January 12, 2010
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The students returned from Winter Break yesterday. When I was a classroom teacher, I would always have them write about their New Year’s Resolutions; some personal and academic goals that they wanted to set to improve the overall quality of humanity. I would also have them write the ultimate overused writing prompt: “What I did Over the Break.”
Today, we tried out Wallwisher and Wordle to post my students’ resolutions and write about their vacations.
Click to see our third graders' resolutions
Wallwisher.com is an online notice board maker that allows you to make announcements, keep notices and do anything that you’d normally do with a sticky note. I set up a wall and posted the directions at the top, set the url and then showed my 20 third graders how to get to the wall. Then it’s just a simple process of double-clicking where you want the note to be placed, adding your name to the note, and writing out your goal.
Click to see Toorno's Vacation
I used Wordle to have students describe what they did over the break. Wordle is a toy for generating “word clouds” from text that you provide. The clouds give greater prominence to words that appear more frequently in the source text. You can tweak your clouds with different fonts, layouts, and color schemes. You can print them out, or save them to the Wordle gallery to share with friends.
December 26, 2009
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Having an audience for kids is a motivator. Winning a prize for your writing is huge motivator. Here are five writing contests just around the corner:
- Young Writers and Illustrators Contest
A creation of PBS Kids and Reading Rainbow, this is a contest for all kids in K-3rd grade who want to write & illustrate a story and submit it for judging for a chance to win local and national prizes. Everyone who enters gets a Certificate of Achievement.
Deadline: PBS Stations will hold local PBS KIDS GO! Writers Contests during February and March. In late January go to pbskids.org/writerscontest to find your local PBS station and Contest deadline as well as to print the Entry Form and Rules.
- The Betty Award
A writing contest for kids ages 8-12 where kids can win up to $300.
Deadline: All entries must be postmarked no later than May 15, 2010. Winners will be notified by July 15, 2010.
- Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award
International writing competition for writers age 13 and above. Amazon and Penguin are seeking the next popular novel. Each winner will receive a publishing contract with Penguin, which includes a $15,000 advance.
Deadline: Entries must be submitted between January 25, 2010 at 12:01 a.m. (U.S. Eastern Standard Time) and February 7, 2010 at 11:59 p.m. (U.S. Eastern Standard Time).
- Writer’s Digest 79th Annual Writing Competition
GRAND PRIZE: $3,000 cash and a trip to New York City to meet with editors or agents. Writer’s Digest will fly you and a guest to The Big Apple, where you’ll spend three days and two nights in the publishing capital of the world. While you’re there, a Writer’s Digest editor will escort you to meet and share your work with four editors or agents!
Deadline: May 14, 2010.
Add $5 per manuscript or poem to Entry Fee(s) on all entries submitted after May 14.
- Kids Can Do It Essay Contest
Ongoing essay competition where kids can win $50, an autographed book from Sandra McLeod Humphrey, and an award certificate to hang in the classroom.
Deadline: Ongoing. Next contest begins January 1, 2010.
This list just scratches the surface of the writing contests out there. A word of caution though: there are several scam contests looking to take advantage of young writers. Here are some articles you should read before entering any writing competition:
Do you have other contests to recommend? If so, please share.
December 24, 2009
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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:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.