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Word Dynamo: Vocabulary made fun

What it is:  Word Dynamo is a superb site from Dictionary.com.  Word Dynamo makes learning new words a whole lot of fun. Here is how it works: 1.  Answer 10 questions and Word Dynamo will calculate how many words a student knows. This is your word score. The word score adjusts as you learn new words, Word Dynamo helps give students study “shortcuts” to learn new words faster. 2.  Word Challenge- in word challenge students are offered a custom 20-level game designed especially for their skill level.  As students master meanings, they unlock the next threshold of difficulty. 3.  The Word Dynamo Library- here students can browse and search for things they need to learn.  Students can choose to practice by schooling level, SAT prep, subject or popular word lists. 4.  Play Games- students can practice vocabulary by matching terms and definitions, listening to the word and definition, spell a word out in a crossword puzzle, etc. New challenges are unlocked as students succeed! 5.  Create a Word List- this one is my favorite, I love that students can create their own lists based on what they need to work on. How to integrate Word Dynamo into the classroom:  Word Dynamo is an easy fit into any classroom k-12.  This is a great addition to your language arts, math, economics, science, history, (ANY) classroom.  Word Dynamo gives students the keys to their own learning by working with them at their own level.  It would be wonderful to use Word Dynamo throughout the year to keep kids playing with words.  Students will love watching their own “estimated words you know” score creep up and up over the course of the school year.  Vocabulary is one of those things that students don’t always realize that they are learning throughout the school day.  Then *bam* they wake up one day and suddenly know a whole LOT of words. The games and practice items on Word Dynamo make for a great vocabulary center on classroom computers during language arts.  But, as I mentioned before, my very favorite part is the ability for students to create their own lists.  At Anastasis, we have  students constantly adding to their own spelling/vocabulary list as they come across new words they want to learn.  I like that Word Dynamo give them a place to keep, practice and play with these words.  Students have ownership over their own learning and aren’t stuck practicing and testing on the words they already know. Do you assign spelling and vocabulary words each week?  Let students enter those words in their custom list to practice! Because Word Dynamo is constantly utilizing the feedback it gets from students, it is constantly challenging them and urging them on to a new personal best.  Students can watch their score go up, engage in challenges, and choose fun games that keep them learning. In other words, this is a site you are going to want to have handy for your students! Don’t have the opportunity for students to use Word Dynamo on their own account/computer?  Put up a challenge on the interactive whiteboard or projector-connected computer.  As students enter the classroom, they can each answer a question on the way to their seats.  Keep track of the number of words that the whole class knows. Tips: The Quick Tour will lead you through all the Word Dynamo goodies and have you ready to use it with your students in no time!  Word Dynamo looks and works well on the iPad and iPod Touch browser…great for vocabulary practice anywhere. Please leave a comment and share how you are using Word Dynamo 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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