Sunday, February 27, 2011

Grab your Tissues...

Riley and I in the hospital.
...and Kleinspiration just got a lot more personal!  :)

I never intended on sharing personal bits of my life through this educational resource sharing blog; however, as I was putting together a Prezi for a project I've been working on, I was reminded of "why I became a teacher."  

I managed a business as my first profession... and prior to that, I was an Interior Design Major at Michigan State University for 3 years.  Close to graduation, my husband and I had our first child.  It was during this time that I knew as much as I enjoyed the art of creating aesthetically pleasing and functional living spaces, I had to do something bigger.  There was no brainstorming.  It hit me as if I had always knew it... just had it tucked in a safe place until I was ready to fully commit.  I was to be a teacher.

Throughout undergraduate school, my philosophy of education stemmed from Piaget and Vygotsky, and my passion was simple:

"I want to be the kind of teacher I want my daughter to have."

Which brings me to tonight.  As I was researching microcephaly for my Prezi project, I went to my usual search spots: Google, Sort Fix, Qwiki, and YouTube.  I think I stopped breathing for the entire 7 minute video as I got to peak into young Ethan's joyful life.  My husband came to see if I was alright as I had tears falling down my cheek.

My project centered around students with learning disabilities or who are learning delayed.  My Prezi focused on one student I had in particular, 'Jack.'  Overcome with knowing 'Jack's' story, coupled with the joy Ethan brought to life, I was reminded how fortunate I am to be a teacher - and teach ALL kids!

The effort, love, dedication, and commitment that Ethan's parents give to him is exactly the type of environment each child deserves to have in life so that he or she can reach his or her fullest potential in life... truly the job of a teacher.  What a special opportunity we have. 

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Word Clouds, Vocabulary, and More

Eight Great Sites for Words, Words, and more Words!  Being a word nut, I'm always in search of interesting ways to enhance my student's vocabulary.  For example, we use Visuwords before, during, and after reading to clarify our understanding.  My daughter and I recently used Wordle for her 100's day project (her 100 favorite words).  Word Generation is an unparalleled site for growing rich lexical knowledge within your middle school.  These sites and more are free and fantastic!

The Science of Cooking

The Science of Cooking shows all of the 'why' questions surrounding the thoughts of Mommy's Little Helper.  From candies to breads, meats, and seasonings, find great recipes and fun facts about some of your favorite foods.  Students can practice measurement, read multisyllabic words, have driving questions answered, and gain knowledge through interesting information available on the site.  There's so much content to integrate: Science (explore the molecules in sugar, take microscopic tours, explore senses), Social Studies (tour breads of the world, visit farms, history of ketsup...), Math (portions, measurements...), Language Arts (beyond the reading on the site, practice writing in group discussion forums, submit questions to the cooks, and take quizzes to sharpen your comprehension with digital literacy.  I can't wait to have 5 minutes of down time in class to explore this site with my students!  Kids won't realize they're learning!

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Sensational Search Engines

I recently did a post on Sort Fix, one of my most favorite search engines.  I received a lot of feedback on this site and wanted to share a few other of my favorite sites to search for information.  To see all of them, view my class website to have access to the entire list (which I'm still adding - feel free to let me know of a great one that I may have forgotten).

Twurdy, a search engine, uses text analysis software to 'read' each page before it is displayed in the results.  Then Twurdy gives each page a readability level.  Twurdy then shows the readibility level of the page along with a color coded system to help users determine how easy the page will be to understand.  Imagine if your search engine gave you a Lexile Number, Accelerated Reader Number, or Letter Level for your readers?  Twurdy is your leveled search engine!  

The Great Behavior Game

The Great Behavior Game is published through The Educator's Handbook.  If you've ever had a class that could use support through positive behavioral intervention, this free site for educators is just for you!  The Great Behavior Game allows you to add up to three class rosters, and when you need to add or delete a student - you can do it with one click.  Never having to navigate away from your planned lesson, this piece works in conjunction with your teaching.  Students will see their earned stars, or points, displayed and become motivated towards earing more points - even potential bonus points that you can distribute throughout the lesson for active engagement, participation, or exceptional behavior.  If behaviors persist, you can place that player, or student, in a waiting period.  Lastly, the software produces  easy to read reports that track individual's progress.  I could see this form being beneficial for IEP or SST meetings.

