What it is: Engrade is a free online gradebook that allows teachers to manage their classes online as well as post grades, assignments, attendance, and upcoming homework online for students and parents to see. Engrade makes it easy for parents, teachers, and students to communicate and stay in contact. The free Engrade suite offers a gradebook that automatically calculates grades and provides tools for custom grading scales and weighting assignments, an attendance book that automatically emails parents with absences, a homework calendar for students and parents, and online student reports where students can view their grades, homework and attendance in real time.
How to integrate Engrade into the classroom: Engrade makes it simple to quickly post homework assignments, edit students grades, and take attendance all in one easy to use online interface. Best of all, since Engrade is online based, teachers can update grades and homework assignments from anywhere. Engrade is a wonderful way to keep parents and students informed of grades, homework assignments, and absences in one place. Communication between school and home has never been easier! Engrade is a secure, password protected site so there are no concerns about privacy or security of grades.
Tips: Be sure to check out the Teacher page on Engrade and all of the features that are offered. This truly is an amazing product!
What it is: Let’s Say Thanks is a website that allows students, parents, teachers, and everyone to write messages to our troops serving around the world. By submitting a message through this site you have the opportunity to send a free personalized postcard greeting to deployed servicemen and women. Students select a student created image from the site and then type in a personal message of thanks. Let’s Say Thanks prints the messages and sends them around the world to our troops.
How to integrate Let’s Say Thanks into the classroom: Let’s Say Thanks is a wonderful activity to do around Thanksgiving as an activity in being thankful. What a perfect way to teach students gratitude while making an impact on those serving around the world. You could also integrate this activity into social studies learning about our troops, or current events. We live in a global world and this activity could open up discussions about where our troops are serving and what the culture is like where they are stationed.
Tips: Encourage your students to read the messages on Let’s Say Thanks “From the Troops”.
What it is: If you are lucky enough to have a newer Mac in your classroom, you are familiar with Photo Booth. Photo Booth is reminiscent of its name sake, it allows students to take pictures with the built-in iSight camera. If you have a pre-Photo Booth Mac or a PC you can now use a free Browser application called Seenly. Seenly lets students take pictures of themselves (even applying different effects like sepia tone or x-ray). Seenly can be used on older Mac’s or PC’s. The only requirement is a web cam. These are coming way down in price, $15-$25.
How to integrate Photo Booth or Seenly into the classroom: Photo Booth and Seenly can be used for a multitude of projects throughout the school year. My favorite project for using Photo Booth/Seenly is for character education development. I create a “How are you feeling today?” grid in Pages or Word and save as a template. Students take pictures of themselves displaying the different emotions and drag and drop onto the template. When they are finished we print them out and create a class book of emotions. This is a wonderful way to teach students empathy. Photo Booth/Seenly can also be used at the beginning of the year for a getting-to-know you project. Create a bulletin board with student pictures. Students could use Photo Booth/Seenly to star in their own stories. Teachers, take pictures of students throughout the year as you podcast students reading. The photos with the podcasts make an excellent end of the year gift for students and parents as they can see and hear students growth throughout the year. Create a classroom “dictionary” where students create definitions for themselves along with their pictures. When teaching action verbs, have students take pictures of themselves actually doing an action verb. You will find a hundred and one uses that you never expected when you bring a web cam into the classroom and pair it with Photo Booth/Seenly!
Tips: See the image below for an example of the “How are you feeling today?” templates I created in Pages. One template was created for kindergarten through second grades and the second template was created for third through fifth grades.
What it is: Play Music is a site where students can explore and interact with music. Students can visit Carnegie Hall for listening adventures, take a seat in the orchestra and listen to and learn about the different sections and sounds of the orchestra, try writing their own music, learn about the symphony, “meet” a concert master, “meet” an instrument builder and composer, and “meet” young composers.
How to integrate Play Music into the classroom: Play Music is an excellent way to introduce students to the Orchestra or Symphony. This is a great site for encouraging a love of music. Use this site as a research tool. Students can learn about different instruments in the orchestra. A lesson that I love to use with this site is to assign each student an instrument to study. Students then make baseball type trading cards in a word document that has a picture of the instrument, the name, and a description of the instrument. Students can print out a few pages of their baseball cards (6 cards should fit on one document). Students then trade their Orchestra cards and when the project is finished, they have a complete orchestra.
Tips: To complete the baseball card idea above, create a template in Word or Pages for the students. This way each students cards will turn out with the same dimensions. To save a document as a template, goto the “file” menu and click on “Save as template” option.
What it is: Weebly is a place to create free websites and blogs. Weebly makes it extremely easy to create a website or a blog because of its drag and drop interface, ready made designs, ability to customize content simply, and the drag and drop approach to organizing pages. These websites are easy to create and have great looking, professional results.
How to integrate Weebly into the classroom: Teachers, use Weebly to create a class website. Here your students can explore topics that you are studying in class, view any assignments that are due, see class pictures, read newsletters, and find content related links. A class website can become the hub for any classroom. Post all current information on your class site, pictures of field trips you have taken, add links to websites you are using in class, other 2.0 resources that you are using such as mind maps, update your classroom blog, etc. This is a great way to boost classroom-home communication. Weebly makes it so easy to quickly create and update pages, it is the perfect platform for classroom webpages.
Tips: Weebly has a great live demo where you can try the site out before signing up for a free account.
