• 25 Oct
    Print pagePDF pageEmail page

    The nights are drawing in ever earlier and cutting wintry winds send us scurrying inside to steaming mugs of hot tea, big woollen jumpers, and a cascade of blankets so it’s the perfect time to inside of getting caught up in a good book and to try writing one of your own!

    NaNoWriMo image

    NaNoWriMo is national novel writing month where the goal is to complete 50,000 words of a book during the course of November and they run a Young Writers Programme to boot.

    You can find out more about doing NaNoWriMo in the classroom and the plethora of resources available in our blog post from last year: “Sparking Creativity in the classroom with the NaNoWriMo Young Writer’s Program“.

    October marks the time where NaNoWriMo participants across the world start doing the prep for writing their novel in November – things like doing research, coming up with an idea and characters, and getting an outline together so that once November hits you can jump right in to get your 1667 words a day done.

    How can BrainPOP help with NaNoWriMo prep in October?

    1. Take a peek at BrainPOP’s Famous Books and Authors section for a bit of inspiration from the masters and their work, from Roald Dahl to Lord of the Flies to Agatha Christie there’s a bit of everything.

    Maya Angelou

    Maya Angelou

    2. Brush up on writing skills that you’re not confident on like writing dialogue, creating the right mood and tone, or making sure you remember to show not tell with topics from our reading and writing section. Getting confident with these skills ahead of time means you’re less likely to get frustrated while getting down your 1667 words a day and you’ll have to do less revisions when you’re all finished.

    3. Check out our Creative Writing Spotlight if you’re not sure what you need to improve on to see what gaps in your knowledge and skills you have. It’s better to find out now that you’re not sure what a cliché is when you have plenty of time to remind yourself!

    4. If you’re doing research and you’re not finding what you’re looking for or don’t know how best to keep track of all that new knowledge use resources like our Information Literacy Spotlight and our Revving up your Research Skills blogpost and poster to help get the most of your planning time.

    Creative Writing

    5. Check your grammar skills with BrainPOP’s grammar section so you don’t spend precious time trying to remember whether you’re supposed to use a semicolon there or if you’ve used that apostrophe correctly. It’ll also make things much quicker when you get around to redrafting after November!

    6. Get organised with our graphic organisers! Use BrainPOP’s creative writing graphic organisers like story mountain, circles story map, and character map to make your ideas easy to reference when you need them and make sure you’re clear on what the plan for your story is.

    7. Use our outlines and concept mapping topics to help you with the brainstorming process to help you find your idea and then refine it into the best it can be!

    8. Remember to take breaks and have fun! If you get stuck or frustrated during your daily writing session taking a 5 minute break to watch the BrainPOP featured movie keeps your brain in gear so you can easily get back to work but also gives you enough of a break that when you go back to writing it’ll be full steam ahead!

    Let’s get those creative juices flowing!

    Related Posts:

    Tags: , , , , , , ,

  • 05 Sep
    Print pagePDF pageEmail page

    All writers need a creative jump start every once in awhile.

    Writer’s block can be as prevalent in the classroom as it is in front of an author’s typewriter.

    Sometimes you need to shake things up and encourage students to write something out of their usual comfort zone.

    With that in mind we’ve made some handy and fun writing prompts called Story Cubes to help out. Getting creative with story cubes is easy but first of all you need to make them.

    How to make Story Cubes:

    BrainPOP Story Cubes

    Click the image to start download.

    • Use scissors to cut them out (watch those fingers!)
    • Fold along all the edges and flaps
    • Stick them together using tape or glue on the tabs until you make a cube shape.

    How to use Story Cubes:

    Now you get to roll your new cubes!

    Roll all three (or just one if you like) and use whatever three three images that land face up to build your story. If you don’t like the images you get you can always re-roll!

    All the images are from BrainPOP movies, but you can interpret them how you like.

    Once you’ve made your cubes you can keep them for whenever you want to help creativity strike – they make a pretty nice decoration too!

    The Legacy by Sophie Millward-Sadler is a fantastic example of a student’s story that used BrainPOP’s story cubes for inspiration.

    And finally, don’t forget to use BrainPOP’s Creative Writing Spotlight to help students write their inspired story the best they can.

    Related Posts:

    Tags: , , , , , , ,

  • 10 May
    Print pagePDF pageEmail page

    Theme is an important writing device that can infuse a story with depth and meaning.

    But it can be tricky at first to spot and understand themes let alone learn how to include them within your own creative writing.

    Screen Shot 2016-05-10 at 09.46.27

    In our topic Theme, Tim and Moby explore the…well…theme…of themes within the context of their favourite film: Star Wars.

