Another Geni Post

I wrote about Geni, a genealogy recording website, a while back. Geni asked me to write a post for them describing my experience with Geni. Here it is:

Genealogy can be a dry subject for students, the old paper and pencil method of genealogy projects didn’t engage my students or their families to participate further than the obligatory family tree poster. Families were not involved and students were disinterested. Enter Geni.com.

Geni excited my students and their parents to collaborate and learn more about their family. Students loved creating their family tree on the website and were eager to learn more about their families. They were excited to come into class to see if any other family members had updated the Geni site with new family information.

Students often were surprised at what they learned about family members. One student learned that his grandfather had played minor league baseball. He hadn’t known this before the Geni genealogy project. The student loved baseball himself and now has a deeper connection with his grandfather over their shared love of the sport. Another student told me that his grandparents had never used the Internet before, but after seeing what their grandchild was doing on Geni were enthusiastic to learn. That student taught his grandparents how to get onto Geni.com, login, and add content.

Parents were enthusiastic about using Geni; they were able to involve extended family in their child’s learning experiences. Geni brought families closer together through a classroom project. Students learned about their family and created a family tree that can be saved and added to by other family members. The collaboration that Geni brought to the genealogy project was priceless. The project reaches far beyond the walls of my classroom. Families connected in new and meaningful ways. Family genealogy was recorded for future generations. Students began to show real pride in their families history and really understood why genealogy is important. I don’t believe these kinds of results can be achieved with the old family tree poster. The project doesn’t end in my classroom. Students tell me that their families have continued to add to their Geni sites even though the project deadline is past and grades have been given.

There is always extra work for the teacher involved in a collaborative project like this one. Instead of just assigning the project and grading what came in I had to plan family collaborations, get permission slips signed, keep track of logins, and make sure I had access to technology when I needed it. The students and families are reaping the benefits of the extra work. Instead of creating a poster that is soon forgotten, students have made important family connections, they have truly gotten the opportunity to learn about their families and have a lasting product that they can continue to add to. I still hear positive comments about the project and younger siblings are already asking if they can do the “Geni project” when they get to 5th grade.

Geni can help you implement similar projects in your classroom. Email schools@geni.com for more information. To see the original of this post go to www.blog.geni.com.

Read to Feed

 

What it is: Read to Feed is a worthy reading program to get your students involved in. Heifer International sponsors the reading project for kids. Students read book and in turn help other children around the world to be fed, proud, and learn to be self-reliant. The Read to Feed website provides students with the opportunity to take virtual journeys to other countries, play trivia games, learn about farm animals, select an animal gift that they want to earn through reading, read real stories about children around the world, do “cow-culations” with the cow calculator, and send e-postcards to family and friends. The teacher tools that Read to Feed provides are amazing. The goal of Read to Feed is global education, awareness, and action. The more books your students read, the more they help impoverished children around the world. Read to Feed provides teachers with the tools to teach about important issues like poverty and environmental degredation in a real life hands on way, challenge students to learn more about the world and its people, inspire students, promote team spirit and service learning, empower kids to be global citizens and make a real difference, and improve reading skills. The curriculum is extremely flexible and best of all, free! Resources for teachers include the Read to Feed website, leaders guide, DVD, poster, storybook, brochures, bookmarks, student rewards, and standards based curriculum based on the age group you teach.

How to integrate Read to Feed into your curriculum: Read to Feed is an absolutely amazing way to teach your students about being global citizens and helping them to become globally aware. It also makes an outstanding motivational reading program because students want to read to earn animals for other children around the world. Read to Feed curriculum is all you need to integrate Read to Feed into your reading, social studies, and even math curriculum. This is hands on learning that will make a difference in your students life as well as the lives of other children around the world.

Tips: Sign up to receive your free Read to Feed teacher resources today! You will be amazed with the quality of all of the Read to Feed materials…this makes a great tie into the Free Rice project!

Please leave a comment and share how you are using Read to Feed in your classroom!

Tumble Books

What it is: Tumble Books is an incredible site that reads popular stories with kids in an interactive book. The Tumble Books site also has fun quizzes, puzzles, and games that correlate with the different books. Students can have the story read to them, read it on their own, and have individual words sounded out for them. When students are finished with the story they can take a quiz on the book to check for comprehension or write a book review.