I could also see this program working well with troubled youth or discouraged learners, especially those in a resource room or intervention classroom environment.  I haven't yet tried this with any of my classrooms, so I don't personally know how successful it would be.  My personal philosophy stems more from an Alfie Kohn stance of intrinsic motivation - not that of external rewards... but, then again, my husband sure gets motivated for his 'bonus pay' at work.  I think anything is worth a shot - especially if it's free!

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Ipods in the Classroom: Sonic Pics

Give Voice to your Pictures!  SonicPics is one of my 'I can't live without' apps on my iphone.  I truly use it for everything professional and personal.  I love that it is super easy to use and can be uploaded with one touch to share with the world.  I started using it after taking a few photos of my own children - I'd open SonicPics and begin to put together a quick slideshow (allowing my kids voices to help tell the story).  Then, I'd send them to my parents who live four hours away.  They love the treat of seeing and hearing and reliving our experiences together.  Here is a project my first grader, Riley, did on a snow day we stayed home (you can also hear Jacob, my two year old, in the background!).

Next, I started using SonicPics to put slide shows together of my students.  I could upload them to the website and share with their families.  Parents love getting an inside look into our classroom.  I also take pictures at assemblies and programs to show on our website in-case family members aren't able to make it to the event; they can still relive the memory with their child at home.  Then, I found this app useful to introduce new technology into the classroom.  I would put brief tutorials together explaining how to use such sites as Glogster or Capzles.  Then, I'd embed them to our class site so that students could reference the 'how-to' part from home or with their group in a lab or another class as they were working on their projects.  I also found it useful to explain new math concepts (to publish on the website for students needing homework help at home) and then have students explain the concept to enhance their understanding.  Finally, I had students begin to use the app as they had been exposed to the many uses of how to create projects with the software.

What if you don't have ipod technology in your building?

At first, I only had my iphone.  I use it all the time with our class.  Often, I'll throw it under my document camera to do a quick Brain Pop video and short quiz, practice the states and capitals during a brain break or transition activity, or showcase famous works of art trying to teach how to identify artist technique through exaggerative personal characteristics, brush stroke technique, or medium used for art.  These activities only take 2-5 minutes, but they refresh their brains and allow for additional enrichment.  Plus, they're fun!

Wanting all of my students to have their own ipod, I found out that our ISD had a set of 28 that we could sign out.  I jumped on the opportunity.  We only had the devices for two weeks so I knew I had to not only come up with a project, but make sure the kids knew how to use the devices and teach the content we'd use for the app.  Because we live in Michigan, a few weather days didn't help our schedule; however, we pulled it off.  Our administration saw the benefit of such technology and the level of engagement that they approved the purchase of four ipods for our class.  We share the devices with another class, too.

I have students using the apps we introduce in class on their own ipods.  Without being assigned, they're creating projects and wanting to show them during class.  I usually publish them online, too.  They're jazzed about creating work that isn't for me, the teacher, but shared with their peers and families.  They are spending their own time searching for awesome apps to see if they can show me something I haven't ran across yet.  They're talking with friends to see if they can come up with the 'next class project.'  These kids are doing my lesson plans and exceeding my expectations by developing more creative products than I thought possible. They're social by nature and our class is offering a platform for them to explore that potential.  My co-teacher and I offer the standards, address the structure, and ask the driving questions... then, they put their heads together and allow the magic to transpire.

Examples of My SonicPics: (simply click the link)

  • Class Tour (for the audio, I just sat the phone/ipod next to my radio speaker)
  • Homework Help (multiplying a fraction by a whole number)
  • Sensory Detail (shown before we brainstormed descriptive attributes for a fall writing piece)
  • 1st Grader Science Project (Riley, my daughter, and I having fun on a snow day - with Jacob in the background)  
  • ipod Integration (our 7th graders projects)  click here for class site and here for my overview of the assignment and how we worked through the project

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Free Gift for Kleinspiration Facebook Fans!

If you're one of our fans on Facebook, check out a new contest you could enter!  If you're not already a fan, click here to 'like' Kleinspiration today and be eligible for our next technology give away. 

Prize: portable multimedia speaker (for ipods, iphones, laptops, etc.)  Play music loudly and with great quality! Lightweight and Portable.

In the classroom, share audio files or podcasts as you facilitate the room without being tethered to your desk.  Toss your ipod under your document camera to share an app and illuminate the room with your new portable prize!  Contest ends March 1st.
  • Are you a follower of this blog?  If you'd like to be the first to get updates as new posts are published, click here to receive the information first hand to your email.
  • Follow Erin Klein on Twitter, click here.
  • Join us on Facebook for special offers and educational updates on classroom technology, click here.

