Ed Tech Ideas

Tech Integration for Busy Teachers

Tag Archives: RLA

8 Great Sites for Reluctant Writers

1. Storyjumper

Storyjumper allows you to create online books using a plethora of characters, scenes, and props. Teachers can, for free, create classes to register students so they each have their own account. As of this writing, there does not seem to be a limit as to how many student accounts you can create.

2. Read Write Think Printing Press

ReadWriteThink creates a lot of great educational resources. With Printing Press students can create a booklet, flyer, brochure, or newspaper fairly easily. There is a nice guide that walks you through the process and the focus is on writing. There is a place within each publication for a picture, but not one that you can add from your computer. This space is reserved for students to draw a picture after printing.

3. Kerpoof

Kerpoof is an online story and comic-creator which allows students to create comic scenes and stories, as well as animated movies, cards, drawings, doodles, and pictures.  Educators are able to sign up for a class account and assign usernames and passwords for each student to have their own individual accounts. There are no ads or inappropriate content and the art work is fun and lively.  Finished products may be saved, printed, or emailed.

4. Story Starters

Story Starters is a fun activity to inspire students to write. They first spin the story starter wheel (they can then spin individual wheels to adjust their story starter), choose a format (notebook, letter, newspaper, postcard) and then begin writing. There are options to print and draw a picture as well. There is a nice teacher section that lists objectives for the lesson as well as several ideas for integrating the activity into your current RLA focus. Being that students can’t save their work, I often just have them spin the wheels to create a starter and then simply have them write their stories in Word.  This would also be a good site to have projected on the screen (or on a classroom computer station) first thing in the morning. Each day a new student can spin the wheel and you could have a quick morning creative writing session, comparing and sharing stories.

5. My StoryMaker

My Storymaker allows students to create a story book with fun characters and settings. When complete, you can print, or save to the public gallery which allows you to download the file as a pdf. I recently introduced this to a 5th grade class and it went extremely well. The students created epic and creative stories and had a really fun time writing! The one drawback I found is that there is no option to save and come back to edit, so students have to start and complete their story within one class period. One idea I’ve come up with is to have the first session be an explore session where the students learn about the site, the characters, setting, etc. Then, they can write out a rough draft before the second session so that when they access the site the second time, they are ready to roll, and time is not as much of a factor.

6. Writing With Writers

Part of the larger Scholastic site, Writing With Writers provides an excellent resource for writing. There is an excellent section for kids called, Computer Lab Favorites (Teacher View Here |Student View Here), that has a variety of writing tools like Story StartersMyth Brainstorming Machine, and Poetry Idea Engine; as well as learning games like, It’s Greek to Me (great for Real Spelling connections), and Fish Up Word EndingsAlong with all the great writing tools and activities, there are also sections for MathScienceSocial Studies, and Spanish that require no prep and can be completed in 15-30 minutes.

7. Zoo Burst

Zoo Burst is a digital storytelling tool that allows you to create lively 3-d pop-up books with sounds and actual pop-up effects when you turn the page.  You first create a free account, and then use the simple interface and tools to begin creating your book.

8. Bitstrips

My favorite comic creator, Bitstrips allows students to create fun comics on any topic of their (or your) choice. Students can use Bitstrips for free, but the $78 annual subscription allows teachers to create a classroom with individual student accounts and create assignments that students submit to you when they are finished.

EdTechIdeas: These sites can be great tools to help struggling writers, as well as kids who love to write.  I’ve seen my students so excited about story writing with StoryJumper and Kerpoof. The Printing Press makes it quick and easy for elementary kids to create nice looking publications. Story Starters is a quick go-to tool when you’re in need of prompts.

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3 Great Storybook Creators

There are many great sites to help students create books online, and so this week, in honor of Children’s Book Week, I am dedicating this post to highlight my 3 favorite online storybook creators.

StoryJumper

Storyjumper allows you to create online books using a plethora of characters, scenes, and props. The drag and drop interface is intuitive and students are very motivated by the fun scenes, characters, and props. Teachers can, for free, create classes to register students so they each have their own account. As of this writing, there does not seem to be a limit as to how many student accounts you can create.

