Empowered Editing Empowered Editing

What it is: is a great site for middle school and high school English teachers (and anyone else who edits student writing). This site was built by, and for, English teachers to help students learn how to fix the most common grammar and punctuation errors found in writing. Topics include: Pronoun disagreement, subject verb agreement, pronouns with compound word groups, commas and clauses, comma splices, direct address, usage of words, passive voice, literary present tense, iambic pentameter, and dramatic irony. It’s like having @michellek107 in your pocket! ūüôā¬† For each topic, there is a short video explanation of the problem and how to fix it.

How to use in your classroom: I would have so appreciated this site when I was a student! (Let’s be honest, I still appreciate this help.) I’ve always loved writing, but would often get feedback about comma splices or run on sentences. This feedback was less than helpful because while it identified a problem with my writing, it didn’t help me understand how to fix it. With, you can not only help your students see the problem in their writing, you can offer a quick link of immediate support. empowers students to take your edit notes and understand where the problem is and how to fix it. Rather than just writing “comma splice” on student writing, add¬† in the margin. Now those edit notes make sense, and give students the instruction to re-write with confidence that they understand where and what the error is.

Tips: Points to anyone who comments with links to the videos I should have consulted when writing this post!

Playfic: create, play and remix text-based games

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.

Project PLN November Issue: Sharing issue

I’m a little behind this week (actually this year has been one big game of playing catch-up). ¬†Last week, Nick and I published the latest issue of Project PLN. ¬†It is worth reading through, it gave me just the right jolt of inspiration to tackle some of the catch-up project that have been on the outskirts for too long. ¬†I hope it does the same for you! ¬†You should know, right now I am giving myself giant pats on the back for posting the November issue here BEFORE December. ¬†Sometimes it is the little things that keep you going ūüôā

Here in the US we are polishing off the last of the Thanksgiving leftovers.  Luckily those things that we are thankful for linger much longer than the turkey.   You know what we are thankful for?  Our PLN!  You all are truly incredible.  We are so thankful for the ways that you share with us (and educators around the world).  A BIG thank you to all of our contributors for the November Sharing Issue. We wouldn’t be able to do this without you. That is the truth!

This issue is jam-packed full of great lesson ideas(grammar can be fun, Count of Monte Cristo on trial!), helpful techy tips (great Google Chrome extensions), inspiration to keep plugging ahead, and much more!  Take some time to relax and be inspired this week. Consider this issue a big THANK YOU for all that you do for education every day.

We are now accepting submissions for the March Issue. We have decided to label it the¬†‚ÄúInnovation Issue‚ÄĚ. We want to dedicate this issue to creative/innovative ideas in education and in classrooms. ¬†What are you doing in your school/classroom that others should be? ¬†What needs to change? ¬†What adjustments must be made to allow room for this innovation?

If you think you have something awesome to share, please send an email to and we will add it to the March Issue. Please follow the guidelines for submissions below so we can quickly and easily load your posts to the site.

Please email the article or link to the article to

Please include a small bio that includes your blog, Twitter handle and other information you would like to share. A picture is encouraged, but not required.

It may be a piece you have published on your blog already. A good idea is still a good idea even if you had it a few months ago.

Please submit posts by Monday March 4. We expect for the issue to go live on Tuesday March 12.

Thanks again for all of the support you have given Project PLN over the years.

Have an awesome school year,

Kelly  and Nick

BrainNook: Virtual Learning World for Elementary Students

What it is: BrainNook is a virtual world for kids where they can develop math and English skills while playing in the free online playground.  There are over a hundred education games packed into the BrainNook virtual world, all of them are based on foundational math, English, and grammar concepts.  The math games cover concepts from single digit addition to 3D spatial visualization.  English games cover everything from building simple sentences to counting syllables.  The games are all woven into a fun virtual world that students can explore and unlock.  BrainNook also strengthens students reading, reasoning, decision-making skills, analysis, and computer literacy.  Students choose a character (alien) and name, when they enter BrainNook for the first time, they are dropped onto Earth where their spaceship has crashed. They are greeted by an earthling named Bella who teaches them how to navigate the world, and earn stars by playing games. The stars that are earned can be used to buy back spaceship parts.   Students can travel to several locations within the virtual world that are based on real-life regions of the Earth  Students learn about each region through trivia, question popups, and local artifacts. In each world students can play math and English games with other players in the safe online environment. As they build up their skills, new worlds will be unlocked and they can buy items from the local market or work on assembling their spaceship by assembling puzzles.  The games in BrainNook are scaffolded so it adjusts to students ability level as they progress.  Games can be played individually or in head-to-head competition. Because this site is geared toward elementary students, no personal information or personal messages are included in the virtual world.

