Showing posts with label Language Arts. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Language Arts. Show all posts

Wednesday, August 12, 2020

DIY Smithsonian Mini Exhibits

The Smithsonian Learning Lab is an excellent resource for social studies and language arts teachers. I've been using and recommending it for years. One of its many features is an option to create and share collections of artifacts from the Smithsonian and external sources. And every month the Smithsonian Learning Lab sends out an email with ideas for activities for students. This month's email featured Mini Exhibits about household items.

The idea behind Mini Exhibits of household items is to get people to create little exhibits that showcase the household items that are important to them and or tell a story. For example, I could tell lots of little stories about the tools and fasteners that I found in the barn when I bought my 165 year old house a few years ago.

Applications for Education
Creating a mini exhibit of household items could be a great way to get students to introduce themselves to you and to their classmates at the beginning of the new school year. You could do this with the Smithsonian Learning Lab's collections tools or just have students put together a slideshow of artifacts. 

Watch this playlist of videos from the Smithsonian Learning Lab to learn more about all of the tools and features offered.

Wednesday, July 22, 2020

5 Alternatives to Traditional Book Report Projects

I've been revisiting some of my favorite books this summer. Doing that has reminded me of some ideas that I've shared in the past and also sparked some new ideas. One of those ideas is using multimedia creation tools to create alternatives to traditional book reports. Here's a handful of ideas for alternatives to traditional book report projects.

Create a Game
Have students design and publish their own online board games based on the plot and characters of a book. Flippity recently published a new template that students can modify to create their own online board games.



Create a Virtual Tour
Students can use Google Earth or Google's VR Tour Creator to create virtual tour based on locations featured in a book. Students using the web browser version of Google Earth can include videos in the placemarkers in their tours. Students who use Google Earth Pro can record audio narration for their entire tours. And with the VR Tour Creator students can include audio narration within each scene of their tours.




Create a Book Trailer Video
This now classic alternative to a book report asks students to make a short video to promote a book. Students can summarize key points in the book and try to entice viewers to read the book. Adobe Spark is a great tool for making book trailer videos.



Write Alternate Endings to Stories
Consider using the choose-your-own-adventure model and have students write some alternate endings to a story. They can do this in Google Slides. Here's a video about the process.



Create a Multimedia Timeline Based on a Story
This is a great option for students who have read historical fiction or non-fiction books. They can summarize key points of the book in a multimedia timeline made with Timeline JS. The example that I often give is a timeline that I built based on the book Harry Truman's Excellent Adventure.

Tuesday, May 19, 2020

Five Comic and Storyboard Activities With Pixton EDU

Disclosure: Pixton EDU is currently an advertiser on FreeTech4Teachers.com

Online comic creation tools like Pixton EDU make it possible for almost anyone to create great-looking comics and storyboards without having to be a master artist. Creating comics and storyboards with online tools like Pixton EDU is a good way for students to share creative ideas, to illustrate concepts, and to show their understanding of events. Those are just a few of the ways that students can use Pixton EDU. As we head into the summer (in the northern hemisphere) and as we get requests from parents for at-home learning activities, here are five ideas to consider sharing.

Create Your Own Coloring Pages
Use the premade settings, objects, and characters to design scenes in Pixton EDU. When you’re done you can use them with the standard color schemes. But if you want to make coloring pages from your story’s scenes, you can print the scenes as black and white outlines to be colored by hand. Pixton EDU has a feature that lets you remove the colors and leave just the outline.

Create Your Own Digital Greeting Cards
We’re coming up on graduation season and Father’s Day. Many kids find enjoyment in making their own cards instead of just affixing their signatures to a store-bought card. Utilize some of the content packs in Pixton EDU to create a digital card. There’s even a content pack for Father’s Day.

Develop Fan Fiction
Rather than writing another book report, have students write an alternate ending to a favorite book. Pixton EDU has some content packs about books that are commonly taught in elementary school and middle school. But you don’t have to limit your students to those books as the tools in Pixton EDU could be used to create a fan fiction piece for just about any story.

