Friday, March 28, 2014

Revisiting Badgerlink

Teachers in Wisconsin- you have a plethora of some amazing free resources available to you that will enhance your teaching significantly.  These resources are available through Badgerlink, Wisconsin's online library.  Badgerlink resources include databases with full-text articles, multimedia, and e-books.  Below highlights some of my favorite Badgerlink resources and how you can use these in your classroom.

TeachingBooks is your resource for finding anything that you want to know about the books that you teach and the books that the kids love.  After searching for a book title or author, you will be linked to a wealth of resources, including author videos and podcasts, discussion guides, lesson plans, book trailers, and even author pronunciations.  This amazing database is not only a must-use for ELA teachers, but TeachingBooks also lists curricular uses of its tools for teachers of any subject.

Wisconsin Media Lab provides free multimedia resources for Wisconsin educators.  Organized by subject and grade level, teachers will find popular titles such as Bill Nye, Into the Book, and Wisconsin Biographies. 

NoveList is that go-to resource for when you need to find just the right book.  Within NoveList, you can search for reading lists, similar titles, reviews, related articles, and further information about various books.  It's a great resource for when you have a student who read a book and is looking for other titles just like that one.

Soundzabound offers royalty free music for students to use in their multimedia productions.  Students can choose from short sound clips or full-length songs.

Access Newspaper Archive allows users to find  full-text newspaper articles dating back hundreds of years. Want to read articles about the sinking of the Titanic on that date that it happened?  Find them by searching here.

Search for full-text poems, essays, short stories, novels, plays, and speeches through LitFinder's amazing repository.

Tools for Differentiating Learning

I was lucky to attend Naomi Harm's WEMTA session on personalizing learning this past Monday.  In her session, Naomi went through several resources that can help teachers easily differentiate learning for students at different levels in their classrooms.  Two tools- The Differentiator and Respondo!- really stuck with me as being fantastic resources for teachers to use with students.

The Differentiator allows teachers to define the learning target by choosing the thinking skill, content, resources, product, and group size from the list given on the site.  This gives students the opportunity to design a learning outcome that meets their needs and gives them options for a variety of products.  After choosing one option from each of the categories, a clear learning objective is set!

Similarly, Respondo! is another awesome tool for having students and teachers create different outcomes to meet different learning styles.  This tool, on the other hand, is specifically focused on creating different outcomes when responding to literature.  It works similarly to The Differentiator by having users choose different outcomes based on different elements of the text.

The best part of both tools- They require students to critically think about classroom content and create products that involve higher level thinking.  Learning outcomes can measure the same objective but be different for students with different needs, abilities, and talents.  I think that students would really enjoy being empowered to use these tools to decide on the products that will show what they know.

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Create Interactive Images with Thinglink

One tool that I intend to make great use of this year is ThinglinkThinglink gives users the ability to create interactive images by uploading a picture and linking the image to websites, videos, and text.  This could be a great project for students or could be used by teachers to create student guides.  Thinglink's site is free and does allow students to connect with others by commenting on one anothers' creations.  If a picture is worth 1,000 words, imagine how much more powerful it could be by linking different media to it and sharing the vast knowledge available on the Internet.  Check out an example below to get an idea of how Thinglink works.  How can you use this with your students?

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Share My Lesson: Free Lessons Created for Teachers, By Teachers

One great find from ISTE 2013 was the website Share My LessonShare My Lesson is an extensive database containing over 265,000 resources and over 300,000 members.  Teachers can not only search and share lessons, but also follow people whose lessons they really like.  Lessons are searchable by grade, subject, or topic and linked to the Common Core Standards.  Searches and resources can be saved to one's account for later reference.  My quick searches of "Internet Safety" and "Scary Story Writing" yielded some impressive resources that included not just lesson plans, but weblinks and student handouts as well.  This is a site worth bookmarking and using on a regular basis for its simplicity and the extensive collection of resources available.  Why reinvent the wheel when there are others out there who have done it already and have freely shared what has worked for them?  You may be inspired to share your great ideas as well and connect with a large network of educators just waiting to learn from you.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Bilblonasium: an Online Reading Community for Kids

