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
See the full PicLit at

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.