Museum Box: not just for Social Studies

I first came across Museum Box on a post I was reading on the Bright Idea's site and instantly had to check it out.  Then, I was happy to see that Edu Techer had posted an amazing segment on YouTube that gives great insight to the project.  As I was showing a friend of mine, also a teacher, we began discussing ways we could use this in our own classrooms.  Being that most of our middle school students are interested in technology and enjoy projects involving multimedia, we grabbed scrap paper right away and began to jot down ideas for our future Museum Box works. The following are ideas we came up with:
  • similar to the popular 'Me Box/Bag' - students could introduce themselves this way in the beginning of the year... due to the vast amount of time it could take to do this (and lack of available computers at once), we thought it would be neat to feature one or two students per day for the first twenty days or so of school.  If you were working with primary children, you could hold him or her in from lunch (2 treats in one day: lunch with you and work on the project) or you could set up a calendar letting parents know ahead of time when their child's day to present would be so that they could assist at home and also join the class for the special day.  For older students, they could work on the project independently and present to their small group (having four or five groups as teams each presenting to each other to save on time and building a stronger community within that small network of kids).
  • Language Arts: featuring their favorite authors (doing each author on a cube - displaying different pieces of work on each author's cube); featuring a novel (cube examples could be: author, setting, plot, other works, etc); diving into the setting (each cube could depict a place mentioned in the story); character cubes
  • Math: cubes could represent a culmination of a math unit - each cube could represent a sequential concept in math: distributive property (examples and non examples, definition, how it's applied), associative, identity...
  • Social Studies: historical figures, events in history, economic trends, types of governments, countries, 5 themes...
  • Science: water cycle, predator and prey, elements of the periodic table, geological time, types of rocks, weather and erosion, branches of science, careers in science, famous scientists
Kerry Turner shows how she assigned her class to complete a Museum Box based on an debate style assignment.  I also checked to see if one of my favorite bloggers posted about Museum Box because her threads are always so insightful... click here to read Kelly Tenkely's post on her site, iLearn Technology.

The Museum Box website also offers the following free resources: a gallery of boxes to view from other students, guidance for teachers (registration and creating student accounts), curriculum areas in which Museum Box can be supported, and more!

I especially liked that students have many options of which form of media to include for each cube within their box: images, text, sound, videos, files, and links.  They can even upload their own audio files!  How great to have them as the expert guide through their Museum Box -- to differentiate the activity, students could write a formal piece to podcast their work.  Others could select from a gallery of preloaded sound effects.  I can't wait to try this with my class!  I'd love to hear your ideas, especially if you've tried this before.  If you haven't but have an inspired idea, please leave a comment below and share with others.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

edu Techer: a Techy Teacher's Dream Site

Adam Bellow, founder and creator of edu Techer, supports education in a big way!

I've had the iphone app for some time now and have truly enjoyed all of the shared resources.  My students also enjoy the app and often come into class asking if we can try out one they've found.  Well, there is also a fabulous website with more resources that you could imagine -- and best part is... they're all placed in organized categories so that you can find exactly what fits your needs best.

Bellow also has a 1 cent page where his site has raised funds for The Make a Wish Foundation.  You can check it out here.

Check out his presentations and conferences here.

A Reflection on Storybird

I recently introduced a new favorite find, Mee Genius, a free site for reading and viewing digital picture books.  I mentioned how this site could be a platform to use prior to introducing Storybird to students (in effort to get children to publish their stories online).  I've received a few emails with questions about how I use Storybird in my class.  One email in particular inspired me to share my response.  A new friend, Marty, had a question for her second grade classroom.  First, I'd like to mention how thrilled I was to see that such technology was being introduced to second graders - how beneficial to give them the opportunity to become published authors.  

This was Marty's main concern...

" I have had my students begin using this wonderful resource this year. They initially were very excited to read stories and put their pictures into their personal books. But, now that they are writing the stories to go along with the pictures they are getting bogged down. Not all of them, of course, but even some of my best writers are having trouble."

The following is my reply to Marty and her second graders...

"I can understand how from our perspective this could be quite the engaging task; however, once you introduce it to a class, the sparkle only seems to remain for a short period.  Once they realize they have to 'work,' the motivation seems to fizzle.  This occurred with my middle school students as well.

I found what worked best for our kids was to:

- psych the kids up about being published authors

- explain that their work will be read by people all over the world - how exciting!

