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iboard: A Day at the Park

What it is: A Day at the Park asks students to position characters at a park and then construct sentences about their placement or movement.  Students can construct the statements by using a word bank, or the word bank can be hidden.  This is a great activity for students to practice describing words. How...

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Oxford Owl: free ebooks (with audio!)

Posted by admin | Posted in Interactive book, Interactive Whiteboard, Knowledge (remember), Language Arts, Primary Elementary, Secondary Elementary, Teacher Resources, Understand (describe, explain), Websites | Posted on 23-07-2013

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Oxford Owl free ebooks: iLearn Technology

What it is: Oxford Owl is an incredible collection of free children’s ebooks for kids ages 3-11.  Each ebook has accompanying audio so that students can choose to read along, or read independently.  The books also have activities that focus on reading comprehension and story recall.  There are several options for filtering the ebooks so that students can find just the right story including by age, by book type, and by series.  In addition to the ebooks on the site, you can find fun activities and recommendations for each age group, games to print and play, and online games with characters from the books and site.

How to integrate Oxford Owl into your classroom:  I am a big fan of books.  Huge even.  It doesn’t matter where they reside, books make me happy.  It makes sense then, that Oxford Owl would be a squeal worthy site for me.  Free ebooks with audio you guys!  This site reminds me a little bit of Lookybook...I’m still lamenting its demise.

Oxford Owl is a great way to instantly expand your classroom library.  Books are leveled by age and include both fiction and non-fiction.  You will find biographies, dictionaries, fiction, myths and legends, non-fiction, phonics, picture books, poetry and books for struggling readers.   The stories that I went through were truly fun to read!  Use the books on Oxford Owl during reading time on classroom computers.  Students can choose a book to go through as a read along (SO very helpful when there are students who really need to read with a buddy, but the buddy situation is limited).   If you only have one or two computers in your classroom, get a headphone splitter and let students read together in small groups.  The related activities are a great way for students to self-monitor comprehension.  Students can also read these stories independently.  When I taught 2nd grade, I had a voracious reader who quickly read through all of the classroom books and was ready for more.  He was only allowed to check out from the library once a week (and usually those books went home) so I would have him use Lookybook.  Oxford Owl would open a whole other world of books for them to read!

We all have days where a few extra minutes to deal with a problem, set up for the next activity, etc.  Oxford Owl could be connected to your interactive whiteboard or projector for students to listen to a story while you get things sorted.  The whole class can enjoy the story together.  My students loved books on the IWB because they could all see the pictures and read along.  Oxford Owl is also ideal for that time of year when the germs settle in and the voice has gone on strike.

One of my favorite things to do in the classroom was reading with small groups of students.  It gave me the opportunity to give them the individual attention that they really deserved and let me get to know them as readers better.  But…what to do with the rest of the class?  I assigned tub work that students could complete independently.  The tubs were centers related to what we were learning during the week.  Each tub contained all the necessary materials that students would need.  This was independent learning they could work on while I was with the small groups.  Oxford Owl would make a great addition to the “tub” work.  Students could visit the computer center and choose some books to read and play the associated games.

Tips:  Now for the unfortunate news: Oxford Owl is flash-based.  BOO! Not ideal at all for a classroom full of iPads like we have at Anastasis.  Luckily, there is a solution.  There are several Flash Browsers that you can download for the iPad to view flash content.  My favorite is Rover (because it is filtered and created for kids!).  If your network is well filtered, I would also recommend iSwifter and Photon.

P.S. We Give Books is another outstanding place to find free ebooks!

P.S.S. Hat Tip to The Techie Classroom- an outstanding blog to add to your reader if it isn’t already there!

Playfic: create, play and remix text-based games

Posted by admin | Posted in Analyze, collaboration, Create, Evaluate, History, Interactive book, Language Arts, Middle/High School, Primary Elementary, Science, Secondary Elementary, Teacher Resources, Web2.0, Websites | Posted on 08-01-2013

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What it is: Playfic is a site that let’s users create, play and remix online text-based games.  I may have lost some of you already…but don’t leave yet! A text-based game is a genre of game that uses no graphics or sound, but instead, uses text to tell a story in an interactive world.  Think of a choose your own adventure tech-style.  Students can create a story that others can interact with by directing the story using words and phrases.  As an example, the story might be about a forest, describing what you can see East, West, North and South.  The player would type in a direction “East”, hit the return key, and the story progresses.  You can try out a sample text-based game here.

