How I Transformed My Classroom Into a Movie Studio
Hello, innovative educators, I’m Monica Sepa-LaFemina, and I’ve been an educator for thirteen years. I’m excited to share a game-changer in student engagement from my third-grade classroom in New Jersey: the BrainPOP Movie Film Festival. Lights, Camera, Learning!
Embarking On My Own Digital Journey
In the early days of my teaching career, technology played a supporting role in my classroom, noticeable but not spotlight-stealing. I was cautious about bringing new technology into my classroom, for fear of it distracting from what mattered most: high-quality instruction.
However, the narrative shifted when BrainPOP entered the scene. Moby and Annie (from BrainPOP Jr.) and the platform’s other captivating characters, demonstrated that education could leap beyond the screen. With BrainPOP, I recognized an untapped potential beyond the customary watch-and-quiz routine. Here was a tool that could be orchestrated to create immersive learning experiences, aligning perfectly with best practices that underscore active learning and critical thinking.
Integrating Digital Citizenship Step-by-Step
Although BrainPOP is an integrated part of my classroom landscape now, it takes the right kind of framing to help my students get the most out of their learning. Embracing digital tools in the classroom isn’t just about using technology; it’s about fostering digital citizenship and empowering students to navigate the digital world responsibly and creatively.
In my classroom, this journey unfolds progressively throughout the year, carefully tailored to my students’ growing digital competencies. Our tech journey starts with the ABCs of digital etiquette and the safe use of devices. As students get comfortable, we venture further, exploring the rich educational terrain that BrainPOP offers–all while reinforcing the principles of digital citizenship. When they’ve mastered these principles, they’re ready to prepare for their debuts!
Putting Their Learning into the Limelight
Here’s where the magic happens: our classroom morphs into a film studio, buzzing with creativity. Students don their director’s caps and choose from a universe of topics and spin them into their very own BrainPOP movies with Make-a-Movie.
The Journey from Preparation to Presentation
Every student filmmaker begins by submitting a detailed graphic organizer (download here). This isn’t just about plotting scenes; it’s about weaving education into storytelling, encouraging students to explore their topics deeply and present their understanding in a compelling way.
From there, each student begins the creative journey, starting with an individualized video assignment on BrainPOP that aligns with their chosen topic. The expectation isn’t merely to fill out organizers but to synthesize knowledge, articulate concepts, and illustrate their insights through their unique cinematic lens. This independent task, followed by individual teacher conferences, ensures that concepts are grasped, misunderstandings are addressed, and ideas are sound before the movie-making begins.
With a green light on their organizers, students are entrusted with the creative autonomy to direct and produce their movies in the classroom, a process that’s as educational as it is exhilarating. They’re applying technology to demonstrate understanding, creativity, and technical skills. Witnessing students, even those initially hesitant, confidently harness technology to articulate their learning is one of my favorite parts of the school year.
Student Learning Takes Center Stage
The grand finale of our educational journey is the much-anticipated showcase. Over the years, I’ve added a touch of Hollywood by encouraging students to dress up for their big day, and whenever possible, extending invitations to parents for the debut. The Film Festival isn’t just a passive viewing experience; it’s an interactive educational exchange.
Each student receives a BrainPOP Film Festival Independent Worksheet, turning them from filmmakers into critical viewers, actively engaging with their peers’ work. They’re tasked with noting facts and insights gleaned from each film, an assignment that reinforces attentive engagement and is subsequently assessed.
The energy in the room is palpable as students present their projects. Their pride and confidence soar as they showcase their hard work. Their creativity, the depth of content, and the innovative use of features never cease to amaze me year after year. This process underscores the importance of student voice and autonomy in learning environments.
Oscar-Level Confidence and Community
BrainPOP does more than just inform; it transforms. Each student film is a story of growth, a testament to the power of technology in boosting confidence and nurturing skills. This celebration of individual learning changes the dynamics of my classroom, as we celebrate each student’s unique journey, creativity, and courage.
Fellow educators, our role goes deeper than teaching. We’re here to inspire, ignite, and empower. Ready to make your classroom a hub of living, breathing learning? Call action on your student movies today!
Monica Sepa-LaFemina is a third-grade teacher at Oak Tree Road School in the Woodbridge Township School District. She has been teaching for thirteen years. Monica is passionate about teaching and strives for student success. She is a lifelong learner with her Masters Degree in Educational Administration along with continuing to expand her methods in any way she can.