Saturday, October 31, 2009

New Word Ahead Vocabulary Widget and Teacher Page

If you are a regular reader of this blog, you know that I am BIG on vocabulary instruction as a method to close the gap for struggling learners. For more on that, click here. So, I often share resources that help teachers integrate vocabulary instruction into each day. Recently, I blogged about Word Ahead, a great vocabulary resource. (To read that review, click here.)

Well, Word Ahead just released a new TEACHER PAGE and an AWESOME VOCABULARY WIDGET. The teacher page lets you create customized lists to use with your students. Perfect! Further, the vocabulary widget would be a great addition to your website or blog. Students can search all of the vocabulary videos from your site using the widget!

Here is the widget:

Friday, October 30, 2009

MagToo: Slideshows and Panoramas

I just stumbled across a new site for slideshows and presentations called MagToo. It allows you to sign up for a free account to create slideshows and panoramas. I especially like the panorama feature.

Here are a few educational applications you could try with the panorama function:
  • Take a panorama shot of your classroom and post it for students to explore over the summer
  • Take a panorama shot of different habitats outside and let students explore them
  • Create a panorama shot of students in your classroom working hard to share with parents
  • Have students draw/create a small "life size" habitat or scene on large chart papers. Students can capture their work using a panorama.

I hope this helps!

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Phonemic Awareness Game with Clifford

Phonemic awareness, one of the components of early reading instruction, is often a skill set that is targeted through RtI interventions. If you provide your students with practice in phonemic awareness, you may want to try Clifford Sound Game. The game is released by Scholastic and it is engaging, fun, and relevant. Give it a try!

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Spicy Nodes: My NEW Favorite Presentation Tool

In the past, I was a huge fan of Prezi for concept-map-based presentations. However, Prezi was always sort of hard to work with when the projector was plugged into my computer. Well, I think I have a NEW favorite tool: Spicy Nodes.

Spicy Nodes is still in beta, and it is totally free. You can create concept-map-based presentations very easily and the results are visually appealing. Even better, you can embed your presentation into wikis and blogs.

Last week, I emailed Spicy Nodes with a few tiny suggestions. They got back to me with in a few hours. The staff is very friendly and helpful.

Check out the "node" that I made below: I'm hoping to use this tool in an upcoming staff development session. I'll keep you posted on the results!

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

My Second Foray with Wetoku

This past month, I have been using Wetoku to conduct interviews about teachers and wikis. Wetoku is a free, web-based service that allows you to host interviews that can be recorded and embedded. For more information on Wetoku, read my review here.

This time, I had the good fortune of interviewing Bekci Kelly, an amazing librarian and media specialist from Quakertown Community School District, about the use of wikis. I have embedded the interview below-- Bekci is a model educator!

Since this was my second time using the tool, things went more smoothly. We both wore headsets so the feedback is greatly reduced. Enjoy!

Monday, October 26, 2009

YARP: Quick Polls w/o Signing In

Do you need to create quick polls for your students that do not require students to log in? You may want to consider YARP. YARP can be structured as a poll or an event invitation, and it only takes about 3 minutes to set up. (Yes, I timed myself!) As a teacher, I could use this site as a powerful formative assessment tool before and during lessons. I like the interface, and I think it is easy to use. Give it a shot to add some "pep" to your assessment.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Another Source for Free Books

I LOVE free books, and I've written about search engines that find free books here. However, Book RX provides students with a forum to read and publish their work. Students can read content from famous authors as well as authors in the online community. Also, students can publish their work here. I think it is an interesting resource that shows students that all authors are not "old" or "dead."

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Sporkle: Trivia and More

Do you have students that love to test their knowledge on facts and figures? Try using SPORKLE, a website that houses thousands of quizzes and trivia games. From famous movie sequels to state capitals, this site has it all. It could be a great warm up activity to get students excited about learning. While memorizing facts certainly is rarely the goal in my classroom, my students do enjoy testing their knowledge every once in a while.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Quick Public Webpages: File2ws

Do you need a document, image, or presentation hosted online QUICKLY? Try File2WS, a server that allows you to create a webpage by simply uploading a document.