Storybird


Storybird reverses the process of visual storytelling by starting with the image and “unlocking” the story inside. Students start by choosing an artist or a theme, bringing in the artwork from that artist/theme to create the story.  Storybird is a great tool for all, but I find it especially helpful for struggling writers who have difficulty thinking of something to write about. You can sign up for a free teacher account that allows you to create a class for your students so they can login without having to have an email address. The class account also enables teachers to create assignments, view student work, and in the near future, collaborate on stories with other classes throughout the world.

Tikatok

Tikatok is a nice digital story tool because it’s easy to create your story and the design is intuitive. You are able to upload your own photos or drawings and use them directly into your story, which is a nice feature. You start your book by choosing one of three options: A memory book, which is a good place to go as the books here are pre-made and you can change them up. Another option is Story Sparks, in which the books have prompts on each page to generate ideas. The last option is to start from scratch.

Two short-coming of Tikatok in my opinion is that, One, the images within the Tikatok gallery leave something to be desired, as they are limited and not searchable.  The second problem with Tikatok is that you cannot print or embed your book. Hopefully, these issues will be addressed in the near future.

Spelling City in the Classroom

I recently revisited Spelling City and thought it deserved another post. The layout and simplicity of Spelling City has greatly improved, and with the additions of a teacher resource section and forum, there is a lot of help for those who want to turn their students into better spellers. You begin by entering your words that you want to work on.  You can enter the words individually, in groups of 5 or 10, or you can batch import by simply doing a copy/paste from Word.

Take a Test

In the “Take a Test” section, once the words are entered, you can take a test, where each word is read and used in a sentence. You type it out, hit enter, and go on to the next word.  The site checks your answers and lets you know if you are correct.

Teach Me

Another option is to use the “Teach Me” section, where the Spelling City teacher says the word, spells it, and uses it in a sentence. Note: the computer voice is not perfect and occasionally mispronounces words.

Spelling Games

The game section of Spelling City contains nearly 2 dozen games which incorporate your words that you entered in your initial word list.  7 of these games are only for premium subscribers ($24.99/yr for a family $49.99/yr for a classroom Learn more), but there are plenty of free games to keep students busy learning their words.

Conclusion

All in all, Spelling City is a great resource to use in the classroom as part of a spelling program, or for students to use for home learning.  The site is clear, concise, engaging, and will help students learn words in a fun way.

Cool Tools for Writing – Part V

This is part V in a series dedicated to free, online writing tools for kids. You can view part I here, part II here, part III here, and part IV here.

Story Starters is a fun activity to inspire students to write. They first spin the story starter wheel (they can then spin individual wheels to adjust their story starter), choose a format (notebook, letter, newspaper, postcard) and then begin writing. There are options to print and draw a picture as well. There is a nice teacher section that lists objectives for the lesson as well as several ideas for integrating the activity into your current RLA focus. Being that students can’t save their work, I often just have them spin the wheels to create a starter and then simply have them write their stories in Word.  This would also be a good site to have projected on the screen (or on a classroom computer station) first thing in the morning. Each day a new student can spin the wheel and you could have a quick morning creative writing session, comparing and sharing stories.

My Storymaker allows students to create a story book with fun characters and settings. When complete, you can print, or save to the public gallery which allows you to download the file as a pdf. I recently introduced this to a 5th grade class and it went extremely well. The students created epic and creative stories and had a really fun time writing! The one drawback I found is that there is no option to save and come back to edit, so students have to start and complete their story within one class period. One idea I’ve come up with is to have the first session be an explore session where the students learn about the site, the characters, setting, etc. Then, they can write out a rough draft before the second session so that when they access the site the second time, they are ready to roll, and time is not as much of a factor.

The Super Sentence Machine helps kids develop sentence writing abilities and improve their voice and writing expression. This would be a good site to use as a whole-class activity to show students how to write more grammatically complex sentences.

