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iCivics- teaching students civics through games

What it is:  iCivics is a great way for students to learn about civics in the United States.  The site features 16 educational video games that help students understand our government.  In addition to the great games, iCivics has great standards-aligned civics curriculum available for free to teachers! Games include topics like: Citizenship and Participation, the Constitution and Bill of Rights, Budgeting, Foreign Policy and National Defense, Separation of Powers, the Executive Branch, the Legislative Branch, and the Judicial Branch.  The games are fantastic, and put students right in the middle of the action and story. Activate- Students campaign for an issue of their choice. Cast Your Vote- Students choose the questions in a debate, rate the candidates responses, and cast a vote. Immigration Nation- Students help newcomers along their path to citizenship. Responsibility Launcher- Students help others with civic common sense. Argument Wars- Students argue a real Supreme Court case using persuasive abilities. Do I Have a Right- Student run their own law firm that specializes in constitutional law. Counties Work- Students make decisions about community programs and services. People’s Pie- Student control the budget of the federal government. Crisis of Nations- Student work to solve international problems. Branches of Power- Students control all three branches of government. Executive Command- Student get to be president. Win the White House- Students get to manage their own presidential campaign including raising funds and polling voters. Supreme Decision- Students help cast the deciding vote. Court Quest- Student help others navigate the US court system. Students can join iCivics for free.  When they do, they can take part in the Impact Competition where they play games, earn points, spend points on a iCivics real life project of their choice. As a teacher, you can sign up for an iCivics account where you can add classes and students. How to integrate iCivics into the classroom: iCivics is a great way to help students better understand the US government.  The games are engaging, relatively quick to play (one class period), and teach everything that students need to know to play the game.  Students with little or no understanding of the topic will be introduced to everything they need to know within the game. The games are a great way to learn about civics because they put students right in the middle of the action, the games remind me a little of the SIMS games that I played as a kid.  Students will enjoy being the decision maker in the game-this isn’t a power point presentation disguised as a game (you know you have seen those!). iCivics is best played on individual computers in a one-to-one or lab setting.  If you don’t have access to a lab where your students can play, students could play as a whole class using an interactive whiteboard or projector-connected computer.  Make sure that every students gets a chance to participate and weigh in on decisions that are made. Tips: The lesson plans in the teacher section are truly well done.  These are worth using in your classroom!  Games are now available in the app store as well! Please leave a comment and share how you are using iCivics in  your classroom!

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Podcast Summit

Posted by admin | Posted in Language Arts, Phonics, Primary Elementary, Science, Secondary Elementary, Spelling, Teacher Resources | Posted on 20-02-2008

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As promised I want to share some of the incredible uses of podcasting in the classroom that I heard at the Colorado Podcast Summit yesterday. One of the keynote speakers was ISTE Primary Teacher of the Year Carol Greig. Her Keynote entitled “Podcasting for the Struggling Reader” was truly inspiring. Carol teaches kindergarten in the Eugene School District in Oregon, here she started a podcasting program for her struggling readers called Reading Buddies. The Reading Buddies program uses several iPod shuffles that are loaded with reading lessons (created and recorded by Carol) that go home with the students. Carol said something that I think rings true with educators everywhere, “No one can teach my students as well as I can.” Reading Buddies allowed Carol to go home with her students every night using the iPod. The goal of the Reading Buddies program was to help struggling readers reach the benchmark. Carol loaded the iPods with reading lessons based on the individual child’s needs, this provided guided learning at home with and extended student learning. In the Reading Buddies packs Carol included vocabulary picture cards which she created, fluency cards, a book or two and the iPod Shuffle. A sample lesson might sound something like this: “Take out the green picture card. What picture do you see first? That’s right, a cat! Cat starts with the letter C. Cat, Cat. What is the next picture?” Carol pauses after a question so that the students have time to think and respond. The Reading Buddies program helps kids with vocabulary, fluency, alphabetic principal, rhyming, phoneme segmentation, and literature. The iPod “buddies” have been a huge success with 99% of students reaching the reading benchmark by the end of the year. Carol started getting calls from parents requesting that their student be a part of the Reading Buddy program, parents and other educators in the district started offering help to create the recordings for the Reading Buddies. At the end of the first year a parent called to thank her for the wonderful program and things it had done for her son, but she also benefited. After her son went to bed, the mother would listen to the reading buddy and follow along, she learned English by listening to her kindergarten son’s Reading Buddy! There are some good rules that were set up for the students who have reading buddies, each child was told that only the child who was given the Reading Buddy was allowed to use it, if a Buddy was lost or broken the students family was responsible for replacing it. It is a privelege that can be taken away if the Buddies were not cared for. They have never had to take a Buddy away or replace one that was lost or broken by a student. The future of the Reading Buddies program includes expansion to other grades, older students could have their anthologies or science text recorded on the Shuffle. The Reading Buddies program won the presidential award for reading and technology…it is easy to see why!

The new iPod Nano would be great to use as a reading buddy because students could have audio and visual presented. The Shuffles are nice because they are so affordable (the 1G just dropped to $49 yesterday!) I am hoping to get a Reading Buddy Program up and running at my school. I will keep you posted with any success stories or lessons learned!

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[…] and help students develop a love for story.  Books Should Be Free is a great way to start a Reading Buddies program at your school with some MP3 players or iPods that can go home with students loaded up with […]

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