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Gooru: Fantastic new education search engine

What it is:  Gooru is a education search engine for learning that helps teachers find standards aligned content and study guides.  5th-12th grade math and science topics are covered and include resources like digital textbooks, animations and instructor videos.  Gooru provides a place to connect...

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Summer Learning: reading, creativity apps, serving with kids

Posted by admin | Posted in Anastasis Academy, Character Education, education reform, inspiration, Language Arts, Middle/High School, Primary Elementary, professional development, Secondary Elementary, Teacher Resources, Websites | Posted on 27-06-2014

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If you are an educator, you are aware of the dreaded “summer slide.” Summer break is a much-needed change of pace for educators, but unfortunately it can mean two months without any reading, learning, exploring, etc. For some kids, summer means hours spent in front of the TV, outside play (which is happy!), or hours spent trying to beat the next level of Flappy Bird. Many parents feel ill-equipped, or at a loss for how to keep their kids learning over the summer.

I created the following publication, “a thing or two,” for Anastasis families. I thought that you all might enjoy it as well! Please feel free to pass this on to your own students and families. In this issue there are ideas for summer reading, a review of my favorite 3 creativity apps, and service learning ideas for the summer.

 

Happy Learning!

Library for All Six Degrees of Education

Posted by admin | Posted in education reform, Grade Level, inspiration, Language Arts, Teacher Resources | Posted on 24-06-2014

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I greatly appreciate people who recognize a problem and work in new, innovative ways to solve it. Today I learned about Library for All, who has just launched a truly innovative campaign to eradicate illiteracy in the developing world. The campaign is called Six Degrees of Education. Library for All is building on the theory of “six degrees of separation” to reach some key donors and influencers, such as George Lucas and Queen Rania. People who can help achieve the mission of providing access to books for millions of children in developing countries through the Library for all digital library.

Check out the Six Degrees of Education Library For All page and let’s see how our six degrees of separation can help spread literacy virally! Share on social media sites, when you are chatting with friends, or networking at a conference. According to the the six degrees of separation, if everyone who read this blog participated, we could help Library for All reach this goal in no time!

I relish the summer time because it provides me the opportunity to read, learn, and read some more. Everyone should know that gift! We can help, join me in spreading the word about Library for All’s Six Degrees of Education Campaign!

The Spotlit Collection- 50 of the best books for every grade level

Posted by admin | Posted in Language Arts, Middle/High School, Primary Elementary, Secondary Elementary, Teacher Resources, Websites | Posted on 18-11-2013

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Scholastic Spotlit Collection- 50 of the best books for every grade level

What it is: Scholastic Reading Club Spotlit Collection is a fantastic place to find outstanding books for preschool through middle school students.  Teachers, librarians, and book professionals came together and considered thousands of books to create a diverse list of award-winners, classics, and dynamite contemporaries.  Each grade level includes the 50 top favorites selected for that age group.  The result is a great place to start when you are searching for books to introduce students to!

How to integrate Spotlit Collection into your classroom: Scholastic’s Spotlit Collection has a wonderful selection of 50 books for each grade level in preschool through middle school.  This would be a great place to determine what you would like in your classroom library, which books to help your students hunt for in the library, and which books to introduce for classroom book groups.  If you have students reading above grade level (or several levels above/below) the Spotlight Collection can help you guide students towards appropriate books.

Challenge your students to read 10-20 of the books in the Spotlit Collection before the end of the school year.  Keep the collection handy by bookmarking it on a classroom computer.  When a student laments that they, “don’t know what to read,” they can quickly pull up the collection for some great new recommendations.

Tips: While you are visiting the collection, sign up for the Scholastic Reading Club!

What do you think?  How are you using the Spotlit Collection in your classroom?

Rewordify: help kids understand what they read

Posted by admin | Posted in Evaluate, Inquiry, Interactive book, Knowledge (remember), Language Arts, Middle/High School, Primary Elementary, Secondary Elementary, Understand (describe, explain), web tools | Posted on 14-08-2013

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Rewordify-understand what you read iLearn Technology

What it is: Rewordify is a neat online app that helps struggling readers, ESL/ELL students, etc. improve their reading comprehension and vocabulary development.  Students can copy and paste a difficult passage into Rewordify and it instantly transforms the text by highlighting words it has substituted with more common/easily understood, language.  Students can click on the highlighted word to view the original word that was replaced.

