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Stage’d

What it is: I am constantly learning about cool new website tools for the classroom from my PLN (Personal Learning Network), today I learned about an animated comic creator called Stage’d from fellow Blogging Alliance member @MrR0gers.  Stage’d is a tool that helps students to tell digital...

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BBC-History of the World

Posted by admin | Posted in Analyze, Create, Evaluate, History, Interactive Whiteboard, Language Arts, Middle/High School, Secondary Elementary, Teacher Resources, Understand (describe, explain), Websites | Posted on 19-03-2012

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What it is:  The BBC is full of fantastic resources for learning.  Recently, I came across the British Museum’s History of the World.  It is WAY cool!  This is like a fantastic virtual museum collection that makes it possible for students to see primary sources up close.  Each piece in the collection adds a little bit to the story of the history of the world.  The objects in the collection each have a quick overview about the piece, and the option of delving in deeper and learning more.  Objects can be filtered by location, theme, culture, size, color, material, contributor and BBC area.  This is a really neat way to view and explore world history.  SO much better than the dry textbook fact collection that I had.

How to integrate BBC History of the World into the classroom: The BBC History of the World collection is a great way for students to explore and engage history.  Being able to go through the objects and primary sources connects them to story and people from another time in a way a textbook just can’t touch.  This is a fantastic place for students to begin an exploration of history; to find an object that “speaks” to them and learn more about the object and the people who created the object.  This site gives students the opportunity to engage history.
Instead of starting a history course chronologically, let students select an object or piece from the collection that interests them.  Let them learn more about the object, the people and the time period that the object was created in.  Let them teach others about the object and its importance.  How was it that this object was so well preserved? What does it tell us about that period?  What stories does it tell?  Give students creative license to do this.  Do they want to make it a creative writing piece where the object is personified? Do they want to write a letter as if they were from that period of time explaining the object?  Do they want to create a mockumentary about the object?  Whatever they do, place the object, along with the others chosen by the class, on a timeline so that students can get a sense for where their object falls in history.  Let the kids teach each other and explain why they chose the object they did.  Not only will kids be exploring world history, they will be learning something about each other.
Write a class story with a common thread.  Create a time traveling team as a class, these are the characters that visit the time period where they find the objects that they have chosen from the BBC History of the world site.  Write the beginning and ending of the story as a whole class.  Each student can be responsible for writing their own “chapter” where the time traveling team visits their time period.
I didn’t enjoy history when I was in school.  It wasn’t ever presented as a story (which I love).  Instead I got a collection of facts, dates and names to memorize for the next test.  I had a really hard time understanding why anyone would be passionate about history.  It wasn’t until I was an adult that I realized that history is really just a set of rich stories that we try to piece together to help us understand who we are in place and time.  That I enjoy. That I can get behind.  Help your students discover the story in history!

Tips: At the bottom of the window, you will see a back and forward arrow.  This lets students time travel.

Please leave a comment and share how you are using BBC History of the World in  your classroom!

Draw a Stickman has a new episode!

Posted by admin | Posted in Create, inspiration, Interactive book, Interactive Whiteboard, iPod, Language Arts, Middle/High School, Primary Elementary, Secondary Elementary, Websites | Posted on 16-03-2012

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What it is:  Draw a Stickman is a fun little site that I wrote about last year here.  They have a brand new episode of our little stickman friend!  For those of you who haven’t seen it (or don’t remember), Draw a Stickman is a delightful place for kids to be creative, read, imagine and draw.  Students are given sets of directions that they must complete to help out the hero of the story, a stickman figure that they created.  Everything that they draw comes to life and interacts with the rest of what is on the screen.  Brilliant!  These mini interactive stories that have students reading and following directions, solving mysteries, thinking creatively and solving problems. The new episode is just as charming as the last!

How to integrate Draw a Stickman into the classroom:Draw a Stickman is a fun interactive site that uses student creations to tell a story.  Students can complete the interactive on individual computers, iDevices (the site works great!), interactive whiteboards, or classroom computers.