Make Animal Stories
My kids, like many kids their age, love to watch baby animals. And now that spring is here (for those of us north of the equator) baby animals like ducklings, goslings, calves, and fawns may be spotted by curious kids. Capitalize on that curiosity and encourage kids to create stories about the animals they see. Pixton EDU has some animal content packs that can help students develop those stories.

Pitch a Product
Do you have a middle school or high school student who enjoys watching Shark Tank or Dragons’ Den? If so, encourage them to craft a pitch for their own products or services. Pixton EDU has presentation content packs. Utilize the idea of Dan Roam’s Back of the Napkin books and have students create simple storyboards to explain their products or services. It just might be what launches the next million dollar app or at least a kid’s summer job.

Thursday, May 14, 2020

Create Random Story Starters With Google Sheets

There are lots of neat things that you can do with Google Sheets if you know how to get started. Getting started is often the hardest part. Fortunately, there are sites like Flippity that offer great Google Sheets templates that are easy to follow. The latest template added to Flippity is a random story starter. Simply called Randomizer, Flippity's latest template can be used for story starters and random name selections for groupings.

If you just looked at Flippity's sample of the Randomizer template you would think that you can only add words to it. But when you watch my new video that is embedded below you will see that you can include pictures in the Randomizer template.



Applications for Education
Flippity's Randomizer template could be great for randomly generating writing creative writing prompts. The template could also be used to randomly generating groupings of students.

On a related note, Flippity does offer a random name picker template. A demonstration of how to use that template is included below.

Tuesday, April 21, 2020

Five Elementary Lessons You Can Do With Pixton EDU

Disclosure: Pixton is currently an advertiser on this blog. 

For many years I’ve promoted the idea of using comics as a way to get students to develop fiction and nonfiction stories. In fact, I’ve hosted webinars in which I explained how I’ve used comics as the basis for getting students interested in telling history stories. For more than a decade Pixton has been one of the tools that I’ve used to help students develop fiction and nonfiction stories in comic form.

One of the things that drew me to Pixton many years ago was the wide variety of artwork that students can use to develop their stories. Even people like me who are not good at drawing can create great comics by using Pixton’s backgrounds, characters, and speech bubbles. Pixton EDU bundles many of those elements into thematic content packs. Those content packs can provide inspiration for stories while also giving students a variety of artwork with which to craft their stories. Let’s take a look at five elementary school lessons inspired by the content packs available in Pixton EDU.

Real World Mathematics
Pixton EDU offers a content pack called Math Shopping. In that pack are customizable backgrounds, characters, and prop items that can be used to tell stories of using mathematics concepts to make good choices while shopping. My thought was to have a little fun with this and have students illustrate examples of “bad math in the real world.” For example, I might tell the story of the time my local McDonald’s was advertising apple pies for .49/each or $1.00 for two.

Digital Citizenship
It is never too early for students to start learning and developing good digital citizenship habits. One way to help students recognize good and bad digital citizenship is to share some stories as examples. Pixton EDU offers a content pack about bullying that could be used in telling stories of good and bad digital citizenship habits.

Solar System
Use the Pixton EDU Solar System content pack to write a little solar system travel narrative. That narrative could be based on facts like the first moon landing or first Canadian to stay in the ISS. Students could also create a narrative that combines facts like distances between planets with fiction elements like putting themselves in a lunar building.

Spelling
Learning to spell is full of tricky little rules to learn. It’s also full of handy rules of thumb like “I before E except after C.” Using the framework of a comic and the tools in Pixton EDU is a good way to have students illustrate those rules. Or use those same tools to create little stories in the style of “A is for Apple.”

Social Norms and Manners
There is a lot that kids learn in school that never appears in a grade. Many of those things could be classified as social norms or manners. You can use many of the content packs or just use the blank templates in Pixton EDU to illustrate some of those norms and manners. Better yet, have students use those packs to create a story to illustrate using good manners.

