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Webspiration Wednesday

Last week, I instituted Webspiration Wednesday at CHC.  To find out what exactly Webspiration Wednesday is, check out my original post here. Today we gathered over a TED Talk by Tim Brown on Creativity and Play. Tim reminded me of something very important, there comes a point in schooling where we begin discouraging play.  We ask students to sit in their seats, to fill in the circles completely with a number two pencil, and to stay on task.  There is very little time in schools for play.  I think that by making schools void of play, we harm our students.  There is a lot of important learning that happens during play and discovery. In the video, Tim shows some pictures inside some major design firms (Pixar and Google).  At the beginning of the year, I asked students to describe what their dream school would look like.  I was very sad to learn that most of them couldn’t conceive of a school that looked different.  In our first brainstorming session, most of them talked about having more recess or a longer lunch and that was the extent of their wishes.  I really tried to impress on them that their school could look and be structured any way they wanted.  I was met with blank stares and confused looks.  The problem in the first brainstorming session was that students were doing what they do all day long in school.  They were trying to guess what I was thinking.  They wanted to give me the right answer.  But in this instance, there wasn’t a right answer, every answer was right.  I showed my students pictures of Googleplex and Pixar and explained that there was a lot of work and creativity that came out of both companies.  What they saw was a playland.  Nearly all of my students declared that they would work at Google or Pixar when they got out of school.  One of my students asked if I would help her write a resume so that Google would have it on file when she was ready to work there (she is 9).  We brainstormed a dream school again.  This time the students understood that there wasn’t a right answer, that the sky was the limit.  Few of them included desks in their dream school, nearly all of them included animals of some kind, and most of them wanted slides and piano stairs to get from one floor to another.  We collaborated on Wallwisher and dreamed together.  At the beginning of the project, I told the kids the school could look like, and operate, any way that they wanted, but there were two restrictions: 1. it had to be a place of learning, and 2. they had to justify why they included everything in their school.  Most of them cited an increase in creativity and innovation (we learned that word as we looked at pictures of Googleplex).   One of my students wanted  a huge cylinder tropical fish tank in the lobby with clear pipes branching out and winding around the school and through the classroom.  She thought the fish would be interesting to study and an inspiration for learning.  Another student wished for swing chairs hanging from the ceiling so that they could move while they learned.  Several kids wanted dogs in the school that they could read to because, “dogs won’t make fun of you when you make a mistake reading out loud.”  Once the students felt comfortable with not having one right answer, they let their imaginations run wild and came up with excellent ideas and suggestions. We need to help kids understand that there usually isn’t only one right answer.  They have been so primed to believe that every problem has one correct answer because we overload them with tests and worksheets that tell them that it is so.  We squash creativity.  Pretty soon they become adults who don’t know how to play and as a result, aren’t creative.  How do you encourage creativity and outside the box thinking in your classroom?

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Rewordify: help kids understand what they read

Posted by admin | Posted in Evaluate, Inquiry, Interactive book, Knowledge (remember), Language Arts, Middle/High School, Primary Elementary, Secondary Elementary, Understand (describe, explain), web tools | Posted on 14-08-2013

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Rewordify-understand what you read iLearn Technology

What it is: Rewordify is a neat online app that helps struggling readers, ESL/ELL students, etc. improve their reading comprehension and vocabulary development.  Students can copy and paste a difficult passage into Rewordify and it instantly transforms the text by highlighting words it has substituted with more common/easily understood, language.  Students can click on the highlighted word to view the original word that was replaced.

Teachers can use Rewordify to create vocabulary activities from any high-interest reading passage, make over 350 classics more accessible, and show students how to surf the web the way a strong reader does.

Settings within Rewordify let students adjust how they interact with difficult passages based on their own preferences and learning needs.

How to integrate Rewordify into your classroom:  Rewordify is a fantastic web app for struggling readers (or any reader!).  Often, non-fiction can be difficult for students to read and understand.  Even strong readers can struggle with the new vocabulary and terms used.  Rewordify simplifies the text so that students can read through it successfully for comprehension.  It doesn’t stop there!  Since all of the words that were reworded are highlighted, students can see new vocabulary in context.  Rewordify can help students build up the ability to recognize context clues and how to use them to increase comprehension.

Anastasis is inquiry based.  We do a LOT of research, even with our youngest students.  The Internet is packed with fantastic resources for learning, but these resources are typically not created with student readers in mind.  As a result, students may struggle through a text and lose out on some of the rich learning in the process.  Rewordify is a great solution for us because students can quickly copy and paste text into Rewordify (works on iPads too!) and instantly read a more student friendly version of the text.

Classic literature is classic for a reason.  This literature holds timeless truths, superior storytelling and enchanting characters.  Students rarely choose to read the classics on their own because the language can add a difficult layer to the reading, causing the story to be lost in the frustration.  Rewordify has more than 350 classics built-in to be read directly on the site.  Students can choose a book to read, modify their settings of how they would like to view the words, and jump right in.  Students can choose to have the words default to the easier, modified word; can ask Rewordify to highlight words that it would have changed so that they can click on the word if they need an alternative; or see both versions of the word in context side by side.

ESL/ELL students will enjoy this site for the way that it allows them autonomy in their reading and vocabulary development.

Rewordify is also a great way for students to learn and practice vocabulary and discovering new synonyms for words.  Any text can be added to Rewordify, high school students could plug-in their own writing to determine if they have used interesting language.  If nothing is highlighted, there could be some work to do on word choice.

If you only have one or two computers available to students in your classroom, why not set up a bookmark to Rewordify that students can visit as needed during research, reading, etc.?  Students will be empowered to read anything they encounter with increased confidence.

Tips: In addition to the classics, you will also see a variety of news websites and articles that work well with Rewordify.  Whole pages of the site are automatically reworded for ease of understanding.

What do you think of Rewordify?  How do you plan to use it in your classroom?

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[…] though, so i’m including a link to an excellent explanation from Kelly Tenkely’s blog. http://ilearntechnology.com/?p=5100 > > > Susan Stephenson > http://www.thebookchook.com > > […]

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