Review by Monica Encarnacion, Common Sense Education | Updated September 2017


Great mix of fun lessons and practice has solid language support

Subjects & skills
  • English-Language Learning

  • Communication & Collaboration
  • Critical Thinking
Grades This grade range is based on learning appropriateness and doesn't take into account privacy. It's determined by Common Sense Education, not the product's publisher.
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Teachers say (1 Review)

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Pros: Colorful, engaging, and easy to use, the site provides integrated lessons that make learning and teaching English easier.

Cons: Subject matter coverage is somewhat limited; doesn't include access to BrainPOP's main site offerings.

Bottom Line: There's no fluff here -- everything on the site is aimed at helping ELLs learn to read, write, and speak English.

There are a lot of ways to use BrainPOP ESL in the classroom. The program is extensive enough to be used as part of a daily curriculum, or as a review of various grammar topics. Teachers can also assign the units as supplemental activities for practice on their own. BrainPOP ESL apps for iOS, Android, and Windows now make it even easier to use the program in classrooms. It's perfect for use in learning centers. Students can also go on to create concept maps themselves using the new Make-a-Map tool and highlight what they've learned by including images, keywords, and short clips from the BrainPOP ESL movies. Subject-area teachers won't find as many useful materials, as the focus is almost exclusively on grammar and more practical and general school vocabulary. However, the regular BrainPOP site has tons of content that could be useful for more advanced ELLs.

Teacher resources provided with BrainPOP ESL include printable materials such as curriculum alignment charts, student progress trackers, vocabulary games, and activities. For even more instructional support, click on the Lesson Ideas button to access a Lesson Overview page, and you'll find a detailed lesson plan, related teaching tips, and related printables. Teachers can also access the BrainPOP Educators page to learn best practices, find helpful lesson plans and teaching resources, access training and professional development opportunities, and become part of the wider community of BrainPOP educators.

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BrainPOP ESL is a subscription-based English language learner (ELL) website featuring games, activities, and animated movies designed for English as a second language (ESL) students, from beginner to advanced. It provides a grammar progression and focuses on reading, writing, vocabulary building, listening, and speaking. Content is broken down into three levels. Each level is made up of six units and each unit contains five lessons.  Although a few movies and activities at each level are free to try, you'll need a subscription in order to gain full access to all content. Students can get started by taking the placement test. During the test, students listen to statements and short stories, and then select pictures that match. Teachers can track progress, assign lessons, and even provide feedback through a teacher dashboard via My BrainPOP and its individual account system, but only with a schoolwide subscription.

Lessons follow the familiar cartoon characters Ben and Moby through their adventures at school and in daily life. Each lesson has a specific grammar focus and covers new vocabulary that's either school- or life-related or a simple content topic, like mammals. Each lesson starts off with a short animated video. Students can continue learning and practicing with interactive flash cards, games, reading and writing activities, concept mapping, and quizzes.

Unlike a lot of sites where fun games engage students separately from the learning, BrainPOP ESL seamlessly integrates engaging lessons with language practice to create an excellent resource for ELLs. The lessons and activities are fun, practical, and easy to navigate. As students progress, lessons become more challenging and build on previous topics. Each activity on the site has visual (videos, pics, captions) and listening/speaking components. New words and concepts are repeated many times, and students have lots of opportunities to practice listening, reading, writing, and speaking as they play with the interactive activities. Students can even record and play back their voices to work on pronunciation in the Hear It, Say It activity. The Make-a-Map section lets students create easy maps that help transform information into knowledge.

The site seems most appropriate for upper-elementary and middle school students, but ELLs of all ages and stages of English language acquisition may benefit from its use. Older students may not be as engaged with the topics, as many seem too simple or not as relevant to high school. Still, older students will find the vocabulary and grammar focus useful, especially if they're just beginning to learn English. Younger students will be captivated by the colorful visuals and easy-to-follow format of each movie. While the videos are at the centerpiece of this website, there's also an abundance of interactive activities, ELL appropriate games, quizzes, and printables that help round out the language learning experience. BrainPOP ESL also meets WIDA Correlation to ensure that it advances academic language development and academic achievement for English learners and meets English Language Development (ELD) Standards.

Overall Rating

Engagement Is the product stimulating, entertaining, and engrossing? Will kids want to return?

The site is vibrant, well-organized, and easy to use. Cute animated characters guide lessons, which include short movies, interactive games, and practice. Activities hold student attention while teaching vocabulary and grammar.

Pedagogy Is learning content seamlessly baked-in, and do kids build conceptual understanding? Is the product adaptable and empowering? Will skills transfer?

Learning is built into every component of the lessons, which all have reading, writing, listening, and speaking practice plus vocabulary support and interactive games. Lessons get more challenging as students progress.

Support Does the product take into account learners of varying abilities, skill levels, and learning styles? Does it address both struggling and advanced students?

The Quick Tour provides a video that explains all the features. There are lesson plans, content background info, unit overviews, word lists, a grammar index, and ideas for extra practice included. 

Common Sense Reviewer
Monica Encarnacion School support staff

Teacher Reviews

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Featured review by
Marsha S. , Classroom teacher
Classroom teacher
Beginning ELL students loved BrainPOP ESL!
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