Showing posts with label independent reading. Show all posts
Showing posts with label independent reading. Show all posts

Friday, December 23, 2011

MeeGenius - eBooks for Little Kids

MeeGenius is a nice source of free and paid ebooks for kids. There are lots of sites that offer the same thing as MeeGenius but MeeGenius distinguishes itself with one excellent feature. That feature is automatic word highlighting to accompany the narration of each book.

When children open the ebooks online, on an Android tablet, or on an iPad they can choose to have the story read to them or to read the story on their own. When the story is read to them each word in the story is highlighted on the page. This should help children follow along with the story.

Applications for Education
MeeGenius could be a great website and app for young students to use to experience some nice short stories and practice reading at the same time. MeeGenius is offering a free school and library subscription program but it's not clear how many ebooks are included in that free subscription.

I discovered MeeGenius on Twitter earlier this week. I didn't write down who I saw Tweet it, but I think it was Dean Shareski

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Register Your Class for Scholastic's Summer Reading Challenge

For the fifth year in a row Scholastic is holding a summer reading challenge for students. By joining the summer reading challenge students are entered into sweepstakes for book prizes. Students can also participate in weekly reading challenges.

To encourage participation in the Scholastic Summer Reading Challenge teachers can register their students in bulk. Scholastic provides teachers with tools to track students' progress over the summer and communicate the goals of the summer reading challenge to parents. Scholastic also provides teachers with summer reading lists to send out to parents. Teachers registering their classes will be entered into a drawing for a classroom library and a $250 gift certificate to the Scholastic Teacher Store.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Definitions, Translations, and Searches in Google eBooks

The Google eBookstore is a great place to find free and paid ebooks to read on your computer, iPad, Nook, or Android device. Google just announced the addition of a new helpful feature to Google eBooks. Now when you're reading a Google eBook title on your computer you can highlight and right click on words to find definitions and translations of those words. When you select definition, you also have the option to hear your highlighted word pronounced. You can also highlight and right click to search the web for information about a word.
Applications for Education
The free titles available in the Google eBookstore provide teachers with access to a wind range of books that could potentially get students excited about reading. The new definition, pronunciation, translation, and search options could be very helpful for students reading on their own. If a student encounters a new word she can hear that word pronounced and get a definition without having to go find a dictionary.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Goodreads Makes Great Readers

 This is a guest post by Jennifer Roberts @jenroberts1
So if you are here you read blogs, but do you read books too? Do your students? Mine didn’t. Not much anyway. Then about a month ago I read a book for teachers called The Book Whisperer by Donalyn Miller. It reawakened the book lust I lived with as a middle school teacher which had languished when I moved to teaching at a high school (and had my second child) five years ago. The Book Whisperer encouraged me to make independent reading books a purposeful and deliberate part of my teaching agenda again. But, have I mentioned, I teach high school?

Then I remembered Goodreads.com. I’ve used it sporadically with a few adult friends since last August. Goodreads is a social network site designed around books.  Users add books to their “shelves” and get to post updates about the books they are reading. Users can rate books they’ve read, add reviews, and my favorite feature, recommend books to their “friends” on Goodreads. The site also has an app for iOS devices, complete with a book bar-code scanner.

I asked all my students to join Goodreads on a day when they were each going to meet with their counselors separately, I had them independently join Goodreads. I thought of this as a challenge to see if they could negotiate the UI and set up their own accounts. Later I found out that they could login to Goodreads using their Google account and the process was incredibly simple. Each student sent me a friend request. I approved them and we were off.

They began to friend each other and I worried that too many friendships might stifle their willingness to express themselves about their reading.  But mostly their friendships are limited to between 4-6 peers who they respect and listen to. Often I see students who are light readers friending students who are heavy readers. One student, who has read three books this week and has rated 88 books, is friends with five peers who have rated just three to 15 books each. She is recommending book to them and they are picking them up.

Through Goodreads students can let me know what page they are on in their book, review books when they finish them and add books to their to-read shelf.  Students are suddenly reading more and asking for books more often. They are excited and focused to go to the library to find more books.

This is a two way street, though. Many of the same principles of teaching through independent reading still apply. Modeling is a big one. I realized I had to read more too because my students were watching my updates. Several students recommended, Rain of Gold to me on Goodreads. I started reading it to show them I was listening, but in the end I couldn’t put it down.

It’s not easy to quantify Goodreads activity into a grade. Mostly I run through my friends list and see what they are reading. Goodreads will sort them in a number of ways, books added, last status, last review. Students who show up at the top of these lists are using the site the most and get the most extra points, but I haven’t used lack of activity on the site to lower a grade. I try to stress to my students that I am adding points to their grade because they are READING, not because they are using Goodreads. The site is just a great tool to help them communicate about their reading to me and their other friends.

One more bonus is the daily digest e-mail of their activity. Even if I don’t check the site I get that e-mail to let me know what activity my students have been posting.

The best part of Goodreads however, is the way it has helped me build relationships with my students. Many of them are much more excited about reading. They are picking up things I recommend to them and recommending books to each other. Previously reluctant readers are seeking out books at the public library. A tough (and very at-risk) student noticed that I had Shadow Speaker on my to-read list. He approached me shyly one day after class and told me he had a copy at home he could loan to me. He doesn’t turn in homework very often, but he brought me that book. I better go read it.


