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PBS Learning Media 14,000+ k-12 resources!

What it is: PBS Learning Media is a fabulous collection of 14,000+ resources that are separated by subject area.  The collection reminds me a lot of the popular Discovery Streaming with one big difference- the resources on PBS Learning Media are free to use!  Resources can be searched by grade...

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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!

BookSource: Classroom Library Organzier

Posted by admin | Posted in Classroom Management, iPod, Language Arts, Middle/High School, Primary Elementary, Secondary Elementary, Teacher Resources, web tools, Websites | Posted on 21-02-2012

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What it is: Book Source has a pretty incredible tool called the Classroom Library Organizer.  A FREE account on Classroom Organizer let’s you digitally build and keep track of your classroom library, import BookSource orders, import student rosters, track book conditions, generate reports, and more.  All of this equals one thing for your classroom library: organization.  For an organizational freak like me this is heaven!  It makes it SO easy to track your classroom library, check in and out books to students, keep them located where they are supposed to be located in your classroom.  Basically it is a miracle worker (not to overstate it or anything).  As a teacher you can create book rules (like what you are prompted to enter in about a book upon return or how many days books can be checked out), you can choose which fields to display (including reading levels, word counts and interest level), and which fields to display to students.  You can even view reports about students reading habits.  Pretty handy.  And free. Did I mention free?
So, how does this nifty little tool work?  You won’t be spending your time typing in information about each and every book you own, that would be WAY too tedious…not to mention time consuming.  Classroom Organizer comes with a handy little (free) app for your smart phone.  Search “BookSource” in your app store, download the free app and you are armed and ready to go.  The app lets you scan ISBN barcodes on the back of books.  In a few seconds you have a complete entry for the book including the name of the book, the author, reading level, interest level, etc.  This gets automatically added to your classroom library.  You can even set a location on the book so that it is returned to exactly the location it came from.  SO smart!
Now for the downside: The site is not very explanatory.  You have to play around a bit to find what you are looking for and figure it out.  There are no “about” pages or even cues from the home page about what all the tool does.  As a blogger and a teacher, I find that annoying.  I don’t always have time to sit and figure a tool out without a little pizazz that says “don’t forget to look at me!”.  It is a small thing really, the tool isn’t hard to use at all, just not very consumer friendly…it doesn’t sell itself until you play.

How to integrate BookSource Classroom Organizer into the classroom:  Do you have a classroom library? Do you like organization?  Enough said!
We are using this as our only library tracking system at Anastasis since we are so small.  I started adding books to our library today.  If you don’t have time to do this yourself, enlist some of your students to scan books as part of their classroom job or clean up time.
Students can use Classroom Organizer to help them find books to read.  They can search by interest level, reading level, author, etc.
Tips:  If you use BookSource there are even more built in goodies to help you out!

Please leave a comment and share how you are using BookSource Classroom Organizer in  your classroom!

Photo Writing Prompt Tumblr from @JohnTSpencer

Posted by admin | Posted in Analyze, Character Education, Create, Interactive Whiteboard, Language Arts, Middle/High School, Teacher Resources, Websites | Posted on 20-02-2012

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What it is: @johntspencer is one of my very favorite bloggers.  He makes me think, laugh, challenges me and reminds me that there is always something to push forward for in education.  If I’m honest, sometimes he even makes me crazy…usually because he is pushing my thinking into areas I’m not ready to consider yet.  How dare he call “me” out?!  To be fair, he isn’t calling me out, usually he is calling himself out and I feel the residual conviction.   John writes all over the place.  The first time I encountered his genius was a chance reading of his blog Adventures in Pencil Integration.  Brilliant.  I started following it pretty early on in it’s existence and soon found that he writes ALL over the place.  He has written several books including Drawn into Danger, Pencil Me In, Teaching Unmasked, Sages and Lunatics, and a Sustainable Start.  If you haven’t read these, you should.  John is open and honest and has a great sense of humor.  His Education Rethink blog leads you to all of his resources, blogs, books, videos and podcasts.
John has also created a resource for his students that the rest of us can use.  How nice of him!  His Photo Writing Prompt Tumblr is chalk full of images with captions designed to make students think deeply.  Browse through the collection and soon you will understand how students can’t help but pour forth their ideas in writing.  We do something similar at Anastasis but hadn’t been collecting the images on anything but our own blogs.  These prompts are a great addition to what we are doing!  Some of them are challenging, some are thoughtful, some are humorous.  Sometimes we get a really special treat and John includes his own sketches.

How to integrate Photo Writing Prompt Tumblr into the classroom:  This one is best for intermediate, jr. high and high school students.  The topics are probably a little too complex for younger students to write about (although some of them would be appropriate and some kids are really brilliant!).  Spending time writing creatively is one of the best ways to improve as a writer, to challenge and support deep thinking, and to express themselves.  I learn SO much about students through their writing.  Whether it be a blog post, an imaginative story or a letter…writing exposes them in new ways.
Use John’s Photo Writing Prompt Tumblr with your students, these can be projected for students to see while they write.  John updates the Tumblr often so you won’t be lacking for new material for your students to interact with!  Students can write in a traditional writing journal, in the form of a blog post where they link to the original post, or on a class blog together as a group writing project.
Tips:  Teach younger students? Take a cue from John and start your own writing prompt Tumbr for your students!
I’ve written about another Photo Prompt Tumblr blog that you can find here.  Incidentally, I learned about that blog from @johntspencer. That guy is full of ideas!