Here is a summary quote from the creators: is a free website that converts any of your own files into a public online web page. Every converted file to a web page has a unique web address so you can share it with friends, or other people on the internet. This allows information to be shared quickly and efficiently to a large audience.
Some good uses for this application include:
  • Publishing student work quickly and easily
  • Sharing handouts or resources from a presentation
  • Building a portfolio for teachers or students

Thursday, October 22, 2009

My First Foray with Wetoku

As promised in my post here, I started experimenting with Wetoku last week. Wetoku is a free web based service that allows you to host interviews that can be recorded and embedded.

I had the good fortune of interviewing Rich Kiker, an amazing high school teacher from Palisades School District, about the use of wikis. I have embedded the interview below-- Rich has some really great information to share!

As for the tool, here are some suggestions for its use:
  • Use a microphone headset-- you can hear some feedback from me and Rich
  • Try not to move your head TOO much-- it makes the picture "break up"
  • Remember to look at the camera and NOT the image on your screen or you will appear to be looking at the floor

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Word Safari Game: Elementary Spelling Game

Word Safari is a fantastic game for elementary students to use on the SmartBoard. It allows students to practice their spelling words in a supported environment. Students have to match each letter in a by navigating a little boy with floating balloons. Students can choose preselected words in the program or enter their own spelling words to customize the game. I think the game is very addictive, and it would be PERFECT for the SmartBoard.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Help Students Conceptualize the News: Newsmap

Current event activities and assignments are very popular in education. However, sometimes students have a difficult time conceptualizing how the event they selected is connected to the world at large. Newsmap is a great new site that puts the day's current events into categories such as world, technology, national, etc. You can also sort the results by country. Events that have received more media coverage are larger than less popular events. This can really help students place their event into a larger context. I recommend using it with your students!

Monday, October 19, 2009

Pennridge School District Joins Twitter

Congratulations to a school district in Bucks County that has just joined Twitter. Pennridge School District has "taken the plunge" into social media. They have a great opportunity before them to reach parents and the community in a positive way. I applaud them on their efforts. And most importantly, give them a follow at

Interested in social media in education? Find out more from Steve Hargadon here.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Kubbu- Make Your Own Learning Games

When I consider Marzano's 9 Strategies for Effective Classroom Instruction, I truly believe that many of those techniques could be employed through the use of this new site. Kubbu, a site that allows teachers to create online games, crosswords, matching activities, and quizzes, is a real gem. The interfaces that teachers can create are very attractive, and they would work well on a SmartBoard. Right now, my favorite feature on the site is the "matching game" that you can create. Categories of terms or phrases are set up. Students click on two different items (sort of like "memory" with the cards face up) and the cards disappear if they are a match. This is a great way to play word study games with students! I recommend registering for this free site and giving it a try today! Click here to see a sample game I created:

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Word Magnets

Word magnets is a site that was tweeted by Dianne Krause a few days ago. It is fantastic for both literacy teachers and content area teachers. You can type or paste text and it creates word magnets. You can change the background to a venn diagram, 3 sections, 4 sections, and more! It is completely free and it has tons of educational applications. Here are a few applications that came to mind:
  • Paste in vocabulary terms from a science unit and have students sort them into different categories as a preassessment
  • Paste in a student's essay and have students sort the words based on their parts of speech
  • Paste in a president's speech and have students sort words to determine themes

Friday, October 16, 2009

Differentiated Instruction with Flashcards

Providing students with adequate guided practice and independent practice is a hallmark of effective teaching. Sometimes teachers use flashcards as a medium to provide practice for students. If you are a fan of flashcards, you may want to consider Brainflips. Brainflips allows you to create a set of flashcards that students can view with different levels of support. For example, students can view the term and the definition side by side, in a matching game, or by typing in the term or definition. It really allows students and teachers to adjust the difficulty level for the task. The site is motivating and attractive to students, and you can also use other people's flashcards.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Wiggio: Tools for Working in Groups

Wiggio appears to be an excellent tool to help people work in groups. I also think this free service could help teachers manage groups of students for cooperative learning.

