Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Create a Mixbook with Your Class!

Mixbook creates scrapbooks that you can share online--free. Your class can create a scrapbook with photos of projects, a timeline of what they've learned, or even activities such as D.A.R.E. or a field trip that can be shared with families at home.  The scrapbooks are beautiful and easy to make with your own digital photos.

Classic Mixbook creation screen

Text pages can be added by creating them in PowerPoint, choose Save as .jpg, same as a photo, then uploaded along with your other pictures. 

Have fun making a class book, or play with Mixbook at home during the holidays.  These make great gifts!Hardbound copies of the books can be purchased from the website, and softbound copies start at $6.99.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Trading Cards on Any Concept in Minutes--Really!

This is the easiest online application you will ever try with your class.  No kidding!  Big Huge Labs offers an application to create professional-looking, printable trading cards in just a few simple steps.  There's no need to register or sign in, though you can if you choose.  Simply go to their page, upload a photo,  Choose a color for the card, and enter text.  There's a place for a title, sub-title, and a description.

Big Huge Labs's Trading Cards Screen

Now how many ways can we think to use trading cards?
  1. Make cards for science concepts.  Find photos online representing concepts like erosion, weather changes, steps in the water cycle, types of rocks, elements, landforms, and the list goes on.  Right click on the photo and save it to your computer, then upload it to the application.  Use the description area to describe the photo or to list facts.  Try using the document camera to take photos of steps in a procedure that could be sequenced on cards as well.
  2. Make cards to highlight events in history.  As above, find photos that illustrate those events, or let students draw and illustrate themselves.  A document camera or digital camera could be use to digitize their images for uploading. 
  3. Create biographical cards for famous people students study.
  4. Let students summarize their books in the text area, and use a book cover photo or a personal illustration in the photo section.
  5. Students can take photos to represent math vocabulary or concepts and explain them in the description area.  Also they can use the document camera to photograph their solution to a problem, then explain it in words below.
  6. Would your students be able to make cards for Learner Profile traits?  Certainly!  Find a photo or create and digitize a personal illustration to show what it means to be open-minded, for example, then explain or give an anecdote to tell about it in the the description area below.

Learner Profile Card for Risk-Takers
Can you think of more ways to use this super-easy application?  Use the comments section to add your ideas!

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Storybird: An Inspiring Resource for Young Writers

New & Noted books from the Storybird library
"Storybirds are short, visual stories that you make with family and friends to share and print." This collaborative resource allows students to choose books already illustrated by professional artists to inspire their own stories.  The beautiful art helps writers to create stories quickly in a collaborative environment.  Use Storybird with small groups of students, or as a whole-class activity with the teacher.  This provides a wonderful opportunity to talk about storytelling with students and to share stories with the class.  Each story can be printed, viewed on-screen, or contributed to the Storybird library where students can read each other's work and share with their families at home.  Teachers may want to ask students to focus on classroom themes, on grade-level curriculum, or specific vocabulary as they invent characters and events. Reluctant writers may find this site engaging and easy to use. Take a look, then remember Storybird as you plan your next creative writing lesson.


Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Use PicLits to Show, Not Tell

This is one of my favorite sites to help students think and write creatively.  PicLits offers a gallery of photos on which writers (your students) can drag and drop from an on screen word bank or freewrite words that capture the heart and soul of the picture. "The object is to put the right words in the right place and the right order to capture the essence, story, and meaning of the picture."

A tab called Learn It takes writers to a basic tutorial giving tips on writing sentences, paragraphs, or even poetry.  It's a mini-lesson in grammar by itself!

PicLits can be used by students individually at laptops.  If you sign up for a free account, students can then email their captioned photos to you for printing, or you can save them to your gallery and link to them from your teacher web or from your blog. (No, you can't right-click and save the pictures--sorry.) My favorite application, however, is to project the photo to the class and work as a group to create the perfect sentence.  With an interactive whiteboard, students can drag and drop words from the bank directly on the screen. What a wonderful opportunity to demonstrate the concept of Show, Not Tell.

PicLit from PicLits.com
See the full PicLit at PicLits.com

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Learn Spanish Free Online

A veteran teacher told me about 20 years ago that she graded papers at stoplights--kind of an old school version of texting while driving.  Not that you wouldn't want to use your time wisely, but a better option might be to brush up on a second language.  This way you can focus on driving but still mark one more item off of your to-do list (#1 Learn a new language).

Spanish is the second most commonly spoken language in the United States after English, so learning this second language offers distinct advantages to teachers, especially those of us in Texas bilingual schools. When teachers learn a second language, they become an even greater asset to the school community.  Not only does it enable clearer communication, but it helps us to adapt to diverse cultural backgrounds.

Fortunately the Internet offers many free resources for language learning that you might want to try.  Many of these lessons come in the form of free audio podcasts that you can download to your smart phone or iPod.  Otherwise, pop on a pair of headphones and listen at your computer.

