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Toy Theater

  What it is: Toy Theater is a fun place for students to practice math, reading, art, and music through puzzle type games.  Toy Theater encourages students in k-4 to get their problem solving brain cells working as they explore and discover the games in Toy Theater.  In the art section, students can animate their own cartoon character, put on a puppet show, or make a Matisse.  In the music section, students can make music with the Composer, interact with notes with The Music Maker, or go on a pounding mission with the Drum Beats, you will have miniature maestros in no time.  In Math students can practice math facts with flippy flashcards, or feeding Freddy, and take a math practice test to put those math skills to the test.  In the reading section students can enjoy a good joke, play with words with a sliding crossword puzzle (highly entertaining for teachers too), write their own road sign, or practice their typing skills.  In the puzzle section students brains gt put to the limit with tic tac toe and memory games.  In the playset section, students can create their very own virtual diorama about cars, sea creatures, plant, insects, ships, characters, aircraft, blocks, dinosaurs, and buildings. How to integrate Toy Theater into the classroom: Toy Theater is a great website to use as a learning center in your classroom.  The short, easy to play games are perfect for short center activities.  I love the puzzle type environment that encourages problem solving and bends the brain a little.  The playset universe would be a great section to use with an interactive whiteboard, students could take turns creating a ‘universe’ to showcase learning on a topic such as ocean, plants, insects, dinosaurs, geometry, etc.  Students can work together to show what they know together.  After students create a playset, have them pull out a writing journal and journal about the playset the class created.  Being a computer teacher I am constantly looking for fun ways to let students practice typing skills.  In the read section you will find a game called letter fall, letter blocks fall from the sky, students have to type the letter before 5 blocks can stack up. There are multiple speeds to make the game a challenge for your different typing levels.  In the computer lab setting, see who can last the longest before 5 letter blocks stack up (there is a timer at the bottom of the screen).     Tips:  This is a great site to send your students to when they finish work early and are asking “what can I do now?”     Leave a comment and tell us how you are using Toy Theater  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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