    The themes of Star Wars are easy to understand and identify once you know what you’re looking for, and has the added bonus of being familiar to kids everywhere.

    A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away…

    As we all know, it’s much easier to learn if it’s enjoyable – especially when it involves an X-Wing constructed out of cardboard!


    Our Theme movie depicts Yoda and Jar Jar reenacting the fable of the tortoise and the hare while “Moby-Wan” teaches Tim/Luke about the mysterious ways of the Force.

    • By exploring the rich world of Star Wars, students will discover what motifs are and how symbols are used to reinforce the message an author is trying to deliver!
    • After watching this movie students will learn to pick up details on the importance of plot, setting, dialogue, and characterisation, and how to understand the world of a story.
    • Ultimately it will add another dimension to their film-watching and book-reading experiences.


    In the activities section, you’ll find a handy graphic organiser that students can use focus on what to look for when they’re looking for themes in a film or book.

    Plus, the activities include a useful exercise to practice their new found theme hunting skills on well known fairy tales like Snow White and Cinderella.

    Finally, use the Lord of the Flies game to examine the themes, motifs, and symbolism in the Lord of the Flies to reinforce how to apply the concepts covered in the topic to more than just Star Wars.


    May the force be with you!

    Related Posts:

    Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

  • 27 Oct
    Print pagePDF pageEmail page

    It’s nearly November and aspiring novelists all over the world are getting ready for this year’s NaNoWriMo, but what is it?

    NaNoWriMo image


    In a nutshell it’s National Novel Writing Month (get it? Na-No-Wri-Mo), where writers commit to writing a 50,000 word novel… in a month. That seems pretty unachievable at first but that’s actually committing to writing 1667 words a day for 30 days; which sounds a lot less intimidating.

    You don’t have to write a 50,000 word novel. It could be 50,000 words worth of short stories or a novel that keeps on going, anything you like really. And it doesn’t really even have to be 50,000 words.

    The spirit of NaNoWriMo is to set a writing target and stick to it.


    So why participate?

    • It helps to create a good habit – sitting and writing for a certain amount of time a day – even if it’s just to free write or write in a journal is almost meditative and a good opportunity for self-reflection. Plus we live in such a busy world it’s important to regularly seek out a bit of calm.
    • “Winning” NaNoWriMo by managing to complete your goal gives you a nice rosy glow of success.


    • You learn to do instead of procrastinate. It’s easy to get caught up in the idea of something and just never get past the planning stage. For many writers with a loud internal editor it can be hard not to obsess over every word. But when you have a strict goal you have to meet you have to force yourself to just write, and leave the editing for after.
    • You get to actually make something, even if that something is just for you.
    • You get in touch with your imagination. You don’t have to make a masterpiece to achieve something with NaNoWriMo; sometimes it’s just about kick starting your creative side.

    Imagination BrainPOP UK Topic Screenshot

    • If you get a team together or join one online you can make it a collaborative experience.
    • During the edit, it’s a good opportunity to improve your grammar knowledge and writing skills. Especially if you’re using software like Scrivener which can tell you just how many times you wrote particular words and phrases you tend to overuse.

    How can you use NaNoWriMo in class?

    tim writing

    NaNoWriMo actually has a Young Writer’s Program(me) and although it’s American and aligned to the Common Core standards it has a lot of great resources and information that you can use in your classroom to get your students writing.

    You can even connect with other classes doing NaNoWriMo all over the world!

    Some Useful Resources to get started with:

    • NaNoWriMo’s Virtual Classroom can help you facilitate with your students such as tracking their progress and can help you connect to other classes all over the world
    • There’s an educator’s forum where you can share ideas and get help
    • There are workbooks and lesson plans that you can use to get ideas. (Although they’re American a lot of what’s in them is very transferable and some other educators in the forums may already have UK based lesson plans.)
    • This word count calculator is really useful. Sometimes you just can’t get your words done on a particular day and this tool helps you adjust your target as needed so you don’t need to panic!
    • NaNoWriMo pep talks written by successful authors (including authors who write for children and young adults such as Holly Black) are great for a bit of inspiration. This past one by Neil Gaiman is a particular favourite.
    • You can even get help publishing your student’s work when they’re done!
    • Downloadables such as this progress poster and these participation and winner certificates.

    And there’s loads of BrainPOP UK resources that can help your students if they’re struggling with their writing as well:

    Roald Dahl

    Happy writing!

    Related Posts:

    Tags: , , , , , , ,

  • 24 Sep
    Print pagePDF pageEmail page

    This month’s Spotlight is “Creative Writing“, where we’ve handpicked a selection of our finest writing topics such as Idioms & Cliches, Writing Dialogue, and Mood and Tone to help support and inspire young writers.