How to Get Started With Pixton EDU

You can register on Pixton EDU by using your G Suite account, your Microsoft account, or by using any email address and selecting a password. Once you’ve registered as a teacher you can create classrooms on Pixton EDU. Your classroom will be assigned its own unique URL that you can direct your students to in order to join your class. Students can join with G Suite accounts, Microsoft accounts, or by directly registering on Pixton EDU.

The advantage of having students join your Pixton EDU classroom is that you can see all of their work in one place. Additionally, you can send students feedback directly from your Pixton EDU classroom.

The best way to get familiar with using the Pixton EDU creation tools is to jump in and start customizing your avatar. Fortunately, Pixton EDU walks you through that process as soon as you register on the site. Likewise, your students will be guided through customizing their own avatars when they join your classroom.

After you’ve gotten the hang of customizing your avatar, you’ll be able to quickly customize characters as you make comics in Pixton EDU. Then you’ll be ready to start working with and customizing elements of any content packs. The Truth or Lie content pack is a free and fun one to use before moving into some of the project ideas that were suggested in the first half of this article.

Friday, March 13, 2020

MonkeyLearn - A Neat Word Cloud Generator

MonkeyLearn is a new tool for creating word clouds from text that you supply. As you can see in my video that is embedded below, MonkeyLearn lets you customize the display of your word clouds before you download them as PNG files. MonkeyLearn does more than just make word clouds. You can use it to extract keyword from a document. You can also use it to analyze the sentiment of a document.


Applications for Education
MonkeyLearn, like other word cloud generators, could be useful in providing students with a nice way to visualize the most frequently used words in passages of text they are reading and or writing. In the context of analyzing their own writing word clouds can help students identify words or phrases that they might be using a little too often.

Wednesday, March 4, 2020

Quillionz - Quiz and Discussion Questions Automatically Generated from Documents

Quillionz is a neat service that uses AI to automatically generate questions from documents that you provide. Enter a block of text of at least 300 words up to 3,000 words and Quillionz will create quiz questions based on the key elements of that text. When I first tried Quillionz last summer it only generated multiple choice and fill-in-the-blank questions with corresponding answers. Today, Quillionz will also create open-ended discussion questions and supply some suggested responses to those questions. Quillionz calls these open-ended questions "interpretive" questions.

To use Quillionz sign up for a free account and then in your Quillionz dashboard click "new content." To the "new content" you can add text by typing or pasting in a passage of text. Your passage must be at least 300 words and no more than 3,000 words. After your text is in place Quillionz give your document a title and select a "domain" for it. "Domain" is the term that Quillionz uses for what most of us would call a subject or topic. The option to enter a custom domain is a new feature since the last time that I wrote about Quillionz. After you have done that, Quillionz will generate a set of keywords or tags that you can select as focus terms for your questions.

Based the text that you supplied, the keywords you've chosen, and the domain/ subject you've chosen Quillionz will generate a set of fill-in-the-blank, multiple choice, and discussion questions for you. You can approve, delete, or edit any of the suggested questions. When you're happy with the list of questions you can save them as a text document, print them, or export them to Quillionz's companion service Quilli Quiz. Quilli Quiz is a flashcard service.

Here's the video that I published last year to demonstrate how to use Quillionz.



Disclosure: Quillionz is currently running a banner advertising campaign on FreeTech4Teachers.com

Monday, February 3, 2020

Word Webs - Quickly Create Webs of Related Words

Word Webs is a free site that generates connected webs based on the words you enter and select. Generate a web simply head to the site and enter a word. A web of six related words will be generated on the screen. Click on any of those six words to have another connected web created.

Word Webs also has a random word option. Select "random" from the drop-down menu at the top of the page and web will be created for a randomly chosen word. You can then click on the words in that web to generate more connected word webs.

Applications for Education
Word Webs could be a handy tool to use to generate some story starters. It might also be useful to help students come up with some different words to try in their Google or Bing searches.