How to integrate BrainNook into the classroom: BrainNook is a brilliant virtual world for elementary students in first through fifth grade.  The virtual world allows students to learn and practice math and English skills at their own pace, and at their own unique level.  The games are great for building and reinforcing foundational learning skills.  Because the game progresses as students do, students could continue on in their virtual world throughout their elementary school experience.  BrainNook is ideal as a computer lab activity or in a 1 to 1 situation.  If you don’t have time to use BrainNook as a virtual world for each student, consider signing up for an account yourself that can be used as a class account.  Review the games that match up with skills students are learning in class and have the whole class play the games using an interactive whiteboard or on classroom computers as a center.  Make sure to tell parents about BrainNook, this is a fun way for students to get extra math and grammar practice at home.

Tips: If students sign up for an individual account, they will need a parent’s email address validated before play.  BrainNook also has a school account option that you can learn about here.

Please leave a comment and share how you are using BrainNook in your classroom.

57 Ways to Celebrate National Literacy Day

Did you know that today is National Literacy Day?  It is!  I think that literacy is something to celebrate, being literate is a gift I enjoy every day but don’t stop to appreciate nearly enough.  In honor of National Literacy Day, I thought I would share my favorite technology enhanced literacy tools.  In no particular order, here are my favorite ways to celebrate literacy.  What are your favorites?

1.  Save the Words– an excellent site that values language, vocabulary, and words.

2. Grammaropolis– an enchanting site that teaches students parts of speech through character and story.

3. Signed Stories– an online story collection accompanied by British Sign Language, pictures, and sound.

4. Learn Direct– where students can be the star in their own online storybook.

5. Inkless Tales– a literacy website with a beautiful mission statement “You can do anything. Try, try again. Don’t give up. Experiment. Write, draw, explore and more.”

6. Storybird- a beautiful collaborative storytelling website.

7. My English Images– images that illustrate difficult vocabulary and language concepts.

8.  Lexipedia– a visual dictionary and thesaurus.

9.  Tikatok– Students become published authors with Tikatok

10. Free Reading– an open source instructional program to help you teach early literacy.

11. Word World– a great site for kindergarten and first grade letter and word recognition.

12. Reading Rockets– free reading guides for teachers to improve reading achievement of kids.

13. Super Why! – a site that helps kids gain important foundational reading skills such as alphabet, word families, spelling, comprehension, and vocabulary.

14.  Get Ready to Read!– a great site that helps teachers equip children with the basic skills necessary for learning to read.

15. Roy the Zebra– Excellent site for emerging readers.

16. Fable Vision– the beautiful virtual town filled with stories and games.

17. Kidoons– brings time honored tales from the Brothers Grimm, Hans Christian Andersen, Charles Perrault, Thorton Burgess, and more to life.

18.  GameGoo– fun educational games that help students develop reading and language skills.

19. Read Write Think– a collection of online student resources that support literacy learning k-12.

20. Seussville– the wonderful world of Dr. Seuss brought to life.

21. Digital Booktalk– book trailers that will whet your students appetite for a good book.

22. Storybook Web– a website based on popular children’s stories where students can listen to author’s reading excerpts.

23.  Mee Genius– where students can read books, personalize them, and share them with a friend.

24. Stage’d- a tool that helps students tell stories digitally.

25. Kerpoof– where students can create their own storybooks, comics, and movies.

26.  Lightning Bug– “your writing partner, helping you write a story from beginning to THE END.”

27. ePubBud– for publishing your very own ebooks.