Teachers can use Rewordify to create vocabulary activities from any high-interest reading passage, make over 350 classics more accessible, and show students how to surf the web the way a strong reader does.

Settings within Rewordify let students adjust how they interact with difficult passages based on their own preferences and learning needs.

How to integrate Rewordify into your classroom:  Rewordify is a fantastic web app for struggling readers (or any reader!).  Often, non-fiction can be difficult for students to read and understand.  Even strong readers can struggle with the new vocabulary and terms used.  Rewordify simplifies the text so that students can read through it successfully for comprehension.  It doesn’t stop there!  Since all of the words that were reworded are highlighted, students can see new vocabulary in context.  Rewordify can help students build up the ability to recognize context clues and how to use them to increase comprehension.

Anastasis is inquiry based.  We do a LOT of research, even with our youngest students.  The Internet is packed with fantastic resources for learning, but these resources are typically not created with student readers in mind.  As a result, students may struggle through a text and lose out on some of the rich learning in the process.  Rewordify is a great solution for us because students can quickly copy and paste text into Rewordify (works on iPads too!) and instantly read a more student friendly version of the text.

Classic literature is classic for a reason.  This literature holds timeless truths, superior storytelling and enchanting characters.  Students rarely choose to read the classics on their own because the language can add a difficult layer to the reading, causing the story to be lost in the frustration.  Rewordify has more than 350 classics built-in to be read directly on the site.  Students can choose a book to read, modify their settings of how they would like to view the words, and jump right in.  Students can choose to have the words default to the easier, modified word; can ask Rewordify to highlight words that it would have changed so that they can click on the word if they need an alternative; or see both versions of the word in context side by side.

ESL/ELL students will enjoy this site for the way that it allows them autonomy in their reading and vocabulary development.

Rewordify is also a great way for students to learn and practice vocabulary and discovering new synonyms for words.  Any text can be added to Rewordify, high school students could plug-in their own writing to determine if they have used interesting language.  If nothing is highlighted, there could be some work to do on word choice.

If you only have one or two computers available to students in your classroom, why not set up a bookmark to Rewordify that students can visit as needed during research, reading, etc.?  Students will be empowered to read anything they encounter with increased confidence.

Tips: In addition to the classics, you will also see a variety of news websites and articles that work well with Rewordify.  Whole pages of the site are automatically reworded for ease of understanding.

What do you think of Rewordify?  How do you plan to use it in your classroom?

8 alternatives to Google Reader

Posted by admin | Posted in Blogs, For Teachers, professional development, Teacher Resources, web tools, Web2.0 | Posted on 12-06-2013

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8 alternatives to Google Reader

I’ve been in mourning over Google’s decision to shut down Reader.  MOURNING.  Honestly, I love having a centralized location for all of my favorite blogs.  It is like my own customized newspaper delivered each morning.  I’ve been using Google Reader since about 2007, and in that time I’ve amassed an enormous collection of favorites.  Whenever I find something I want to remember or be able to go back and read, I Tweet it out and then immediately favorite it.  I can’t tell you how often I go to my Reader when I’m remembering something great that I favorited that I want to revisit or share.  Daily.

Google Reader is closing the door on July 1st.  I’ve been trying to pretend that this day isn’t coming.  Denial won’t stop it.  Today I decided to settle in and start going through my favorites to save them to my Pinterest boards.  I’ve found some great alternatives for Google Reader, but I have yet to find one that transfers both current RSS feeds and favorites.  I talked to Feedly on Twitter and they said that they are working on it.  I haven’t seen this feature added yet.  Not willing to lose all of those favorites, I’m going through the painstaking process of saving them elsewhere.  On the upside: I’m being reminded of the brilliance I’m surrounded by online.

If you are looking for a replacement RSS feed reader (say for your favorite blog…*ahem*) here are some great alternatives.

1. The Old Reader is in beta, it was built to be a replacement for Google Reader.  It looks a whole lot like the Google Reader you know and love.  For those super geeks (own it!) you can even use the same keyboard shortcuts.  This option is free but is currently browser-based only…no mobile apps yet.  Alas, that is where I do the majority of my reading.