How to integrate Playfic into the classroom: Playfic has all kinds of good stuff for classrooms.  To create a story, students must first learn a little bit of coding.  Tutorials are included on the Playfic site, and are easy enough to get your students up and running in no time.  There is even a link to an Inform 7 (coding language) recipe book that will have your students dreaming up new scenarios and actively researching how to make them come to life.  Students can create games for each other while strengthening their writing and grammar skills.  This is wonderful for fictitious writing, but could also be used for students to explore “what ifs” in history and science.  Students can take a moment in time and dream up what might have been different about the world if the event hadn’t happened the way that it had.  As they are researching and learning about the actual event, they will also be analyzing why the event is important and critically thinking about it’s impact on the world we live in.  Similarly, students could explore a science experiment, hypothesizing what will happen and the different outcomes that might occur.

Teachers could create these choose your own adventure stories for students for new learning or review of a topic.  Wouldn’t it be cool to have a story using sight word vocabulary that prompted practice with the sight words?

I know a handful of students who really struggle with writing…it is PAINFUL.  These students are brilliant. They have great ideas to share. One of the students I have in mind came up to me today and said, “over break I taught myself Lua (programming language).”  Students like these will be all over this type of writing.  What a cool way to engage them and excite them about the writing process in a new way.

One of the things that I really like about Playfic is that it takes a lot of planning, organizing, and thought to create this type of story.  For some students the planning/organizing portion of writing is a real struggle.  This site would be so useful in teaching students the importance of those steps.  I also love that it will have them researching and looking up solutions for how to make their ideas come to life.  Just like we do every day in the “real world.”

Tips: The Inform 7 Recipe book can be found here. 

Leave a comment and tell us how you are using  Playfic in your classroom.

Unitag: Custom QR Code Generator

Posted by admin | Posted in Art, Create, Evaluate, Foreign Language, Geography, Government, History, inspiration, Knowledge (remember), Language Arts, Math, Middle/High School, Music, PE, Phonics, Primary Elementary, Science, Secondary Elementary, Teacher Resources, Understand (describe, explain), web tools, Websites | Posted on 06-12-2012

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What it is: QR codes are becoming more and more prevalent in education and everywhere else (advertisements, TV, your bag of chips, soda, etc.).  These codes are easy to make and can lead to some fun learning opportunities.  Unitag is a QR code generator that lets you customize the look of the QR code.  First, choose a type of QR code to generate.  This can be a weblink, text, a business card, an email, a geolocation, a text message, a phone number, a calendar date, a wifi network, or a mobile page.  Next, you can customize the QR code with pre-made templates, personalized color palette, a special look, a logo or picture, “eye” colors, and more.  When you are finished, the QR code can be downloaded or shared on Twitter, Facebook or Pinterest.  This process could take seconds (it is SO fast to create) or several minutes depending on how fancy you like to get with your customizations.

How to integrate Unitag into the classroom: So, what in the heck can you use those codes for?  A lot!  Use Unitag to create customized codes for back to school night; instead of sending parents with stacks of papers, offer a QR code by the door where they can snap a picture that takes them to your expectations/important dates/syllabus/special projects.  Include QR codes next to parent teacher conference signups so that parents can instantly upload the date to the calendar on their phone.  A QR code linked to your business card helps parents and students know what office hours you keep and how to keep in touch.

For older students (who have a phone) offer QR codes to help them remember important dates, homework, special projects, etc.  This could be posted next to the door so that on their way in or out they can instantly snap a picture and have all of the upcoming assignments in their calendar.

QR codes can be used by students to create choose your own adventure type stories.  The codes can link to different twists and turns within the story.  This would be fantastic for student created fiction but could also make a really cool book report.  Students could write one version summarizing the story as it was, a QR code could lead to an alternate ending that they created themselves.

When studying history, QR codes could be used to show different angles of the same event, different outcomes depending on population…and how cool would it be if those QR codes were included on a map where the events took place?!  Students can link the QR codes to different views of the same event.  For example, one from the viewpoint of explorer Christopher Columbus and another from the point of view of Native Americans.  A QR code classroom timeline would also be very neat.  Students can create reports/content that is linked to a QR code that gets placed on a giant timeline.  Customize the code with images that are related to the event or colors that represent the event in some way.