28. Magic Treehouse- a wonderful website where students can engage in the popular book series.

29. The Stacks– a wonderful creation by Scholastic that excites students about reading.

30. The World of Peter Rabbit– an absolutely captivating site based on the work of Beatrix Potter.

31.  My Hippo Has the Hiccups– a free poetry ebook by Kenn Nesbitt.

32. Weboword– a visual vocabulary site.

33. National Geographic Young Explorer– non-fiction for the primary classroom from National Geographic.

34.  Online Audio Stories- an impressive collection of free audio stories.

35. Story Nory– another collection of free audio books for kids.

36.  Skratch Track– a virtual bookshelf for primary students.

37.  Picture Book Maker– a place for students to create picture books.

38. Story Cove– a collection of stories from around the world.

39.  Skype an Author Network– connects teachers, students, and authors over Skype.

40.  Word Ahead Vocabulary Videos– animated vocabulary videos.

41.  My Story Maker– a website where students are in charge of the interactive story.

42. Book Wink– an incredible site that motivates students to read through podcasts and web video.

43. Scholastic Story Starters– a tool that generates writing ideas.

44. Telescopic Text– a site that expands a sentence to demonstrate descriptive writing.

45.  The Tale of Despereaux Adventure- a beautiful interactive story book.

46. Literactive- leveled guided readers, comprehensive phonics activities, and supplemental reading material.

47. Pic Lits- a creative writing site based on pictures.

48.  Speakaboos– a collection of online stories and ebooks.

49. Animailia– a site based on the popular book by Graeme Base.

50. Mrs. P’s Magic Library– an absolutely enchanting site that celebrates books and reading.

51.  Free Rice– practice vocabulary while helping others fight hunger.

52. Shelfari– a virtual bookshelf.

53. Read to Feed- Heifer International reading project for kids.

54. Into the Book– an outstanding site that teaches reading strategies for comprehension.

55. Google Lit Trips– exploring literature using Google Earth.

56. Starfall– a must see website for phonics.

57. Book Adventure– a free reading motivation program.

But the very best way to celebrate National Literacy Day…read a book!

Treasures MacMillan McGraw Hill Supplement

I am not a fan of canned curriculum.  It has some benefits and is relatively easy to teach, but there is a lack of differentiation for different learners and the activities for practice are often shallow.  Treasures has some fun stories and themes but they are really lacking in their activities to practice the essential learning.  The activities are often shallow and don’t change from first grade to fifth grade.  The same copy from the dictionary activity is suggested for learning vocabulary for every unit in every grade level.  I created the Treasures supplement as a way to help teachers provide students with multiple ways of practicing the essential learnings.  I just finished the supplement for unit 1.  This is the supplement for first through fifth grade.

Lightning Bug

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What it is: Lightning Bug is a fantastic resource for the writing classroom.¬† The tag-line of Lightning Bug is, “Your writing partner, helping you write a story from beginning to THE END”.¬† That is exactly what it does.¬† For each stage of the writing process, students have access to excellent guides and resources to aid the process.¬† Students can get help finding a story idea, developing the idea, and finishing the story.¬† Students can even have a look at what kind of writer they might be based on their personalities.¬† Lightning Bug has a great collection of writing resources.¬† Students can explore author blogs, search for character names, get some exercises in creativity, get help with grammar and spelling, and even get help for publishing their written work.¬† The teacher resources are equally helpful for teaching writing.

How to integrate Lightening Bug into the classroom: Lightning Bug is a great resource to have going on your classroom computers as a writing/publishing center.  Students can visit the site to get help with every stage of writing.  This is an excellent site to send home and alert parents to, it would be enormously helpful for at-home writing projects.  If you have access to a computer lab or 1 to 1 setting, allow your students to walk through this website as they work on any piece of writing.  The site is organized really well and easy to navigate independently.  Be sure to take a look at the teacher resources.

A few of the recommendations for the writing process include worksheets such as mind maps.¬† Instead of using a worksheet for students to map their ideas, consider using online tools that will let students organize their thoughts and collaborate with others as they write.¬† Try using online mind mapping tools such as Creza’s Mindomo or¬† Comapping.¬† Students can use tools such as Zoho, Google Docs, or Kerpoof to collaborate as they write.

