Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Most Popular Posts of the Year - #13, Five Crossword Builders

Like a lot of other people are, I'm taking this week to relax a bit and do some things that I haven't had time for lately. Therefore, all this week I'm rewinding the year by republishing the 25 most-read posts of the year. I hope that those of you who are also on vacation this week, enjoy every moment of it. See you (virtually) in the New Year.

A quick search of the Internet will reveal hundreds of free crossword puzzles and other word games. Another adding the word "maker" or "builder" to the same search will return many free programs for building your own crossword puzzles. The problem with about half of those results is those websites have pop-up ads or are otherwise littered with obtrusive advertising. The following are five crossword puzzle builders that offer simple and effective user interfaces without obtrusive advertising.

1. Read, Write, Think offers a crossword puzzle builder as well as pre-made crossword puzzles designed for all grade levels K-12.

2. Just Crosswords has a new puzzle maker with which you can build crossword puzzles, save them, print them, or embed into your website or blog. Just Crosswords also has more than 300 categorized, educational crossword puzzles.

3. Variety Games hosts a free crossword puzzle maker. You can select the dimensions of your puzzle or allow your puzzle to be auto-formatted. To use the puzzle in your classroom you will have to print the puzzle.

4. Armored Penguin has a very flexible crossword puzzle builder. You can select from a simple puzzle maker or large puzzle maker depending on the number of clues that you want to include. Armored Penguin's program also gives you the option of including or excluding an answer key.

5. Ed Helper has a basic crossword builder that accepts up to thirty words. Ed Helper has other basic puzzle builders for free. To use the more advanced options, like larger puzzles, you will have to subscribe to the service.

Most Popular Posts of the Year - #14, Edmodo The Total Classroom Solution

Like a lot of other people are, I'm taking this week to relax a bit and do some things that I haven't had time for lately. Therefore, all this week I'm rewinding the year by republishing the 25 most-read posts of the year. I hope that those of you who are also on vacation this week, enjoy every moment of it. See you (virtually) in the New Year.

In a digital world where we can easily "find an app for that" to help solve many problems, rarely do teachers have a one stop shopping place for all their classroom digital needs. There are many individual tools that can aid a teacher in retrieving student's digital work, polling/quizzing students or assigning work, but each of these tools usually requires a separate account. However, there is one, free, Web 2.0 app that brings everything together that you need for your classroom, including a social learning environment. The app that does all of this is called Edmodo. Here are just a few features that make Edmodo so great for teachers and students:
  • A place to assign and turn in work: The teacher can attach any file they may need for an assignment (rubric, worksheet, etc.) and students can upload any file to turn in their work. Links and embed codes can also be used to publish and share work easily.
  • A calendar to help students keep up with important dates: Assignment due dates, dates you'll be out, holidays, classroom birthdays or anything you can think of to post. Studentscan also add their own personal notes to dates that only they can see. The notes the students add to the calendar are not published to the class.
  • A digital library that will replace a student's flash drive: They can upload files into their "digital backpack" and download them when on any computer. The teacher can add necessary files to their library as well.
  • A place to post messages--urgent or not: Only teachers and students can interact with one another, student to student messages are not allowed. This feature is the most powerful and it's what makes Edmodo a "social LEARNING network." This feature looks and works a lot like a "wall" on Facebook.
  • A parent connection: every student is assigned a parent code so that parents can connect with the teacher on Edmodo, check grades and see posts to the class by the teacher and their child.
  • Groups: Teachers can create groups for classes, parents, study groups or connecting with distant classrooms. This feature keeps students safe and contains content only specific to certain groups. When students sign up for an account they don't need an email address, just the group code to join groups set up by their teachers.

Although, there are a lot more features to discuss, these are the cornerstone of what makes Edmodo so great for the classroom! Did I mention it looks a little like Facebook? Here is a screen shot of my 3rd period's Edmodo page:

If you would like to see some examples of how we've been using Edmodo in the classroom, here is our public page.



You might be asking, "where do all the great online tools I use everyday fit into using Edmodo?" Well, that's easy...any Web 2.o tool that allows your students to create a project and generate an embed code to publish it on a website, can be shared on Edmodo. Animoto, Glogster, Wallwisher, Cover it Live, Voki and many other great Web 2.0 apps can be incorporated into Edmodo, which brings it all together in the classroom. Here are some suggestions of ways to use these awesome tools within Edmodo:
  • Embed Wallwisher walls into the notes area for a brainstorming session
  • Post Animoto videos or Glogster posters into the notes area, then have students reply to at least 3 seperate posts to give peer to peer feedback on other students work
  • Embed a Cover it Live, live blogging, window to engage students in a moderated session where everyone shares their thoughts while watching a live event (presidential speech, classroom video, etc.)
  • Embed a Fotobabble in the notes area to reflect on a field trip that the whole class can hear. Each student can listen to each person's reflection to hear different experiences and perspectives of the trip.
I really do love Edmodo and my students enjoy the interaction it brings in the classroom. Whether you're a math teacher or an art teacher, Edmodo can be used effectively to accomplish your objectives. So if you haven't jumped on the Edmodo bandwagon, now is the time or your classroom is going to be left behind!

