Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Twurdy: Search the Web by Reading Level

One reason that the web is difficult for students to navigate is that students cannot control the level of text they are viewing. Well, Twurdy may change that! Twurdy is a search engine that color codes results based upon the text difficulty of the result. More difficult texts are darker orange and easier texts are lighter orange. Students can easily select sites that fall within their reading levels. This is an excellent site/search engine!

Using the Smartboard to Support Students with Autism

Students with autism can benefit from the use of a smartboard in the classroom. New research is demonstrating the power of technology for this group of students. In my travels today I was lucky enough to find Do To Learn. This site focuses on the needs of exceptional students. One area of the site includes games on reading emotions and facial expressions. It is similar to "Faceland" but, unlike Faceland, it is free. It is a "must visit" site for teachers of students with autism.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Fluency Builder for RtI

As you know, RtI focuses a lot of attention on the development of reading fluency. Many researchers have shown significant correlations between high reading fluency and reading comprehension. If students are not using a lot of mental energy to decode the words, they have more processing power left to comprehend the text. I found an interesting tool that displays text in appropriate chunks, assisting students with their fluency. It is called Read Speeder. You copy text into the site and it displays chunks of meaningful text at a specific rate. As you improve, you can increase the rate at which text is presented. It could be a helpful tool that allows students to read content taken from the curriculum to practice fluency. As with everything I share, it is completely free.

Monday, September 28, 2009

A Universal Design for Current Events

Keeping students interested in current events can be difficult for teachers. However, there is a new site that delivers weekly summaries of current events in an entertaining, relevant way.

The site is called The Week in Rap. Each week, the site posts a rap video (with text transcripts beneath it) that discusses the current events of the week. It is entertaining and funny. I think students will love it.

There are many ways to access the content-- sound, video, and text. It is a fantastic way to incorporate a little bit of universal design into your classroom.

I've posted this week's video for you to view. Give it a try today!

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Using Etherpad in the Classroom

Etherpad is a "real" real-time document collaboration that I've blogged about in the past. (To read about the benefits of Etherpad, click here.) A few days ago, I had the opportunity to use Etherpad with high school students. We were working on content development, and the tool was extremely conducive to collaborative writing and including lots of "juicy details." Interestingly, the students commented that the most helpful/motivating part of the activity was their ability to use the chat feature during work. One student said that they enjoyed the freedom to work and talk at the same time. Hmm... that sounds like a true digital native to me. As teachers, we often think that students need to be focusing on one task at a time. However, this is often not responsive to their needs. Remember, sometimes allowing students to operate on many different levels at once allows them to work in their comfort zone and it raises motivation for students. Let me know what you think!

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Video Dictionary

Looking for a new way to infuse some excitement into your vocabulary lessons? Try using Wordia. Wordia is a dictionary that has videos posted by users that describe their experiences and feelings about words. Listening to user videos will help students remember words because they can connect information to feelings and stories. It would also be very fun to have students create and upload their own videos about new vocabulary words. Remember, teaching vocabulary definitively enhances academic achievement.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Annotate Maps

Try using Scribble Maps during your next social studies lesson. Students can draw and mark Google Maps without an account.

It would be a fun activity for students to post locations and connections as they listen to other students' current event reports.

Let me know what you think!

Thursday, September 24, 2009

An Embeddable Concept-Building Search Engine

In the past, I have posted about Tag Galaxy for assisting students when they are acquiring new vocabulary concepts. However, this new site may also be helpful for that use. Oamos is a search engine that generates images and links. Also, search results are embeddable. (See my example using "Disney World" above.) You could post results for specific concepts on your blog and students could watch them to review various concepts. I think it is a really neat resource and a good alternative to Tag Galaxy.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Free Books

Help your students locate free books with this unique search engine. It allows you to search for all of the online books on a topic that are free. I think that this site could be a great tool for teachers that are trying to differentiate reading content for students. Students can search for free books on a topic that match their reading level. Providing students with reading content on their level increases student achievement. Thanks to Richard Byrne for posting this great resource.

10 Interesting Ways to Use a Wiki

Tom Barrett has done it again! This time, he has created an excellent teacher resource about using wiki pages! Check out the embedded presentation below for excellent ideas about using wikis in the classroom. My personal favorite is his suggestion for using a wiki when substitute teachers are in your classroom so that you can really monitor what is going on from your tissue-covered bed!

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Science Vocabulary Resources

As you may know, I am a very big advocate of vocabulary instruction. I believe that building background knowledge for students can level the "playing field" and increase the effectiveness of instruction. (For more information, click here to check out Marzano's work.) I recently found this resource on subject specific science vocabulary maps created by the National Science Digital Library.

