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Tuesday, November 20, 2012

A Last Minute List of Thanksgiving Lesson Resources

Throughout the fall I've shared some resources for teaching about (American) Thanksgiving. If you have school tomorrow and you're looking for some last minute lesson resources that you can use right away, take a look at my round-up of resources below.

Where Does Thanksgiving Grow? is a neat data set produced by Linda Zellmer at Western Illinois State University. The data sets contain information about where the main ingredients in Thanksgiving meal come from. The data sets are displayed on maps showing you which states produce the most and least of each ingredient. For example, click on the turkey production data set and you will see that in 2007 Minnesota and North Carolina were the leading producers of turkeys. You can access the data sets individually or as a comprehensive PDF poster.

If you're looking for a writing activity to do with the students in advance of Thanksgiving, National Geographic Kids offers a Mad Libs-like story writing activity. Funny Fill-In generates a funny Thanksgiving story based on the words that kids write in response to Thanksgiving prompts. Quiz Your Noodle is another fun Thanksgiving game available on National Geographic Kids. 

James Hollis at Teachers Love SMART Boards has developed an excellent list of Thanksgiving lessons that can be done using a SMART Board or other interactive whiteboard.

ABC Teach has numerous free lesson plans, coloring pages, and offline games that are designed for elementary school use.


 History.com has a dozen videos related to the origins and history of Thanksgiving as well as video about current Thanksgiving traditions. Below I've embedded History of Thanksgiving, but I also recommend watching Mayflower Deconstructed.


The Year We Had Two Thanksgivings tells the story of Thanksgiving 1939. In 1939 Thanksgiving was going to fall on the last day of November which caused merchants to be worried about a shortened shopping season. In response to this concern President Roosevelt proclaimed that Thanksgiving would be moved up one week. Some states chose to ignore this proclamation and celebrate Thanksgiving on the last day of the month anyway. The conflict was finally resolved in 1941 when Congress passed a law stating that Thanksgiving would always be celebrated on the fourth Thursday of the month. The Year We Had Two Thanksgivings is supported by ten primary source documents. Included in those documents are letters from merchants appealing to FDR to change the day of Thanksgiving and letters opposing the change.


If you're one of the millions of Americans who is tuning-in to watch the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade this morning, this photo essay may be of interest to you. The History of the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade, produced by Time, takes us through the 85 year history of the parade in sixteen photos. After going through the photos you might also want to read How They Make Those Thanksgiving Day Floats.

You Are the Historian: Investigating the First Thanksgiving is an interactive exploration of the facts and myths associated with the story of the First Thanksgiving. Students can explore the facts and myths through the eyes of a Native American child or through the eyes of a female Pilgrim. Through the eyes of each character students discover the culture of giving thanks in the Native American and English cultures. My favorite part of the investigation is "The Path to 1621" in which students hear the perspectives of Native Americans and Pligrims about events prior to 1621.

Scholastic has put together a nice little collection of online resources to help elementary school students learn about Pilgrims, Native Americans, and The First Thanksgiving.

Voyage on the Mayflower has two parts for students to explore. The first part is an interactive map of the journey across the Atlantic Ocean. Students can click on placemarks on the map to read and hear about the journey. The second part of the Voyage on the Mayflower takes students "inside" the Mayflower to see and hear about the parts of the ship.

Daily Life is a comparison of the lifestyles of the Pilgrims and the Wampanoag. Students can click through each aspect of daily life to see a comparison of housing, clothing, food, chores, school, and games.

Finally, Scholastic has partnered with Plimoth Plantation to produce three video tours of Plimoth Plantation, a Wampanoag homesite, and a Pilgrim homesite.

Important Lesson About New Google Presentations

Over the last ten days or so I've seen a huge increase in the number of requests that I get to share some of my presentations that I've published on Free Technology for Teachers through Google Presentations. I was wondering why this was happening as I've always made the presentations available when I've put them in blog posts. I finally did a little investigating today and realized that when Google force updated all of my presentations that were created in the "old" Google Docs they also unpublished all of those presentations. I went through and selected "publish to web" on the presentations that people have requested to access. I think I got them all, but please let me know if I missed one that you want to access.

The lesson about Google Presentations:
If you have previously published Google Presentations using the "old" Google Docs (before the transition to Google Drive) you might want to go through and make sure that they are still marked as "published to the web." You can find the "publish to web" setting under the "file" drop-down menu.

Two Places to See Me Next Week

Writing this blog has provided me with a bunch of opportunities to speak at places that I never thought I would go, that's a good thing. Thank you all for making that possible by continuing to read and follow my blog. Next week I have two speaking engagements that are open to the public.