"I think Goodreads is awesome. It has helped me find new books that help me become a better reader.” -Michele
Read 59 more quotes from my students about Goodreads, their real opinions.

This post is dedicated to my mother for showing me how to love reading and teaching. 



Jennifer Roberts teaches English to students at Point Loma High in San Diego. She has had 1:1 laptops in her classroom for three and a half years now. She also supports her colleagues with technology integration, teaches as adjunct faculty to pre-service teachers at The University of San Diego and reads. She blogs intermittently for teachers at http://whatdoyouteach.blogspot.com/ for her American Literature students daily at http://imdoingmyhomework.blogspot.com/ and can also be found on twitter @jenroberts1.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Museum Webquests, Sites and Apps for Using iPods or Laptops in Your Classroom

As I attended the Iowa 1:1 Technology Conference this past week, it has become apparent, now more than ever, that technology is vastly changing the way we teach (if we want to be effective, that is). Apple iPods and iPads have become big-time players in such advancement. They are mini-computers, of sorts, that allow for a synthesis of apps and websites to take students to the next level through challenge, cross-curricular study, real-life application, and the amalgamation of higher order thinking skills (HOTS). Below is just a tiny sampling of some of my favorite free iPod apps and websites for classroom use.

The British Museum provides a host of terrific sites for teaching Social Studies and world cultures. It provides extensive information, pictures, and games, paired with links for word meanings and extended exploration.














The museum's site is intriguing, inviting, and has very user-friendly navigation. Among my favorites are the specific sections about Ancient Egypt, Ancient Mesopotamia, Ancient Greece, and Ancient India. For a link to my printable webquests for each of these sites, click here.

The sky's the limit in terms of what this site provides to educators and students. The challenge games within each section do require Flash Plug-Ins, but are fun and educational, appealing to any and all individual learning styles.

There are also many free apps that I have used for my classroom iPods/iPad. Included in my favorites is Splashtop Remote Free. It is an app that also has a download for your PC/Mac which enables you to control your computer (and, thus, your Smartboard) with your iPad. While the free version does limit you to 5 minutes of connectivity per session, it is a great way to manipulate your computer with a more portable device . If 5 minutes is a struggle, there is a paid version that allows for unlimited time.

Bump is an app for sharing pictures, facts, ideas, information, and audio files/stories. By gently nudging two iPods together, information is transmitted back and forth between iPods or iPads with ease. In school, this has been a valuable tool, as my students have the ability to transfer information temporarily for such purposes as editing work, sharing pictures or stories, apps, or even location. You can also "virtually bump" without being near each other. I have found this to be a great feature to use on scavenger hunts. Students can "bump" information back to me as they go out and about answering curriculum-based questions. I can also instant message them through Bump to give hints, clues or other important information.

English-Zone is also a great website that we access via iPods and laptops. There are many free activities, quizzes, and printables throughout the site, and it's not just limited to English. There are many reading, social studies, and standardized test prep links, as well.

TweenTribune is one of our favorite sites for keeping up on age-appropriate current events. The site is very easy to maneuver and allows students with a username and password (also free) to blog posts on articles. Adding to the safety of this site is the ability of classroom teachers to manage all posts and print any class posts for grading purposes.

TodaysMeet is a fantastic site for backchanneling. We use this site for online "forum quizzes", which are ways that we can have an all-class "discussion" about a topic, plot, theme, etc... It is a phenomenal venue for students who typically shy away from oral discussions. Dialogues can be printed upon completion for grading purposes or for written record. Very simple setup.
While this is in no way a complete list of the various free tools we use in my classroom, hopefully this can jump start you to explore even more ways to integrate free technology into your classroom. A special thanks to Richard and FreeTech4Teachers for always being a source of inspiration and information!

Rachel Langenhorst is a 6th grade Language Arts and Social Studies teacher in Rock Valley, Iowa and has been in education for 16 years. As a child and grandchild of former educators, she shares a life-long passion for learning and helping kids push themselves to reach their full potential. She is a wife to Deric, mother to Alex, Mason, and Ella, and owner of an insane black lab, Howard.
Twitter @rlangenhorst
Facebook Rachel Langenhorst (mention post when friending)

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Lendle - Another Kindle Book Lending Service

Almost as soon as Amazon announced that they would start allowing Kindle users to lend books to each other, Kindle lending services popped-up on the web. I've previously reviewed Lend Ink and Book Lending (formerly Kindle Lending Club). Today, I share with you Lendle.

Lendle works much like other Kindle lending services. When you register on Lendle (it's free, but required) you're asked to list the titles you're willing to lend. Initially you're able to borrow two books. To borrow more books, you must be willing to lend your own books. To borrow a book, submit a request and if someone in the Lendle club has that book you will receive an email notifying you that it is available for download. To lend a book reply to borrower requests.

Applications for Education
Lendle and services similar to it could be useful for students in search of independent reading materials. Hopefully, in the future Amazon will allow users lend books multiple times. That would make ebooks a truly valuable asset for school libraries.