Create a bulletin board with a map of the world.  Place QR codes over different places for an interactive board.  Students can use the QR codes to reveal the name/capital/key features of the place.

Have a secret clue or math problem each day that students can reveal using a QR code.  It sounds so simple, but honestly, students love the mystery and hidden challenge!

In science, QR codes can be used at different stations to reveal the steps that students should follow for an experiment.  How about a periodic table of QR codes that reveal what each element does or a video that shows the element in action?

At the beginning of last year, we created a school wide school scavenger hunt that used QR codes to help students learn where different classrooms/resources could be found.  It was great fun!

Anytime you have a center activity, include a QR code that links to instructions, supplementary videos or websites.  This saves students from having to spend learning time typing in URLs or looking for directions that the last group wrote on or piled things on (or does that only happen to us?).

Do your students create a LOT of digital work like ours do?  One of the challenges we face at Anastasis is the lack of worksheets going home.  I know…it doesn’t seem like that would be a challenge, but it is.  Parents aren’t quite sure where to look for their child’s work since it is all digital.  QR codes could go home in lieu of a Friday folder that link to student work.

This time of year, it would be really neat to create a QR code advent calendar where students reveal some new piece of learning every day.

Tips: I hope that your mind is racing with the possibilities these little codes offer.  There is something to the mystery of them that appeals to students, they are like unveiling a surprise.  Don’t keep all the fun of creating them to yourself, students can easily create these and use them within their work.  I honestly can’t think of a subject or discipline that these wouldn’t be useful in.

Art: Share some art history or steps to an art project through a QR code.

Foreign Language: Create a word bank wall that has QR codes that reveal the translation of the word.

Geography: Create a map with QR codes that reveals additional information about the place.

Government: QR codes that lead students to political cartoons and related learning.

History: Exploring multiple points of view within a historical event.

Language Arts: Choose your own adventure story creation.

Math: Problem of the day.  Multiple methods for solving a problem.  Instructions for a math center activity.

Music: An exploration of world music through QR code link/videos.

PE: Links to examples of different exercises/warm ups.

Phonics: Video library of phonemes through QR code.

Science: Periodic table of QR codes with links to element information or videos.

Apps for scanning QR Codes: QR Reader, Qrafter, QR Scanner, Scan, Red Laser, Quick Scan Pro, Quick Scan, ATT code scanner.  There are hundreds of these, search your app store for “QR code” and find the one that best fits your needs and device.

Leave a comment and tell us how you are using  Unitag in your classroom.

Extreme Speed Booking:Using Technology to help kids love reading

Posted by admin | Posted in Analyze, Anastasis Academy, Evaluate, Fun & Games, inspiration, Language Arts, Middle/High School, Primary Elementary, Secondary Elementary, Teacher Resources, Websites | Posted on 23-01-2012