Aside from just fun practice at following instructions, Draw a Stickman would be a great fictional story prompt.  Students have the bones of a story and can fill in details, vivid verbs, adjectives, etc. to tell the story.  Students can focus on fleshing out their hero, the plot of the story, the details, the setting, etc.  Students can come up with a moral of a story that they add in the customized ending.  This link can be sent as a tweet, facebook link, or in an email to accompany the story they have created.  These stories would be fun to share as a class…how many different stories did students come up with using the same base?

On an interactive whiteboard, students can go through the story together, labeling the different parts of the story (beginning, problem, climax, resolution, ending).  This interactive can help students identify parts in a story including setting, characters and plot.

Tips: After you have gone through Draw a Stickman, you can personalize the message at the end and share.  Add any two lines of text that you wish.  This could be a fun way to reveal messages to your students!
Draw a Stickman is also in the App store on iTunes!

Please leave a comment and share how you are using ClassConnect in  your classroom!

ClassConnect: all-in-one digital organization for the classroom

Posted by admin | Posted in Classroom Management, Middle/High School, Primary Elementary, Secondary Elementary, Teacher Resources, web tools | Posted on 14-03-2012

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What it is:  ClassConnect is a website I have written about in the past (here) that has made some great changes that make it worth taking another look!  ClassConnect is a fantastic one-stop-shop for collaborating, storing, and organizing your life as an educator.  The real powerhouse of ClassConnect is the ability to build, organize and share lessons and resources easy.  You won’t be pressed to remember where you stored everything (dropbox, diigo, pinterest, twitter favorites) because with ClassConnect you can store it all in one place.  Even better, you can search and use lessons and resources that other teachers have built.  The collaborative nature of ClassConnect makes it easy to work together on planning out and sharing learning.  ClassConnect even started a great movement called “United We Teach” encouraging educators to share more.  ClassConnect is super easy to use, just find lesson plans and snap them into your lessons…there is no need for downloads!

You can set up ClassConnect to automatically notify your colleagues, students and parents when you make updates.  What’s even handier is that everything is viewable on computers, iPads (woohoo) and smartphones.  This makes it easy to plan and use from everywhere!  The lessons in ClassConnect aren’t only files, they are also interactive websites, games and videos.  Everything in one place.  Gotta love that! When a lesson gets updated, everyone who is shared on the lesson gets updated.

Did I mention it is free?  It is ;)

How to integrate ClassConnect into the classroom: ClassConnect is a no-brainer for introducing to your classroom routine.  Who could argue with an all-in-one organizational tool? ClassConnect makes it SO simple to share resources with colleagues, parents and students.  Think about how this could transform differentiation in your classroom.  Instead of just using the “one-size-fits-all” differentiation that curriculum offers (I hesitate to even call that differentiation…what a joke!), you can create folders of lessons; resources; and learning that perfectly fit the needs of your students.  Because they are so easily shared, you can bring everyone who needs to be on board, on board.  Students can go right to ClassConnect to view what you have stored for them there.  Parents can go to ClassConnect for additional support and ideas for furthering learning at home.
The colleague sharing shouldn’t be overlooked.  Imagine how much richer learning could be if we were sharing our best finds with each other freely and in an easy to access location.  Changing the world here.
***By the way, ClassConnect has a truly AWESOME start up story.  This isn’t just some company. ClassConnect was/is created by a student who wanted school to look different. Be sure to read Eric’s story on the About page.
Tips: For every colleague you invite that signs up, ClassConnect will give you BOTH 500mb more of free storage (you start out with 1GB)!  That is a pretty sweet deal!

Please leave a comment and share how you are using ClassConnect in  your classroom!