Check out the educational applications....
  • Shared calendar (for assignments and deadlines)
  • Instant polling (for setting meeting times, responding to readings, etc.)
  • Task list (to help students chunk assignments)
  • Store and edit files in a common folder (eliminating the "I didn't have the file" plea...)
  • Host web meetings (for homework sessions online)

See the video below to learn more: I hope that this tool is helpful to you!

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Witty Comics: Summarize Learning in Pictures

Witty Comics is a helpful free site that allows students to create comics without drawing a thing! Students select predrawn characters and backgrounds. They are only required to add unique text to each pane. I like this site because it helps students summarize stories (beginning, middle, end) and it can help students express new ideas. It is a free service, but you will need to create a log in for students to save their work.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Problem Solving for 4th and 5th Graders

4th and 5th grade teachers, listen up! I have found a fantastic site that encourages problem solving, organization, and web searching skills situated within the context of interesting content. The site is called the Fin, Fur, and Feather Bureau of Investigations. It allows students many opportunities to organize their learning and explore content via the web. It is an EXCELLENT free resource. Check it out!

Monday, October 12, 2009

Rhyming Dictionary Online

In my former life as a third grade teacher, I always showed students how to use the rhyming dictionary when writing limericks. Yesterday, I stumbled upon this great resource that helps students identify rhyming words without using a dictionary. It is called Write Rhymes, and helps students create rhyming poetry, songs, or jingles. Students can actually draft their poem in the text box. As they write, they can "option-click" on any word to get a long list of rhyming words. The words are even separated by the number of syllables. This could have saved my students A LOT of time when they wrote limericks. Give it a whirl today!

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Talking Calculator: Great for the Smartboard!

PBS Kids has created an interactive talking calculator that speaks the numbers and operations you type. This application would be extremely effective for elementary grades when paired with a SmartBoard. Students could type in numbers and hear the numbers read to them. It would also be helpful when teaching students how to read numbers correctly. This is a super resource that supports a universal design for learning in your classroom!

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Handy Tip for Desktop Organization

Is your desktop full of clutter? Is it hard to find the files that you need quickly and easily? Try creating a custom background for your desktop that helps you organize your files. For example, create a square or shape that has "to print" as a label. Or create an area with the label "to do." These spaces can help you sort all of those downloads and documents. See my desktop above as an example.

One of my colleagues actually uses ScrapBlog to create customized image backgrounds. This free service does allow you to create very interesting image pages.

If you have a tip for organizing your desktop, leave it below!

Friday, October 9, 2009

Clip Generator: An Alterative to Animoto

While I must say that I LOVE Animoto beyond words, it is always good to have a few tools in your toolkit for your educational technology needs. Clipgenerator is a free service that appears to be very similar to Animoto. However, it does allow you to use popular "radio hits" for free with your slideshows. Students may be motivated by this. You can upload your photos from your computer, Picasa, Flickr, and several other services. Give it a whirl.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Accountable Talk Models

When students enter your classroom, they may not know how to interact with each other to enhance their learning. As teachers, it is our job to teach students how to collaborate in meaningful ways. Honestly, this is probably one of the most essential skills that we can teach students in today's modern age. Angela Cunningham has created a great graphic organizer to remind students of ways to engage in "accountable talk." It emphasizes dialogue that helps students meet standards. I think it is an excellent classroom tool and I have embedded it below! Class Discussion Guidelines

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

iPod Touches in the Classroom

Apple technologies have always been friendly to education. I can still remember using a "dinosaur" mac in fourth grade to draw the parts of a cell. Now, handheld computing devices are commonplace, and they have had many different uses in education. However, I have not seen many school districts in my area using these technologies in the classroom yet. See the video above to check out how a school in the United Kingdom is using iPod Touches to enhance their access to information and their learning. These 8 year-olds are very adept with technology. It's awesome!