Tuesday, December 24, 2019

Burning Vocabulary - A Chrome Extension for Expanding Your Vocabulary

Burning Vocabulary is a new Chrome extension that is designed to help users learn new words while browsing the web. Users of the Burning Vocabulary Chrome extension can mark and save any words on a page that are new to them. Definitions of saved words are provided by Burning Vocabulary too. Whenever a word saved in a user's Burning Vocabulary list appears on subsequent pages the saved words will be highlighted on the page. The idea is that users will learn the meanings of their saved words by seeing them in a variety of natural contexts.

Burning Vocabulary offers some additional features in a paid version. The paid version includes the option to print word lists and an option for a vocabulary review calendar.

Applications for Education
Burning Vocabulary could be a good tool for students to use to identify words that are new to them and then learn how those words are used in context. Burning Vocabulary would be a little better if it provided an option to export words to a flashcard or quiz service like Quizlet.

Friday, October 4, 2019

Poe Animations and Lessons

It wouldn't be October without language arts that mention Edgar Allan Poe. It seems that October is the time that a lot of students are introduced to the work of Edgar Allan Poe. If that describes your classroom and you're looking for a few Poe resources, take a look at the following three videos.

In the TED-Ed lesson Why Should You Read Edgar Allan Poe? students can learn about Poe's guiding principles for writing, the recurring themes of his work, and the personal factors in his life that contributed to his writing. Find the complete lesson here or watch the video as embedded below.



Introduce The Pit and the Pendulum to students through Flocabulary's rap of the story. That video is embedded below.



Here is an animated telling of Edgar Allen Poe's Tell Tale Heart.

Thursday, October 3, 2019

WriteReader Adds New Page Styles for Students to Create eBooks

WriteReader is one of go-to tools for elementary school and middle school students to use to create multimedia ebooks. I've been using it since its launch a few years ago and it has only gotten better since then. Along the way it has added read-aloud features, introduced more options for comic and speech bubbles, and added an integrated library of Sesame Street artwork that students can use. Of course, it's always had the outstanding option for teachers to give students feedback directly in their ebooks.

The latest update to WriteReader introduced new page templates. Now WriteReader has templates for students to add pages that have images and text and text only along with the original template for students and teachers to write on the same page. Watch my video that is embedded below for an overview of WriteReader's new page templates.



Friday, September 20, 2019

Fraidy Cats' Book of Courage - An eBook of Writing Prompts

Make Beliefs Comix is a creative writing platform that I have recommended for years. The core of Make Beliefs Comix is a free set of tools that students can use to create their own comics in multiple languages. Here's a video overview of how it works. In addition to the comic strip creation tools, Make Beliefs Comix hosts free ebooks that you can use online or download for free. All of ebooks are designed as fillable PDFs that your students can write in.

The latest ebook published by Make Beliefs Comix is titled Fraidy Cats' Book of Courage. The first half of the book contains comics featuring the title character talking about situations that make him scared and ideas for dealing with those feelings. The second half of Fraidy Cats' Book of Courage contains pages for students to write on in response to prompts like "people who inspire me and courage me to be braver..."

Applications for Education
Comics can make reading and writing seem less intimidating to some students. Free ebooks like Fraidy Cats' Book of Courage can be useful in generating approachable writing prompts for elementary school students.

Friday, August 9, 2019

Add Video Comments to Google Documents

e-Comments is a Google Chrome extension that offers three great ways to add comments to Google Documents. You can use e-Comments to add canned text comments, you can use it to add audio comments, and you can use it to add video comments to Google Documents. All three options are equally easy to use.

Add Text Comments With e-Comments
This option lets you pick from a menu of more than 200 canned comments to insert into Google Documents. The great thing about this option is that the comments not only provide correction, they also provide suggestions and examples for correction.

Add Audio Comments With e-Comments
To use this option you open the comment bank provided by e-Comments and then click on the audio icon. Clicking that icon will let you record a voice comment that you can save and re-use as often as you like.

Add Video Comments With e-Comments
This option is found the same way as the audio option is found. Simply open the comment bank then click on the video icon to record a video comment to save and insert into the comments of any Google Document that has been shared with you.

