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Wednesday, January 5, 2011

11 Language Arts Resources to Try in 2011

To help you start off 2011 with some good resources to try in your classrooms, each day this week I'm posting a list of eleven good resources to try. Monday's list featured mathematics resources, yesterday's list featured science resources, and today's list features language arts resources. In creating this list I branched out a bit to include ESL/ ELL resources.


Wordia is a free visual, video dictionary. Wordia features a selection of user-submitted and professionally created videos explaining the meaning of a word. The videos focus on the everyday use of words while the text accompanying each video provides the dictionary definition of the word.


Visuwords uses a web design to show users the definitions of words and the connections between words. To use Visuwords just type a word into the search box and Visuwords will generate a web of related words. Place your cursor over any of the words and the definition appears. Use the color-coded key to understand the connections between the words in any web.

For someone learning the English language, particularly the American version of English, idioms can be difficult to understand. The Idiom Dictionary was created to help people understand the meanings of more than five thousand English idioms. To use the Idiom Dictionary just enter a phrase or part of a phrase into the search box and the Idiom Dictionary will offer an explanation of that idiom.

The Canadian Adaptations of Shakespeare Project has an outstanding interactive resource that everyone who teaches lessons on Romeo and Juliet should bookmark. Interactive Folio: Romeo and Juliet is an interactive display of the text of Romeo and Juliet. As students read the document they can click on any link in the text to view definitions, images, audio recordings, and videos related to the content they're reading. 

22 Frames is a new service that provides a central location for locating captioned videos for learning English and for Internet users who have hearing impairments. 22 Frames provides more than just captioned videos. For each video 22 Frames provides a list of idioms, slang words, and commonly mispronounced words in each video. 22 Frames tells viewers where each use of idioms, slang, and commonly mispronounced words appears in each video. Viewers can click on any of the words in the lists provided by 22 Frames to find a definition for each word and to find pronunciation tips.

Mind mapping or creating webs can help students develop a story outline. There are many good mind mapping tools online (see nine here), one that I really like is Bubbl.us. Bubbl.us is a free mind mapping/ graphic organization tool that allows users to collaboratively create and edit mind maps. Bubbl.us takes just seconds to figure out and you can try it before registering for an account. With Bubbl.us users can use their keyboard or use the drag and drop interface to arrange elements in their mind maps. Publishing work created with Bubbl.us can be done by exporting the file to a JPEG, PNG, or as an XML or HTML file. Any mind map created using Bubbl.us can be embedded into a blog or website.

Books Should Be Free is a provider of free audio books. Books Should Be Free hosts hundreds of free audio books in a wide range of genres. All of the audio books in the collection are either public domain or Creative Commons works. All of the audio books can be downloaded directly from Books Should Be Free and or iTunes. One of the aspects of Books Should Be Free that I think some students will really appreciate is the large display of book covers that they'll see when browsing by genre. It's true that we should teach students not to judge a book by its cover, yet at the same time a good cover might get students interested in books they would otherwise ignore. If you have a student in need of an audio book to support their reading, Books Should Be Free could be a good place to start your search.

Through Google for Educators Weekly Reader has published a small collection of pdf guides for teaching the collaborative revision process using Google Documents. Teaching Collaborative Revision with Google Docs includes step-by-step guides for using Google Docs, a set of four documents for student use, and a teachers' guide with suggested lesson plans.


Thumb Scribes is a platform for collaboratively creating poems and short stories. Thumb Scribes can be used in two ways. First, you can contribute to story or poem that someone else has started and placed in the public gallery. Second, you can start your own story or poem and either place it in the public gallery or invite others to collaborate with you. If you put your poem or story in the public gallery anyone can add to it. If you don't want the whole world adding to your poem or story you can mark it as "private" and invite individuals to add to it.

AdLit is a website that one of my colleagues who teaches reading shared with me. AdLit.org is all about adolescent literature. On AdLit teachers can find book lists, video interviews with authors, and a comprehensive list of strategies for teaching reading and writing. The strategies page gives detailed descriptions of how to implement each strategy. AdLit's strategies page also gives guidance as to the proper timing for implementing the suggested strategies.

60 Second Recap provides book summaries in sixty second video segments. There is a sixty second summary of each chapter of each book. Along with the chapter summaries there is a general overview of each book. 60 Second Recap offers registered users the option to record a video response to each video summary. If you don't have access to a web cam, you can record a simple text response.

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