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Weboword

What it is: It can be really difficult for visual learners to get a good handle on vocabulary.  Without good visual aids, the definitions behind words can feel abstract and hard to grasp.  Weboword is a fantastic visual vocabulary site that offers students illustrations that help students understand vocabulary.  I believe that everyone remembers concepts better when they are surrounded by story.  Think about a tsunami.  What comes to mind is probably not a word for word definition of the word but images, and stories about tsunamis.  You probably think about the destruction that they cause, a story you heard from someone affected by a tsunami.  Because we make deeper connections with stories, it only makes sense to offer students vocabulary words with a visual aid that will help them create story references and pictures.  Each vocabulary word is accompanied by a sketch of the word, a definition of the word, a history of the word, the pronunciation, and situational uses of the word.  There is a limited number of words pictured, but it should help students to build up a stronger vocabulary and word fluency.  Each day a new vocabulary word is featured on the Weboword home page.  Students can also review past vocabulary words on the “vocabulary” page.  Students can complete crossword puzzles based on the Weboword vocabulary.     How to integrate Weboword into the classroom: Vocabulary and word fluency is an important ingredient for strong readers.  Begin each day with the newest Weboword vocabulary on your projector or interactive whiteboard.  You can subscribe to Webowords free daily updates to get a word each day delivered to you.  Because the vocabulary on Weboword is limited, you may not find the specific vocabulary you are looking for.  Encourage your students to create their own visualizations and cartoon sketches for the vocabulary they are studying.  Weboword is excellent preparation for the SAT’s but can also be used with younger students to build vocabulary.  My elementary students really enjoy learning “big kid” words.  The advanced vocabulary can make them feel empowered.  Webowords is also a great way to spice up student writing, when they have a greater vocabulary base to pull from, their writing will become richer. Tips: Embed the Weboword widget in your classroom website. Students can get the vocabulary word for the day with one stop. Please leave a comment and share how you are using Weboword 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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