About the e-Comments Comment Bank
When you install and activate e-Comments you can choose the grade range that you teach (3-6, 6-9, 9-12, or college). That selection will give you slightly different comments to pick from so that they are in line with your students' current abilities and needs.


You can learn more about Google Docs, Chrome extensions, and all things G Suite in the on-demand course that I'm offering starting on September 4th. Learn more about it here!

Saturday, July 6, 2019

Mapping Books

Yesterday I published a post about creating multimedia timelines as an alternative form of a book report. Later in the day I was walked past the little book store next to my favorite coffee shop and saw a copy of Louise Dickinson Rich's book, We Took to the Woods. This is a classic in the catalog of Maine literature.

We Took to the Woods is the story of Rich and her husband moving to small cabin in along the Rapid River in western Maine in the 1930's. Throughout the book Rich explains the difficulty and, occasionally, the fun of creating a life in woods long before the days of going on Amazon and having anything you need show up at your door the next day. Some of my favorite parts of her story include traveling to and from their home.

Seeing We Took to the Woods in the window of the book store got me to thinking about how creating a multimedia map could be a good way for students to summarize books like it that have a heavy emphasis on location. StoryMap JS is a free tool that students can use to create a multimedia map combined with a timeline. Students could use this tool to explain the significance of locations while also highlighting the sequence of key events in the story. The following video provides a demonstration of how to use StoryMap JS.

Friday, July 5, 2019

Multimedia Timelines as Book Summaries

A couple of weeks ago I read a fun history book titled Harry Truman's Excellent Adventure. The book chronicles Truman's road trip from Missouri to New York and back in the summer after he left the White House. The book strikes a nice balance between being a serious history book with being suitable for the non-historian. You can enjoy the story without having any prior knowledge about Truman. It's a book that I recommend to anyone who has an interest in Presidential history, cars, and or the development of the highway system in the United States.

Reading Harry Truman's Excellent Adventure got me thinking about the various ways that we have students summarize the books that they read. Making book trailer videos is a popular option these days as is creating Google Lit Trips. An option that is perfect for history books and historical fiction books is to create a multimedia timeline. In the multimedia time students can include pictures, videos, and text for a series of key events in the story.

The two tools that I recommend more than any others for creating multimedia timelines are Timeline JS and Sutori. Sutori is probably the easier of the two to use, but Timeline JS has more formatting capabilities.

Tuesday, July 2, 2019

Quillionz - Get Quiz Questions Automatically Generated From Documents

Quillionz is a new supporter of FreeTech4Teachers.com

Quillionz is a new service that makes it super easy to have a set of reading comprehension questions and quiz questions generated from a passage of text. There is a free version and pro (paid) version of Quillionz. This post is about the capabilities of the free version.

To get started using Quillionz you will need to create a free account on the site. You can do that by connecting your Google account, connecting your Facebook account, or by signing up with any email address that you have. Once you have registered you can begin using the service.

In your Quillionz dashboard click "new content" and you'll see a screen on which you can type or paste a passage of text. Your passage must be at least 300 words and no more than 3,000 words. Once you're text is in place Quillionz give it a title and select a "domain" for it. "Domain" is the term that Quillionz uses for what most of us would call a subject or topic. After you have done that, Quillionz will generate a set of keywords or tags that you can select as focus terms for your questions.

Based the text you supplied, the keywords you've chosen, and the domain/ subject you've chosen Quillionz will generate a set of fill-in-the-blank and multiple choice questions for you. You can approve, delete, or edit any of the suggested questions. When you're happy with the list of questions you can save them as a text document, print them, or export them to Quillionz's companion service Quilli Quiz. Quilli Quiz is a flashcard service.


All of the features outlined above are available in the free version of Quillionz. The pro (paid) version includes options for uploading a PDF and extracting the text from it. The pro version also includes options for downloading your question sheets as PDFs and Word documents.

Applications for Education
When I first saw Quillionz I thought it could be a great service to use to quickly generate questions from some of the current events articles that get distributed to students in social studies classes. Of course, it could be used with almost any document that you have rights to use in your classroom.