    BrainPOP UK Creative Writing Spotlight

    But what does every writer desire? A reader. A chance for someone else to fall in love with their words.

    So in the spirit of helping young BrainPOP writers find an audience and hone their skills we’ve highlighted 3 different creative writing challenges below. Each is free to enter, has lots of support for teachers and students and will offer inspiration by the bucketload. Good luck everyone!

    Wicked Young Writers Award – http://www.wickedyoungwriters.com

    Wicked Young Writers homepage

    “The “prestigious Wicked Young Writers’ Award” (The Times) was established by the long-running musical Wicked in order to link the important messages of the production with a competition that would inspire young people to use their writing to look at life a little differently. The Award recognises excellence in writing, encourages creativity, and helps develop writing talent in young people between 5-25 years old from all backgrounds and areas of the UK & Ireland.”

    This is a chance for your work to appear in a printed anthology, receive a certificate from the Duchess of Cornwall, and meet Michael Morporgo! If that doesn’t get your creative writing muscles twitching we don’t know what will!

    100 Word Challenge – http://100wc.net/

    100WC homepage

    We ask children to write in school but often there is no apparent purpose that they can see other than pleasing their teacher! This can prompt some very reluctant writers in our classrooms. The 100 Word Challenge seeks to address this problem. It is a weekly creative writing challenge for children under 16 years of age. Each week a prompt is given, which can be a picture or a series of individual words and the children can use up to 100 words to write a creative piece.

    This popular blog based writing challenge is a particular favourite of BrainPOP and runs every week. We think it’s a terrific way for young writers to get their work read, commented on and critiqued. It’s easy to enter and very popular. What are you waiting for? Go and tell your teacher about this right away!

    NaNoWriMo Young Writers Program – http://ywp.nanowrimo.org/

    NaNoWriMo homepage

    National Novel Writing Month happens every November! It’s a fun, seat-of-your-pants writing event where the challenge is to complete an entire novel in just 30 days. For one month, you get to lock away your inner editor, let your imagination take over, and just create! That means participants begin writing November 1 and must finish by midnight, November 30. The word-count goal for our adult program is 50,000 words, but the Young Writers Program (YWP) allows 17-and-under participants to set reasonable, yet challenging, individual word-count goals.

    This famous NaNoWriMo event for adults has been running for many years. This is the version aimed at children 17 and under. It’s as much about the challenge of writing a novel in 30 days and the energy of the community that supports the activity that makes it so exciting. It also has lots of great resources to improve your writing.

    Related Posts:

    Tags: , , , , ,

  • 24 Oct
    Print pagePDF pageEmail page

    After much discussion and debate over our favourite entries into the Get Cubed creative writing competition, we’ve narrowed it down to one winner.

    The winning story stood out for being a very well thought out piece, with attention-grabbing paragraph starters, and wonderful use of colourful adverbs and dialogue. We also loved how well the story cube images were incorporated as plot devices: the Map, the Shark, and the Crown.

    Without further ado, the winning tale.

    THE LEGACY by Sophie Millward-Sadler

    The Legacy by Sophie Millward-Sadler

    The pong of pig swill assaulted Kathy before she even opened her eyes. It was that bad.

    Reluctantly, she opened her eyes to the sight of the rundown yard where she worked. A rotten fence ran round the animal enclosure. Over the gravel driveway was a rusty shed that was an aeroplane hangar, until the airfield was destroyed by a bomb.

    There was a grunting sound from her left; it was her only pig, Betty. Groaning, Kathy got up and poured out some potato peelings.

    “We need more,” she said. Betty grunted. “I’ll have to go to town and buy some.”

    Kathy slipped over the fence and walked down to the town. It was cold.

    She got to the potato stall fine. It was just as she was getting her money to pay when hands grabbed her. She was dragged down the street and onto a ship. Once onboard, she was shoved down below decks. It was dark and dank.

    There was a clanking sound; the anchor being raised. A person appeared at the top of the ladder. He was bald with yellow teeth.

    “Now luvvy. We aren’t gonna hurt as long as you do what we want. Agreed?”

    Kathy nodded her head.

    “All we want you to do is follow a map and dig something up for us. Agreed?”

    She nodded again.

    “Oh, and you’ve got to swim to shore.” With that, he left. Kathy slept.

    When she woke up, the bald man was standing over her. Next thing, Kathy was teetering on the end of the plank. A shove from behind and she went tumbling into the turquoise water.