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Electronic Reading Logs

Although we know that logging reading can decrease overall reading motivation for students, it is a necessary part of student accountability in most school systems. For teachers, managing and tracking reading logs can be a paperwork nightmare. Crinkled logs, missing logs, and incomplete logs are very common. One solution could be a new site called Reading Logs. This free site allows teachers to create online reading logs that students and parents can use. The logs are easily accessible to students, parents, and teachers. Everyone is aware of the current status of the reading logs. While it surely does not solve the problems surrounding the use of reading logs, it does assist the management of the practice.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Yet ANOTHER High School Vocabulary Site

Since everyone already knows that I am an advocate of contextual vocabulary instruction and constant vocabulary review for all students, you should not be surprised that I have found yet ANOTHER great resource for high school vocabulary. The site is called Grape Wave, and it provides many of the same features as Vocab Sushi, such as progress monitoring, individualized word lists, targeted practice. Also, Grape Wave is totally free. Give it a spin with your students. I bet it will make a difference in their achievement!

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Times Spelling Bee

Do you need a site where you can help students practice spelling in a fun and informative way? Try the Times Spelling Bee website. Students can play alone or against other players. If students create a log-in they can track their progress and monitor their growth. Be aware that the site was created in the UK, so that may affect the spelling of some words. However, I could see this site creating a fun, friendly competition in your classroom during the precious minutes before lunch or dismissal. Give it a try and let me know what you think!

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Another High School Vocabulary Resource

Readers of this blog know that I LOVE vocabulary resources. We know that teaching vocabulary helps us build background knowledge for students, raising achievement. Teaching vocabulary has also shown to close the achievement gap in some cases. (Check out Robert Marzano's book on academic vocabulary for more information.)

Try out Word Ahead for high school vocabulary resources. My favorite part of this site is the collection of vocabulary videos that students can watch. The videos have narration, text, and images that help students remember each word. I think it would make a great center or study resource for high school students.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Ideas to Inspire: Active Mathematics

I just came across this collection of tips to make math more interactive. If you have an interactive white board, this is a great "idea starter" for math. However, many of the ideas do not require an interactive white board. It was created by Mark Warner. Check it out!

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Smaller Class Sizes DO make a difference!

As a teacher, I always knew that my lessons and instruction were better when my class sizes were smaller. Unfortunately, there has not been much research to support that "hunch" in the past. However, a recent interview with Dr. Jeremy Finn on NPR may change that. Check out the quote below:

BRAND: How is student behavior different in small class sizes?

Dr. FINN: It's because every student is on what I would call the firing line. You can't hide in the back corner of the room. Students are better behaved. They pay more attention. They support each other in learning more, and their - definitely, their achievement scores go up. Furthermore, it's been shown that for children who were in small classes for three or four years, graduation from high school is more likely. Taking college entrance exams is more likely. So these early grades of small classes have long-lasting effects.

BRAND: And by early grades, you're talking kindergarten through third grade.

Dr. FINN: That's correct.

BRAND: I read an article recently in the New Yorker written by Malcolm Gladwell, and it talked a lot about teachers and class size, and I just want to read you a quote from him. He is skeptical that class size is as important as it's made out to be. He writes: You have to cut the average class almost in half to get the same boost that you'd get if you switched from an average teacher to a teacher in the 85th percentile. So in essence, he's saying that teacher competency is better and more important to student achievement than class size.

Dr. FINN: I've heard that argument many times before. There really aren't data that make that comparison directly. But I would argue, and as I have many times, that what you want is both a good teacher and a small class. Imagine what a good teacher could do with a small class.

The entire article/interview is available here. Feel free to share it with your fellow teachers and rejoice!


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