What it is: Comapping is a mind mapping/concept mapping online application that offers a unique left to right mind mapping technique. While the application is not free, Comapping does offer a free trial version for schools and very competitive pricing. Students can collaborate on mind maps in real-time. Comapping has a feature that other mind mapping solutions don’t have, a presentation tool. Teachers and students can actually turn their mind map into a presentation quickly and easily in the same web-browser. Comapping also has an auto focus feature which makes it easy to collapse maps and “zoom in” to the portion of the map being worked on.
How to integrate Comapping into the classroom: Teachers can use Comapping to structure lessons, units and themes in the classroom. Comapping would be an excellent way to organize the structure of the lessons for each subject and to align standards with those lessons. Students can create character diagrams, comparison charts, story diagrams, vocabulary word diagrams, timelines, effect of events, experiment maps, food pyramids, scientific processes, life cycles, and more. This tool will be valuable for your visual learners! Comapping would also be a useful tool when teaching students how to note-take. Comappings left to right mapping technique makes note taking succinct and easy to refer back to and understand. The collaboration portion of Comapping is useful to students completing projects together as well as for teachers and staff for creating units and lessons together.
Tips: I encourage you to select “try Comapping without an account” to learn about how it works. This will take you to an interactive page where you can learn, step by step about how to use Comapping. Really neat! Once you are sold, you can sign up for a free trial account.
Comapping for Education PowerPoint
What it is: Interactives is a truly amazing website for teachers and students. Interactives provides educators and students with strategies, content, and activities that can enhance and improve students’ skills in a variety of curricular areas including math, literature and language, science, history, and the arts. The site has great webquest/interactive activities on a variety of subjects for first through twelfth grades. These activities are extremely well done. The spelling bee activity is really the only activity appropriate for first grade but I found that many of the activities that were rated for middle and high school students, would be appropriate for elementary students as well. I cannot say enough about this site, it is a truly amazing site for teachers and students!
How to integrate Interactives into the classroom: Interactives has a variety of interactive activities for the subjects listed above. These would be great to use as an introduction to a new unit, or as a learning activity or field trip in a unit. The Interactives could be completed as a whole class (using a projector), in groups (center style in the one or two computer classroom), or individually (in the computer lab setting). Any of these options would be time well spent for your students! Each Interactive presents the student with information about the unit and follows with interactive activities such as building a roller coaster, collecting rocks, or tracing the growth of the United States.
Tips: Sign up for the learner.org newsletter for some great teaching tips and ideas.
What it is: Gabcast is a podcasting and audioblogging website that offers an easy way to create and distribute audio content. The most amazing part of this resource is that students can actually use a touch-tone cell (yes I said cell phone, put them to good use!) or land line telephone to make their recordings. Gabcast also provides worldwide access to the sevice through VoIP. Once a student has mad a recording and had it published, a newsfeed is automatically updated to alert subscribers (like other classrooms, students or parents) to your channel.
How to integrate Gabcast into the classroom: What makes Gabcast so ingenious to me is that there is no need for fancy equipment (i.e. immediate computer access or microphones) to record a quality podcast. If you don’t have a classroom computer, or want to be using the computer for other activities or centers, Gabcast is a perfect solution for creating podcasts. Gabcast is an outstanding alternative to more ‘traditional’ methods of podcasting. Students could also easily create podcasts from home since the only equipment needed is a telephone. Use Gabcast to create a weekly radio type broadcast for the rest of the school or learning buddies, create audio books for other students, or for interviewing others. Bring along a cell phone on field trips and record audio clips (like of animal sounds at the zoo). This tool would be wonderful for auditory learners. The possibilities with Gabcast are nearly endless.
Tips: Gabcast is a toll free call, visit the overview page for the toll free phone number for your country. You can embed Gabcast on your school, or classroom website or blog.
What it is: Kindersay is a website for emerging language learners. This is the new See and Say. Kindersay allows pre-school, kindergarten, and struggling language learners to learn new words through visual and auditory practice.
How to integrate Kindersay into the classroom: Kindersay makes an excellent listening and language development center in the preschool, kindergarten, or special education classroom. Set up the computer for student exploration of words. Learn adventure, alphabet, animals, arts, cities and people, food, home large, home small, movement, numbers, outdoors, parts of the body, colors, times, shapes, tools, and transport words.
Tips: For a $6 a month subscription, Kindersay allows you to upload your own images and sounds to Kindersay.
What it is: I Was Wondering is a site geared toward getting girls interested in science and technology. Although this site is geared toward girls, the site has some fun games and activities that boys will enjoy too. I Was Wondering features 10 women scientists, a time travel time line, and science games. Games include astroscope where students can explore the universe in a scavenger hunt (this is really neat!), gorilla quest where students can “track” and learn about gorillas, and make a robot where students can create their own robot and then learn about robots that real scientists have created.
How to integrate I Was Wondering into the classroom: I Was Wondering would be an excellent site to use during a solar system unit. The scavenger hunt gives students a sense of what the universe looks like while making them familiar with vocabulary. Set the site up as a center during science class or bring your students on a space “field trip” to the computer lab. Students could explore the gorilla quest to learn about gorillas. This would be a fun way for students to learn research skills. Students could use the 10 women scientists or time travel time line to learn more about famous scientists and their contributions. All are very student friendly.
Tips: Visit the teacher section and click on “Using the Science Labs”. Science labs are activities based on one of the ten scientists. These are really great extension activities for your science classroom. Again, this site is geared toward girls but is a great addition to any science class…boys included!