Check out what the site says about the resource:
NSDL Science Literacy Maps are a tool for teachers and students to find resources that relate to specific science and math concepts. The maps illustrate connections between concepts as well as how concepts build upon one another across grade levels. Clicking on a concept within the maps will show NSDL resources relevant to the concept, as well as information about related AAAS Project 2061 Benchmarks and National Science Education Standards.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Great Information Sheets for Web 2.0 Tools

Are you using Web 2.0 resources with your students? Are you training teachers how to collaborate and share resources using Web 2.0 tools? You may want to consider using these great "cheat sheets" for common Web 2.0 tools. (See the example above.) They were created by Andrew Churches and they are fantastic! They show you how to use everything, step by step. They are also only a page or two, so they are not intimidating or cumbersome. I recommend them!

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Periodic Table Tetris

Since I am a HUGE fan of tetris, I am VERY excited about this new resource. I found this game on Robert Byrne's Free Technology for Teachers Blog. It is a great way to help students learn the periodic table in a spatial/visual way. Students play tetris to complete the periodic table. And to thought chemistry was difficult??!!?!?

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Time Management Tool for the Web

Do you use the computer to provide either break time or reward time for students in your classroom? You may want to consider trying Minutes Please to manage the amount of time they spend on the computer. With this site, you can plug in the URL and the time limit for any site on the web. You will be prompted when only 1 minute remains, and the site will close when the time limit has expired. This can help you ensure that students stay on the computer for the amount of time you provide, even if you get distracted with other students or activities. This site is also helpful to teachers when managing the amount of time they are spending learning from their PLN. Enjoy!

Friday, September 18, 2009

Vocab Sushi- Amazing Progress Monitoring Tool

As I have mentioned in countless other posts, vocabulary development is an integral part of literacy success. (Check out Marzano's work on Building Background Knowledge for Academic Achievement for more information.) Although there are countless games and online modules designed to help students acquire vocabulary, I have not found a site that is as flexible and responsive as Vocab Sushi.

Vocab sushi includes the following components that make it a fantastic teaching tool:
  • provides pronunciation of all words
  • tracks words you have learned and words you are still learning
  • allows students to read words in context
  • allows students to read articles from current news that contain words they are learning
  • provide limitless practice activities
  • monitors student progress over time

This tool is excellent. I recommend using it as a way to track vocabulary goals for high school students.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Online Highlighting: Provide Text Support Seamlessly

Sometimes students can read the words, but they have difficulty selecting the most important ideas in an article. Try Wizlite to prepare and adapt text. You can highlight and annotate online text. Your annotations can be easily shared with students. You can even embed links to your articles on your blog or wiki. I like this site as a component used within the the model of Universal Design.

You can use the site to do collaborative highlighting, but you have to download a toolbar to use that feature. Since downloading items is often "off limits" on school computers, I don't find this part of the service to be helpful for me. You may want to consider it if you can have a toolbar downloaded on your school computers.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Motivate Adolescent Readers and Writers with Storybird

Storybird is new resource for creating online stories using artwork from very talented artists. Students can create stories using a sequence of pictures that are interesting and motivating. I think the artwork is appropriate for adolescent learners, making it unique in its class of services. Students can also preview stories that were written by other people related to the images. I like the product that Storybird creates, and I think it would be a fun resource to use with students.

Here are some possible educational uses for Storybird:
  • Have students identify the themes of image sets by reading all of the different stories created
  • Have students create stories for the same set of images and then compare the class' stories
  • Have students read stories for fluency practice
  • Have students write stories using images that have strong sequences as a support for their narratives
Watch the video below to learn more about Storybird:

Storybird Quick Tour from Storybird on Vimeo.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Career Database That's Current

The Gates Foundation has created a new resource for students called "Get Schooled." At this point, my favorite resource on the site is the career database. Students can search for jobs based on their personal preferences, people they admire, or job title. Each of the choices offers a variety of results that are linked to students' experiences. I recommend it as a resource within the transition section of students' IEPs.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Helpful Resource For Managing Files Between Computers

About a week ago, I signed up for a free account at Drop Box. Drop Box is a service that allows you to keep a folder on many different desktops. Any of the files that are added or edited to that folder are synced and updated online as you edit them. It eliminates the need for a flash drive when you are working on many different computers. For me, it has really helped streamline my files between school and home. A 2GB account is free, and it should cover most of your file needs for school. You can also share folders or files with people that do not have accounts. This is helpful for me since I often want to share my resources with other teachers. If you are interested in getting an account, click on the link below. (It is my referral link, so you will get a little bit of extra space if you use that link as compared with the general link.)

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Read and Create Books

Cast UDL Bookbuilder lets students read and create books.

When students read books on the site, each word is highlighted as it is read aloud to the child. Students can also disable the audio and read the books themselves. The site also has helpful features such as linked vocabulary definitions and images for unusual words.

