## DragonBox Math Apps: Teaching students to think like mathematicians

What it is: I adore the DragonBox math apps! I was first introduced to DragonBox through their Algebra app. The app takes away all math anxiety by teaching algebraic concepts without numbers or algorithms. It is genius! You can read my review of that app here. DragonBox Numbers is for kids who are new to numbers, counting, addition, and subtraction. DragonBox BIG Numbers is the next level app of Dragon Box Numbers. As they play, children learn about how big numbers work, and how to perform long addition and subtraction. In DragonBox Elements, students will secretly learn geometry. By playing 100+ puzzles, kids will gain a deep understanding of the logic of geometry. As they play, students will actually be recreating the mathematical proofs that define geometry. What I love about the DragonBox suite of math games is that they are unlike any other math apps. You won’t find mindless repetitions and quizzes of math facts, instead, these games help teach students how to think like mathematicians. This is learning math through exploration.

How to integrate Dragon Box math apps into your classroom: The DragonBox math apps take advantage of a student’s innate curiosity through play and exploration of math concepts. Each game engages students through exploration, reflection, and application.  If you have a 1:1 iPad classroom, use these apps daily! Students can play a game, and then come together as a class to reflect and write down the rules they have learned in that “chapter.” Then, take an equation from the game and solve it on paper. See if students can connect the cards and rules of the game to the equations on paper. Solve the equations using strategies and rules from the game.

In a one or two device classroom, play DragonBox as a class by connecting your device to a projector. Explore the rules together and let students take turns being in charge of a chapter. Review rules and make connections as a class. Set up DragonBox as a math center that students can visit in a rotation where one center is interacting with the game, the next is an opportunity to record rules learned and reflect, and the last is application of the rules to an equation.

Be sure to check out the DragonBox for educators where you can download teachers guides and printable resources for each game in the DragonBox math suite. You’ll also find a great “rules” guide for the algebra and geometry games.

These are seriously my favorite math apps of all time! They encourage kids who can think and apply like mathematicians rather than kids who simply memorize a formula. DragonBox creates a deep understanding of mathematical concepts and number relationships.

Tips: While the DragonBox suite of math apps aren’t free, you can purchase them at a deep discount for educational institutions and bulk purchases. Teachers, you can get access for free to make sure that the apps are right before committing to a purchase for your students. You can also purchase apps in bundles.

## Free Twitter Posters For Your Classroom

Sometimes I forget all of the work I’ve done over the years.  Tonight, I was cleaning up my computer…it may not be spring, but it was definitely time!  Cleaning up always tends to be a trip down memory lane.  I’ve forgotten the sheer AMOUNT of things I’ve created.  It really is impressive when you look at 10 years of creation in an hour, it makes you feel like you’ve accomplished something and maybe like you could take over the whole education world if you wanted to.  That, right there, is reason enough to do some file clean up!

Tonight the #edchat topic on Twitter was all about connected educators.  Being connected has transformed my life.  I mean, I started a school you guys! This was largely due to my personal learning network helping me hone my craft, challenge my thinking and cheer me on.  As I was rifling through files, I came across a set of Twitter posters that I created for teachers new to Twitter and for teachers using Twitter in their classroom.  In light of the conversation tonight, I thought they were worth sharing again.  Feel free to download, share with some friends and use!