Tips: Many of the ideas and resources found on Lightning Bug are useful for digital storytelling.

Please leave a comment and share how you are using Lightning Bug in your classroom.

The Adjective Detective

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What it is: The Adjective Detective is a fun way for your students to learn more about adjectives, superlative adjectives, and comparative adjectives.¬† This interactive learning module, game, and quiz comes from the Children’s University of Manchester site (I have written about it before here).¬† Last week I was searching high and low for some good adjective interactives for my students and was pleasantly surprised to rediscover this one.¬† I knew if the activity had fallen off of my radar, chances were that others had forgotten it, too.¬† The Adjective Detecive offers students a in-depth, interactive mini lesson on adjectives, superlative adjectives, and comparative adjectives.¬† After students work their way through the lessons, they can play an adjective game as a detective.¬† They must hunt down adjectives in the sentence by clicking on it with their magnifying glass.¬† Students recieve immediate feedback on their answer.¬† When they are finished playing the game, students can answer multiple choice questions about adjectives in an online quiz.

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How to integrate Adjective Detective into the classroom: Use the Adjective Detective mini-lessons to teach your whole class about adjectives.¬† Put the site up on your interactive whiteboard or projector and discuss the different kinds of adjectives with your students.¬† The site could also be used for self guided learning (I am personally a big advocate of this!) as a computer center in the classroom or individually in the lab setting.¬† After students complete the mini lessons, encourage them to play the adjective detective game.¬† In my classroom I want students to enter the spirit of play and have a few detective hats, magnifying glasses, and mini notebooks.¬† Students can play “detective”, hunting down adjectives in sentences.¬† On the interactive whiteboard, the student at the board can find an adjective that the rest of the class writes down as an adjective clue in their notebooks.¬† Then we pass the detective job onto the next student, until all of the adjectives in the game have been discovered.¬† You could alternatively send students to the classroom computers as a grammar center where the students become “detectives” and jot down their adjective clues while they are at the center.¬† The multiple choice quiz lends itself nicely to assessing understanding with clickers (student response systems).¬† The quiz can also be taken individually on the classroom computers.¬† I like learning sites, like this, that allow students to work through learning at their own pace and offer immediate feedback so that students can monitor their own understanding.

Tips: Check out the rest of the Children’s University of Manchester website for other good interative lessons.

Please leave a comment and share how you are using The Adjective Detective in your classroom.


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What it is: Grammaropolis is a fun find that helps students learn the parts of speech.¬† In Grammaropolis, all of the characters are a different part of speech.¬† Students will “meet” Adverb, Linking Verb, Pronoun, Adjective, Preposition, Slang, Noun, Conjunction, Interjection, and Action Verb.¬† Each character is personified with personalities inspired by their grammatical roles in a sentence.¬† The characters interact with each other the same way that parts of speech interact in a sentence, brilliant!¬† Each character has a character card that tells a story about them.¬† Students can watch short Grammaropolis videos starring the characters (parts of speech) that live there.¬† Students can take Grammaropolis quizzes, complete word sorts, and color the characters of Grammaropolis in an online coloring book in the games section.¬† Students will enjoy the fun Grammaropolis song featuring all of the characters of Grammaropolis.¬† Coming soon, students will be able to read a book series starring the Grammaropolis characters.¬†¬†

How to integrate Grammaropolis into the classroom: Visual learners will absolutely love this site that personifies the parts of speech.¬† All learners will appreciate the stories about the parts of speech.¬† We learn best through story.¬† Story gives us a framework for our understanding of new concepts and helps us to use those new concepts.¬† Grammar is often a subject that is taught purely through memorization of rules and drill and skill exercises.¬† This makes it difficult for students to really understand grammar.¬† Grammaropolis is an excellent solution to this problem.¬† Use the Grammaropolis character cards to introduce students to new parts of speech.¬† Watch the videos and listen to the song as a class to delve deeper into the character traits that each part of speech has.¬† The books on Grammaropolis are coming soon, while students await these, why not encourage your students to write their own stories that include the characters of Grammaropolis?¬† Do you have older students that could use a parts of speech refresher? Have them create stories using the characters for younger students. ¬† The characters have already been developed for them!¬† Print out the character cards and post them around the classroom.¬† This will help your visual learners, when you talk about “Pronoun” they will be able to associate it with a character and story.¬† Set up the Grammaropolis games on classroom computers as a literacy center that students can visit to practice their understanding of the parts of speech.