2. Feedly is a good RSS reader alternative.  In addition to collecting your RSS feeds for you, it has a news suggestion algorithm that will suggest other articles that you will probably find interesting.  Great unless you have a reader like I do…then it becomes an endless rabbit hole that is hard to walk away from.  Feedly also has a great social aspect that makes it easy to share with friends and post to social networks.  With Feedly you can choose what type of layout you prefer. You can easily transfer all of your current subscriptions from Google Reader to Feedly.  Feedly comes as browser extension and mobile app.

3.  News Blur is similar to Google Reader, you can share articles, save for future reading, star them or start your own daily “burblog” of news stories that you want to share with others.  It comes in mobile app format.  Now the bad news: free accounts are capped at 64 blogs and 10 stories at a time (this would never do for me). Premium users pay $24 a year to subscribe to as many sites as they want.  The worse news: currently they aren’t allowing free users to sign up.  Dang. It.

4. Pulse lets you keep up on the blogs that you subscribe to, but it primarily recommends stories it thinks you will enjoy.  Pulse looks a little more like Feedly and will also let you import your Google Reader feed (mobile version only).  Articles can be saved, shared, browsed, sorted by category.

5. NetVibes is a RSS reader and a social aggregation service.  Basic accounts are free which will do what you need to follow your feeds.  You can add widgets like weather, Twitter, and top news stories to your NetVibe dashboard.  The bad news: there aren’t any mobile apps.

6. Feed Demon is not only an RSS reader, it also lets you set up keywords to be alerted about.  If a keyword appears in a feed (whether you subscribe to it or not) it will apear in your feed.  It also lets you subscribe to podcasts, it automatically stores them in a directory and makes it easy to save them to a mobile device.

7. Flipboard recommends feeds but also lets you subscribe to RSS feeds.  The layout is beautiful and looks like a magazine.  You can also add your social networks including Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.  It brings your online life together in one place.  Favorites can be saved. Flipboard is available for the iPad, iPhone, Android, Kindle Fire and Nook.

8. Feedbin makes it easy to subscribe to new feeds by domain or by feed url. You can import your current feeds using the OPML import feature.  You can organize all of your feeds by Tags. Just like Google Reader, Feedbin has great keyboard shortcuts that will help you get through your news efficiently.  Feedbin is not free, it currently costs $2/month.  The biggest benefit (and the reason this will most likely be my choice) you can connect Feedbin to the Reeder app!!  I currently use the Reeder app to read my Google Reader feeds.  I absolutely LOVE Reeder, It is such a beautiful way to read, save, share, etc. all of my RSS feeds.  Reeder is still working out a solution for July 1st.  In the mean time, it is available for free in the iTunes app store and you can connect it to Feedbin.  Reeder is working out the ability to connect it to other readers as well.

RSS feeds are a great way to bring professional development to your fingertips ever day.  Don’t let the demise of Google Reader stop you from learning!

Widbook: Online Collaborative ebook Creation

Posted by admin | Posted in Analyze, Art, collaboration, Create, Evaluate, Foreign Language, Government, History, Interactive book, Language Arts, Middle/High School, Phonics, Primary Elementary, Science, Secondary Elementary, Social Studies, Teacher Resources, web tools, Web2.0 | Posted on 15-06-2012

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Widbook – Write, read and share! from Widbook on Vimeo.

What it is:  Widbook is a new publishing platform for ebooks.  What makes this publishing platform so neat is the social aspect, it allows authors to collaborate and make suggestions.  Each user also gets their own bookshelf where they can subscribe to other author’s work.

When students start a new ebook, they can choose who can see the book when it is published, choose whether they will accept collaboration for the book, and choose if they want to accept comments for the book.  Actually writing the book is fabulously simple.  All of the onscreen tools are easy to use and intuitive as to their function.  The book can have a table of contents, multiple chapters, and pictures and video embedded right into the book.  When students are finished, they simply save the book and publish it.  The finished book gets a unique url that can be shared.

How to integrate Widbook into the classroom:  Widbook is a fantastic, simple tool for secondary students to use to create ebooks. Students can create individual published works that can be commented on by other students and the teacher.  Students can receive relevant-real time feedback not only from their teacher, but also from other students.  Students not only get practice writing their own works, they also get practice evaluating writing of their peers.

Students can use Widbook to write final drafts of any piece of writing be it an essay or creative writing assignment.  The ability to add video and images easily is wonderful.

