Saturday, October 4, 2014

The Week in Review - The Most Popular Posts

View from Quill Hill near
Rangeley, Maine
Good morning from rainy Woodstock, Maine where I am spending the weekend putting the final touches on a couple of updated presentations. Next week I am speaking at the ACTEM conference in Augusta, Maine. It is always an honor to be invited to keynote a conference, but this one feels extra special because it is in my backyard. If you're at the conference next week, please say hello.

Here are this week's most popular posts:
1. Math Chat - Solve Problems Together in Real Time
2. Long Awaited Features Added to Google Forms
3. Explore Planet Nutshell's Teacher Library for Great Educational Videos
4. Sources of Free Sound Effects and Music for Multimedia Projects
5. How to Use AudioBoom to Create Short Audio Recordings
6. How to Format Block Quotes in Google Documents
7. Halloween-themed Writing Lessons from BoomWriter

Would you like to have me speak at your school or conference? Click here to learn about my keynote and workshop offerings. 

Please visit the official advertisers that help keep this blog going.
Practical Ed Tech is the brand through which I offer PD webinars.
IXL offers a huge assortment of mathematics lesson activities.
Typing Club offers free typing lessons for students.
Discovery Education & Wilkes University offer online courses for earning Master's degrees in Instructional Media.
MasteryConnect provides a network for teachers to share and discover Common Core assessments. is a provider of free educational games for K-5.
The University of Maryland Baltimore County offers graduate programs for teachers.
Boise State University offers a 100% online program in educational technology.
EdTechTeacher is offers professional development workshops in Boston, Chicago, and Atlanta.
StoryBoard That is a great tool for creating comics and more.
BoomWriter and WordWriter are fantastic tools that help students develop their writing skills.

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Friday, October 3, 2014

A Nice Tool Students Can Use to Create Alphabet Picture Books

Alphabet Organizer is a great little tool from Read Write Think that students can use to create alphabet charts and books. The idea behind Alphabet Organizer is to help students make visual connections between letters of the alphabet and the first letter of common words. In the video below I demonstrate how to use this tool.

Applications for Education
Read Write Think offers a bunch of lesson plans based around the use of Alphabet Organizer. Some of those lesson plans include alphabetizing with original stories, creating ABC books as assessments, and learning about the alphabet book genre.

Three Ways for Students to Create Online Picture Books

One of my favorite ways to get students interested in writing creative stories is to incorporate visual elements. Even students who don't think that they can draw can create great picture books through online tools like the three that are featured below.

Storybird provides templates and artwork for creating digital stories. To use Storybird you simply select a theme (layout) then drag and drop the drawings you like into your story. Once you've selected drawings for your story, you then write in the text of your story. Using Storybird, anyone can create great-looking digital picture book stories regardless of your drawing skills or lack of drawing skills. Storybird can be used on your iPad. The video embedded below demonstrates how.

Storybird Editor from Storybird on Vimeo.

MyStorybook is a nice online tool for creating short storybooks. MyStorybook provides blank pages on which you can type, draw, and place clipart. Your storybook pages can also include pictures that you upload. After signing into your MyStorybook account you can start creating your first book. Click on the text fields to edit any existing text in the title and author fields. You can add more text by clicking "text" in the editing menu. To add a picture of your own select "items" in the editing menu. At the bottom of the "items" menu you will find an option to upload your own images. MyStorybook provides lots of stock imagery that you can place on a page or use as the background to a page. If you want to branch-out beyond text and images, use the drawing tools on your pages.

Picture Book Maker allows students to create six page stories by dragging background scenes into a page, dragging in animals and props, and typing text. All of the elements can be sized an positioned to fit the pages. Text is limited to roughly two lines per page. Completed stories are displayed with simple page turning effects. Stories created on Picture Book Maker can be printed and or saved as PDFs.

Free Lesson Plans About Wildlife is a great resource for videos and images of plants and animals. In the education section of you will find lesson plans organized according to student age. The lesson plans include audio files, slides, and hand-outs to distribute to your students. Most of the lesson plans include hands-on components for students.

In addition to the lesson plans on you can find fun educational games for your students to play. Arkive offers a dozen online games for kids. The games collection contains a mix of quiz games and problem solving games.

The videos and images on are organized according to animal, plant, eco-region, and geo-political region. You can navigate the galleries by selecting one of the broad categories then choosing a subject within that broad category.

Applications for Education
The ARKive School Museum is one of the lesson plans that I like in's education section. The School Museum project is designed to create a summary of what students have learned through a series of prior lessons about conservation and endangered animals.

Halloween-themed Writing Lessons from BoomWriter

While doing my grocery shopping last night I noticed Halloween candy for the first time this fall. If you're starting to think about Halloween-themed lesson plans, BoomWriter has new offerings for you.

BoomWriter has released new Halloween-themed vocabulary lesson plans that you can conduct through their free WordWriter service. WordWriter allows teachers to create vocabulary lists that they want students to incorporate into a writing assignment. The new Halloween-themed lesson plans include pre-made lists of Halloween-themed words for your students to use in the writing assignment that you distribute to them.

If you haven't tried BoomWriter or WordWriter before, check out my demonstration videos embedded below. The first video shows just the perspective of the teacher. The second video shows the perspective of a student receiving an assignment.

Disclosure: BoomWriter is an advertiser on

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