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10 Technology Enhanced Alternatives to Book Reports

Traditional book reports can kill the love of reading, keep your students motivated and still assess their understanding with these 10 technology enhanced alternatives that I wrote for http://theapple.com.   Kelly Tenkely | TheApple.com The most dreaded word in school reading for students: book reports. Teachers assign them, viewing them as a necessary component of assessing reading comprehension. Book reports can be a contributing factor to ‘readicide’. “Read-i-cide n: The systematic killing of the love of reading, often exacerbated by the inane, mind-numbing practices found in schools.” http://stenhouse.com/html/readicide.htm. So, how can we as teachers continue to monitor our students understanding of reading material without killing the love of reading? Enter technology. Technology can help bring some excitement and creativity to the traditional book report while still displaying students understanding of reading. 1. Let students create a cartoon version of the book they have just finished. Use a tool like Creaza http://creaza.com, Piki Kids http://pikikids.com, or Kerpoof http://kerpoof.com to inject a little fun into the book report. Students can create a short cartoon or comic strip summarizing the book they just read. Encourage students to include key characters from the book as well as the problem and solution. If there are no appropriate background templates to fit the book they have just finished, students can tell the story in the form of an interview between two characters or choose a cartoon character to review the book. This alternative to book reports is particularly appealing to boys who are already excited about graphic novels. 2. Let students create a short video clip about the book. Creaza http://creaza.com, Kerpoof http://kerpoof.com, and Xtra normal text to movie http://xtranormal.com are all great online tools that allow students to create short movie clips. Students can create an interview type show where they interview characters in the book, create a short movie trailer for the book, or actually have characters act out portions of the book. 3. Create a virtual poster advertising the book. Think about movie posters, they give just enough information to give you a taste of what the movie will be about. They also contain information such as the title of the movie, the major actors, and a rating. Students can use Glogster http://glogster.edu to create an online book poster that acts as an advertisement for the book they just read. Students should include the title and author of the book, key characters, use pictures that support the story line, and create a tag line that will make others want to read the book. 4. Encourage students to create their own virtual bookshelves with Shelfari http://shelfari.com. Shelfari is not only a great alternative to book reports, it is also a nice alternative to reading logs. Shelfari allows students to display books that they have read on a virtual bookshelf. This site enables students to connect with other students and teachers, sharing book recommendations and reading reviews. Shelfari provides the ability to create online book clubs and discussions. Inspire students with similar interests to start a book club where they read and discuss together. When students finish reading a book they can add it to their bookshelf, rate the book, and write a short review of the book for others to read. The collaborative component makes it easy to keep up with what students are reading and to measure understanding. It also allows teachers to recommend books to students based on what they are currently reading. This is a great way to keep your students engaged in their reading and ensures they will always have great suggestions for new books to keep them reading. 5. Book Adventure http://bookadventure.org is an online reading motivation program. Teachers create student accounts on Book Adventure. In the student account students can research books based on their reading level, age, and interests. They get a convenient printable list of books that match their level and interests. The list includes the ISBN, Title, and author. This makes it easy for students to head to the library and hunt down new reading material. After students have read a book, they can log onto their Book Adventure account and take a 10 question multiple choice quiz based on the book they read. Students can take each quiz multiple times and must get 8 or more questions correct to earn points to purchase prizes from the Book Adventure store. Each students score is automatically sent to the Book Adventure teacher gradebook along with the number of times the quiz was taken. Students earn and save up quiz points to purchase fun goodies from the Book Adventure store. Students can get everything from a 6 month subscription to Highlights magazine to a chocolate bar from Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory. This is a completely FREE program for students and schools to participate in. Book Adventure has a great teacher area with ideas for encouraging reading as well as certificates to print out to recognize good readers and notes for parents with the students latest reading progress. 6. Bookcasting is a recorded audio podcast about a book. A bookcast is a movie trailer-like audio review of a book that students can create and share with one another. Free online tools such as Audacity http://audacity.com, G Cast http://gcast.com, or Pod Bean http://podbean.com make recording audio and sharing simple. Bookcasts let students be creative and provide them with a great sense of audience. It has the added benefit of acting as a book review to excite other students about reading. Before students create their own bookcast, find some radio movie trailers of current kids movies online for students to listen to as an example. 7. Allow students to create a timeline of events in the story they just read in an online timeline. Capzles http://capzles.com is an interactive timeline creator. Students can add photos, video, audio and text to their timeline to support telling the story sequentially. Themes, colors, backgrounds, and background music can be added to further personalize the timeline. Timelines have the ability to be shared with other students and teachers. 8. Wikis are an excellent place for students to share book reviews. Wetpaint http://wetpaint.com, PBWorks http://pbworks.com, and Zoho Wiki http://zoho.com/wiki are outstanding online wikis where students can write reviews about books they have read and share them with other students. Create a classroom book review wiki where all students can logon and add books that they are reading with reviews. The wiki could act like a classroom review column for books. Students can both contribute and read book reviews. By the end of the school year you will have a wiki full of great book reviews! Before students contribute to the book review wiki, read some movie reviews from the local newspaper. Encourage students to point out key elements of a good review. 9. Excite and motivate students to read with Book Wink http://bookwink.com. This incredible website motivates students in 3rd to 8th grade to read using fun podcasts and web videos. The video book talks range from 3-4 min. in length and introduce students to a topic or genre and the books that exhibit the topic well. Students can watch a video and then search books by grade, subject, author, or title. After students read a book, they can create their own book talk using a web cam or video camera. The student book talks could be shared on websites like Viddler http://viddler.com or Fliggo http://fliggo.com so that other students can watch and comment on the book or topic. 10. Voice Thread http://voicethread.com is an amazing site that allows students to create web 2.0 slide shows that become interactive and collaborative. This is a great place for students to discuss common genres and books online. Students can create a slideshow summary of their book with pictures, audio, and text. Other students can leave text, audio, or drawn comments on the book reviews. Voice Thread would be a great place to begin online classroom book clubs. Technology brings interest back into reading and helps students continue to find reading that they enjoy while providing the teacher with feedback about student reading comprehension. These are great alternatives to book reports that will keep your students from ‘readicide’. Most of the above tools have the added benefit of being able to be embedded into a classroom blog, website, or wiki. All student projects can be collected, organized, and viewed in one place. It doesn’t get better than this!