## Netsmartz Kids: Router’s Birthday Surprise (Internet Safety)

What it is: NetSmartz Kids is an incredible Internet safety site for kids.  I have reviewed this site in the past here, and use it every year with my students to teach and reinforce Internet safety.  Router’s Birthday Surprise is a new feature of NetSmartz.  It is an interactive video where students are drawn into the story, playing a contestant on a game show to learn online safety rules.  Clicky, the robot star of NetSmartz, is planning a surprise birthday party for his robo dog Router.  As they follow Clicky through his hectic day, students play games, help Clicky put the Webville Outlaws back in jail, and decide who is a trusted adult.  When students complete the video and games, they become certified NetSmartz Kids complete with an official certificate.  Students have to complete all sections correctly before they can be certified.  The complete video and game play runs for about 45 min, but NetSmartz has broken the video and game into manageable pieces so that it can fit in any schedule.  Students can watch a portion of the video and play the associated game and save their progress for the next time they are able to login.  Games include Make-a-Match where students think about the fun things they do online (history, music, jokes); What Rule is it Anyway where students play a contestant on a game show to learn about the rules of online safety; Get Clicky to Webville where students choose an Internet tube to get Clicky to his destination, Outlaw Roundup where Clicky captures the Webville outlaws and students match the outlaw to their crime; Who Can You Trust where students define a trusted adult; Router’s Gift Grab where students choose a gift for Router;  and a NetSmartz song about the four rules of real-world safety where students drag words to complete the lyrics of the song.

How to integrate NetSmartz Kids: Router’s Birthday Surprise into your curriculum: I truly didn’t think that NetSmartz Kids could get any better.  They have outstanding videos and songs about Internet safety that my students love year after year, they have fantastic educational resources (lesson ideas and downloads), and the games get requested by my students frequently.  Router’s Birthday Surprise manages to make it even better!  This interactive video is an excellent way for students to learn about Internet Safety and has the added bonus of tracking their understanding of the concepts being learned.  Regardless of what subject you teach, Internet Safety is something that we all need to teach and reinforce in our classrooms.  In the past, I have used NetSmartz in addition to the sites listed here to help my students learn proper use of the Internet.  The rule that I love that NetSmartz includes is the “Tell a trusted parent or adult if there is anything online that makes you scared, uncomfortable, or confused.”  I cannot tell you how many students see inappropriate content but fail to tell an adult about it because they think they will be in trouble.  This is a rule I make sure that my students know and a rule that I pass on to parents so that they can handle inappropriate web content appropriately (without banning use).

Router’s Birthday Surprise is such a nice addition because it invites students to be part of a story.  It breaks the learning down into manageable pieces so that it can be used in any class situation.  In the computer lab setting, students can each create an account and save their progress as they go.  In a classroom setting, the video can be played for the whole class on an interactive whiteboard or projector connected computer.  Poll students to find out how they would respond to each question and invite students to take turns coming to the whiteboard or the computer to interact with a game.  If you have a student response system (clickers) students can respond to the game show questions using them.  In the one or two computer classroom, Router’s Birthday Surprise can be played as a center activity over several weeks.  Each week students can complete another video portion and game.

In my class, after students had learned the Internet safety rules (which we came up with as a class), we would have an Internet safety quiz.  This was similar to a drivers permit test.  I made a big deal about how using the Internet is a privilege just like driving a car.  Just like driving there are rules to learn and follow that will keep them and others safe.  Just like driving they would have to prove that they knew the rules in order to get their license.  And just like driving, they could lose their license if they weren’t following the rules.  When students passed the test, I handed out Internet Licenses.  Most years I used their previous yearbook picture and created the license myself, but a few years before I had the pictures, I used the NetSmartz UYN club cards, these are great because they list the UYN rules on the back.

Tips: Mike Hill, a creative producer with NetSmartz, generously sent me some DVD copies of Router’s Birthday Surprise to share with my readers.  If you don’t have Internet access in your classroom, or don’t have reliable Internet access, let me know in the comment section and I will be happy to send you a DVD version-free!  If you need a DVD let me know why, and be sure to leave your correct email address when filling out the comment form.

## Common Sense with Phineas and Ferb

What it is: Phineas and Ferb are popular Disney channel characters. They have a new short video to help students learn cyberspace rules and online safety tips.  Disney, together with Common Sense Media, created this fun short film to get kids thinking about cyber safety.  Tips in the video include: Be careful what you put online, you never know who is going to see it; just because it’s online, doesn’t mean it’s true; not everyone is who they say they are; if you wouldn’t do it in person, you shouldn’t do it online; and get outside and spend time with real friends.  These are great tips, but delivered by Phineas and Ferb they will be remembered by your students.