I tried Quillionz with a few different documents. The only time that it seemed to struggle to generate good questions was I included the text from a primary source document that I found on the Avalon Project's website. Quillionz's algorithm seems to struggle with 18th Century English. In other words, it doesn't like lengthy, complex sentences.

Disclosure: Quillionz is currently running a banner advertising campaign on FreeTech4Teachers.com.

Thursday, June 27, 2019

Why Should You Read Hamlet - A New TED-Ed Lesson

Last year TED-Ed started publishing a series of video lessons titled Why Should You Read...? Each lesson is about a classic work of literature that many of us have read and have made our students read. When making our students read those classics we've all been asked, "why do we have to read this?" This TED-Ed series attempts to address that question by explaining the historical significance of classic works.

The latest lesson added to TED-Ed's Why Should You Read...? series is Why Should You Read Hamlet? With this lesson the list of Why Should You Read...? lessons is up to eleven titles. All of the videos from those lessons are embedded below.

Why Should You Read Hamlet?


Why Should You Read Crime and Punishment?


Why Should You Read Fahrenheit 451?


Why Should You Read Flannery O'Connor?


Why Should You Read MacBeth?


Why Should You Read A Midsummer's Night Dream?


Why Should You Read Kurt Vonnegut?



Why Should You Read "Waiting for Godot?"



Why Should You Read "Don Quixote?"



Everything You Need to Know to Read "The Canterbury Tales."



Why Should You Read Edgar Allan Poe?



Monday, June 24, 2019

Book Creator Adds New "Magic Ink" and Autodraw Tools for Making eBooks

Book Creator, the massively popular ebook creation tool, has added a new set of drawing tools. A couple of the highlights of the new drawing tools are Magic Ink and Autodraw. Magic Ink is a feature that will enable students to fill the pages of their Book Creator with chalk-like drawings as well as fill drawings with tie-dye style coloring.

Autodraw is a new Book Creator feature that appears to be made for people like me who are not blessed with the ability to draw much more than a stick figure. Autodraw will let people like me start sketching an object and then have it automatically completed in a much clearer form. To use this feature just start drawing on a page in Book Creator and it will try to predict what you're drawing. Book Creator will give you a selection of suggested drawings that you can insert in place of what you have attempted to draw.

Learn more about Magic Ink and Autodraw by reading Book Creator's announcement or by watching the video below.



Applications for Education
Book Creator's Autodraw feature could remove some of the frustration that students feel when trying to illustrate pages in their ebooks.

Friday, June 14, 2019

500 Creative Writing Prompts

Back in April I featured a neat creative writing tool called The Most Dangerous Writing App. Since then The Most Dangerous Writing App has changed to The Most Dangerous Writing Prompts. The service now includes 500 writing prompts to help you get started on your next great work of creative writing.

The concept of The Most Dangerous Writing Prompts is the same as it was when it was called The Most Dangerous Writing App. You have to write for a minimum amount of time or minimum words without stopping for more than a few seconds or all of your work is lost. If you do reach the minimum (you choose what the minimum is), you can download your writing as a Word doc to continue the writing and editing process.

Watch my new video below to learn how to use The Most Dangerous Writing Prompts.

Thursday, May 16, 2019

ReadWorks Offers Free Summer Reading Packets

Summer will be here soon (in the northern hemisphere) and ReadWorks has free summer reading packets that you can send home with your students. The free summer reading packets are available with fiction and nonfiction articles for students entering first grade through high school. Click on either the fiction or nonfiction packet for a grade and it will open a PDF that you can print and distribute to your students. There is an option to download a packet with reading comprehension questions for each grade level.

To preview, download, and print the ReadWorks summer reading packets you will need to create a free ReadWorks account.

If this is your first time reading about ReadWorks, there is much more to it than just PDF packets. ReadWorks offers a complete online environment for finding grade-level appropriate fiction and nonfiction assignments then distributing those to your students. Here's a video overview of how ReadWorks works.