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Playfic: create, play and remix text-based games

Posted by admin | Posted in Analyze, collaboration, Create, Evaluate, History, Interactive book, Language Arts, Middle/High School, Primary Elementary, Science, Secondary Elementary, Teacher Resources, Web2.0, Websites | Posted on 08-01-2013

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What it is: Playfic is a site that let’s users create, play and remix online text-based games.  I may have lost some of you already…but don’t leave yet! A text-based game is a genre of game that uses no graphics or sound, but instead, uses text to tell a story in an interactive world.  Think of a choose your own adventure tech-style.  Students can create a story that others can interact with by directing the story using words and phrases.  As an example, the story might be about a forest, describing what you can see East, West, North and South.  The player would type in a direction “East”, hit the return key, and the story progresses.  You can try out a sample text-based game here.

How to integrate Playfic into the classroom: Playfic has all kinds of good stuff for classrooms.  To create a story, students must first learn a little bit of coding.  Tutorials are included on the Playfic site, and are easy enough to get your students up and running in no time.  There is even a link to an Inform 7 (coding language) recipe book that will have your students dreaming up new scenarios and actively researching how to make them come to life.  Students can create games for each other while strengthening their writing and grammar skills.  This is wonderful for fictitious writing, but could also be used for students to explore “what ifs” in history and science.  Students can take a moment in time and dream up what might have been different about the world if the event hadn’t happened the way that it had.  As they are researching and learning about the actual event, they will also be analyzing why the event is important and critically thinking about it’s impact on the world we live in.  Similarly, students could explore a science experiment, hypothesizing what will happen and the different outcomes that might occur.

Teachers could create these choose your own adventure stories for students for new learning or review of a topic.  Wouldn’t it be cool to have a story using sight word vocabulary that prompted practice with the sight words?

I know a handful of students who really struggle with writing…it is PAINFUL.  These students are brilliant. They have great ideas to share. One of the students I have in mind came up to me today and said, “over break I taught myself Lua (programming language).”  Students like these will be all over this type of writing.  What a cool way to engage them and excite them about the writing process in a new way.

One of the things that I really like about Playfic is that it takes a lot of planning, organizing, and thought to create this type of story.  For some students the planning/organizing portion of writing is a real struggle.  This site would be so useful in teaching students the importance of those steps.  I also love that it will have them researching and looking up solutions for how to make their ideas come to life.  Just like we do every day in the “real world.”

Tips: The Inform 7 Recipe book can be found here. 

Leave a comment and tell us how you are using  Playfic in your classroom.

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