- have the writings be completed before they go to the web... I've found that often kids can't find the right words to go with the pre-made illustration -- they become frustrated trying to make their stories 'fit.'  However, if they already have a draft of a story, it becomes easier to chunk their sentences to import into different pages to represent the given art work.

- The key for me was to do a whole class Storybird as a model first.  We did this by reading a short story from our textbooks, and then retold the same story, in our own words, through Storybird.  I found it easier to start creating Storybirds by first having the writing done before logging in - and not creating original, creative pieces but rather simple retelling stories.  

- At first, most of the kids were so literal about retelling the events.  For example, we did a retelling of The Titanic.  Kids were so frustrated because they couldn't find illustrations in Storybird that included a big ship or water or ice burgs.  Then, luckily, our Leah had an amazing moment.  She understood how to interpret the story into a creative manner.  She had her writing completed first, and then began to search for inspiring art from Storybird to represent her story.  Her high school cousin helped her at home to work on her project (what a natural Tier 2 home intervention).  I was so excited that she, on her own, sought out additional support to complete her project.  Leah has given me permission to tell her story.  Leah named her protagonist "Spoon."  I thought this was so creative and adorable.  When asked about how she came up with this name, she explained that she and her cousin were discussing ideas for the story over dinner -- hence, she was eating with a spoon.  She thought I would think it was lame and silly.  Quite the contrary... when she first told me this, it was through a whole class discussion - each child turned to me wondering how I'd handle this idea of just giving a random name to a character.  We took advantage of this teachable moment to explain how creativity stems from our own lives and how our audience begins to relate to us as authors as we begin to humanize ourselves and make connections to our readers.  Then, I began to see others take the permission (that I thought was assumed) to think outside of the box.  Leah offered her peers something that I could not... an authentic example of how to tap into an internal, creative spark that each of them possessed yet didn't realize where to find.  You see, as much as I told them that they were all creative, they didn't see it.  They thought they had to be these experts, artists.  Now, they started to see life as a creative opportunity - common objects began to personify themselves... I was able to tie in figurative language mini-lessons into natural conversations within the classroom.  Students began to swap ideas for metaphors -- collaborative learning took off in a way that I could have never asked for... they took over the class.  I was in teacher heaven.  I wasn't leading the discussion but rather bopping back and forth between groups to either offer advice or listen to an idea a group couldn't wait to share with me.  Kids were even buzzing at lunch about their stories and encouraging others (families, teachers, and friends) to view their work.  We began to work in our celebration stories as a part of our daily class discussions.  This encouraged others to jump on a computer and fix up their stories.

Spoon's Adventure on the Titanic on Storybird

- Another idea we did that worked was to offer choice.  After students had a start on their writing drafts, they were given a choice to publish their digital writing stories.  Not everyone chose to do a Storybird.  Actually, I found that mostly girls gravitated to Storybird.  The boys in our classes (2 sections of 7th grade language arts) chose to create a Capzles or a Glogster.  The males were into uploading video into their digital posters via Glogster.  They needed multi-media.  

- I will share with you the document I used to introduce the digital writing project (click here and download the Word file - next to the Voki).  The choice option gave everyone a creative inspiration.  Without the children realizing it, I personally created a Capzles (see here), a Glogster (see here), and a Weebly website (see here) so that they could be introduced before I even threw the assignment their way.  Then, they were comfortable with the web 2.0 sites before I even asked them to use them for a project.  Naturally, when the kids saw my personal Capzles, they wanted to know how I did it so they could do it at home.  I always offered the site so they could take advantage of it on their own, for fun.  This way, they get to see the sites as fun, not work.  I've done this with animoto, too.  I find that the kids come to school and want to show off their personal creations they've done just simply from me showing off my own stories.  This does two things: builds a community within our room (we all get to know each other better) and the ones that take advantage of creating a project first, for fun, become my 'experts' to help others when the actual assignment is eventually assigned.

- I also encourage the kids to seek out fun web 2.0 sites to enhance instruction.  They come up with the greatest stuff.  I always work it into our assignments.  The children take ownership of their learning as they  are the creators of their learning.  I give them the resources and they work together, synthesize their findings, and continue to make their work better and more unique.  Blooms at it's best!  :)

I was very inspired by your questions.  I like that it helped me to reflect on my own teaching practices.  I've even thought of a few new ideas to try.  I hope this has helped in some way.  If you have any additional questions, please pass them along.  I have always been thankful for those who have helped me, so I always try to 'pay it forward' when possible.