Changemakers

Posted by admin | Posted in Anastasis Academy, Apply, Create, education reform, inspiration, Middle/High School, Primary Elementary, Secondary Elementary, Understand (describe, explain) | Posted on 12-03-2012

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I have to brag a bit on the students and staff at Anastasis.  Last week, we turned school into a mock sweatshop where students learned what it would be like to be child laborers.  The adults were mean.  No bathroom breaks, no drinks, no smiles.  It was a rough day for all of us.  The kids spent the half day of school learning about child labor and then breaking bricks in our sweat shop.  The transformation in their understanding of what 200 million children around the world endure daily was astonishing.  They were able to put into words how helpless they felt. How tired, hungry, sad, angry, frustrated they were.  How mad they were when the result of their hard labor wasn’t enough to feed their family.

Lessons we learned:

  • As a teacher it is HARD to be that “cruel” to your students.  It was hard not to give them a smile of reassurance, a kind word or a pat on the back.  It was hard to be that uncaring.
  • We all learned that many of the brands we purchase every day employ child labor.
  • We learned that poverty is a major contributing factor to child labor.
  • We learned that some of these kids are considered lower than the livestock…they are expendable.
  • We learned that our students are compassionate and care about one another.
  • We learned that we have to be the change we want to see in the world.

As a result of the day, @leadingwlove’s class decided to start a foundation.  They are calling it the LSGW foundation and it is worth checking out!  I am SO proud of these students for going above and beyond just learning and into action.  They aren’t using age as an excuse and they aren’t willing to wait for someone else to fix the problem.  These are 11 and 12 year old students.  Changemakers.

I wrote more about the details of the day here:  From Out of the Dust, Dreams

Grammaropolis: Personified Parts of Speech

Posted by admin | Posted in Analyze, Apply, Create, Evaluate, Interactive book, Interactive Whiteboard, iPod, Language Arts, Middle/High School, Music, Primary Elementary, Secondary Elementary, Teacher Resources, Understand (describe, explain), video, Websites | Posted on 05-03-2012

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What it is:  Grammaropolis is a site I have long been a fan of.  I’ve written about it in the past in these posts Grammaropolis recently got a significant upgrade with TONS of new, great features.  The site now includes character descriptions for nouns, verbs, adjectives, adverbs, pronouns, conjunctions, prepositions and interjections.  In addition to the great descriptions, each character includes a song, videos, book, games and, soon, quizzes.  Not all of this content is free, but there is enough free content to be useful in every classroom no matter the budget.  All of the content associated with the Noun character is free.  Every other character includes the character description and book for free.  The music, videos, quizzes and games are “extras” that are available by subscription.  You can get your classroom a Grammaropolis passport to access all of the content including the ability to follow and track your students progress within Grammaropolis.

How to integrate Grammaropolis into the classroom:  I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, the Grammaropolis approach to the parts of speech is completely brilliant!  I love the way Grammaropolis gives the different parts of speech a “face” and an attitude.  For those of us who learn through story, Grammaropolis gives us a unique connection to the parts of speech.  The books and videos are fabulous.  They are extremely well done, and take the characters a step further by dropping them into a story.
The characters interact true to their characteristics.  For example, in the “Noun Places” video, Noun sits looking through a photo album of places.  As he flips the pages, he names the places.  “Antarctica,” he says.  Adjective, who is sitting next to Noun, exclaims, “beautiful!”  Verb agrees, “very.”  The videos and books are so well thought out and really demonstrate to students how the parts of speech are used.  So smart!
Grammaropolis can be used as a whole class using an interactive whiteboard or projector-connected computer.  Learn about, and explore, the different parts of speech as a class.  Choose a new part of speech character each week and encourage students to spot the part of speech character in their own writing with a colored pencil or marker that matches the character color.  Books can be read as a class on the big screen.  Each book begins with the cast of characters with a short description of each part of speech.  As you read together, discuss the way that the part of speech characteristics are revealed by their interactions with other characters.  The same can be done with the videos!
Students can play the games on classroom computers as a center, or on individual computers in a lab or 1:1 setting.  After your students familiarize themselves with the parts of speech characters, they can write their own creative stories featuring the characters.  This is great for older students!  Students will have to remember that the characters have to act in ways that are true to their nature.
Tips:  There are a few different options for a Grammaropolis subscription, the options are very reasonably priced.  Grammaropolis also has a brand new store that has some fun grammar shwag.  If you have an iDevice, check out the Grammaropolis app!

