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Monday, January 11, 2016

Comic Writing Prompts for Students

Many times over the years I've written blog posts in which I mention the value of using comics as an alternative to or introduction to a creative writing assignment. To some students creating a comic feels less daunting than sitting down with a blank piece of paper and being told to "write a short story." The structure and visuals of a comic can help students craft a short story. There are two services that I frequently recommend when I talk about comics. Those services are Storyboard That and Make Beliefs Comix. Both services offer writing prompts to use with your students.

Storyboard That offers writing prompts through the teacher dashboard. You have to log-in to your teacher dashboard to find the prompts. A different prompt and or suggested activity is featured daily.

Make Beliefs Comix offers comic strip templates and writing prompts in seven languages. The templates and prompts can be completed online or you can print them out to give to your students. One of the great offerings from Make Beliefs Comix is a free ebook called Something to Write About (link opens a PDF). The free ebook contains dozens of writing prompts. Students can write in the ebook online and print their work. Alternatively, you can print all or part of the book to give to students.

Disclosure: Storyboard That is an advertiser on FreeTech4Teachers.com

The Difference Between Stocks and Bonds

Last night I watched The Big Short starring Steve Carell, Ryan Gosling, Christian Bale, and Brad Pitt. I enjoyed the movie. For those who aren't familiar with The Big Short, it is a movie about how the housing and stock markets crashed in 2008 and how a few shrewd investors benefited from the crash. Watching the movie prompted me to dig up some information about stocks, bonds, ETFs, and related investing basics.

Investing for Beginners is a playlist of videos produced by Fidelity Investments. Granted, the videos are from a financial services company, but they do offer a good introduction to the basics about stocks, bonds, and mutual funds.


Investopedia offers a playlist of short videos that define things like ETFs, dividends, and compound interest. That playlist is embedded below.


Take a look at these five tools for creating flipped video lessons out of one or all of the videos in the playlists embedded above.

ReadWorks Offers Articles, Question Sets, and Videos About Martin Luther King, Jr.

Next Monday is Martin Luther King, Jr. Day. ReadWorks has put together a collection of articles, videos, and question sets for teaching about Martin Luther King, Jr. Like all articles and question sets found on ReadWorks this one is indexed by reading ability. The videos in the collection were provided by History.


Applications for Education
One of the aspects of ReadWorks that I like is that lexile scores are listed for each article along with grade levels and Common Core standards. So if Common Core standards are not relevant to your situation, ReadWorks still makes it easy to find fiction and non-fiction articles that are appropriate for your students.

With a free ReadWorks account you can search for lessons and reading passages by grade level, lexile score, reading skill, subject area, and text type (fiction or non-fiction). In your ReadWorks account you can create digital binders of the lesson plans and reading passages that you want to use.

How to Get Free eBooks on Your Mobile Device

This is a guest post from Jennifer Carey (@TeacherJenCarey) of EdTechTeacher - an advertiser on this site.

With the rise and prominence of eBooks have come a number of resources for educators and students to access free content on virtually any device. Using e-readers, tablets, or computers; in conjunction with apps such as Kindle, Nook, iBooks, Google Play Books, and OverDrive; you can access libraries of books for free on virtually any device. By downloading these free apps, you make your device a digital reading device that is not dependent on a specific vendor. JenCarey-1

Once you have the apps installed on your device, there are many resources you can use to find free eBooks. While books in the public domain are readily available, there are also self-published books, books available to educators, books on special promotions, and even places that will allow you to check out books temporarily. Here are a few places that you can go to find free eBooks:
  • Kindle books - Kindle curates a list of free and low priced books ($1.99) here; come back regularly for newly added materials, especially during promotions and the holiday season. If your school has signed up for Amazon’s Whispercast service, you can even push books directly to students’ Amazon accounts.
  • Nook Books - Barnes and Noble curates a list of free eBooks on this site.
  • Google Play Books - Google Books allows you to search their store and sort by cost. So search or select a genre, select price, and then indicate: free.
  • Google Books - Connected to Google (but outside of the play store), Google Books is accessible online and provides free previews and full length books for its users.
  • Feedbooks - Feedbooks contains a list of free public domain books that you can download and install on your device.
  • Goodreads - In addition to being a social media site for readers, Goodreads also publishes a list of free eBooks in ePub format.
  • Project Gutenberg - Project Gutenberg is one of the most popular resources for free eBooks that you can download as epub, kindle, or read online.
  • iBooks - iBooks is proprietary and only available on Mac and iOS. Within the iBooks Store, you can select that tab labeled “free” to access all free iBooks available.
  • Project Muse - Hosted and curated by Johns Hopkins University, Project Muse is a great resources for more advanced readers and researchers; they are a repository of more than 300,000 peer-reviewed journals and 700,000 chapters of academic books.
Another resource for free eBooks is your school and local library. Many libraries have made their resources available digitally via tools such as Kindle and OverDrive. This will only cost you a library card (usually free)! If you have a local College or University, you may wish to explore their lending privileges. A small fee may grant you even broader access to books.

As eBook services expand and with more materials entering the public domain, more books become readily available to the public for little or no cost. If you are an avid reader or are looking for free resources for your students, explore these tools available to you.

For more app recommendations and ideas,  visit the EdTechTeacher web site.