Resources:
Kim Munoz is a middle school Technology teacher at Jane Long Middle School in Bryan, Tx. Jane Long is a Title 1 campus that has been apart of a 1:1 laptop program. She has presented at TCEA as well as at the EdTech Unconference, an online conference that is now called the Teacher Learning Community. You can find her sharing resources on her classroom blog as well as on Twitter (@techmunoz) and Skype (kmunoz98).

Most Popular Posts of the Year - #15, 10 Grammar games

Like a lot of other people are, I'm taking this week to relax a bit and do some things that I haven't had time for lately. Therefore, all this week I'm rewinding the year by republishing the 25 most-read posts of the year. I hope that those of you who are also on vacation this week, enjoy every moment of it. See you (virtually) in the New Year.

1. Grammar Ninja is a fun game for students to play as they develop a working knowledge of the parts of speech. Grammar Ninja has three levels for students to work through. As long as you answer questions correctly, they continue through the game, but answer incorrectly and the words explode.

2. Mad Libs offers a widget that you can install on your blog to allow visitors to play Mad Libs. I've always thought that having a "fun element" on your classroom blog is a good way to keep students actively visiting the blog without prompting from you. If you're an English teacher, the Mad Libs widget might be something to consider adding to your blog.

3. Great Source iWrite from the Houghton Mifflin Harcourt company features an awesome animated and narrated glossary of grammar terms. In this glossary you will find animated, narrated videos explaining the use of punctuation. You can also find the same type of video explaining the parts of speech and mechanics of writing.

4. Grammar Bytes is a great website for Language Arts teachers. Grammar Bytes offers teachers and students a glossary of terms, handouts, interactive exercises, and slide show presentations. There are eighteen slide show presentations available for free download from Grammar Bytes. Each slide show is accompanied by a handout for students to complete as they view each presentation.

5. Daily Writing Tips is a blog that I've mentioned in the past as a good source of content about writing in English. Recently, they announced the release of an ebook about English grammar. The ebook is 34 pages long and is free to anyone that subscribes to their email newsletter. Visit Daily Writing Tips for all of the details about the ebook.

6. The Houghton Mifflin Company produces Grammar Blast. Grammar Blast offers 35 interactive grammar activities for students in grades two through five.

7. The Grammar Practice Park produced by Harcourt School Publishers provides 12 games for students in grades three, four, and five.

8. The British Council's Learn English website offers 69 interactive activities for learning the rules of grammar. The activities are not listed by grade level so you will have to preview them to determine which activities are best suited for your students.

9. Scholastic Inc. has a page for elementary age students called Maggie's Learning Adventures. On Maggie's Learning Adventures visitors will find five grammar activities as well as activities for learning Spanish, Math, and Science.

10. The BBC's Skillswise website is a great resource for a wide variety of content areas. On the grammar and spelling page there are 21 activities suitable for students of middle school and high school age.

Image credit "The Grammar Police" by Flickr user the_munificent_sasquatch

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Marker.to - Highlight and Share Sections of Websites

Marker.to is a Chrome and Firefox extension that allows you highlight text on a webpage and share that highlighted section with others. Once installed it is very easy to use Marker.to. To use Marker.to just click the marker icon whenever you're viewing a page that has text you want to share with others. Then highlight the text, choose a highlighting color if you want (yellow is the default), and Marker.to will provide a unique url that will direct others to the content you've highlighted. You can share that url via email, Facebook, or Twitter.

Applications for Education
Marker.to reminds me a bit of Bounce which also allows you to highlight and share parts of webpages. In both cases the tools can be useful for directing students' attention to a particular passage that you want them all to read on a website.

Most Popular Posts of the Year - #16, Jeopardy PowerPoint

Like a lot of other people are, I'm taking this week to relax a bit and do some things that I haven't had time for lately. Therefore, all this week I'm rewinding the year by republishing the 25 most-read posts of the year. I hope that those of you who are also on vacation this week, enjoy every moment of it. See you (virtually) in the New Year.

If their website is any indication, Jefferson County Schools in Tennessee must be a very good place to teach. The website contains numerous, good, technology resources. One such resource is a collection of templates for building PowerPoint games based on the concepts of Jeopardy, Who Wants to be a Millionaire, Wheel of Fortune, Bingo, and $25,000 Pyramid. All of these templates can be downloaded from the site and altered to suit your needs.

Applications for Education
Students generally find studying to be a lot more enjoyable when they can do it in a game format. These templates provide a good way to build review games that your whole class can play at once.

Here are some related resources that may be of interest to you:
200+ Games for Your Blog or Website
Games for the Brain