Tips: Grammaropolis is currently holding a contest.¬† Helping Verb is lost, students can draw what they think Helping Verb should look like.¬† Submissions will be accepted until March 31, 2010 (so start this contest with your students today!).¬† Five finalists will be posted on the Grammaropolis blog on April 7 with a winner announced April 22.¬† The winner will recieve a gift pack, there character drawn by a professional and added to the Grammaropolis team, and receive a 20″x30″ poster featuring their character singed by the Powerhouse animators that make the Grammaropolis videos.¬† The winning character will debut in Action Verb’s book in the book series.

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

Treasures Reading Supplement

What it is: We use the Treasures Reading curriculum (Macmillan McGraw Hill) at the school where I teach.¬† Although there are things I like about this curriculum, one thing that is in need of improvement are the activities provided for students to practice the skills that they are learning.¬† The activities don’t change from 1st-5th grade, are very repetitive, and do not encourage any sort of deeper thinking skills.¬† In an attempt to remedy this for our students, I went through each unit for 1st through 5th grade and pulled out the essential learning components.¬† I found activities that were engaging and required some deeper thinking to supplement what was currently in the curriculum.¬† As I worked to supplement the activities, I looked for a few things: 1. The activity could be completed with the whole class, using an interactive whiteboard or projector, or could be completed as a computer center (for the classroom with 2 or 3 computers).¬† 2. The activities had to meet and reinforce the essential learning. 3. The activities had to be more engaging than what was already suggested.

How to integrate Treasures Reading Supplement into the classroom: These guides are meant to be a supplement for the Treasures Reading Curriculum.¬† They are designed to offer some extra ideas for helping students to practice and solidify learning.¬† You will find a few activities that are meant for offline use such as a whole class bingo game or partner matching games.¬† You will also notice some suggestions for Promethean activities.¬† I created some supplemental flipcharts for our teachers to use that I am happy to share if you can use them. (I hope to have these up on Promethean Planet soon).¬†¬† Many of these activities can be completed as a center activity in the classroom.¬† We don’t always have access to a computer lab of computers.¬† In the classroom with a few computers, set up a weekly rotation so that your students can complete some of the online activities.¬† Some of the games and activities are also appropriate for whole class participation.

In my classroom, I like to play games with my students.  I will often split students into teams where the teams will take turns working through a game.   Students love the extra layer of competition being timed.

In my reading classroom, I  had literacy groups that I met with every day.  Each day I met with a new group (those students who were in need of remedial reading met each day of the week).  During literacy group time, the group that I was working with read the story for the week, learned and practiced key essential learning together (phonics, grammar, vocabulary) , and worked on building comprehension strategies.  While I worked with my smaller literacy groups, the rest of the class  worked through independent literacy centers.  At the beginning of the week I explained all of the centers for the week.  Because my classroom had limited space, I put my centers into colored tubs that rotated around the classroom.  Each day a small group of students received a center tub.  The tub has all of the necessary supplies and directions for that center.  One of my centers always involved the classroom computers.  Sometimes the centers were inquiry based, sometimes games, and sometimes additional reading practice.  Every week, each student completed each center activity.  In the meantime, I was able to work one on one with my literacy groups.  This worked really well in my classroom and technology made it easy for students to work at their own level independently.

The guides are below in ebook format using Issuu, they have been separated by grade.¬† Even if you don’t teach the Treasures Curriculum, everything has been arranged by the learning focus, these overlap in most curricula.¬† You may find some great activities that meet your classroom need here:

First Grade:

Second Grade:

Third Grade:

Fourth Grade:

Fifth Grade:

*Note: The fourth and fifth grade spelling lists on Spelling City do not come from the Treasures curriculum.  The fourth grade uses Houghton Mifflin and the fifth grade has generated their own lists.

For a list of all of my publications check out my library on Issuu.

Leave a comment and share how you are using the Treasures Reading Supplement in your classroom.