Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Activities for Practicing Listening and Speaking Skills

The BBC's Skillswise website offers lots of good activities for learning and practicing skills in language arts and mathematics. A section of the site that could be useful in a lot of classrooms is the speaking and listening section. The speaking and listening section contains subsections offering lessons and activities to develop a specific skill. Those skills are listening for specifics, communication skills, formal and informal speaking, and giving presentations. Each section has a short introductory video followed by a set of quizzes and interactive games in which students test their skills.

Applications for Education
While all of the activities are good, the speaking and listening activities on Skillswise that I would be most inclined to use with students are the types of listening and listening for specifics games. The games in both sections require students to listen and follow a set of detailed instructions to complete tasks like delivering products to addresses, recording details of story, and responding to emergency situations.

A Helpful TED-Ed Lesson for Aspiring Novelists

How To Build A Fictional World is a TED-Ed lesson that I recently watched on Open Culture. In the lesson Kate Messner explains the key elements of creating a fictional world like those conjured-up by Tolkien and Rowling. If you're not a fan of that type of fiction, you'll probably want to jump ahead to the three minute mark in the video. It's after the three minute mark that the instruction actually takes place.

Bitly's Real-Time Media Map Shows the Media Outlets States Prefer

Bitly's real-time media map is an interesting display of which major media outlets are most popular in which U.S. states. There are four categories that you can choose to display on the map. Those categories are tv/radio, newspapers, magazines, and online only. The map is continuously updated in real-time.

Applications for Education
One of the first things that I do with every high school social studies class is talk about the roles of media and bias in how people understand and feel about political issues. Bitly's real-time media map could lead students into investigating questions about why a particular news network is more popular in the south than in the west.

Show Your Students How Far Their Blogs Can Reach

Last week during a presentation that I gave about Google Apps I mentioned that the Goo.gl URL shortening tool will show you where in the world people are when they use one of your links. The point that I was making was that it can be interesting to students to see how far something they share can spread. Goo.gl is not the only tool that will do this and it's probably not the best option if you want show students the global traffic of their blogs as a whole rather than showing the global traffic of just one post.

ClustrMaps is a free service that you can use to show students the global traffic sources of their blogs. ClustrMaps will display a real-time map of where in the world visitors are when they visit your blog. To get a ClustrMap for your blog just visit ClustrMaps.com, enter your blog's URL, and enter your email address. After your URL and email address are verified you will be able to get a ClustrMaps embed code to place anywhere on your blog.

Blogger users have a built-in set of visitor statistics that will show you where your visitors are coming from. To access these statistics select "Stats" from the drop-down menu next to the name of your blog when you sign-in at Blogger.com.

If you want to get really geeky with your blog statistics you can use Google Analytics to gather all kinds of information about visitors to your blog. To use Google Analytics you do have to add a bit of code to your site (Google Analytics offers good directions for doing this). Some of the statistics that Google Analytics will enable you discover are where visitors come from, which posts and pages are most visited, the top referrers to your blog, and how much time people spend on your blog.

Applications for Education
Depending upon which tracking method you use there is a lot that you and your students could do with blog visitor statistics. At the elementary school level looking at the geographic dispersal of visitors could lead into a geography lesson about countries and states. At the middle school and high school level you could have students investigate the visitor statistics to try to determine what keeps a visitor on a blog or why their blog posts are more popular in one location than another.

Word Dynamo - More Than Just Vocabulary Games

Word Dynamo is an academic review exercises site hosted by Dictionary.com. The Word Dynamo name might make you think that it only offers vocabulary exercises, but there is more to it than that. In addition to vocabulary quizzes and flashcards, on Word Dynamo you will find quizzes, games, and flashcards for studying topics in social studies, science, math, and fine arts.

Students visiting Word Dynamo can choose exercises based on their grade level, subject they're studying, or standardized test that they're preparing to take. Students who register on the Word Dynamo can save their scores and progress. After completing their first activity students may be asked to create an account, but that step can be skipped if they don't want to register on the site.

Applications for Education
Word Dynamo is the kind of site that I like to have bookmarked and or linked to on a classroom website for students to access to use for constructive downtime. One of the ways that I've seen this done in elementary school classrooms is by creating a Symbaloo page of teacher-approved academic games that students can use on those days that recess has to be held indoors.