Widbook would also be a great place for students to collaboratively create books about their learning.  Each student can add a chapter, or groups of students can create chapters together.  Instead of assigning students a textbook to read for the semester, include them in the creation of a collaborative textbook.  Provide students with a table of contents and put them to work creating a chapter for each topic/unit throughout the year.  At the end of the year, each student will have a book of their learning that they helped to create.  Much more useful than a textbook that one of the Big Six wrote that gets opened only before tests!

Are you having trouble finding a book that matches your classroom learning needs?  Create an ebook that perfectly meets your students right where they are.  Include videos and images relevant to learning.

 

***For younger students be sure to check out BoomWriter!

Tips: Older students who have Facebook accounts can choose to link their Facebook account for easy login (make sure you know your school’s policy on social networking sites being accessed at school, even if it is just to login with).

Please leave a comment and share how you are using Widbook 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!

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!

America’s biggest story time with Tim Tebow!

Posted by admin | Posted in Language Arts, Primary Elementary, Secondary Elementary, Teacher Resources, video, Websites | Posted on 30-01-2012

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What it is:   Book-it and Suessville have teamed up to do a live read-aloud story time with Tim Tebow.  On February 15, 2012, Tim Tebow will be live in a webcast reading Dr. Seuss classic, Green Eggs and Ham.  This is especially exciting for our Colorado kids who are huge Tebow fans-HUGE.  There are lots of fun printables to pump your students up for the big-day including some tail gate party fun.  There are coloring pages, bookmarks, graphing activities, green activities, games and more.
How to integrate America’s Biggest Story Time into the classroom: Set up a reminder for this one, it is sure to be a good time.   You just can’t beat a good story…Green Egg and Ham is a classic!  Hold a reading party in your classroom, using this event to kick it off.  Start by holding a tail gate party complete with fun snacks, a book exchange, etc.  Watch Tim Tebow read Green Egg and Ham live in the webcast on an interactive whiteboard or on a projector-connected computer.  Set up tents, pillows and blankets around the room where students can choose a cozy spot for a day of reading.  This is a fun way to celebrate the joy of reading.
Here are some more ideas I have been collecting on Pinterest for your read-in book party:

Book cakeBook party inviteBubble Gum TimerCaterpillar kabobs

Tips:   Sign up for an email reminder for this event on the Book It website!  I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: you should be on Pinterest. 

Please leave a comment and share how you are using America’s Biggest Story Time with Tim Tebow in  your classroom!

Children’s Books Forever

Posted by admin | Posted in Character Education, Download, Foreign Language, Interactive book, iPod, Language Arts, Primary Elementary, Teacher Resources, Understand (describe, explain), Websites | Posted on 31-08-2011

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What it is:   Children’s Books Forever is a simple site that packs a powerful punch for instilling a love of reading at an early age.  These are free children’s books that have become classics and children’s favorite books from around the world.  The books can be used on an interactive whiteboard, power point, overhead projector, on iPads (or other iDevices), or classroom computers.  Did I mention they are free?  These fun picture books are downloadable in pdf format and are wonderful for expanding your classroom library.  New books are being added regularly to Children’s Books Forever so be sure to check back often!

How to integrate Children’s Books Forever into the classroom:  I love sites that spread a love for reading while simultaneously beefing up the classroom library (and student’s home libraries).  The site is simple to use, just choose a book, download as a PDF and read.  Couldn’t be any simpler!  The books can be read in multiple languages making it a wonderful place for students who are learning a second language or speaking English as a second language.  Be sure to click on the links in the left side bar, they will lead you to additional books.  Find books for toddlers, Waldo humor books, inspirational books and more information on author Hans Wihelm in addition to the books featured on the home page.

The stories featured on Children’s Books Forever are beautifully written and illustrated.  Do your students have a pen pal or buddy in another country who speaks a different language?  Why not find a book that is featured in both languages to read and discuss together?  This is a great connecting point for students!

Bookmark Children’s Books Forever on classroom computers so that students can easily access the books during reading time.  The books can also be printed and added to the class library.  Be sure to remind your students they can access these stories from any Internet connected computer, they can keep reading at home too.

Many of the stories on Children’s Books Forever can be used for character education discussions in the primary classroom.  Project these stories on an interactive whiteboard or projector-connected computer for a class read along.

Tips: Be sure to sign up to be notified when new books are added to Children’s Books Forever via email!

Please leave a comment and share how you are using Children’s Books Forever in  your classroom!