After writing this, I thought others may have similar questions.  I hope you don't mind, but I'd like to publish pieces of  this email so that others who may have the same issues can get insight on how it's worked for us.  Please continue to keep me posted on the progress of your class.  I love sharing ideas with other teachers."

I would love to have other teachers leave a comment to share ideas of what they think about Storybird, how they've used it or are using it, and reflections on my response to Marty.  I look forward to hearing your feedback.  I get so excited when teachers come together to network and swap stories and share ideas.  


Friday, February 18, 2011

Too Cute to Pass Up: Mee Genius!

Beautiful illustrations.  Personalized Stories.

Mee Genius reminds me a bit of a blend between Kid Thing and Story Line Online.  I was sad when I found out that Kid Thing was shutting down their network; however, Mee Genius (a new favorite find) gives me hope for digital stories.

Mee Genius doesn't require a download.  In fact, you can sign in using your existing Google or Facebook accounts.  Once logged in, you can browse free stories, an affordable bookstore, book collections, or your own 'book shelf' (similar to Shelfari by Amazon).

One of my most favorite features is that you can personalize the story with your own names, choice of setting, etc.  Additionally, the reader can select to have the story read to them or to read it without the audio playback.  When the story reads aloud, each word is highlighted as the narrator retells the story.  What a great way to enhance fluency and word recognition for emerging readers! -- with an engaging and interactive touch.

Ideas for Mee Genius:

  • Allow the story to be personalized for each week's star student and post on your website
  • Project a story for whole class fun during snack time to further literacy instruction
  • Use Mee Genius as a scaffold to model digital stories and later have students create their own via Storybird
  • Put the Mee Genius web link in your newsletter for kids to practice reading at home
  • What ideas do you have, please share and leave a comment!  :)

*This site is also compatible with Apple products; yes, there is an app for that.  Click here for the free app!

Michigan Reading Association

Please join us at the 55th annual Michigan Reading Association's conference, Pages of Tomorrow.  The conference is to be held March 11-14 in Grand Rapids, MI.  Featured Presenters include:
  • Kelly Gallagher
  • Steven Layne
  • Thomas Maridada
  • Alan Sitomer
  • Jacqueline Woodson

I will also be giving a presentation with my colleague, Heidi Miller, our district's primary elementary literacy coach.  For a featured article on our presentation (Writing the Pages of Tomorrow), please click here to connect to the Michigan Reading Association's website.  Heidi and I would love to meet you in Grand Rapids.

Writing the Pages of Tomorrow, by Erin Klein and Heidi Miller: MRA 2011

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Museum of Media History

The Museum of Media History brings you through an interesting detail describing, in summation, the evolution of media  history.  Insightful and Interesting.  This film charts the journey of the Internet and such conglomerates as Google and Amazon.  By the end, you'll mind will race with what 2014 truly holds for us...

If you like this post and others, support Kleinspiration and follow our blog.

Ecosystems... a work in progress:

This classroom website on ecosystems was a work in progress that I started last year; however, after being assigned to a different area of content, I haven't been able to add to the site.  Nevertheless, this was a project that my intervention students and I were working on last year.  During our science unit on ecosystems, we collaborated together to develop an interactive site that was:
  • benchmark/standards aligned
  • interactive
  • engaging
  • student led
  • offered learning opportunities beyond the classroom
  • sparked conversation amongst peers
  • included formative daily assessment pieces
It was important for students to have engaging visuals (hence the plethora of Jeff Corwin and Bindi segments), interactive practice to reinforce the lesson, and opportunities to collaborate together.  For me, I wanted to ensure that students had opportunities to have a pre and post assessment, parents and students knew expectations and objectives prior to the lessons, and that technology coupled with cooperative learning was incorporated.  Though the site is still being developed, there are many games, activities, assessment pieces, lesson ideas, podcasts, blogs, and vocabulary enrichment offered.  I'd love to hear your feedback.  Thanks!

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Sort Fix: Search Engine

Sort Fix is a magical search engine, truly.  My students were glued to the SMART Board when I was introducing how to refine their searches.  We have been working on beginning a research project, and I've noticed that a lot of the students don't have a toolbox of resources to automatically pull from.  Of course, they start with the Internet - most begin with Google.  Being a Google user myself, I always recommend this search engine; however, I believe Sort Fix not only helps the students refine, or narrow, their area of focus but it also helps to teach how to use a search engine.  Without realizing the teaching component, students are being trained on how to sort through what they should have put into the search engine to begin with.  I've found that my students are learning how to better navigate larger search engine sites, like Google or Bing, because they've practiced with Sort Fix.  Most of my kids are so hooked on Sort Fix that they start here now - which I think is great.  Try it for fun yourself... I bet you'll end up playing around for quite a while searching your favorite topics.