How to integrate Tumble Books into the classroom: Tumble Books is wonderful for emergent readers, remedial reading students, and independent readers. Because the level of support is adjustable, the same Tumble Book can be used in your classroom with every student regardless of reading level. Set up a reading center in the one computer classroom or each student can work at their level in a computer lab setting. These interactive books are popular with students and increase student phonics, reading comprehension, and reading strategies. Encourage students to read with Tumble Books at home as well…a great way to extend the learning day! Students can take a quiz on the book when they are finished or write a book review for other students to read. Everything about this site is amazing! Instead of popping in a video on those indoor recess days, use a projector and have the kids read along with a Tumble Book. Split the class into teams to play the games, they can take turns coming to the computer during their turn.

Tips: I have linked to Tumble Books through the Toronto Library. Schools and libraries can subscribe to Tumble Books for a very reasonable yearly subscription. Tumble Books also has a free 30 day trial that you can sign up for before committing to a subscription.

Please leave a comment and share how you are using Tumble Books in your classroom.

Google Posters

What it is: Google Posters are printable posters offered by Google for educators. The posters can be printed in different sizes and teach students how to perform better searches.

How to integrate Google Posters into the classroom: I am realizing lately just how clueless students are about performing a quality search. Teachers are not exempt from this, I have had many educators tell me that it took them 3 hours to perform a search to find a state flower. What this tells me is that they don’t know how to search. Google Posters can be handed out as an individual handout, hung around the classroom, or both. The posters are found in Google’s Educator section. The posters teach students (and teachers) how to use modifiers to refine searches for the best results, the anatomy of a search, how to find a book using books.google.com, and examples of how to go about a search. Use these posters to teach your students how to do a quality search and then pick a topic for them to search and have a Google scavenger hunt. Students will learn how to use search engines and increase productivity.

Tips: Make sure that you have tested your scavenger hunt before you let your students loose, sometimes you will get results that aren’t appropriate for your students.

Please leave a comment and share how you are using Google Posters in your classroom.

Wildlife Filmmaker

What it is: National Geographics Wildlife Filmmaker lets students make custom nature films complete with animal video clips, sounds, music, and text captions. The site is easy to use and films can be saved on the site or shared through email.

How to integrate Wildlife Filmmaker into the classroom: Wildlife Filmmaker is an excellent place for students to display knowledge after researching wildlife. Research on different animals can be completed right from the National Geographic website or collected from several sources. Students put a lot of thought into their wildlife videos since they are shared with other students. Students can send their videos to you via email for grading and sharing with the rest of the class. Plan a film festival where you can use a projector to show students finished products. Wildlife Filmmaker can also be used as a creative writing activity. Students can select video clips and use the caption tool to write a story about what is happening in the film (these get very creative!) Additionally the site would make a nice basic introduction to movie editing because of its use of timelines. It would be a great activity to lead into using iMovie HD where timelines are used to separate sound tracks and video.

Tips: The National Geographic site does contain advertisement banners. I use the advertisements as a mini lesson to teach students how to recognize the difference between ads and site content. We also discuss what the purpose of website ads.

Please leave a comment and share how you are using Wildlife Filmmaker in your classroom.

Links Galore!

Normally I don’t like to just list links…I would much rather give you a snapshot of a website, give you ideas for implementing it into your classroom, and tips on what has worked for me. Today is different. If you are like me, you read a new idea and immediately want to implement it in your classroom but don’t always have the right resources to make it happen. I have so many links for podcasting that I am going to give them all to you in one shot and then break them down in another post. If you have the podcast itch, get podcasting and browse the links below for some hosting ideas.

The following links are FREE podcast hosting sites (a place to store your teacher or student created podcasts where listeners can access and/or subscribe to your podcasts).

Global Classroom http://globalclassroomusa.org- Expect to see a post dedicated to this one, it is so much more than just a podcast hosting site.

