Monday, January 5, 2009

Block Ads With Firefox Add-On Ad Block Plus

At least once a week I come across a web resource that could be great for classroom use except for the presence of obtrusive or questionable advertising. That is particularly true when looking at educational game websites. Today, through CNET, I discovered Ad Block Plus which could make some of the websites that I was reluctant to use or recommend in the past, useful.

Ad Block Plus is a Firefox add-on that allows users to specify a list of websites for which Ad Block Plus will block advertisements. You can specify which advertisements to block by right clicking on an ad the first time you see it then selecting "adblock image." An alternative and possibly faster method for blocking advertisements is to subscribe to a list of recommended filters.

Applications for Education
Ad Block Plus could be a good Firefox add-on to install on any computer that your students use. Installing Ad Block Plus could make more educational games websites useful in the classroom.

Five Fun Spelling Games

In late November I wrote a blog post outlining five resources for free spelling games. That blog post was among the top twenty most read posts of 2008 therefore I am sharing some more online spelling games for elementary school, middle school, and high school students.

1. Spelling Wizard from lets students, parents, and teachers create their own word search and word scramble games to play online. Each game can have up to ten words. To use Spelling Wizard simply enter ten words into the list field then select word search or word scramble. Spelling Wizard is probably best suited for students in Kindergarten through second grade. Scholastic also offers a free tool for creating online spelling flashcards.

2. Read Write Think has an online activity for young (K-2) students based on four childrens' books. Read Write Think's Word Wizard asks students to select one of four books that they have read or have had read to them. After selecting a book the Word Wizard creates a simple online spelling exercise based on the words in the book chosen by the child.

3. Spell Bee was developed at Brandeis University with funding from the National Science Foundation and the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation. Spell Bee allows students to play spelling games in a head-to-head format. Spell Bee allows teachers to create accounts for students so that teachers can track student progress.

4. MSNBC has an interactive spelling bee based on the words from the Scripps Howard National Spelling Bee. There are three games to play and the words get progressively more difficult the longer you play. The words are read to students who then type the word into the spelling box. Just like in a real spelling bee, students can get the definition and or hear it used in a sentence. The difficulty of the words in the game make it best suited for middle school and high school students.

5. Spelling Bee The Game is an online spelling bee similar in style to the MSNBC game mentioned above. After selecting an avatar (game persona), students hear words read to them and have to type the correct spelling in the fields provided. If a student spells a word correctly, they move on to the next level. If a student does not spell a word correctly, they are given an easier word to try. If students need help spelling a word, they can hear the definition read as well as hear the word used in a sentence.

CNN Student News - Gaza and the Economy

The first episode of CNN Student News for the new year features an overview of the renewed fighting in Gaza. The episode also contains a segment about Bill Richardson withdrawing his name from consideration for commerce secretary. In the final segment, students will hear other students talk about how the current state of the economy affects them.

Applications for Education
Showing this episode of CNN Student News is a good way to get students thinking about the news they may have missed during their holiday vacations. The segment featuring student opinions about the economy could be good for starting your own class discussion about the economy's impact on your students' local economy. Finally, the ten question quiz about the episode is a quick tool to use to check for understanding.