Click here for the Sort Fix blog, and click here for additional information about Sort Fix.

Study Blue: an Online Study Support

Study Blue is an online site that has a variety of features for their users.  Students can sign in for a free account and instantly begin making flash cards.  With the cards, learners can add audio, text, or images to aid their comprehension of material.  I've found this could be a wonderful asset for those needing that differentiated scaffold for vocabulary.  I appreciate that the site is compatible with smart phone technology so that kids can study on the bus ride home, or be encouraged to do so!

Monday, February 14, 2011

Teach Hub

Kleinspiration is featured as a Top Teacher Recommendation on, a site for news, recommendations, and resources: for teachers, by teachers.

Also, check out Kelly Tenkely's site, iLearn Technology - a great resource sharing blog.  Kelly's been great at helping Kleinspiration get a jump start, as it's only been in existance for three weeks.  Teachers helping teachers is one of the greatest gifts.  Thank you, Kelly!

To read "Secrets from a Non-Tenured Teacher," click here.

If you enjoy the resources on this page and wish to access the daily updated content, support Kleinspiration by being a follower (click 'follow' on the right hand side, scroll down a bit).

You can also 'like' us on Facebook to gain up to the minute additions - click here.

Lastly, I'd love to have you join my PLN on Twitter, click here to Tweet with me.

Thank you to all of the wonderful people who support teachers helping teachers - our students grow by your passion and innovation.

Tween Tribune

Tween Tribune is a fantastic site that teachers have free access to.  Jill Brandeberry and I have used this with our middle school social studies classes.  The site allows you to create a class and give your students access to relevant news that is interesting for their level.  We've found that this site helps us integrate our writing into social studies so that literacy naturally becomes a part of our class.  We have our students select certain topics, like world news, and read about the available articles.  Once students connect to an article they feel passionate about, they write a response, or comment, to the post.  Students are use to the format because this is very similar to the social networking sites they're accustom to.  We've found that students are reading more (outside of class) because they're interested in the topics and they're searching for that 'just right article' to reply to.  Additionally, students have become so passionate about some pieces that they're commenting on several articles, as opposed to the one required response.  Tween Tribune has helped us integrate cross-curricular subject matter and discuss real-world issue with our students.

A brief description from the Tween Tribune site is as follows:

Welcome to TeenTribune and TweenTribune – the daily news sites for teens and tweens. Each day we post the most compelling, relevant and interesing news for teens and tweens. Stories are selected by teens and tweens working closely with professional journalists. Teens and tweens can comment upon these stories. They can also submit their own stories and photos.

Unlike other news sites for kids, TeenTribune and TweenTribune are easy to use, updated daily and allow teens and tweens to participate in so many ways. But most importantly, these sites encourage teens and tweens to seek out news on a daily basis. Our democracy depends upon a well-informed public, so it's important to foster a daily news-reading habit at an early age.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Using Prezi in the Classroom

If you've used Power Point Presentations in your classroom, try Prezi for a unique way to display your content.  Prezi is free to set up and offers several tutorials showing how it can work for you.

Recently, I put together my first Prezi for a presentation a colleague and I did for our district.  It took a bit of experimenting to get use to the tools; however, the product was engaging and professional in appearance.  I've still got a lot to learn to jazz up my future Prezi presentations, but they're fun to create - so I don't mind.

If you're looking for a top example of how to integrate Prezi into your classroom, you should certainly check out Tom Barrett's Google Docs Slide Show, Thirteen Interesting Ways to use Prezi in the Classroom,  displaying many great ideas for interactive and engaging examples of Prezi use in the classroom.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

The Art of Storytelling

If you're like me, I simply love art!  I think there is so much one can learn just through the work of art (history, literature, design...)  The Delaware Art Museum has put together The Art of Storytelling, a site where you can experience an already created story, tell a story, or picture a story.

If you're familiar with Storybird (another great site), you will find some similarites with this site.  The Art of Storytelling, however, uses classical works of art and not only exposes children to the genres and beauty but also offers a platform to encourage student writing and collaboration/feedback.