Please leave a comment and share how you are using Photo Writing Prompt Tumbr in  your classroom!

Gamestar Mechanic: Teaching game design in the classroom

Posted by admin | Posted in Analyze, Anastasis Academy, Apply, Art, Character Education, Create, Evaluate, Fun & Games, Language Arts, Math, Middle/High School, Primary Elementary, Science, Secondary Elementary, Teacher Resources, Understand (describe, explain), web tools, Web2.0, Websites | Posted on 15-02-2012

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What it is: I just love when I get lost in a bunny trail of links…you know the kind, you go hunting for something specific and click on something that looks interesting which leads you to a browser of 25 tabs open.  I had one of these serendipitous link moments today that lead me to Gamestar MechanicGamestar Mechanic is both a game and an online community that teaches kids how to design their own digital games.  In designing games, students learn systems thinking, creative problem solving, art and aesthetics, writing and storytelling, and creates a motivation for further STEM exploration.  The free version of Gamestar Mechanic is available with unlimited use for teachers who want to use it with their students.  This account option comes with 1 teacher login and 40 student logins.  A premium account offers some additional classroom goodies including: class management, the ability for students to incorporate their own custom artwork, live professional training webinars, tools for tracking student activity and assessing progress, the option of having a “walled” school community, and more.
As a teacher you will find sample lessons for using Gamestar Mechanic, an introductory step-by-step guide, and a full learning guide.  Teachers can even play a short quest to learn more about how to use Gamestar Mechanic in the classroom to teach core subjects.

How to integrate Gamestar Mechanic into the classroom:  There is so much to learn from digital games.  As a player, students learn to think strategically, persist through failure and experience epic wins that can translate to what they do and are willing to try out in real life.  As a designer students learn systems thinking, creative problem solving, digital art and aesthetics, and storytelling and writing.  Students love being able to bring their creations and ideas to life in the form of a game.  Gamestar Mechanic could be the key to unlocking the storytelling genius in your reluctant writers.  It has been my experience that a student faced with a blank paper and a writing assignment can be daunting.  Introduce the idea of designing their own game and suddenly a storyline pours forth.  It is pretty neat to watch!
Gamestar Mechanic makes it easy for all teachers to incorporate game design into the classroom and weave it into the core subjects being taught.  You don’t have to be a tech-superstar, just create an account, read through the getting started guide and enlist the help of a student who’s passion is game design.  This type of designing and thinking is wonderful because it lays the ground work for so much other STEM thinking.  It nicely blends disciplines and helps students recognize the overlap in the learning that they do.
Students can each create a game of their own in a lab setting where every student has a computer.  If you are limited on your computer options for students, create a game as a class using an interactive whiteboard or projector-connected computer.  Students can create games that incorporate other learning or research they are doing to help teach future classes or younger students.  At Anastasis, we have Crave Classes.  These are classes that the student gets to choose based on personal passions.  In the one or two computer classroom, give your students time for a Crave class where they work on Gamestar Mechanic.  Other students can follow their areas of passion…almost in a center type of a set up.
Tips:  There are a variety of pricing and package options for classrooms.  If your students are really enjoying the game design process, it might be worth taking a look at the premium options available.

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

festisite text layout: Valentine’s word art

Posted by admin | Posted in Art, Create, Download, Knowledge (remember), Language Arts, Middle/High School, Primary Elementary, Science, Secondary Elementary, Teacher Resources, Understand (describe, explain), web tools, Websites | Posted on 13-02-2012

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What it is: Tomorrow is Valentine’s day! While I’m not a big celebrator of this holiday at home, I do enjoy making a big deal of it at school.  It is a fun day to build community and culture within a school!  Our Valentine’s day plans include jump rope and hoops for heart, the Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore, a read-in, book exchange and some fun games/art projects!  I am excited!  One of the sites I am looking forward to introducing tomorrow is festisite Text Layout. The site is easy to use and yields some impressive results.  Students type a bit of text into the text box.  Then they click “Layout text” and get their text written as a shape poem inside a heart.  The image is delivered as a PDF which makes it easy for students to print and save their creations.  Cute and easy!

How to integrate festisite text layout into the classroom: festisite text layout is a neat way for students to play with text.  Students can use festisite text layout to write a shape poem about Valentine’s day or a non-fiction poem about the heart.  Use the site to create fun Valentine wishes for friends.
Turn the heart text layouts into a game by writing heart-related vocabulary definitions.  Students can cut out the heart shape and write the vocabulary word on the back.  Students can see how fast their team can get through the deck of cards they have created.
We will be using the heart layout to write a reflection about what we “love” about a book we are reading during our read-in tomorrow.  This shape poem can be taped to the inside cover of the book so that when we do our book exchange, it has a personalized message about the book from the giver.
Tips:  festisite has other fun text layouts to try including money, card games, logos, iPhones, poems, and text layouts.  You can even create spirals, mazes, banners and rebus puzzles out of your text.  Way cool!

Please leave a comment and share how you are using festisite text layout  in  your classroom!

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