Please leave a comment and share how you are using Grammaropolis in  your classroom!

A must read by Seth Godin: Stop Stealing Dreams #free!

Posted by admin | Posted in Anastasis Academy, education reform, Grade Level, inspiration, Middle/High School, Primary Elementary, Secondary Elementary, Teacher Resources | Posted on 01-03-2012

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What it is: Seth Godin is one of my favorite authors and bloggers to read.  He so often has insight that cuts right to the heart of a matter.  What I appreciate about Seth’s writing most, is the way he can say things in a way that people can hear and accept.  Seth has a brand new digital “book” (manifesto) called Stop Stealing Dreams.  I love the dedication that he begins with: “Dedicated to every teacher who cares enough to change the system and to every student brave enough to stand up and speak up.”  The “stand up” stands out to me because that is what we aim to do every single day at Anastasis.  In fact, we chose the name Anastasis because it translates to “stand again” or “resurrection” from Greek.  That is exactly what we aim to do every single day…help kids stand again in their learning.  Now you know where our Twitter hashtag comes from. :)

Seth poignantly points out that “Instead of amplifying dreams, school destroys them.”  That is a hard statement for those of us in education. We sign up for this crazy ride to help dreams flourish and yet because of the system of education, end up doing precisely the opposite.  It is hidden.  We don’t set out to do this…truly we don’t.  But consider the way that we push kids through education and tell them what the most important things are for them.  Students get the message loud and clear: check these boxes, take these classes, pass these tests.  Do it so you can get into high school.  Do it so that you can go to college. Do it so that you can get a job.  What message are we really sending?  “You and your dreams are not enough.”

I don’t want to give too much of the manifesto away because I think that it is worth reading for every teacher, administrator and parent.  Seth offers this download for free.  The guy knows how to spread ideas!   The point of the manifesto is not to leave you feeling hopeless over the current situation of education, but asking questions and encouraging us to say “why not?”  Print the book out, read it on a digital device, and share it…share it widely!  The first step to a revolution is spreading the idea and opening door to the possibility.

How to integrate Stop Stealing Dreams into the classroom:  Read Stop Stealing Dreams.  Highlight it, earmark pages, write in the margins, challenge yourself.  Then share it with everyone you know.  I find that it is easy to find teachers who are ready to hear this message and act on it.  It’s been my experience that parents are a little harder to convince.  We are all “experts” on education because we have all been through it.  We have all of these assumptions that we know exactly what it should look like and even assume that the classroom model has been perfected.  This manifesto helps challenge those assumptions and come up with new ideas apart from the assumptions.
@matthewquigely had our Jr. High students download Stop Stealing Dreams today.  Students have assumptions about education too.  I’m excited to hear the kids reflections on the manifesto.  They will have a completely different view, different questions, and come up with their own fantastic ideas about how education can stop stealing dreams.   I would be interested in having the kids come up with a manifesto of their own!
Tips:  When you are finished reading Stop Stealing Dreams, I highly recommend the next books on your reading list be those mentioned in the manifesto.  If you haven’t read them, they are a must!

Please leave a comment and share how you are using Stop Stealing Dreams in  your classroom!

