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Friday, October 21, 2016

WriteReader - Collaborative Book Creation for Elementary School Classrooms

WriteReader is a neat multimedia writing platform for elementary school teachers and students. The appeal of WriteReader is found in the collaboration between students and teachers. Students can create multimedia books that teachers log into to correct. As is seen the video below, each page of a book has a space for students to write in and a space for teachers to write in. Teachers use the space on the page to correct spelling errors and or make editing suggestions.


WriteReader books can include text, pictures, and voice recordings. Completed WriteReader books can be shared online and can be downloaded as PDFs to print.



Applications for Education
WriteReader's teacher edition lets you create online classrooms. You can manually create accounts for your students or you can have your students join your classroom by entering a class code. Either way, your students don't need to have email addresses to use the service.

Creating picture books in WriteReader could be a good way for students to develop their writing skills. You could insert an image into the pages of a book and then have students write a short description of what they see. The audio commentary option could be used by students to describe what they are seeing and trying to write.

5 Good Tools for Scheduling Follow-up Meetings After Parent-Teacher Conferences

Parent-teacher conference season will be upon us shortly. Most schools have a system in place for scheduling the conferences so that the burden of coordinating all of those meetings doesn't fall onto teachers. But when it comes to scheduling follow-up meetings with parents, that responsibility often falls to teachers. Here are some tools that can help you efficiently schedule follow-up meetings with parents.

Google Calendar Appointment Slots
G Suite for Education (formerly Google Apps for Education) users can use the appointment slots feature in Google Calendar to let people select a meeting time that is convenient for all parties. The appointment slots can be used to show people when you are available and allow them to sign-up to meet with you. Complete directions for creating appointment slots can be found here.

Doodle
Doodle is a free tool for scheduling group meetings with the input of all group members. Doodle is essentially a polling platform. To use Doodle you create a meeting title, select a series of dates and times for a possible meeting, then invite people to choose the dates and times that work best for them. As the administrator of a scheduling poll you can set the final meeting time based on the most commonly selected date and time. Watch the video below for complete directions on how to use Doodle.



ClassTag
To get started on ClassTag create an account and enter some basic information about your classroom or classes that you teach. To get the full benefit of ClassTag you will need to enter the email addresses of your students' parents. Once those steps are completed you can create a parent-teacher conference schedule. You can create time slots as short as 15 minutes or as long as an hour. Once a parent reserves a slot no one else can grab it.

Calendly
Calendly is a tool that integrates with your Google Calendar and makes it easy to create appointment slots with just a click or two. More importantly, people who want to schedule an appointment with you just have to click a time on your calendar and enter their names in order to reserve an appointment. Visitors do not have to have a Google Account to view or enter information into an appointment slot. Visitors who make appointments with you through Calendly can sync the appointment to their own Google Calendars, iCal, or Outlook calendars.

Choice Eliminator
Choice Eliminator is a Google Forms Add-on that lets you create a Form on which choices disappear after they have been used. For example, if I create a Google Form that has ten meeting times listed on it, once a meeting time has been selected it will disappear from the options available to subsequent visitors. Using Choice Eliminator is a good option for teachers who have personal Google Accounts, but don't have G Suite for Education accounts. Watch the following video to learn how to use Choice Eliminator.

10 Ideas for Using Comics In Your Classroom

Over the last couple of months I've shared a handful of tools that students can use to create comics. I even conducted a webinar on the topic last month (the recording is available here). There is no shortage of tools for creating comics available to students. Regardless of which comic creation tool you choose to have students use, the ideas for using comics in your classroom are the same. Here are ten ways that your students can use comics in your classroom.

1. A fun alternative to traditional book reports.
Rather than just writing about a book, have your students illustrate their favorite parts of a book. Let them create illustrations of characters as they pictured the characters while reading a book. The Giver is a perfect candidate for this kind of alternative book report.

Another way to use comics for a book report is to have students illustrate an alternate ending to a favorite book. Or have them illustrate an epilogue to a book.

2. Create biographies.
For a history lesson have students pick a famous person and illustrate significant moments in that person's life. The further back in history, the better because students will have to really start to use their imaginations to illustrate scenes of people for whom there are few portraits or photographs.

3. Create autobiographies.
Let students tell stories from their own lives in a comic setting.

A variation on this idea is to have students depict themselves as the star of a superhero story.

4. Create goal or vision boards.
Many comic creation tools let students use a mix of pictures and illustrations. Let your students use that combination to illustrate their goals for the school year, for an athletic season, or as a response to  "where do you see yourself in five years?"

5. Illustrate procedures.
In elementary school classrooms you could have students create comics about appropriate recess behavior or lunch room behavior. With older students you might have them create a comic or storyboard about science lab safety concepts. A simple, one-frame comic tool like ToonyTool could be used by older students to create lab safety reminder signs.

6. Summarize events.
Students of all ages can use comics to create summaries of an event like a political debate. Or you might have students create comics about historical events. Pixton offers some extensive lesson plans based on that idea.

7. Craft a visual timeline of events.
Creating timelines is a classic social studies lesson activity. Have students enhance their timelines by creating comic summaries of the events on their timelines. They could create the timeline entirely in a tool like Storyboard That or they could create their comics then print them to add to an existing timeline they created on paper.

8. Write and illustrate fun fiction stories.
A lot of student struggle to write fiction stories when they're just given a blank document to write on. Comic creation tools often include lots of visuals that can help spark ideas in students' minds. Make Beliefs Comix offers a lot of fiction writing prompts for students.

9. Illustrate concepts and or vocabulary terms. 
Creating comics to illustrate the meaning of a vocabulary word is a fun alternative to simply writing definitions and studying flashcards.

10. Model polite conversations. 
A lot of schools use the parent-teacher-student model for first quarter and first trimester conferences. Before your conferences have your students illustrate how they would like the conference to go and how to phrase the things that they would like to say during the conference.

5 Tools for Creating Comics
Storyboard That and Pixton both offer comprehensive lesson plans that incorporate the ideas listed above. Of course, you don't need to use those tools to create great comics. You could also use Google Slides to create comics as I demonstrated in this video. To create simple, single frame comics you could try a tool like ToonyTool. Or you might try Make Beliefs Comix for creating comics in multiple languages. Make Beliefs Comix also provides PDF comic templates that you can print for your students.

Disclosure: Storyboard That and Pixton are advertisers on FreeTech4Teachers.com