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Secret Builders Update

What it is: I have reviewed Secret Builders virtual world before, but some new additions and features deserve another post.  Secret Builders is a virtual world for kids (8-12) that introduces them to fictional characters from history and literature.  Secret Builders has added a host of new historical characters that students can interact with including: Jane Austen, Bach, Alexander Bell, Emily Bronte, Confucius, Marie Curie, Thomas Edison, Hafez, Magellen, Omar Khxyam, Motzart, Issac Newton, Rumi, and Lao Tzu just to name a few.  Students can actually visit the historical figures house, learn more about them, interact with them by asking questions in a virtual chat (answered as the character would answer), and take a quiz to find out how much they know about the historical figure.  Secret Builders allows kids to get up close and personal with history in ways not previously possible.  It allows them to gain a better understanding of historical figures than a textbook offers.  Secret Builders has additional school friendly features like areas for students to write, collaboratively draw and share, and play educational puzzle games.  Secret Builders also has a great Internet safety quiz that tests students on their knowledge of what online behavior should look like.  Secret Builders has just added a Teacher’s Console where teachers can add and manage their students from one central location.  Teachers can also set up an online reward system for students where they can unlock special Secret Builder features by completing “quests” that you assign.  For example, you may be studying Thomas Edison in class.  You could send students on a quest to find and learn about Thomas Edison and give the reward to those students that correctly complete the quiz. How to integrate Secret Builders into the classroom: Secret Builders is an excellent way to bring history to life for your students.  They will understand historical and literary figures better as they interact with them in this virtual world.  Secret Builders is best in a lab setting where every student has access to a computer.  Be sure to sign your class up under a teacher account where you can control and monitor what students are expected to do in Secret Builders.  Encourage students to interact and “interview” the historical figures that they encounter.  They can then write an article about the historical figure for the Secret Builders virtual newspaper.  Secret Builders is a great first stop for learning about important figures in history.  It will leave them wanting more and excited to learn more about these interesting people in history. Tips: Secret Builders also has a program that is connected called “One for All” students can raise money for their school by answering math, logic, geography, and vocabulary questions. Leave a comment and share how you are using Secret Builders  in your classroom.

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BoomWriter: Collaborative story writing

Posted by admin | Posted in collaboration, Create, Evaluate, Interactive book, Language Arts, Middle/High School, Primary Elementary, Secondary Elementary, Teacher Resources, Web2.0, Websites | Posted on 12-06-2012

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What it is:  I just learned about this fantastic site from fellow edublogger @dkapuler, thanks David!  Boom Writer is a fun site that gives you a new way to engage your students in creative writing, and will have them assessing themselves in a new way.  Using Boom Writer, you (the teacher) choose or produce your own story starter.  Each student follows this prompt letting their imagination take over.  One chapter at a time, student write, read and vote on the submissions they like the most.  The winning chapter gets added to the story and the process continues.  You can determine how many chapters will be completed.  When the collaborative story is finished, the book can be read online or published and turned into a published print copy.

How to integrate BoomWriter into the classroom: BoomWriter is a great tool for creating collaborative stories as a class. I like that BoomWriter has students not only creating, but critically evaluating each other’s work. Students work on their own creative writing while building each other up as writers.  Begin by creating a prompt.  Give it to your students to think about.  They can write their “what happens next” chapter of the book and submit it for approval.  This is your chance to edit or return to a student to continue development of the story or idea. After student writing has been approved, students can read each other’s addition to the story and vote on their favorite (they won’t see who the author was and they won’t be able to vote on their own).  The chapter with the highest votes gets added to the story and the process repeats.  You can choose as many chapters as you would like the finished story to have.

This would be a fun whole-class project, but if you have a large class, you might split your class into smaller groups so that each student has the opportunity to get “published” in the book.  Groups could start with the same prompt or each have a different prompt.  Rather than the group voting on their own story, they could vote on another groups story.

BoomWriter isn’t only for creative story writing, students could share what they know about a specific topic or unit of study.  Each student can add a chapter about what has been learned.  Students can essentially create their own collaborative textbook.

BoomWriter is a great tool to help students understand writing with purpose and audience in mind.  It is also a helpful way to get students to think critically about their own writing and evaluating other’s writing.

Tips: Books can be read online or purchased and added to your classroom library.

Please leave a comment and share how you are using BoomWriter in  your classroom!

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