On November 27 I will be giving a short webinar for Mary Grove College's Masters of Art in Teaching program. The event is free and open to the public. You can get all of the registration details here.


On November 29 I will be a keynote speaker at the Christa McAuliffe Technology Conference in Manchester, New Hampshire. I'm psyched for the opportunity to present at this conference as it has been on my must-attend list for a long time. Angela Maiers and Scott Kinney will be the keynote speakers on the first two days of the conference.

And if you're interested in having me speak at your conference or at your school, please see my work with me page for more details.

Use Google+ Hangouts for a Virtual Scavenger Hunt in the Palace of Versailles

This is definitely one of the coolest uses of Google+ that I have seen in a long time. Hangout Quest is a Google+ game that allows you to go on a virtual scavenger hunt inside the Palace of Versailles. The object of the scavenger hunt is to find artwork and other objects in the palace. If you invite others to your Hangout you can compete against them in a race to find the objects first.

Hangout Quest uses the Street View imagery of Google Maps to bring you inside the Palace of Versailles. Another cool piece of technology added to Hangout Quest is facial tracking. The facial tracking technology allows you to move around in the Palace of Versailles by just moving your head instead of clicking around with your mouse.


See Hangout Quest in action in the video below.

Applications for Education
I think that now that Google+ in available within Google Apps for Education the opportunities to use it for educational purposes will continue to expand. Hangout Quest could be a great activity for an art history or art appreciation class. Extend the game by adding a research component to it after students have completed the quest.

Big thanks to Google Maps Mania for this one.

MasteryConnect Helps You Map Curriculum to Common Core Standards

MasteryConnect is a service that offers a few products that I think teachers in U.S. public schools should know about. First, they offer a good system for tracking your students' mastery of Common Core standards. Second, they provide a great community of educators who are connecting and sharing lesson ideas. And third, MasteryConnect now offers a curriculum mapping tool that allows you to easily connect your current lessons and curriculum to Common Core and or state standards. You can see the MasteryConnect curriculum mapping tool in the video found here.

Disclosure: MasteryConnect helps feed me and my dog every month through their advertising payments.

Todoist Launches Mobile Apps to Make Task Management Easier

Todoist is an easy-to-use task management service that I first tried out a couple of years ago. When I tried it then I was impressed by its clean design and intuitive user interface. Todoist on the web makes it easy to create to-do lists in chronological order or in order of priority. One of the features that I think is outstanding is synchronization with Outlook and Gmail. This synchronization makes it easy to set reminders to follow-up on emails. Todoist allows you to share your lists with others so that you can divide the work load of group projects.

Yesterday, Todoist launched new Android and iOS apps that provide a variety of ways to manage your to-do lists anywhere that you go. The new apps seamlessly sync with your Todoist account and allow you to access your task lists on eight different platforms.


Click here for the Android app. Click here for the iPhone app.  

Applications for Education
To-do lists and task management tools are only useful if people actually use them. The user interface of one task management tool might appeal to one person while not appealing at all to another. It is for that reason that I like to provide my students with a list of task management tools to try. That said, what I like about Todoist is that it provides a variety of ways for students to access their to-do lists anywhere.

Realtime Board's Chrome Extension Makes Online Brainstorming Easier

Last month I tried out a promising new online brainstorming tool called Realtime Board. Realtime Board provides a blank grid on which you can type, draw, and post pictures. You can connect elements on your boards through a simple linking tool. The boards that you create on Realtime Board can be shared publicly or privately. To help you communicate with your collaborators Realtime Board has a chat function built into every board.

Today, Realtime Board launched a new Chrome extension that allows you to quickly drag items from your desktop to your collaborative boards.

Applications for Education
The new Chrome extension for Realtime Board makes it a good platform for sharing and discussing diagrams and charts that you have created and saved on your desktop. Of course, all of the other features of Realtime Board make it a good platform for hosting online brainstorming sessions that are started from scratch on a blank canvas. 

Free Again - Google Drive for Teachers

I've decided to give away downloads of my 63 page PDF Google Drive for Teachers for the rest of this Thanksgiving week.

If you want a copy for yourself all that I ask is that you Tweet it or "Like" Free Technology for Teachers on Facebook by using one of the buttons below. I also ask that you honor my request not to redistribute copies if you're getting paid to run professional development workshops.



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Since the file is 43MB Google Drive may give you a notice that it won't scan it for viruses. I assure you that the PDF does not contain any viruses. 


Google Drive and Docs for Teachers 2012

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