This could be used in the classroom in several ways.  One that instantly comes to mind is to integrate it into a language arts or social studies class while discussing the time period of a novel's setting or the time period being studied in history.  Many inspirational art pieces were driven by economic or social movements - what a way to elaborate a lesson!  Furthermore, if students published their work to the site, I believe they would pay closer attention to the editing and revision process along with simply being more motivated knowing their work was being created for an authentic purpose that would be shared and published for peers, teachers, and family members to see.

Hands-On, Leveled Reading Intervention

Florida Center for Reading Research has leveled student activities that you can print for free.  These activities start and K and progress through grade 5.  I've worked with FCRR activities for three years now; however, this year, I've really begun to dive into all the site has to offer.  Years past, I've worked with younger students, had an assistant to help with students that needed additional support, or focused taught a different content area at our middle school.  Therefore, though I knew the value of these resources, I never truly explored the content and depth of what was offered.

As I've recently shared this information with one of my language arts colleagues, he was surprised that all of this information (for teachers and students) was free - and already put together!  I think we can all agree that one of the most challenging aspects of planning can often be the: finding of the resources and the putting together of the materials.  FCRR has done this for you.

On my class website page, I will post photographs to show how we set up our intervention plan and what how we are targeting our students.  When this is completed, I will post an update for you to check out.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Engaging and Adaptive Math Practice

IXL is a math practice tool for educators and families that adapts to a student's individual level of proficiency and includes achievement awards and progress monitoring data so you can view reports in ways that will work for all (teachers, parents, intervention coaches, etc).

I just signed up for a 30 day free trial, and I'm excited to see how exactly to make this work with some sixth grade students that I co-teach in math.  I've explored the site; however, I haven't yet used it (as I just found out about it this evening). So far, I love the way the site looks, the data it provided, and the leveled skills it covers. I've been on the hunt for a solid math support; I think I found my answer.  
Beneficial Features I Found:
  • Covers grades K - 8 (with more coming soon)
  • Over hundreds of skills are covered at each level - easily identified by labeled categories
  • Aligned with each state's standards for quick reference of a specific strand
  • Aligned with the Common Core Standards
  • Internationally recognized
  • Reports can be viewed to determine progress towards state's goals, track progress monitoring, set student's goals, or to show off student's earned rewards
  • Membership is affordable and available for teachers or parents
  • Teachers can enter individual student names to track student progress and how long they are practicing from home or school
I will post comments to this thread as I explore more of this site with my free trial.  If you've tried this program, I'd love to hear your feedback.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Virtual Traveling World

The Travels of Wiglington and Wenks Virtual World is an exciting new massive online virtual world for kids aged 7 to 14. It promises an experience in which players will be able to travel to places around the world, through time and space, meet famous historical people, play dozens of fun enriching games, make new friends, buy exotic islands, build culture-inspired houses, wear clothes from different countries, explore secret locations, solve mysteries and become a legendary traveler!  Engaging and Educational!!

Learn it in 5:

Learn It In 5 provides you with how-to videos that help you learn what is Web 2.0, and strategies for using Web 2.0 technology in the digital classroom - all in 5 minutes or less.
  •  Social Media for Teachers
  • Classroom Video Tools
  • Classroom Blogging
  • Wikis for Teachers
  • Classroom Podcasting
  • Web 2.0 Lessons
  • Videos for your Class

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Make your Pictures Talk!

Blabberize lets you take an existing image, remove the mouth portion, and upload audio so that your new picture talks!  You can choose to upload an audio file, type to text, or use your telephone to import audio.  This is simple to do and only takes about 2 - 4 minutes.  Plus, there are tons of Blabberizes already done so you can pull from other's great ideas to inspire how you can use this with your own classroom.  In our high school, one teacher used these elements to introduce the homework assignments on his website.  We recently had friends over and entertained the kids by allowing them to create their own Blabberizes; they were occupied for hours - laughing and bonding (not to mention getting more tech savvy!).

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Bring Learning to Life: xtranormal

Xtranormal is a user-friendly text to speech program where you can select your characters, background (scene), voice for characters, and add movement for each of your characters.  The possibilities are endless for using this within your classroom!  The site allow you to make one free video, and then you have to purchase points.  I ended up getting additional points so that my students could develop their own projects; they couldn't wait to get started!  Some even begged to create an additional movie.  How can you say no when your student want to do more work?

Check out the example I created below to introduce multiple meaning words.  Next, we created a rubric together, from RubiStar.  Then, we collaborated with our learning teams to develop a list of words to choose from.  Finally, students created their own films.  I gave each student my account username and password.  After the project due date, I changed my username and password in my settings.  Once the projects were published, I could embed them into our classroom website to share with others.  Doing this made it easy when it came time to present their work in class.

