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Tech Integration for Busy Teachers

Tag Archives: writing

Using High-Interest Media to Improve Literacy

The Literacy Shed is a fantastic site for creative writing ideas that will definitely help reluctant writers. The site aims to provide teaching ideas coupled with relevant media that students will love. This week’s resource, for example, is a writing activity using “La Luna” Pixar’s awesome animated short that has been nominated for an academy award. There are currently 23 different “sheds” on the site, each one focused on a different learning theme, such as Poetry, Adventure, Picture Books, Fantasy, and much more.

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.

Blogging From Young to Old(er)

As educators, we are constantly coming up with new ideas to integrate into our classrooms that will ultimately result in increased student learning, and hopefully, enhanced enjoyment and engagement. Here in the Intermediate school, students and teachers from various classes have been blogging for the past 2+ years. It has been a learning experience for everyone involved and so much has been gained from the journey.

Student Blogs

For our student bloggers, the reasons for blogging are numerous. Blogs are a place to showcase school work and projects they have completed. Students blog to improve their writing and share their written pieces with a larger audience. They use blogs as a form of online communication and collaboration, where they can read and leave comments on each other’s blogs. Blogging is also a way to develop their digital footprints in a very positive way.

Ed Tech Ideas

My professional blog is a place where I highlight useful web tools for students, teachers, and parents which I use in the computer lab.  I discover the resources from professional journals and blogs that come daily to my RSS reader, as well as shared from members of my personal learning community.  I began the blog two years as a way to reflect on learning experiences that were happening in my classroom, as well as a way to organize and share the many educational resources and tools that I have found essential to student learning in the 21st century.

Lifelong Learning

One thing that I noticed when I first began blogging is that I was immediately more reflective about the projects and activities I was doing in the classroom. Even though at the beginning, I had only 1 person who subscribed and read any postings I would make, knowing that there was 1 person reading made a major difference. Over time, the readership grew, but I’ve found that the amount of subscribers makes little difference. It’s the idea that your voice is out there and it has a home. For students and adults alike, blogging is a way for continuous written improvements, a place for deeper reflection and a way to communicate, collaborate and share ideas, which will prepare them for a life of unending learning and growth.

Collaborative Writing – Fifth Graders and Google Docs

I cannot tell you how excited my 5th graders were to write today. Each of our students in grade 5, for the first time, now has their own Google Apps account and today we dove straight in to collaborating on a personal narrative piece they had previously written in Microsoft Word. The process was as follows: Upload, share, advise, revise.

Upload

After logging in, the students first uploaded their document into Google Docs, named it, and read over it to make sure that everything looked good.

Share

The students then added their collaboration partner by giving them the ability to view and comment on their document. 

At this point, they also added their teacher.

Advise

Each student then went back to their Google Docs account and found a new document from their friend waiting for them. After opening it, they were then able to read through and make comments.

Revise

The best part of the day was seeing how enthusiastic the kids were to go back in to fix and improve their writing. After the students made changes to their original piece, they asked if they could add more editors to their document who could review and make comments on their piece. Here’s a short, raw video of part of the process. My favorite part is at 1:25 when a student enthusiastically yells out to the class, “Everybody, everybody, get on mine!”

That’s exciting writing!

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.

Cool Tools for Writing – Part IV

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

1. 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 Endings. Along 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.

2. 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.

3. 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: I’ve had classes recreate scenes and plot lines from books, show understanding of rainforest layers, desert environments, and historical events, teach math concepts… The possibilities are endless.

Cool Tools for Writing III

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

1. Learn Something Every Day

Learn Something Every Day is a fun, simple site that is great for a morning opening activity.  In the classroom you could have this site up on the projector every morning to generate discussion or as writing prompts.

2. Grammar Blast

The Houghton Mifflin Company produces Grammar Blast. Grammar Blast offers 35 interactive grammar activities for students in grades two through five.

3. Grammar Practice Park

Grammar Practice Park, produced by Harcourt School Publishers provides 12 games for students in grades three, four, and five.

Cool Tools for Writing II

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

Vocab Ahead is a collection of short videos that give definitions, usages, and pictures associated with interesting vocabulary words.  You may subscribe to receive a vocab video of the day and there is also a section of videos by students that are fantastic.

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.

One Word reminds me of a writing warm-up activity I used to do with my third grade class. The kids would choose a word and then have 1 minute to write as much as they could on that topic. We called the activity Speed Writing. They would then choose a second word and write on that, and so on. We would do this 3 or 4 times, and each time they would count their words and I would graph the results. Every time, they would write more (I would purposely give them a couple of extra seconds more each round… shhh!). My mantra during this activity was, “The more you write, the more you write.”  One Word works the same way. After clicking on Go students write as much as they can. After the minute is up, they enter their name and email and they can see what they wrote, as well as what others have written on the same topic.

Cool Tools for Writing

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

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. Grammaropolis

Grammaropolis is a fun, interactive site that helps students learn about the parts of speech.

EdTechIdeas: These 3 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. The Printing Press makes it quick and easy for elementary kids to create nice looking publications, and learning about grammar and the parts of speech has never been more fun than with Grammaropolis.