How to integrate Common Sense with Phineas and Ferb into the classroom: Common Sense with Phineas and Ferb is an excellent place to get the discussion about online safety and netiquette started in your classroom.  The short video gives them a great jumping off point for thinking about the time they spend online.  Your students could “Laser inscribe” some additional tips in a paint or word processing program.  Post your students tips for online safety and cyberspace rules on a classroom bulletin board or on a Wallwisher wall.  I like how short and sweet this video is, every classroom can fit in a short lesson (or several) during the year.  Below the video, you can download a question sheet for students to quiz their parents about.  This extends the conversation at home and encourages parents to think about their child’s online safety.

Tips: If you have colleagues that are good sports, your students could also quiz other teachers in the building with the Phineas and Ferb Cyberspace Rules of the Road quiz.

Please leave a comment and share how you are using Common Sense with Phineas and Ferb in your classroom.

## Jigsaw Planet

What it is: Well, it is the first week of school which for me means that it is rules week.  Every teacher has to go over the rules at some point and it is usually met by major groans from students.  This year I approached rules week differently.  I used an awesome site called Jigsaw Planet to turn my rules into jigsaw puzzles.  Jigsaw Planet is a site that makes it simple to create custom jigsaw puzzles.  Just upload a jpeg image to the site, choose how many pieces you want, what shape you want the pieces to be and Jigsaw Planet does the rest.  You instantly have a custom interactive puzzle for your students to play!  The puzzles can be saved for your own account, shared with students via a url, or embedded into your classroom website for easy access.

How to integrate Jigsaw Planet into the classroom: Jigsaw Planet puzzles are AMAZING to use with an interactive whiteboard!  Each puzzle is timed as you put it together, split students into teams to see which team can complete the puzzle the fastest.  Instead of the typical PowerPoint type presentation to teach students facts, create a puzzle for them to put together and have them read the fact once the puzzle has been completed.  Turn your classroom rules into a series of jigsaw puzzles for students to put together.  Honor your star student of the week by creating a puzzle of that student, just take a picture of the student and upload to Jigsaw Planet. Put the puzzle of the student on your classroom website to honor them.  Students can use Jigsaw Planet to create their own puzzles.  This is a great place for them to study, they can upload spelling words, math facts, maps, etc.  Students will love creating their own jigsaw puzzles, if they have their own blog or website they can embed the puzzles right into their online space.  If you have a projector or an interactive whiteboard, have students create a puzzle all about them.  They can create a collage of things they like in a presentation program, take a screen shot of it, and upload the puzzle to Jigsaw Planet.  Students can put together each other’s puzzles and guess who the student is based on the pictures.  This would be a great getting to know you activity!

Tips: I split students into two teams.  Each team would complete a puzzle using our new Mimio interactive whiteboard, the fastest time was the winner of that round.  When the puzzle was completed, students would read the rule and we would discuss in depth.  This made rule day fun for the kids and much more enjoyable for me!

Leave a comment and share how you are using Jigsaw Planet in your classroom.

## Spelling Wizard

What it is: The Spelling Wizard gives students two cool ways to memorize their spelling words. First students type in 10 spelling words, then they choose between two fun games. In Spelling Scramble students unscramble letters to practice their spelling words. In Make a Word Search students hunt for their spelling words in a word search to practice their words.

How to integrate Spelling Wizard into the classroom: Set up computers as a study center where students can practice their spelling words. This site would be great for use as an “I’m finished, now what?” activity.

Tips: Remind students that the words HAVE to be spelled correctly, otherwise they will practice their words incorrectly.

## Spellits

What it is: Spellits is designed for 7-11 year olds, this website offers interactive activities and printable resources which teach spelling strategies, rules, and patterns. The spelling activities are integrated into three games, making spelling practice and learning fun.

How to integrate Spellits into your language arts curriculum: Use Spellits to improve student spelling. Students will easily be able to work independently through the activities, there are support functions built right into the site such as a dictionary and clue list. Set up Spellits as a center during literacy or spelling time. Students can use Spellits to help build a word wall in the classroom.

Tips: This is a British site so some of the words are spelled slightly differently (ex. colour).