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Book Punch

  What it is: Book Punch is a new site dedicated to helping students in grades 3-9 become stronger readers.  The site takes the most popular books read by schools in grades 3 through 9 and provides guided reading prompts about the reading improving overall reading comprehension.  Book Punch encourages critical thinking skills and teaches students how to be in control of their own learning (this to me is the purpose of education).  Students are led through the writing and thinking process as they read books with Book Punch.  Interactive prompts help students to focus their thinking about a particular book.  There are hundreds of built in tips and support that help students to gather ideas, organize thoughts, revise, edit, etc. in response to the literature they are reading.  The site walks them in a very concise manner through the reading/thinking process.  Students each get a login to the Book Punch site and can work at their own pace, making it easy for you to differentiate instruction in your classroom.  As a teacher, you can assign a book to your whole class or to individual students making it easy to meet every student at their current reading level.   The site offers teachers lesson plans, activities, classroom management ideas, tips and strategies, and classroom aids.  Book Punch is not a free service, but they offer a free demo writing activity for every book as well as a free pilot program to use with students for 30 days (any two books of your choice.)  Even if you can’t fit it into the budget for this year, Book Punch is definitely worth the visit if you teaching reading and writing for 3rd-9th grade.  The free demos are wonderful and will give you a great jumping off point for your reading curriculum.   How to integrate Book Punch into the classroom:  I LOVE sites that teach students how to think critically.  For me, that is what education is all about.  If I know how to gather information, how to follow directions, how to write, and how to think critically about what I find…I am going to do just fine in the real world!  Book Punch leads students through the reading/thinking process.  It meets students where they are at and the helps meet individual needs.  The site gives you the opportunity to find out where gaps are occurring in student reading and comprehension so that you can work with students more effectively.  Book Punch is intended to be an individual student program that would be best in a computer lab or mobile lab setting.  However, depending on how your time is set up, I think that Book Punch could be used effectively in the one or two computer classroom as a center that students visit during reading time.  The demo questions would be perfect for use with a projector and whole class discussion or writing.  Book Punch works right into your current curriculum and literature, making it simple to implement.  The ability for students to login to Book Punch at school or from home makes it an even sweeter deal! Tips:  Try out Book Punch for free and be sure to get it on the budget for next year if you can’t fit it in this year, it is very reasonably priced and well worth it!    Leave a comment and share how you are using Book Punch in your classroom.       

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Smithsonian Quests: Learning through discovery and collaboration

Posted by admin | Posted in Analyze, Apply, Art, Character Education, collaboration, Create, Evaluate, Foreign Language, Geography, Government, History, Inquiry, Knowledge (remember), Language Arts, Math, Middle/High School, Music, PE, Primary Elementary, Science, Secondary Elementary, Social Studies, Teacher Resources, Understand (describe, explain), Web2.0, Websites | Posted on 07-05-2013

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What it is:
Smithsonian Quests encourage students to explore learning through discovery and collaboration.  As students learn, they can earn digital badges for their quests.  Students can explore their own interest through a series of online activities while incorporating knowledge and skill-building in the online quests.  The quests ask students to explore a topic of interest as part of a standards-based curriculum or as a student-driven after school activity.  By signing  up for Smithsonian Quests, you will receive an invitation to join a grade-level based group in the Smithsonian Quest Community.  Students from kindergarten through adult learners can join Smithsonian Quest and collect badges.

How to integrate Smithsonian Quests into the classroom: Smithsonian Quests is a great program that connects transdisciplinary learning with digital badges.  As your class works through the site, they will start to realize how they have been learning, exploring, connecting and acting.  Students can unlock a badge by completing a set of quests that go with it.  Some Quests are independent and others are collaborative.  Quests get reviewed by a group of “specially selected experts” before badges are awarded.  Badges include: oral historian, historical biographer, cool curator, cultural storyteller, portrait reader, community historian, symbols spotter, correspondent, dirt detective, art advocate, environ-scientist, culture keeper, eco-journalist, time traveler, H2O hero, conservation campaigner, invasions investigator and tree hugger.  Quests include things like listening to audio, taking pictures, recording, etc.  As you can see, there are quests for every interest!

When students sign up for quests, they get invited into a group (class group when the teacher sets up the account), can add friends, see the badges they have collected, and view friends who are online.  Students also get an online journal where they can reflect on learning or update their status with the kind of learning they are doing.

I like that these quests can be done collaboratively (a whole class goal to earn the digital badges by learning?) and that they are  largely discovery based learning.   The quests really challenge students to dig deeper in learning and often lead to additional questions.  Quests can also be completed individually by students.  Students can explore areas that are high-interest for them. These Smithsonian Quests would be a fantastic end of the year project where students are driving their own learning but working toward a known goal.  Spend the last week of school with a time for students to share their learning with others.

As we head into summer break in the United States, consider suggesting Smithsonian Quests to parents as a great summer-time learning opportunity.

Tips:  Register for free and have a look around to see all of the cool opportunities for your classroom!

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

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