Videos, Butterfly Wings and Endless Energy: One Teacher’s Take on Teaching a Class Full of Boys

How do real teachers bring learning to life through technology, video and more in a variety of classrooms? This is the first post in the Strategic Teaching blog series sponsored by NBC Learn on Pearson Online Learning Exchange (OLE). Imagine […]

Brought to you by Pearson OLE


How do real teachers bring learning to life through technology, video and more in a variety of classrooms? This is the first post in the Strategic Teaching blog series sponsored by NBC Learn on Pearson Online Learning Exchange (OLE).

Imagine my surprise as I looked at my class list for the first time and quickly realized that 15 of my 20 students were boys!! (I know that you’re thinking that 20 students is a dream, but still!! That’s a lot of boys!) In preparation, I read a professional text about teaching boys (that and I buffed up on my sports knowledge), but nothing could prepare me for the torrent of energy that was going to burst through my door on the first day of school. I should have spent less time reading about wide receivers and how to get boys to love reading and more time finding meaningful ways to engage boys in their learning and to harness all of that amazing energy they have.

After a few days of teaching mini-lessons to a very squirmy group of students and then sending them (usually unsuccessfully!) off to their desks to work, I realized that something had to change. I took one of my husband’s favorite phrases to heart: the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result. As I thought and reflected and pondered what to do, I also listened. I listened to my students’ recess conversations and what they talked about at snack time and when they lined up. An overwhelming number of conversations were about video games or cartoon characters or the latest app they had downloaded.

I sat back and thought about my teaching practices and how little time I spend utilizing technology in the classroom. These kids needed more action, and I decided that they would find it through videos, PowerPoint presentations or anything else with graphics and motion!

After a social studies unit that was kind of a bust (boring!), we started our science unit on butterflies. This unit has some amazing opportunities for hands-on exploration as we watch our caterpillars turn into butterflies, but it still was not enough “screen time” for these kids! I did a “butterfly” search on Pearson Online Learning Exchange (OLE – I have a subscription through school) and found videos that perfectly matched my second-grade standards! There were worksheets and books that are read out loud and other butterfly resources too, but like I said, I was focused on finding videos and animation.

My second-grade students and I watched an NBC Learn video (which streamed into Pearson OLE through the NBC Learn on OLE subscription) that I found about the monarch butterfly migration. It was fascinating! I sat back and watched with my students and as the video showed the massive monarch butterfly colony flying away, I heard “Wow!” “That is awesome!” and “That is beautiful!” For a class that has difficulty not talking, that was the most I had heard them say throughout the whole video! After the video, we worked on the L (what I learned) column of our KWL chart and the students added this information: “Monarch butterflies migrate for six weeks.” “These butterflies live for nine months.” And “When the butterflies are cold they huddle together for warmth.” This was the most engaged I had seen my students in days! I was curious about what it was that they liked so much about the video and they told me that they loved “seeing what it’s really like” and “getting more experience about the butterfly.” I loved that it was an actual NBC news video that was appropriate for my second graders, so not only were they learning about butterfly migration, they were learning about it in an authentic way.

Colleagues of mine have also been trying out Pearson OLE with me, so during lunch one day I told kindergarten teacher Nichole Mcintosh and third-grade teacher Monica Johnson about my experience and asked them if they had had similar experiences. Nichole said that she had shown her students a video called Living Things Video: Living and Nonliving and that the students loved it! Nichole told me that the kids cracked up when the actors were being silly (I love that the people who made the video know that kindergarten students need to be silly!) and that the kids sat quietly and were engaged the rest of the time. Another kindergarten teacher, Cassidy Platt, told a funny story about how fascinated the kids were by the plants growing in time lapse. They couldn’t get over how quickly those plants grew! Monica, a third-grade teacher, used NBC Learn on OLE to show a math video about multiplication facts and the distributive property. The kids loved the animation and the fact that the numbers moved around the screen. I say that anything that gets kids excited about multiplication is a winner!

I am constantly amazed by the need to mix things up as a teacher. Just when I think I have the hang of it, we get new standards or I discover that what worked last year is definitely not going to work this year. Last year, my kids loved listening to me read and learned a ton through shared and interactive readings. This year, my kids—mostly boys—are bored by read-alouds! I have been searching out new and exciting ways to engage my students in their learning, and my colleagues and I have had a lot of fun exploring NBC Learn on OLE.

Get access to the NBC Learn classroom video library that this author and the other teachers used, and check out their free trial as well as freebie lessons and videos to try right away.

Posted by WeAreTeachers Staff

Leave a reply

Check out our K-5 Resources for Learning at Home all Summer LongGo Now >>