School: Skyline Elementary
I Fell in Love With BrainPOP
Feeling Good About Social-Emotional Learning
Alexa Corniel teaches 4th grade at Skyline Elementary in California, and in her classroom students learn about their hearts. Through social-emotional learning techniques, Alexa gives them powerful tools to think and talk about empathy, positive relationships, and healthy mindsets.
It’s a subject focus that she says has transformed her classroom, and BrainPOP is at the center of it.
“BrainPOP is like my pencil — I’m always using it,” she told us, “but I think some teachers would be surprised to know how important it is to my SEL approach.”
“BrainPOP is like my pencil — I’m always using it.”
Alexa uses the content in BrainPOP’s Health subject area to introduce concepts like bullying, stress, and getting emotional support from others.
“We started one lesson with BrainPOP’s movie on how stress can affect the body. Then each student used Make-a-Map to diagram their own body under stress. Finally, everyone used Make-a-Movie to tell stories about different body parts that can be affected by stress and what causes that relationship.
“We were able to go very deeply into how our feelings have an impact on our well-being.”
Throughout the year, she uses BrainPOP to explore different facets of students’ social and emotional lives. Her students use Creative Coding to create memes about identifying when to get help. They create newscasts about how to talk to a peer about bullying. And in each unit, BrainPOP supports her from start to finish.
“There’s no assessment for SEL yet in my state,” she said, “so BrainPOP is my assessment.”
When Was the Last Time You Made a Map of Your Heart?
Her favorite activity — “How Is My Heart?” — could benefit many a full-grown adult. Every week, her children use the Make-a-Map tool to consider and communicate the states of their hearts. Are they stressed out? Are they happy? Are they angry? Are they worried?
The images, colors, and icons contained within the Make-a-Map tool help them express the complexity of their thoughts and feelings to one another, and this kind of routine introspection has resulted in profound changes.
“I see more empathy among students who go through this exercise than I’ve ever seen in a classroom. If someone has had a rough day, someone else might say, unprompted: ‘Oh, I relate,’ or ‘Oh, I understand how you’re feeling,’ or ‘Oh, did you ever think about it from their point of view.’
“I see more empathy among students who go through this exercise than I’ve ever seen in a classroom.”
“I see kindness. I see kids getting away from the selfie mentality. Everything’s not about them — it’s about other people. They want to be part of the solution.”
It’s not a magic solution to the challenges kids face, but it’s a start.
“Are all my kids perfect? Are all the behavior problems gone? No,” Alexa admitted. “But now they have strategies to access their feelings and their behaviors.”
“Explore Those Buttons!”
Alexa had been using BrainPOP for its movie and quiz content for years. She had no idea what it was truly capable of.
“Every time I watched a movie I saw the other buttons but I never took the time to explore them.”
She wishes she’d done so earlier.
“When you invest a little bit of time — even just a half hour — exploring the different icons and what they can do, I’m telling you. You’re going to amplify your engagement factor tenfold.”
She told us she’s never met a teacher who couldn’t use a little more BrainPOP in his or her life.
“We don’t know it all,” she told us, “and we can’t do it all. If we want to make sure our kids are learning, we’re going to have to provide them with a lot of opportunities. This one tool gives them so many.”