My Podcast http://www.mypodcast.com

Podango http://podango.com

Switchpod http://www.switchpod.com

Podbean http://www.podbean.com

Podcast Summit

As promised I want to share some of the incredible uses of podcasting in the classroom that I heard at the Colorado Podcast Summit yesterday. One of the keynote speakers was ISTE Primary Teacher of the Year Carol Greig. Her Keynote entitled “Podcasting for the Struggling Reader” was truly inspiring. Carol teaches kindergarten in the Eugene School District in Oregon, here she started a podcasting program for her struggling readers called Reading Buddies. The Reading Buddies program uses several iPod shuffles that are loaded with reading lessons (created and recorded by Carol) that go home with the students. Carol said something that I think rings true with educators everywhere, “No one can teach my students as well as I can.” Reading Buddies allowed Carol to go home with her students every night using the iPod. The goal of the Reading Buddies program was to help struggling readers reach the benchmark. Carol loaded the iPods with reading lessons based on the individual child’s needs, this provided guided learning at home with and extended student learning. In the Reading Buddies packs Carol included vocabulary picture cards which she created, fluency cards, a book or two and the iPod Shuffle. A sample lesson might sound something like this: “Take out the green picture card. What picture do you see first? That’s right, a cat! Cat starts with the letter C. Cat, Cat. What is the next picture?” Carol pauses after a question so that the students have time to think and respond. The Reading Buddies program helps kids with vocabulary, fluency, alphabetic principal, rhyming, phoneme segmentation, and literature. The iPod “buddies” have been a huge success with 99% of students reaching the reading benchmark by the end of the year. Carol started getting calls from parents requesting that their student be a part of the Reading Buddy program, parents and other educators in the district started offering help to create the recordings for the Reading Buddies. At the end of the first year a parent called to thank her for the wonderful program and things it had done for her son, but she also benefited. After her son went to bed, the mother would listen to the reading buddy and follow along, she learned English by listening to her kindergarten son’s Reading Buddy! There are some good rules that were set up for the students who have reading buddies, each child was told that only the child who was given the Reading Buddy was allowed to use it, if a Buddy was lost or broken the students family was responsible for replacing it. It is a privelege that can be taken away if the Buddies were not cared for. They have never had to take a Buddy away or replace one that was lost or broken by a student. The future of the Reading Buddies program includes expansion to other grades, older students could have their anthologies or science text recorded on the Shuffle. The Reading Buddies program won the presidential award for reading and technology…it is easy to see why!

The new iPod Nano would be great to use as a reading buddy because students could have audio and visual presented. The Shuffles are nice because they are so affordable (the 1G just dropped to $49 yesterday!) I am hoping to get a Reading Buddy Program up and running at my school. I will keep you posted with any success stories or lessons learned!

Colorado Podcast Summit

Today I presented a poster session at the Colorado Podcast Summit hosted by Apple Education. I met a lot of wonderful educators and heard some great ideas which I will be sharing in the upcoming days. Today I wanted to share with you some of my presentation at the Summit. My session was called Podcasting: Creativity Communication Collaboration below is a break down…

Get Ready to Read!

What it is: Get Ready to Read is a site that supports early childhood literacy. I don’t know how I have missed this one in the past! It is an excellent resource for teachers. If you teach pre-k through first grade or are a remedial reading teacher, make sure to take a look at all this site has to offer. The program is designed to help early education professionals to equip children with the basic skills necessary for learning to read. The site offers tools for screening children for pre-reading skills and provides skill strengthening activities both on and offline to ensure reading success.

How to integrate Get Ready to Read into the classroom: Use the Get Ready to Read Program to screen your students for reading skills. Use this assessment to guide your reading program and help individualize instruction based on your students needs. Print out and use the 36 offline activity cards with your students. These can be used as reading centers, for individual learning, or for whole class instruction. Set up your classroom computers with the Get Ready to Read online activities. These interactive stories about Inky and Gus’ underwater adventures can be used with a projector for whole class participation, in centers, or on individual computers in a lab setting.

Tips: This site is a completely free resource for teachers and parents, be sure to involve parents in early literacy activities. Print out the parent brochure for additional information on the Get Ready to Read program for parents.

Please leave a comment and share how you are using Get Ready to Read in your classroom.

ClickCaster

What it is: ClickCaster allows you and your students to create a podcasting channel that can be subscribed to via RSS feed as well as publish and embed your podcast for integration with classroom blogs or wikis. The ClickCaster platform is extremely easy to use with professional results. ClickCaster offers different levels of service the most basic is free but only includes 125MB of storage. The other levels are very affordable and ClickCaster gives teachers $3 off of their standard package.

How to integrate Click Caster into the classroom: ClickCaster is a great way to publish your classroom podcasts. Other classrooms and parents can subscribe to the podcast through RSS feed or visit your channel for a complete list of your podcasts. Publish a weekly radio show where your students give a synopsis of what they have learned throughout the week. Or, create podcasts where your students get to be the “expert” on a subject. No matter what the subject, ClickCaster will make publishing your podcasts for others simple.

Tips: Sign up for the basic limited account (free) to find out just how simple ClickCaster is to use…you will be hooked in no time!

Please leave a comment and share how you are using ClickCaster in your classroom.