Edible Schoolyard Project and Truck Farms

Posted by admin | Posted in Analyze, Anastasis Academy, Apply, Character Education, Create, Evaluate, inspiration, Math, Middle/High School, Primary Elementary, Science, Secondary Elementary, Teacher Resources, Websites | Posted on 28-02-2012

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What it is:  There are some things that I think should be essential to every school experience.  Some place where kids can sink their hands down into the earth and have a part in growing something is one of those essentials.  Edible Schoolyard is an incredible site with a goal to bring children into a positive relationship with food by connecting it with nature and culture.  The great part: good health is the outcome.  The Edible Schoolyard Project shares a food curriculum for schools around the world to put into practice.  I share their dream of making an “edible education” as part of the core of every school in the country.  I love that Edible Schoolyard wants to provide every student with a free nutritious lunch and interactive experiences in the classroom, kitchen and garden…transforming the health and values of every child.

So…what exactly does the Edible Schoolyard project do?

  • Maps the grassroots efforts of edible education programs around the United States.
  • Gathers and shares lessons and best practices of school gardens, kitchens, and lunch programs.
  • Documents 15 years of Edible Schoolyards.
  • Trains educators at the Edible Schoolyard Academy.
How to integrate Edible Schoolyard Project into the classroom:  The Edible Schoolyard Project has some excellent lessons, tips, guidance, and encouragement for starting an Edible Schoolyard Project at your own school.  The great thing about the resource collection on Edible Schoolyard Project is that it has been created by educators.  The lesson plans aren’t just focused on food, they are all tied in to a variety of disciplines…you know, like it happens in real life.
There is something so human and important about growing food.  It is something that we have separated ourselves from and as a result, we are happy to stuff ourselves with a combination of chemicals and additives.  I have taught students who truly didn’t know that potatoes grew.  Seriously.
At Anastasis, we are working to start our own Edible Schoolyard Project.  Our challenge: we lease space from a church. There is no little piece of land that we can call our own.  We don’t let anything stop us at Anastasis, we just have to be more creative.  In the past few weeks our students have been composting in 56 2-liter bottles.  It can be stinky…but the kids are learning so much about decomposition!  My next plan for our own little edible school yard project:
Truck Farm.  I learned about Truck Farms from a way cool little restaurant here in Colorado called Beatrice and Woodsley.  They take advantage of Truck Farms for some of their produce.  Brilliant idea.  A truck farm is an old pick up truck whose bed has been retrofitted as a container garden.  The result: fresh produce that is mobile.  SO great for a school that puts everything on wheels!  While it isn’t exactly like getting your hands into a plot of land, students will be able to have their own little kitchen garden that they can grow.
****As a side note, if anyone has an old pickup they would like to donate to Anastasis or help funding this project, please let me know!
Tips:  Explore the Movement is a section on the Edible Schoolyard Project where those in the US can find others in their state to network with.

Please leave a comment and share how you are using Edible Schoolyard Project in  your classroom!

Wordia

Posted by admin | Posted in Interactive Whiteboard, Knowledge (remember), Language Arts, Primary Elementary, Secondary Elementary, Teacher Resources, video, Websites | Posted on 27-02-2012

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What it is: Wordia is a site that has been around for a little while, I recently took a look at it again and was pleasantly surprised with the updates. Wordia is game-based platform that helps expose students to a variety of words and vocabulary.  The Wordia platform uses a dictionary as its foundation and blends learning games with interactive videos that teach vocabulary.  Using Wordia, students build “Word Banks” as they engage in some friendly competition with classmates and other schools.  The games in Wordia focus on spelling, grammar, oracy, auditory and phonics.  This update has included some helpful goodies with schools and classrooms in mind.  Games have been developed for educator led one-to-many scenarios that can be played on an interactive whiteboard or or projector connected computer with the whole class.  One-to-one games are perfect for the classroom, computer lab or home.  Word lists and lesson plans are available with both options for some great ideas for whichever situation best meets the needs of your classroom.

Wordia keeps track of student progress through a series of badges.  Students work to build their own word bank and collect badges.

