • Renae Pleima says:

    Thank you for introducing me to BrainPOP. I do not have enough textbooks for all my students so I have a journal that the kids write in and that essentially turns into the math and science textbook. I have been frustrated in making sure they write everything down because it is important to have all the notes. I appreciate this information and food forward to using it.

  • Aaron Martell says:

    I had the opportunity to use BrainPOP two years ago in my eighth grade American History class. What a phenomenal resource! My students enjoyed the practice quizzes at the end of each video. Also, I agree with the statement that students need to be taught how to take notes. As a high school level teacher I often make the assumption that my students know how to take note. Likewise I would appreciate suggestions on activities to teach students how to take proper notes.

  • James Tong says:

    I teach high school math and am always amazed at the number of students who do not know how to take notes. Many of my students tell me that they have never taken notes in math class before, that they have only copied down the example problems. As a result I spend much time during the first month of school teaching students how to take and study notes in math class. I believe that it is extremely important for students to become learners. I have not used BrianPOP in the past but look forward to looking into it.

  • Shamika Smalley says:

    I have been using BrainPop for a year now and I find it very helpful as well. It gives the students a more exciting short video clip that keeps them awake and interested. I do find it to be kind of on an elementary level as far as the graphics and layout goes, but nevertheless I use it as a resource to help teach. I may sometimes use their activities or worksheets and revise them to follow the standards and higher level activities for my students. This is one website that other teachers should use as a good resource to help in their classroom. Is there any other programs that are useful in helping the students notetake and summarize that anyone know out there?

  • Lesia says:

    Timing is everything! My school year has started already, and a SMART Board was installed in my room today. I am a Walden University graduate student and just found this blog today. I looked at some others but am so excited about BrainPOP. I am going to explore the site and definitely put it to good use. I will definitely return here to learn of the exciting things that are happening with BrainPOP. I have two copies of Classroom Instruction that Works and will be using it as well. Thanks for sharing, and I look forward to many great shared ideas.
    Kindergarten Teacher in Memphis

  • Arielle Lewin says:

    I love BrainPOP and am always looking for ways to get the teachers at my school to use it more effectively. Not only are the videos informative, but the kids love them. It is a great resource. Using the videos to learn a skill, like notetaking, other than the content is a great use of time and resources.

  • Deborah Cottle says:

    Our district uses Brain Pop and find it very helpful and the students enjoy it. I like the idea about notetaking to focus on the information.

  • M.V. says:

    We have a Science Lab at our campus. One of the stations is a research station. We also have a BrainPop account. I am going to attempt this with our students this year. Giving students an outline to follow will teach them how to determine what’s important so that they eventually learn how to take notes on their own.

  • Susan Rice says:

    Notetaking is an important skill, but difficult when you look at a gradual release model. I am thinking BrainPop would be an excellent tool to use. Many times kids do not have sufficient independent practice in notetaking in order to really learn the concept. I am looking forward to using this with the teachers I work with.
    Susan Rice
    ITS – John Haley Elementary
    Irving, Texas

  • Esther Smith says:

    Thanks for the info on BrainPOP, I am excited to explore it. I think Best Practices is not necessarily New Practices, it is just that as educators, we are becoming more precise and efficient with time.
    And we all know that time is what we have to treat as gold. Best Practices helps us prioritize our practice so that we spend that gold well.
    Thanks again,

  • Esther says:

    Thanks for the great article and resources. I find summarizing and note taking one of the more difficult strategies to teach well. Your article gave me useful ideas.

  • Maureen Cassivi says:

    I am currently a student at Walden, taking my Master’s in Education and this site was suggested as a blog worth investigating. I have explored your math site and find the material to be very useful. I also feel that notetaking is so important in school and that it is necessary for teachers to introduce their students on how to effectively take notes in all of their subjects. I feel that when the ground work for notetaking is established in the elementary grades, then it sets students up for success when they move on to junior high and high school.

  • Keisha Williamson says:

    Wow I am a student at Walden University and we were assigned a task to view an educational blog and comment on it. Brain Pop for use with notes taking in a great idea. I have never used brain pop but have heard of it. I look forward to checking out the site and incorporating it into my classroom.

  • Heather says:

    I enjoyed reading this article about BrainPOP. I have used BrainPOP for several years, and really value it’s content and delivery. My students always picked up the subject matter quickly and this was a great supplement activity to many of my science lessons. Invaluable tool!

  • Cate J says:

    Interesting article. I use BrainPop and BrainPop Jr with my Second Grade students and find it very useful. Students are very engaged and the videos make for a short introduction to the topic or unit being taught.
    I find that Brainpop Jr is more age-appropriate for my students. The note taking skills that are highlighted during the video are very useful, as well as the graphic organizers, quizes, and other tools you can use (they are usually located at the bottom of the screen under the video).
    After reading your post I was thinking this would be a great way to teach my students how to take notes to prepare for the Third Grade Standardized tests; I could show a video and model throughout and we could use that format to model note taking when they do the listening portions of the tests.
    Has anyone tried something similar to that before, with any amount of success?

  • Maureen Shields says:

    I use Brain Pop in my elementary school. I use the activities but I want to incorporate more note taking skills with the students – this is a very informative article to share with my staff

  • Hannah Thompson says:

    I have used Brain POP many times for other subjects but had no idea the other resources available. An online version of outlines is so helpful and makes note-taking a little more enjoyable for students. This article also brings up a good point about formally teaching note-taking. Looking back I don’t think I was taught that until college. It’s a great skill to instill early on.

  • Brandie Laviolette says:

    I was already using Brainpop with my 5th grade students and incorporating it with Promethean technology. This method for note taking and summarizing using Brainpop is outstanding! Brainpop is an excellent educational resource.

  • Agnes Smith says:

    I too have used this tool as an instructional strategy. Our district has what is called “academic vocabulary”. Students are to brainstorm on their own using prior knowledge of the words and provide a meaning that the word has for them. As students complete this step, we as a class discuss the meaning of what they believe the word is related to or speaking about. I then use brainpop as a tool to help make a connection of the actual meaning to what their beliefs are. When viewing the video, I often stop and pause so that a discussion can occur. Students are well aware of the learning that is happening and aware of what their expectations are using both the graphic organizers and video as strategies.

  • Sarah says:

    I have previously used BrainPOP in my high school English classroom. Sometimes the clips are silly but my students still like them. They give short clips and this works well with grammar. Often students get overwhelmed when learning grammar and they tend to tune out the teacher. Using BrainPOP in combination with my lesson helps my students stay focused. I love the fact that BrainPOP gives graphic organizers for it’s clips. The only problem I have is that I was using a free trial and it has now expired! Suggestions on getting my district to purchase a subscription. It’s difficult to ask when there are so many budget cuts!

  • Helen Kostiuk says:

    I have not used Brain POP for note-taking but will try it out after reading all the recommendations. As an Art teacher, I am very aware of the impact of visual organisation of information both for artistic communication and with the layout of a page of writing. The addition of symbols and underlining makes the task more interactive -and hopefully, memorable- for students.

  • rae carter says:

    I’ve never considered teaching note-taking skills in my Maths class, I hadn’t considered it relevant. It makes so much sense though; note-taking is essential for maths at university level.
    BrainPop is great, I use it in my Maths class as a summary of skills after I’ve taught them. Now I can use BrainPop in conjunction with teaching note-taking skills and the vocabulary page. Hopefully it will create an interactive experience, rather than just watching the video.

  • vicki says:

    I’m looking forward to using some of the BrainPOP activities to help my students with summarising and note-taking. I use are use some strategies already but would like to look at using pictures to appeal more to visual learners.

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