Paragons of the Week: PicLits, CyberChase, Incredibox

Episode 34 >> Previous Paragons

1. PicLits

PicLits is a site that allows users to choose a photo and then drag words onto the picture to create sentences.  There is a freestyle option that allows you to simply type on the picture, and keywords are suggested to help you out. When finished, you can save (free account required), email your piclit, or share it via Facebook, your blog, or other places. Soon there will be a print feature, a weekly contest, and the ability to search and tag photos. EdTechIdeas: This is a great site for inspiring struggling writers and for those times where you hear the complaint, “I don’t know what to write about.”

2. CyberChase

CyberChase from PBS is a fun place for kids with 45 games that focus on problem solving abilities. Challenging games like  Crossing the River, U Fix It, Tangrams, and more will have kids thinking out of the box in no time. EdTechIdeas: Fantastic site for problem solving and creative thinking. Would make a good go-to site for center time in your classroom or a fun activity to spend time on after working out difficult concepts. Use the lessons and activities section for ideas that are tied to the NCTM standards.

3. Incredibox

Incredibox gets my nod for the Odd Site of the Week Award, and I’m throwing it in, just because we all need a little obscure fun in our lives. Not sure of its educational implications, so I don’t have too many EdTechIdeas, but perhaps for music teachers, it could shed light on rhythm, vocal appreciation, harmonic structure, and polyphony. For the rest of us, it’s a great diversion and a good way to bring a little music into your life.

Seussville for Educators

Seussville for Educators is a section of the Seussville kids site that has activities and ideas which incorporate the great books of Dr. Seuss. There are a lot of  printable activities,  lesson plans, an author study section, and much more. The Educator’s Timeline (shown below) is a great place for teachers to get ideas of theme specific lessons and activities to use throughout the year.

Give it whirl and see what you think.

Intellectual Karaoke

No singing involved (thankfully) but Lyrics Training is a great YouTube mash-up that allows users to practice a foreign language by listening to a song and then filling in the blanks of what was just sung. The video stops automatically at the appropriate time and continues after the correct words are typed in.

Signing up is not necessary, however if you do sign up, you can save your scores over time. As of now, there are six languages supported (English, Spanish, French, Italian, German, and Dutch), and there is just a short list of videos for each language, but this should only increase as the site gains popularity.

Uses in the Classroom

Upper elementary students could use this site for practice improving their English skills. Could be used as a listening center. Would make a fun Friday activity for a language class where the class has a “Don’t Forget the Lyrics” competition.

Top 3 Free Synonym Sites

I had a teacher I work with wanting to purchase a thesaurus program to use for her English language learners and my principal was wise enough to say no. With Microsoft’s built in synonym finder and a plethora of online word sites, why would anyone want to spend money on something you can get for free?

So here are my top 3 synonym sites:

  1. Free Thesaurus is a clean, googlesque site that provides over 2.5 million synonyms. Simple to use and no frills. I challenge anyone to find a more user-friendly word finder than freethesaurus.net.  
  2. Wordsmyth is a great, free, easy to use online synonym finder. With a free registration, educators can not only look up words for definitions and synonyms, but also create quizzes, glossaries, and get help on anagrams and crosswords. There’s also a children’s dictionary section that states the following:

    Wordsmyth proudly introduces the first real Web-based dictionary made expressly for elementary-school-aged children. This new electronic dictionary from the Wordsmyth Collaboratory features over 30,000 entries and an array of multimedia, including spoken pronunciations, animations, and colorful illustrations.  

  3. When right-clicking for synonyms doesn’t meet your needs, WordsLike, a similar word finding site might just do the trick.
    WordsLike.net is a free service that allows you to find words and phrases that are similar or related to each other.
    Type in a word or a phrase and Words Like.net will come up with a list of related words and their corresponding definitions.
    Thanks to Free Technology for Teachers for finding this one.
  4. Bonus: Not really related, but interesting nonetheless is this site:  Connecting Mathematics.  Connecting Mathematics contains brief explanations of mathematical terms and ideas in English, Danish, Finnish, Hungarian, Lithuanian, Polish, Slovak.

Got others? Add them in the comment section.

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