    Gasping, she emerged and began swimming for the shore of an island that was a few hundred metres away. A leather bag hit her head. Kathy picked it up and carried on swimming. A few seconds later, she caught a glimpse of a silver fin cutting through the water towards her. It couldn’t be a shark-

    It rose out of the water and its massive mouth gaped open, rows of menacing teeth gleaming in the sun.

    Kathy swore that she had never swum as quickly.

    When she reached shore, she was wheezing with the effort. As she recovered, Kathy opened the top of the leather bag and pulled out a map. A clichéd red X was marked just underneath a palm tree that was actually very close to her. A shovel was placed at the base of the trunk.

    Sighing, Kathy began digging.

    An hour and a small tonne of sand later, Kathy had a big chest next to her. It was open. Inside was an old document.

    This document states that the first child of Edward Cross is the rightful heir of this island and all of its lands.

    What? Edward Cross was Kathy’s father. That couldn’t be true.

    Underneath this document is the crown of these islands. Wear it with pride.

    Stunned, Kathy picked up the crown and placed it on her head.

    She was a queen.

    For her hard work, Sophie has won an exclusive piece of BrainPOP artwork (shown above).

    If you’d like to try your hand at some creative writing, the story cubes are still available to download here: BrainPOP UK Story Cubes



    Related Posts:

    Tags: , , , , , , ,

  • 03 Sep
    Print pagePDF pageEmail page

    Win an exclusive piece of BrainPOP artwork, inspired by your own writing!

    As part of September’s Creative Writing spotlight we’ve created story cubes and we want you to use them as inspiration for our Get Cubed creative writing competition.

    There are three different cubes to make. Download the PDF, print the cubes, cut out, and assemble.

    Ask an adult to help if you’re having difficulty.

    BrainPOP Story Cubes

    Click the image to start download.

    It’s time to get rolling

    Roll your completed cubes. Whichever three images land face up are your inspiration for some storytelling!

    If you don’t like the images you get, you can always take another roll, we won’t tell anyone 😉

    And now for some creative writing

    We want you to produce a piece of writing inspired by the story cubes and, whatever you create, we’d like to see it. Submit your finished piece for us to judge and we’ll pick a winner.

    If you win, you’ll get an exclusive piece of BrainPOP artwork based on your submission.

    Six runners-up will win back to school goodie sets.

    We’ll also feature our favourite entries here on POPtalk.

    Submission criteria

    • Finished work must be no longer than 500 words
    • This competition is for children aged between 6 and 15
    • The winner will be chosen by the BrainPOP UK team
    • You must use the BrainPOP story cubes as the starting point for your writing
    • Entries must be received by midnight on 21st September 2012
    • Entries received after the competition deadline will not be considered
    • The winners will be contacted by email before the end of September
    • Winning entries will be showcased on this blog
    • You can read our full Terms and Conditions on our website

    Submit your finished writing using the form below.

    Fill out my online form.
    We can’t wait to read your entries. Good luck! 

    Related Posts:

    Tags: , , , , , , ,

  • 03 Sep
    Print pagePDF pageEmail page

    This collection of English movies, quizzes, printable resources, and activities will provide you with the essential knowledge and skills for all types of creative writing and storytelling.

    Creative Writing Spotlight

    The topics highlighted for Creative Writing include:

    And we’ve introduced a host of new Famous Author topics:

    We’d like you to use this arsenal of support to help you take part in our Get Cubed competition: BrainPOP Story Cubes competition.

    BrainPOP Story Cubes

    Get Cubed Competition

    Related Posts:

    Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

  • 23 Aug
    Print pagePDF pageEmail page

    We’ve been working hard to bring you a host of new famous author topics to tie in with our Creative Writing Spotlight and today, Tim & Moby introduce you to an all American cast featuring the likes of Edgar Allan Poe and Mark Twain. 

    We hope you enjoy learning about them and also find a little inspiration too.

    Edgar Allan Poe – Do you get a thrill from getting the chills?

    Edgar Allan Poe

    In this movie, Tim and Moby shine a light on the dark tales of Edgar Allan Poe. Find out why this American author is known as the master of the macabre. Learn the trademark elements of Gothic horror, and see how Poe used them to explore the depths of human emotion. Analyse two of his most beloved short stories and his most famous poem, and find out just how much his career influenced other writers.

    It’s no mystery why the name Poe has come to symbolize an entire genre of literature!

    Quoth the robot, nevermore: Edgar Allan Poe.

    Jack London – Sailor, adventurer, politician, and best-selling author – he was all these things and more.