The students ask every day when they can do another xtranormal movie.  I even had one of my seventh grade language arts students ask if he could create an xtranormal movie for his digital writing project -- clearly, word had gotten around school... a buzz for learning was taking off!

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Spelling and Vocabulary

Spelling City and Edu Place are two great sites that parents can use to help their student study for upcoming tests or to master difficult words.  Both sites are very easy to use and very different from each other.  Spelling City allows you to put in custom lists and Edu Place reviews grade level skills.  Great for classroom use, too (especially with SMART Boards!).

New: Google Art Project!

Everyone must check out Google's new Art Project.  Explore museums from around the world, discover and view hundreds of artworks at incredible zoom levels, and even create and share your own collection of masterpieces.  A unique collaboration with some of the world’s most acclaimed art museums to enable people to discover and view more than a thousand artworks online in extraordinary detail.

Online Quizzez

Quizlet is an amazing resource that lets you create a free account.  You can select from pre-made quizzes and flash cards, or you can customize your own based on your vocabulary lists or content word wall words.  Then, you can play an interactive game called Scatter that is highly motivating (works with SMART Boards, too).  Students match up the definition an the term on top of each other to see them disappear.  Teams can compete to 'beat their time.'  Students love this as a quick review before an assessment, too.

Travel Through Time

History Pin is the place where people come together to share their historical pictures and stories. Together we want to collect old photos to build up an archive.  See locations as what they looked like years ago. (just click 'explore the map') This site is great to pop up and show students how the setting looked right from the time frame of a novel you're reading or what towns looked like during the period your studying in social studies.  Way to extend a lesson!

Bite Size Math, Science, and English

The BBC brings you Bite Size activities that you can use for practice at home with your child or as interactive enrichment within the classroom.  The site offers activities, games, and additional links that you can explore.  Endless learning fun!  Great for K - 5 resources!

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Interactive Vocabulary Building

Wordstash is an interactive vocabulary site that not only offers definitions, but the site is adaptive and entertaining!  You can use their cards or create your own to make quizzes and games.  Half dictionary.  Half flashcard.  Full awesome.

Start Early on Keyboarding Practice

Dance Mat Typing brings you a leveled, interactive keyboarding site to fine tune your skills.  Have youngsters start early before poor habits begin.  Dance Mat Typing is a fun and animated way to motivate students to have proper finger placement and increase their keyboarding ability.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

A Top 5 Favorite for K - 12:

Neo K 12 knows that kids learn best by 'seeing' the real world.  So, here is the best collection of free online educational videos, lessons, quizzes, games, and puzzles.

Any subject.  Any grade.

The New SMART Board...

The new SMART Board 885ix allows you to have more than one student at the board! The 885ix makes interacting with lesson content an extraordinarily natural experience. It enables two users to instantly and easily work on its surface at the same time, using their fingers or a pen. The 885ix is an intuitive, hands-on, integrated system that makes teaching and learning more magical.

The Best Thing Since Sliced Bread!

Creator of The Phonics Dance, and good friend, Virginia Dowd, offers a program that truly is the missing link for early reading instruction.  As a former first grade teacher, I wished for a magical answer to make phonics not only fun - but to have it 'make sense.'  This program not only helped my students soar (their AIMSweb/DIBELS scores increased exponentially) but also helped me understand how to enhance my teaching.  Fun. Kinesthetic. Affordable.  Musical. Academic. Engaging.

Blog Buddies: Tony Vincent and Richard Byrne

A BIG thank you to Tony Vincent (Learning in Hand) and Richard Byrne (FreeTech4Teachers) for helping me to get started on my own blog.  Tony, you've been great in helping me to shape my goals and to refine what it is exactly that I want to do.  Richard, you continue to be a fantastic support for coaching me on all of the 'how-to's' of getting started.  You're both an inspiration for me as I continue on this path and as I work each day within my classroom.  I haven't come across two better educational technology resources yet!  I'm so thankful that you're so generous of your time and knowledge.  Thank you for being dear web buddies!

Vocabsushi: worth watching the 2 min. video!

VocabSushi Video Tour (Main Site) from Vocab Sushi on Vimeo.

Multitasking Browser

Check your Facebook status, tweet, and get blog updates all while planning your lessons. Download the free web browser, Rockmelt and enjoy the features of a social experience. (This browser is similar to Explorer, Google Chrome, Safari, or Firefox). Enjoy!