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Exploratree

What it is: Exploratree is a free web resource where teachers and students can download, use and create interactive thinking guides (graphic organizers). Thinking guides can be used to support independent or group research projects, students can think and plan easily. Thinking guides can be used collaboratively and shared for group projects. Exploratree has several ready-made thinking guides. Students and teachers can add to these guides or create their own from scratch to meet a specific classroom need. Ready made thinking guides include: tracking an enquiry, futures wheel, lotus blossom, from a different angle, thinking boxes, plus- minus- interesting, scamper, thinking actively in a social context, reverse planning, is/is not, complete reversal, compass rose, facts or opinions, making meanings, compare and contrast, knowing trees, digging up roots, traffic lights, examine existing and new ideas, using the essence, question things, a day in the life, and possible/probable/ preferable futures. How to integrate Exploratree into the classroom: Exploratree is a wonderful replacement for traditional paper/pencil graphic organizers. They are easy to use, navigate and include some amazing features that just aren’t possible with paper graphic organizers. As a teacher, you can set up the sequence that you want the thinking guide to be revealed, so that you can stage the thinking activity. Each portion of the organizer is revealed as students are working. Students can fill out the thinking guides online as they complete a project or teachers can create a thinking guide that fits a classroom activity and print them out for student use. Students can submit thinking guides so that they can be edited and reviewed by peers or a teacher with comments. Think about using Exploratree for ALL subjects. Students can use thinking guides to explore the scientific process, for KWL type charts, to predict what will happen in literature they are reading, to plan a story or report, to explore a historical figure, to organize thoughts before a writing assignment, in social studies as a current event organizer, to think about choices and possible outcomes, to show mathematical processes, to explore a topic using different senses or points of view, sort facts and opinions, and a day in the life of a notable figure just to name a few. Tips: Exploratree is in its Beta form so they are open to input and suggestions from educators. If you don’t see a feature you could use in your classroom…go ahead and suggest it!

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If It Were My Home: Compare Countries Visually

Posted by admin | Posted in Analyze, Anastasis Academy, Evaluate, Foreign Language, Geography, Government, Interactive Whiteboard, Knowledge (remember), Language Arts, Math, Middle/High School, Primary Elementary, Secondary Elementary, Social Studies, Understand (describe, explain), Websites | Posted on 11-02-2013

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What it is: We are just heading into a new inquiry block at Anastasis Academy.  The kids are exploring world communities and our interdependence on each other.  If it Were My Home is a fascinating website that asks students to consider what their life would be like if they were born in a different country.  Would they be the same person?  If it Were My Home is a country comparison tool where students can compare living conditions in their own country to those of another.  When students select a country, there is a visual overlay comparison of maps.  Students can easily visualize relative size of another country based on their own state or country.  Students will also see a break down of death rates, HIV/AIDS, birth rate, electricity availability, oil consumption, economic comparison, health care, and class divide.  Students have the ability to compare the country they selected with another country of interest.  Students can learn additional information about the country and vote to show if they would rather live in the chosen country.  Additionally, most countries offer a recommended reading list with books about the selected country.  When students click on the mini-facts, they get a full description of the fact along with the original source.  SO stinking cool!

How to integrate If it Were My Home into the classroom: If it Were My Home is an outstanding way for students to visualize and compare other countries to their own.  I love that this site helps students with geography, but also reveals that there is a real world community that is interdependent and diverse.  This site helps students recognize the unique place they are in the world and how it relates to other countries.  I love the added awareness of human rights and social justice issues that this site encourages.  In our inquiry unit, we are looking at what the facts listed on the site mean about the government, belief systems, human rights, equality, social justice and landscape of the countries they represent.

This is a site that can be used to help students ask bigger questions.  To see a fact about another country, and ask what bigger problems might be revealed, what we can learn from other countries, and break down some stereotypes that students may have about other countries.

Ask each student to choose a country to compare to their country of origin.  Have students pair up with a partner and compare their chosen countries to the country of origin.

Choose “Disasters” from the menu at the top of the screen to view some natural and man-made disasters that affected the lives of millions of people.  Students can view the scope of the disaster in relation to where they live, helping them to better visualize the impact that man-made and natural disasters can have on a population.

Tie in a creative writing project and have students imagine that they are moving from their country of origin to their chosen country.  Students can use the information and comparison as inspiration for their fictional story about what life would be like in their new home.   Students could also write a short autobiographical story about growing up in their country of origin, followed by a short “autobiographical” type story about their life growing up in a different country.

Use the statistical data in If it Were My Home for some real world mathematical comparison between countries.  If Rwanda has a 10.7 times higher chance of dying in infancy, how many infant deaths does it expect on average per year?  If Rwandans make 98.06% less than Americans, what would you expect an average salary to be?

I used Rwanda as my example because Rwanda is where we started our first Anastasis sister school.  Our 2nd-3rd grade class has been absolutely fascinated with Rwanda and poured over this site to learn more. :)

Tips: Encourage your students to read one of the recommended books about the country they chose. This will help them understand more about the country they chose, and give the people in that country voice beyond the facts listed.

Leave a comment and tell us how you are using  If it Were My Home in your classroom.

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