How to integrate Wordia into the classroom:  Wordia is a great place for students to build and practice vocabulary and word knowledge.  The games are fun to play as a class or individually and beat a vocab worksheet hands down.  Wordia has a pretty impressive search engine.  It would be an excellent site to keep bookmarked on classroom computers as a resource center in the classroom.  Any time students run across an unfamiliar word, they can immediately run a search that brings them the definition, a video, a game, and related words.  If a video doesn’t already exist, your students can record and contribute their own video!  The same option exists for games.  You and your students can easily build a game on Wordia to share.  Just upload a word list, select a game type and voila!
Why not share spelling and vocabulary words every week by building a game from the word list?  Much more fun than the boring word list that gets lost on the way home anyway.
Tips:  You (the teacher) will have to create an account before your students can save their progress in Wordia.  Searching the site and viewing content can be done without a login.

Please leave a comment and share how you are using Wordia in  your classroom!

BBC Bitesize: Converting fractions into decimals

Posted by admin | Posted in Knowledge (remember), Math, Secondary Elementary, Understand (describe, explain), Websites | Posted on 23-02-2012

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What it is: BBC Bitesize consistently has wonderful games and activities for the classroom.  The Converting Fractions into Decimals activity isn’t one I have come across in the past, but it is a winner none the less.  This is a great place for students to gain some practice with fraction to decimal conversion.  The activity is set up like a secret mission.  Students get their briefing on the mission (including a short description of how the conversion is performed) and must solve a series of problems to unlock secret doors and compartments.

How to integrate BBC Bitesize Converting Fractions into Decimals into the classroom:  I appreciate that BBC Bitesize didn’t just create another boring drill practice game.  Instead, they surround students with story and give them a secret mission to complete that puts their newly learned converting skills to use. The activity takes about 10 minutes (more depending on your students) and could be completed independently in a one to one or computer lab setting, as a center rotation in the classroom, or using an interactive whiteboard or projector-connected computer as a class.  If you complete the mission as a class, make sure that each student has the opportunity to solve a problem to help complete the mission.  With young students I always like to make a big deal of these type of activities if we are completing them as a class.  I might hand out “Top Secret” folders before we do the mission with reminders about how to convert and a few practice problems to jog their memory before completing the BBC Bitesize activity.
Tips:  BBC Bitesize has links under the activity where students can read more about converting fractions to decimals and an online quiz they can take.

Please leave a comment and share how you are using BBC Bitesize Converting Fractions into Decimals in  your classroom!

Super Math World

Posted by admin | Posted in Interactive Whiteboard, Knowledge (remember), Math, Middle/High School, Primary Elementary, Secondary Elementary, Understand (describe, explain), Websites | Posted on 22-02-2012

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What it is: Super Math World is a site that has been around a LONG time… I mean, it is on my tenkely.org site for crying out loud! I made that site a good 8 years ago.  I took a look at it again today and am very impressed with the updates and changes that have been made.  Super Math World isn’t a totally free site but it does have a LOT of free content that kids can access.  To utilize the free portions of Super Math World, login as a guest by clicking the “Guest” button.  There are math games that teach and reinforce concepts for kindergarten through twelfth grade.  Free topics include: adding, measures, number patterns, percentages, place value, area, estimating, fractions, negative numbers, set theory, venn diagrams, and series.  The kids will enjoy the arcade-like practice area.


How to integrate Super Math World into the classroom:  Super Math World makes a great computer center activity during math.  The games are quick-enough that students can filter through classroom computers for their turn over a few periods.  The games would also make fun whole-class interactive whiteboard games.  These are intended to be one player, so you can split your students into teams and have them take turns at the board.  Keep a tally of the correct responses to find out which team is the “winner”.  My students always really enjoyed this type of friendly competition.
Of course, the site also makes a great practice area for kids in a computer lab setting.  Some of the games are multi-player so kids can team up on computers to play.
If you want a look at how I rotated students through centers on classroom computers, this post explains it.
Tips:  The paid subscription brings you LOTS more games (and concepts).  If your students enjoy the site, it may be worth getting the subscription.

Please leave a comment and share how you are using Super Math World in  your classroom!

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