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What it is:  What makes technology SO great is the way that it can make life (and teaching) more productive and fun.  Over the years, I have found so many ways that technology can make reading more rewarding for both kids who love to read, and kids who dread reading.  Today, I created an “Extreme Speed Booking” website for @michellek107′s class at Anastasis.  I created the site quickly using Weebly, an awesome WYSIWYG (what you see is what you get) website editor.  Drag and drop website building is where it is at!  The idea behind the site is to introduce students to a variety of books and form classroom book groups.  How does Extreme Speed Booking work?  A whole lot like speed dating.  :)   Students spend a little time with each book and then rate them accordingly with “I want to read more”,  “Interesting”, “Not for me”, or “I’ve already read”.  Students can also make a note of how interested they are in reading the book (maybe a 1-10 scale)?  This process introduces students to a variety of books, genres and authors.  Students may come across titles and authors they wouldn’t otherwise find.  It also helps teachers form classroom book groups that are of high-interest and investment to students because they had input.
How to integrate Extreme Speed Booking into the classroom: Extreme Speed Booking is a fun way to build book groups/literature circles.  I love this method of exposure to a variety of books, authors, and genres.
For our purposes at Anastasis, I created the Weebly website with a link to the “look inside” on Amazon.  Because all of our students have an iPad, this was the simplest way to get the book preview into the hands of the students.  Don’t have technology?  No problem!  Just make sure that you have enough copies of books so that each student can sit with the physical book during the Extreme Speed Booking sessions.  If you have classroom computers, you can do a blend of both.
Explain to your students that they will have 2 minutes with each book.  During that time, they can choose to read the introduction or first chapter, read the book jacket, or flip through and look at chapter titles and pictures.  The goal during this time is to discover whether this is a book that they would like to read.  It is okay if it isn’t a book they would want to read…the goal is to find out which book they are most excited about.  After the two minutes is up, sound a bell that signifies it is time to switch.  Before they switch, students can quickly make a note of the Title and rate the book.  Continue on until students have had 2 minutes with each book.  Collect the notes students have made and formulate book groups based on interest in the book.
I’ve added a few extra pages to our Extreme Speed Booking website including places where students can explore other books that they may like to read (Shelfari and Book Wink).  I’ve also added a form that book groups can fill out as they are reading.  The form gets emailed directly to the teacher.  Our students will probably be blogging quite a bit of reflection about their reading.  I thought it might also be useful to have a place for groups to answer questions, make comments, or update their teacher with their progress as a group.
@michellek107 created a Google form for her students to fill out while they are speed booking.  Great idea!  She is so smart.  This will make it easy to collect all of the responses in one place to form groups.
Suggestions for books:
  • Choose books from a variety of levels, make sure you have a few book options for each reading level in your classroom.
  • Choose a variety of authors and genres, this is a great way to expose students to authors and genres they don’t normally seek out on their own.
  • Set up classroom computers with some book trailer videos from a site like Book Wink…this is a great “introduction” to a book or genre and acts much like a movie trailer.
  • Choose a variety of books from ONE author.  After students have completed reading in their smaller groups, they can come back together and do an author study as a whole class; each group contributing something a little different.
  • Choose a variety of books from ONE genre.  Students can read books in the smaller groups but discuss common features of the genre as a class.
  • Choose a variety of books on a similar topic.  Students can read books in the smaller groups and then discuss the different character perspectives, author approaches, etc.  This would be really neat to do with historical fiction, Holocaust fiction, etc.
  • Use non-fiction books that reinforce topics and themes that you are using in other academic areas.
  • Use biographies of presidents, change makers, authors, etc.   Students can learn about a specific person in the smaller reading group and share what they have learned with the larger group later.
Tips:   Extreme Speed Booking is a lot of fun with tech, but equally doable without tech!  If you have access to a 1-1 tech environment, or can reserve the computer lab for a round of speed booking, you can use my technique above.  Weebly makes it very easy to do this!
If you haven’t already, check out Shelfari and create a virtual bookshelf of book recommendations for your class or school.  You can see our Shelfari shelf for Anastasis below.  If you teach 3rd-12th grade it is worth checking out Book Wink!

Please leave a comment and share how you are using Extreme Speed Booking in  your classroom!

Stage’d

Posted by admin | Posted in Foreign Language, Fun & Games, History, Interactive book, Interactive Whiteboard, Language Arts, Math, Middle/High School, Primary Elementary, Science, Secondary Elementary, Teacher Resources, web tools, Websites | Posted on 04-05-2010

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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 @MrR0gersStage’d is a tool that helps students to tell digital stories in a new 3-d way.  Students can create a stage full of characters and dialogue as if they are directing their own digital play.  They can choose characters, costumes, animations, set design and provide characters with dialog.  When the 3-d comic has been saved, it can be emailed or linked to with a unique url.   Stage’d is perfect for use in any classroom, to save a comic requires no personal identifying information or even an email address.  All students have to do is type in the name of the director (first name only or a pseudonym).  

How to integrate Stage’d into the classroom: Stage’d is a seriously fun creation tool, students are going to love directing their own 3-d comic plays.  Stage’d makes a great digital story telling tool.

Students can:

  • Publish their own fiction (or non-fiction) writing pieces as a 3-d play
  • Re-tell a story to demonstrate comprehension
  • Illustrate vocabulary words
  • Illustrate historical events
  • Create mock public service announcements
  • Create mocumentaries
  • “Interview” an important person of interest
  • Create short persuasive video commercials
  • Illustrate story problems in math
  • Practice a foreign language dialogue and vocabulary

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Stage’d is very easy to use and the results are absolutely fantastic.  Create your own Stage’d creations to introduce a new topic or concept to your students.  This is a fun introduction that will grab their attention in a hurry.

Tips: The creators of Stage’d are constantly adding new features and options so check back often.

Please leave a comment and share how you are using Stage’d in your classroom.