    Jack London

    Meet this remarkable character and find out how he crammed so much life into just 40 short years. In this movie you’ll learn about London’s childhood on the streets of Oakland in the USA, and how his love of books wasn’t deterred by the fact that he stopped going to school at age 13. You’ll follow his adventures to the Klondike region of Canada, where he doesn’t find much gold, but returns home with a ton of ideas for books and short stories some of which became very famous – such as White Fang and Call of the Wild. You’ll see how London’s socialist leanings informed such works as The People of the Abyss. Finally, you’ll learn about London’s influence on later authors, such as Ernest Hemingway and Jack Kerouac.

    So heed the call of the wild, and click on this movie!

    Judy Blume – Then Again, Maybe I Won’t. Otherwise Known as Sheila the Great. 

    Judy Blume

    The list of American author Judy Blume’s bestselling books goes on and on, and in this movie, Tim and Moby introduce you to the amazing woman behind them all.

    In this movie you’ll learn how she was inspired to write in a way that kids could relate to, and why some of her books have remained popular for more than 30 years. You’ll also discover why some people believe that her books should be removed from libraries, and why Judy Blume herself has campaigned tirelessly against this kind of censorship.

    So dust off your copy of “Superfudge” and check out this topic.

    Mark Twain – “There was things which he stretched, but mainly he told the truth.”

    Mark Twain

    Let Tim and Moby introduce you to the life and career of one of the most famous American writers, Samuel Clemens – a.k.a. Mark Twain. Discover when and were he was born, when he started working (he was pretty young!), and why he ended up taking his famous pen name. You’ll also learn why his newspaper articles were so popular and what two novels made him famous.

    Finally, you’ll find out what satire and dialect are, and why they were so powerful when Twain used them: Learn about Mark Twain.

    Maya Angelou – What makes this amazing author, actor, and activist, tick?

    Maya Angelou

    Find out in this movie, as Tim and Moby introduce you to the life and work of Maya Angelou. Learn about her troubled childhood and find out how the racism she experienced when she was young affected her work. You’ll also discover her most famous book and learn why people all over the world read it. Plus, you’ll see how the struggles she overcame led to her incredible success, and find out just a few of the awards and recognitions she’s received over the years.

    We can’t tell you exactly why the caged bird sings, but we might be able to give you a few ideas: Maya Angelou.

    Interested in learning about more famous authors? Simply visit our Famous Authors and Books category.


    Related Posts:

    Tags: , , , , , , , ,

  • 20 Aug
    Print pagePDF pageEmail page

    We can hardly believe it either but schools across the country are about to get noisy again. Scottish schools are already back for Autumn term and it’s not long until the rest of the UK head back too.

    But take heart! We’ve done our very best to make the dramatic plummet back to life on earth (a.k.a. reality) a little easier.

    Here are three reasons we hope make you shout, bring it on!

    1. Announcing the new UK Webinars Programme 2012/2013

    Tim & Moby present a webinar

    Starting in September, we’re going to be hosting webinars covering topics as basic as ‘An Introduction to BrainPOP’ to more advance topics like ‘Using BrainPOP with Google Apps’.

    Attending a BrainPOP UK Webinar is a simple and fun way to increase CPD credits from the comfort of your own home. Professional development in your PJs if you like 😉

    The first date for your diary is 24th September where Jude will give you ‘The BrainPOP Basics’: Whether you’re new to BrainPOP or a seasoned stalwart, join us for this introductory session. We’ll take you through the basic features of the site but also take a closer look at tools you might not use regularly but may prove beneficial. We’ll use examples of real classroom practice and you’ll be more than welcome to share with other attendees.

    We’ll be adding more information about how to sign up soon.

    2. Creative Writing inspiration

    Creative Writing

    Our Creative Writing spotlight is getting a lovely wax and polish up for September. We’ve spent a good deal of time putting together an English topics collection to help your students plan and structure their writing. Movies, POPquizzes, and activities should provide students with the essential knowledge and skills for all types of writing and storytelling.

    We’ll be including freebies for you to download and use in class or at home and we’ll be running a writing competition too.

    View all spotlights.

    3. A topic to ease you in

    Wondering what movie to check out right this very minute when you’re full of back to school highs and woes? We’ve got just the ticket.

    Back to School

    Tim and Moby give your students some sound advice on how to start the new school year in style in our Back to School topic. They’ll begin by learning how to stay safe on the journey to school, and then get some tips about what to do at lunchtime, how to behave in lessons, and why it’s always wise to be nice to teachers.

    They’ll also see how to get organised, how to set up a good place to do homework after school, and why staying up late is totally over-rated.

    Other helpful movies to watch this time of year:

    Still got the back to school blues?

    Just think – it’s not long until another school break…



    Related Posts:

    Tags: , , , , , , , ,