Sunday, June 2, 2013

5 Free Services for Helping Students Learn to Spell

Yesterday, I shared a TED-Ed lesson called Making Sense of Spelling. As a follow-up to that post here are some resources that your students can use to develop and practice their spelling skills.

Sproutster is a free iPad game that has a concept similar to the one behind Free Rice. The difference between the two games is that Sproutster wants you to spell words and Free Rice wants you to guess the definition of words. Sproutster asks you to spell three to five letter words by catching letters in a bucket as the letters rain down on you. You don't need to catch all of the letters. You just need to catch letters in sequence to spell any word that you like (proper nouns don't count). When you have spelled a word dump it out to make a plant grow. When the plant has reached its full size you move on to the next level. For each plant that is grown Sproutster donates 30-50 grains of rice to the UN WFP. offers six registration-free and fun word games. The two games that I like best are Miss Spell's Class and Word Kingdom. In Miss Spell's Class students are presented with twenty commonly misspelled words and quickly decide if the spelling they're looking at is correct or incorrect. Word Kingdom could be described as Zelda meets word search. In Word Kingdom players have to construct words in order to earn objects like wood and gold. Once enough objects are earned players can move on to the next level until they have built their Word Kingdoms.

Vocabulary Spelling City offers a database of more than 42,000 spelling words and sentences. The words and sentences can be customized for your students. This means that Vocabulary Spelling City supports US and UK spellings of words like "favorite" and "favourite," "color" and "colour." Teachers can use Vocabulary Spelling City to create custom lists of words for their students to practice spelling and to study the definitions of those words. To help students learn the proper pronunciation of the words on their practice lists Vocabulary Spelling City provides clear, spoken recordings of every word. Students can play games, study words, and quiz themselves on the spellings of the words on their lists. Vocabulary Spelling City allows teachers to print activities for use in their classrooms when their students don't have access to computers.

Spell + Friends is a free iPad app that provides students with word lists to practice in a virtual spelling bee manner. There are three modes in Spell + Friends. Learn mode is for creating word lists to study. Practice mode reads words to students that they then have to spell correctly in the app. Compete mode allows students to compete head-to-head against other users of the app. In the Learn mode students select new words to learn. There are more than 2,000 words in the word bank. The words are divided into three categories based on how frequently they are used.

Building Language for Literacy offers three nice little language activities from Scholastic. The activities are designed for pre-K and Kindergarten students. The spelling activity is called  Leo Loves to Spell. Leo Loves to Spell asks students to help a lobster named Leo identify the first letter of a series of spelling words arranged in a dozen categories.

Saturday, June 1, 2013

Week in Review - Hello Summer!

This morning I brought my fan up from my basement. Later today I'll probably install my air conditioner too. My dogs have already taken up residence on the hardwood floor in front of the fan. This can only mean one thing, summer has arrived! This afternoon I'm taking my dogs swimming. But first, I have the week-in-review to publish. Have a great weekend!

Here are this week's most popular posts:
1. 5 Tools Students Can Use to Create Alternative Book Reports
2. Every Stock Photo - A Search Engine for Free Images
3. Make Beliefs Comix Offers 300+ Printable Comic Templates
4. Problem Attic Expands Again - More Practice Problems
5. A Free Two Week Course on Google Maps and Earth
6. ThingLink Launches a Free iPad App
7. 22 Frames - News Videos for ESL Students

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Please visit the official advertisers that help keep this blog going.
Practical Ed Tech is the brand through which I offer PD webinars.
Remind 101 offers a free tool for sending text message reminders to students.
Typing Club offers free typing lessons for students.
Fresno Pacific University offers online courses for teachers.
Discovery Education & Wilkes University offer online courses for earning Master's degrees in Instructional Media.
Vocabulary Spelling City offers spelling practice activities that you can customize.
MasteryConnect provides a network for teachers to share and discover Common Core assessments. is a provider of free educational games for K-5.
Lesley University offers quality online graduate programs for teachers.
The University of Maryland Baltimore County offers graduate programs for teachers.
Boise State University offers a 100% online program in educational technology. is hosting workshops in Atlanta, Chicago, and Boston this summer.

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Ecology Project International Helps Students Learn About Conservation

This post is not about technology. It's about a nonprofit program that I think deserves a little attention.

Last week I mentioned that I had the opportunity to observe some students in Costa Rica learning about sea turtle conservation. The students there were local students sponsored by Ecology Project International. Ecology Project International works to educate students about conservation issues near them. For example, in Costa Rica EPI is working to get students involved in sea turtle conservation. In talking with EPI's development director, Erin Nuzzo, I learned that 40% of the students in the program had eaten illegally harvested sea turtle eggs. EPI believes if they can educate students about the importance of conservation by getting them involved in the project then they are more apt to support conservation as adults.

Outside of Costa Rica EPI has programs in Yellowstone National Park, the Galapagos Islands, and Baja, Mexico. 

Remind 101 - Safely Text Parents and Students

I'm very happy to announce that Remind 101 has become a supporter of Free Technology for Teachers. Remind 101 is a service that I thought was a winner the first time that I saw it.

Remind 101 is a free service that allows you to send text messages to groups of students and or parents from your computer, your iPhone, or your Android phone. The benefit of using Remind 101 over Google Voice, which I used to use for this purpose, to text students and parents is that your phone number is not revealed and your students' cell phone numbers are not revealed to you. Students and parents have to opt-in if they want to be added to your text messaging list. Students and parents have to enter a confirmation code to state that they do want to be contacted by you through the service.

Remind 101 lets you schedule messages to be sent. For example, if you are planning to take your students on a field trip on Friday you can schedule a reminder message to be sent to all parents on Thursday evening. You message could contain reminders about what to pack for the field trip and an emergency contact number to use during the field trip.

Learn more about Remind 101 in the video below.

Remind101 from remind101 on Vimeo.

Applications for Education
Most of us can't help but look right away when we receive text messages. Compare this to email messages that we can easily ignore and you'll know why sending text message reminders is more effective than sending email reminders.

Making Sense of Spelling

This week a new Scripps National Spelling Bee champion was crowned. The 2013 champion is Arvind Mahankali from Bayside Hills, New York. His final winning words were "tokonoma" and "knaidel." The spell check on Blogger doesn't even recognize those words. The English language is full of spelling quirks. The TED-Ed video Making Sense of Spelling explains why some words are spelled the way they are and why some words have multiple spellings. The video is embedded below.