Paragons of the Week – Super Teacher Tools, EdHeads, Kineticcity

Episode 37 >> Previous Paragons

1. Super Teacher Tools

Super Teacher Tools has a bunch of great teaching tools that allow teachers and students to create games, quizzes, charts and a variety of other useful things for your classroom. The most popular is a Jeopardy Review Game that you can create custom Jeopardy games for your students. EdTechIdeas: I use this site to have my students create review games for other students to play. They must first research a given topic, come up with questions and answers, and then use those facts to create a game.

2. EdHeads

EdHeads helps students learn through educational games and activities designed to meet state and national standards (US). EdTechIdeas: Students can learn about simple and compound machines, how to predict the weather,  perform virtual knee surgery, and even create a stem cell line.

3. Kineticcity

Kineticcity boasts that they have “the most amazing collection of science experiments, games, activities, challenges, and more.” Along with a pretty solid set of science related games, there are also have hands on games and activities, mind games, and activities for creative writing and art. Kids will really dig the interface. EdTechIdeas: Kineticcity is a production of The American Association for the Advancement of Science, with support from The National Science Foundation, and therefore, all of the content is US standards-based.  There is an educator section with ideas on how to start Kinetic City Club, and also an area to print out forms and leader guides. This would make a nice addition to your current science program or be a great program to start as an after school extension.

Paragons of the Week – Collaborative Revision w/Google Docs, Learning Science, Story Home

Episode 36 >> Previous Paragons

1. Teach Collaborative Revision with Google Docs

Google Docs has recently partnered with Weekly Reader to come up with ways to help teachers teach collaborative writing to students. Two of the many features of Google Docs is the ability to have multiple people working on the same document simultaneously, and also, the intuitive ability to insert comments into a document. If you are new to Google Docs, they’ve broken this process down into four steps:

  1. Download a step-by-step tutorial [pdf] for Google Docs.
  2. Learn about the comments and revision features of Google Docs [pdf].
  3. Download, print, and share the following articles [pdf] with your students:
  4. Download the Educators Guide: Teaching Revision with Google Docs

EdTechIdeas: Google Docs is great for students to write collaborative poems, stories, book reports, movie scripts, essays, and more. Students can “hand in” their writing and the teacher can make comments and “pass it back” to the student for corrections and improvements. The nice thing about using comments is that editors can see who added what, as a time and date stamp, along with the users name is displayed along with each comment. Going further, a revision history can be accessed for any document to see who did what when.

2. Motion and Forces (Learning Science)

Part of Learningscience.org, this is great place to find games and activities that help students learn about and develop understanding of the fundamental concepts of principles of motions and forces.  There are 17 different activities listed here with explanations about what each learning tool teaches. EdTechIdeas: With high interest games like Simple Machines, Energy Skate Park (very cool), Galileo Drops the Ball, and Projectile Motion (Blast a Buick out of a canon – who wouldn’t like that?), Motion and Forces really come alive and are made understandable for students.

3. The Story Home

The Story Home is a site where students can go to hear free audio stories of original and classic tales. You can search for specific stories, or choose from the many different categories (animal stories, fairy tales, holiday stories, and a bunch more).   EdTechIdeas: The Story Home would be a great listening center. If you’re lacking in computers, subscribe to the podcast, put some stories on an iPod, add one of these, and you’re good to go. Have students write in their own words what they listened to. Re-write the ending to a story. After listening to a few stories, have your students record their own stories (original or classic) and turn them into podcasts for all to enjoy.


Happy Birthday Blog!

It’s been one full year now since I said, “Hello World!” with Tech:-)Happy.  It’s been so much fun writing about what I’m doing in the lab, sharing resources with educators, learning about great new tools and methods, and connecting with so many amazing people. I just wanted to post a big THANK YOU to all my subscribers and readers. It is you who make the time I spend on this blog worthwhile and fulfilling.

Top 3 Paragons of the Week – Episode 21

Attribution: "Antikythera Mechanism" http://www.flickr.com/photos/9506589@N05/2556676025Paragons of the Week is a reoccurring post highlighting resources that I find to be worth mentioning. I come across 100s of useful tools for educators each week. Below are the top 3 “paragons” that I found this week that I feel teachers might dig. To view previous Paragons, click here.

1. Conjugation.com

Conjugation.com is an easy to use website that works by just typing the verb that you want to conjugate in any form. Any verb, regular or irregular. You then Click on “Conjugate,” and a new page is instantaneously displayed, with the verb shown in all of its forms, voices and tenses.

2. Signapp Now

SignApp Now is the easiest way I’ve seen to create a sign-up sheet for keeping track of who’s coming to what. You don’t need to register, people signing up don’t need to register. You just create a sign-up page, email the url, and wait for people to sign up.

3. Virtual Manipulatives

Very useful site from MacGraw Hill, Virtual Manipulatives has a nice set of interactive manipulatives that would work great with an IWB. The manipulative sets are broken into grade levels (pre-K through grade eight) and have some fantastic tools for teachers and students.

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