Whether you go on to become a fluent speaker or just enrich your conversation with a few words and phrases, you're sure to appreciate the assets of learning a second language. 

Coffee Break Spanish--conversational Spanish spoken with the Castilian pronunciation with a host who has a noticeable Scottish accent :-)

SpanishPod101--Fun and informative lessons for conversational Spanish with pronunciation tips and cultural information.

Discover Spanish--Slow-paced and elementary, this program offers an introductory set of lessons with basic words and phrases.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Interactive Sites Worth Sharing

Don't you wish you had more time to search for good websites to use with your class?  Today I'm sharing a few that are specifically chosen because of their interacitivity.  Take a look.  Try the ones that you like, and add anything that really "clicks" with your class to your bookmarks (Diigo, Delicious, or on your PC).  They'll always be here in the archives for you to retrieve as well.

Magnetic Numbers--Great for teaching place value, the blackboard is filled with dragable numbers.  You can also add numbers of your own with a Shift + Click on the board then type.  Clear the board by refreshing your browser and start again.  Numbers can be dragged on the board of an interactive whiteboard or onscreen with a computer displaying to a projector.

Interactive Clock--Use this one to demonstrate elapsed time.

Dare to Compare--Select a subject, grade level, and number of questions.  Test your students' knowledge and attitudes (civics section) in comparison with other students around the world. The Kid's Zone website has many other interactive activities to try as well.

Simple and Complex Machines Virtual Lab--Online instructions allow students to record data using virtual simple and complex machines.  Use this one as a whole class activity from the interactive board or in small groups from laptops.

Magnetic Poetry--From the board or on individual machines, students can manipulate magnetic words and letters to create their own poetry.  Words can be edited for more customization.  Try using this as an activity to summarize a reading selection with unrhymed poetry as you check for understanding.  Demonstrate with the whole group, then set your imaginative readers free with laptops.

Power Proofreading--From Houghton Mifflin, this cartoon formatted activity allows students to choose a grade level, then become proofreading technicians for television station scripts.  Follow the online instructions.  Players gather points as they proofread, then receive a printable certificate at the end.

Virtual Keyboard--Stay away from this one!  It plays Jedi mind tricks, and you won't want to stop playing your own music.  Great for aspiring musicians and also for indoor recess.

Math Videos--"How to Do Almost Anything in Math" These videos explain a variety of math topics in simple visual format.  They're produced based on student's questions.  You might want to introduce a topic with one of these, or use a video to reteach.

Have a go, and let me know in the comments section which ones you find useful.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Pop-up Book--Virtually!

Create virtual pop-up books with your students today! ZooBurst is a new entry into the digital storytelling tool store designed for even young students to create their own customized pop-up books. Teachers across the country are starting to use this product with students in both lower and upper elementary grades. The product is free, but it does require that users fill out a simple request form.  No waiting though, your acceptance is immediate.

Use ZooBurst with your students to create a pop-up book of their first week of school.  Work collaboratively to write a book to share a demonstration of science lab procedures.  Would you like everyone to know how well your class demonstrates hallway, classroom, and cafeteria expectations?  Show it with a virtual book.  Work together to summarize a story or nonfiction piece of text.  Upload your own photos or use the program's free clip art and create one of your 10 free books as you write together using your projector so that the class can share a view of your computer's screen.

This video by eduTeacher takes you through the steps of using ZooBurst.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Visuwords: Online Graphical Dictionary

Here's an online dictionary and thesaurus with a twist.  Visuwords provides a web-like structure to show students the many connections words have that are sometimes missed in a classic dictionary format.  All they have to do is type a word into the search field.  The result is a web-like structure with the word in the center and nodes generated from the word.  Each node will have a different connection to the word with visual cues in the key on the left hand side to show how the connection is related, whether it's showing similarities, parts of speech, derivations, etc.  Hover the mouse over a node, and a definition will appear.

This site is probably best suited for intermediate grades because it is completely text based.  Most of these students will probably be able to manipulate the graphics with ease and discover connections on their own as they "play".  Try this new, more visual way to look at the words we use.

Saturday, July 10, 2010


Last Thursday Angie and I planned to meet at T.G.I.Friday's for a summertime lunch and chat session. Before I got there, Angie texted saying that the restaurant was closed and there was just a little sign on the door to direct us to other nearby Friday's locations.

If you've ever been to my old blog site, that's what you'd see now. There should be a boarded window and a sign reading that this site is closed and we've moved. It was a little disconcerting when the provider sent notification that they wouldn't be continuing to support blog sites. My brain was spinning thinking about all of the work that went into those previous posts, but one thing I've learned is that change is usually good.

Read along with me this year and follow my discoveries in 21st Century Learning. I look forward to your helpful comments and insights.

Old Blog Posts: http://sites.epals.com/bulldog_blog/