When students create books on the site, they can use uploaded images or stock images (They are safe!). I encourage you to explore this site. I think it makes an excellent reading center during guided reading. It would also be a fantastic homework assignment for students.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Increase Student Comprehension During Videos

Do you use video clips often in your classroom? Well, increase the "educational punch" of those videos by adding captions. Captions allow students to both see and hear the messages contained in your video. If your video does not have captions, try Dot Sub. Dot Sub allows you to add captioning to videos that you upload FOR FREE. Dot Sub allows you to add captioning in English and in many other languages which could prove very helpful for ELL learners. I plan to use this resource with some students that I serve this year.

See the example of the service below:

Friday, September 11, 2009

Increase Student Comprehension by Using Phrasr

Research has shown that students (children and adults) learn best when images accompany words and phrases. Using nonlinguisitc representations is one of the effective teaching strategies identified by Marzano.

Phrasr lets you type a sentence or phrase and choose images that support each word. The images are then displayed in a slideshow underneath the phrase. I think it is an excellent way to support student comprehension. I think this site can be used by both students and teachers to enhance instruction. (Teachers, you may want to preview the site to ensure that the images you see are safe for students.)

Here's an example for the definition of Pi:

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Liven Up Test Reviews

Liven up test reviews by having each student create a talking avatar that espouses an essential piece of information for an upcoming test. Embed all of the avatars on a single page and use it as a center for students to review information in a motivating, engaging way. One site that will allow you to create free avatars is This site creates avatars that look like the people in Wii games, so kids typically like it a lot. I used this technique in my class, and the students LOVED it. Enjoy!

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Differentiate Onlne Text Easily for Student: Thy News

Do you need an authentic way for students to read text that is appropriate for their reading level? Create newspapers for the different reading group in your class at You can enter both RSS feeds and podcasts (that actually play right within the page!?) for students to access. Once you save the different sources, your newspaper is finished. I would create a news paper for each reading level in my class and direct students to it during guided reading time. What an easy way to save and differentiate text for students!

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Masher: A Neat Video Editing Resource

Masher is a neat resource where students and teachers can combine video, images, and text in unique movies. I think this would be an interesting service to use when creating book reports or other informational reports. Masher is FREE, of course!

Here are some educational connections for Masher:
  • Have students create current event reports using video clips and images from CNN
  • Have students create poetry using text slides, images, and video
  • Have students create their own report on classroom happenings using images and videos

Monday, September 7, 2009

Search Engine or Graphic Organizer? You decide!

Having students make sense of search results can be very difficult. For many students requiring specially designed instruction, reading a list of search results can be very difficult to navigate. Try instead of google.

Here are the features of the search engine that assist learners:
  • A word cloud with the most important related terms is displayed above all results for easy search refinement
  • All results are organized into categories that help students find relevant information
  • All search are displayed as a thumbnail image of the site, providing feedback for visual learners

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Monitor Students' Reading Fluency From Twitter

Do you monitor your students' oral reading fluency each week? Have you ever wanted to share actual samples of your students' reading fluency at meetings with parents and co teachers? Try to monitor and track students' reading fluency. Students simply type in your twitter username and "leave a message" of their oral reading fluency. You will be notified via twitter when a student submits a message. You will end up with a digital repository of your students' oral reading fluency. Voila!

You may even want students to try this at home!

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Add A Simple Comment Box

Remember the "comment boxes" that you used to have in your classroom for secret questions and queries? Well, now you can have one on your blog! Get one at I've added one to this site. Feel free to leave constructive criticism as you see fit.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Quick Polls w/o Signing In

Would you like to take a quick poll of your students, colleagues, or friends? You may want to try This website allows you to create a quick poll to help people schedule meetings or make choices.

Here are some educational applications for this site:
  • Schedule meetings with busy principals, guidance counselors, and parents
  • Have students take a lunch count
  • Find out about students' preferences, likes, and dislikes
  • Use it as a formative assessment tool to check student understanding

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Make Sentence Pictures

Do you have students that have difficulty seeing the relationships between different ideas in a sentence? Try It automatically makes a mind map from the ideas in the sentence you write. I thought that it could provide interesting discussion when identifying appropriate transition words and prepositions.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Reading + Media = Fluency Practice

Do you need an engaging way for students to listen and read text simultaneously?


This website allows you to view captioned video clips from news,music videos, and other sources. You can also print out a transcription of all of the text at the bottom of the screen.

Here are a few instructional ideas for this site:
  • Have students watch their favorite music videos and read the lyrics as they watch to increase reading fluency
  • Have students watch news clips while taking notes on a transcription of the clip
  • Have students watch the video clip then read the text, aiding background knowledge and reading comprehension

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Becoming a 21st Century Teacher

Ed Pimenti has created a fantastic slideshow that details not only the necessity of technology in education but also a simple procedure to get started. Interested in "upping the ante" in your teaching this year? Get connected. Follow the simple steps below.


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