 If you are looking for an exciting tool that will engage your students in reading and connecting with others who love reading, look no further than Biblionasium. Biblionasium is an online community designed especially for kids to share favorite books, keep reading logs, find reading suggestions, and connect with other like-minded readers. The design is similar to Shelfari, only student accounts are managed by teachers and do not require student email addresses. Biblionasium offers a paperless alternative to traditional reading logs in a safe, private, online space. Teachers can easily track and organize student data and even create groups and reading challenges for students.  Biblionasium offers the social media experience for today's connected students in a safe, fun, yet educational environment with a format that is sure to engage even the most reluctant reader.

Friday, April 26, 2013

21st Century Ways to Teach a Book

Today I was presented with a challenge; a Language Arts teacher wanted to know how to teach her next in-class novel without the usual routine of study guides, comprehension questions, and vocabulary worksheets.  Your memories of English Language Arts classes probably include those types of activities.  While those activities all have their place and can still be worthwhile, technology has made it possible for students to create connections with their reading in deeper ways.  Below is the start of a list of ideas for truly engaging students in a book discussion using 21st century tools and higher level thinking.

1.  Create a classroom space on Edmodo.  Have students discuss the story in large or small groups.  Connect with another classroom elsewhere reading the same book.

2.  Contact the author to see if he or she will Skype.  Many authors will Skype with students for free.

3.   Use the Fake Tweet Builder to tweet a character or write a book review.  Try the lesson created by The Daring Librarian.

4.  Create character conversations using ifaketext.  See the example that I created between Katniss and Peeta.

5.  Find one image that represents the book or a specific part of the book.  Share this in Edmodo.  Have other students guess and comment on what it represents and why it was chosen.  Use Thinglink to have kids link their images to videos and other information.

6.  Use BrainyFlix to illustrate vocabulary words.  Share final product in Edmodo.

7. Create a voki speaking from the perspective of one of the characters to share his/her feelings during any part of the story.  Blabberize would also work well for this purpose.

8.  Have a QR Code scavenger hunt to begin the book and help students understand background information.  Display QR Codes around the room, and use a QR code scanner to have a scavenger hunt.

9.  Use Padlet to connect with the story at the beginning of class.  Post a sticky note with a question related to the reading/connection to students' lives.  Students respond and comment on others.  This would also be great as an exit ticket.

10. Use tools such as the trading cards, motivator, and magazine cover at Big Huge Labs.

11.  Create a comic that illustrates a part of the story at Make Beliefs Comix.

12.  Rewrite the ending of the story.  Use  PowToon or GoAnimate 4 Schools to create it as an animated video.

13.  Use the app Songify to turn text that students write about the story into a song.

14.  Create a screencast of students discussing and illustrating vocabulary words using apps such as Educreations or Show Me.

15.  Have students create a Google Earth virtual tour to highlight parts of the setting.

16.  Use mindmaps and online organizers such as Popplet and Mindmeister to make connections and map out parts of the story.  These tools also allow images, weblinks, and video to be added.

17.  Post a request for a partner class on Skype in the Classroom.  Find another classroom to take part in a virtual conversation.

As I mentioned at the beginning of this post, this is only a start!  There are many other ideas we could add to this list.

What are your ideas for teaching literature in 21st century ways?  What are you doing in your classrooms to help students form real connections with the text and think about their reading in deeper ways using 21st century tools?

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Do your students do "projects" or "project-based learning?"

Project-based Learning has transformed the way classrooms are structured in the 21st century.  It gives students opportunities to create ownership over their learning, work for an authentic audience, and puts students in real-world situations where problem-solving is the key factor.  On the other hand, it is important to understand that projects are not the same as project-based learning. Below is a fantastic comparison between the two provided by Amy Mayer of FriEdTechnology:

How does your classroom compare? 

Are you interested in changing your classroom but not sure where to start?  The Buck Institute for Education focuses on project-based-learning and offers amazing resources on its website including the latest research and a project directory.  

In addition, here is a great CommonCraft Show video explaining the basics of project-based learning.

Finally, here is a wonderful checklist from the BIE that lists the essential elements of project-based learning.