Sunday, August 9, 2015

Hemingway Editor Updated in Time for the New School Year

Last year I featured the Hemingway App Editor as a good tool to help students analyze their own writing. Hemingway is a free tool designed to help you analyze your writing. Hemingway offers a bunch of information about the passage you've written or copied and pasted into the site. Hemingway highlights the parts of your writing that use passive voice, adverbs, and overly complex sentences. All of those factors are accounted for in generating a general readability score for your passage.

This summer the Hemingway Editor was updated to offer a few more features. The Hemingway Editor now provides tools for formatting the text that you write in the web version of Hemingway. You can now create bullet lists, change font size and style, write numbered lists, and indent paragraphs.

Applications for Education
Hemingway is the kind of tool that I like to have students use before exchanging papers with classmates for peer editing. Hemingway acts as a kind of "virtual peer" before the peer editing process. I would also have students use Hemingway before turning in their final drafts for a grade.

StoryToolz offers a tool similar to Hemingway that you may also want to check out.

5 Things Students Can Blog About to Start the School Year

One of the challenges of starting a new classroom blog is generating enough content for your students to read and to comment on. If you can get students blogging early in the year, you can build momentum for the rest of the school year. Here are five things that you could have students blog about in the first week of school.

  1. Three favorite moments from the last school year. 
  2. Favorite part of summer vacation. 
  3. All-time best moment in school. 
  4. Three questions they want to find the answers to this year. 
  5. Favorite book or movie and why. 

Free SAT & ACT Prep Exercises

Disclosure: PrepFactory is currently an advertiser on

As we head into the fall many students will be preparing to take the SAT or ACT. PrepFactory is a free service for high school students can use to prepare for those tests. PrepFactory offers students a series of tutorial videos and written tips to help them prepare for both tests. After completing a tutorial students can test themselves in a series of practice questions. Each question set is timed and and limited to chunks of ten questions at a time. Students can earn badges for completing tutorials or question sets.

To get started on PrepFactory students choose the test that they are preparing to take (they can change their choices at any time) then take a short guided tour of the service. After taking the tour students complete a ten question quiz intended to give them a sense of what they need to work on. Upon completion of their first quiz students can choose to review their answers with the help of PrepFactory, take another quiz, or watch a video about test-taking skills.

For the fall PrepFactory has introduced SAT Wordplay, a head-to-head vocabulary game between two players. SAT Wordplay randomly matches players in a game to answer vocabulary questions as quickly and accurately as possible.

In the video embedded below I provide an overview of PrepFactory's features.

Saturday, August 8, 2015

Zoom In - US History Lessons Based on Primary Sources

Zoom In is a new resource that US History teachers will like. After reading Glenn Wiebe's and Larry Ferlazzo's glowing reviews of it, I had to try it out too. Zoom In provides units of lesson plans built around primary source documents. The collection of lesson units is organized into six eras of US History.

Zoom In is more than just a collection of lesson plans and documents. Zoom In provides an online classroom environment. As a teacher you can manage multiple classrooms within your Zoom In account. Students join your class by using a class code (email addresses not required). Once students have joined your class, you can begin distributing assignments to them from the lesson plan database. You can track which students have started the assignments, read their responses to questions within the assignments, and give students feedback on the assignments all within your Zoom In classroom.

Applications for Education
It took me some time to fully understand all of the features of Zoom In's user interface. Likewise, I think that students will need to some time to understand how the user interface works. All that said, once I figured out how all of the parts worked together, I saw that it will be a great tool for helping students analyze and learn through reading primary source documents.

The Week in Review - Time to Read

A lighthouse I photographed during
a bike ride this week.

Good morning from Maine where the sun is shining and the air feels exceptionally fresh. My week-in-review post usually mentions an outdoor activity like cycling, hiking, or skiing. This morning it just feels right to sit on my deck, drink coffee, and read a book (Wilderness Warrior - a biography of Theodore Roosevelt). So that's what I'm doing. I hope that your weekend is off to an equally enjoyable start.

This week I wrapped up the last session of my online course Blogs & Social Media for Teachers & School Leaders. That five week course carried a graduate credit option. A number of people asked if I would offer it again. Due to the time constraints of the new school year starting soon, I decided to offer a condensed version of that course. Classroom Blog Jumpstart will be a three night event (August 17, 18, 19) in which I'll cover everything you need to know to create an awesome classroom blog. Learn more about it here.

Here are this week's most popular posts:
1. 12 Good Resources for Teaching Digital Citizenship - A PDF Handout
2. How to Create & Distribute Flipped Lessons Through EDPuzzle
3. How to Save Time When Replying to Email
4. ClassDojo Introduces a New Way to Communicate With Parents
5. How to Create a Random Name Picker in Google Sheets
6. 5 Posts to Jumpstart Your Classroom Blog
7. SimplyCircle Helps You Organize Communication With Parents 

Would you like to have me speak at your school or conference?
Click here to learn about my professional development services. 

Please visit the official advertisers that help keep this blog going.
Practical Ed Tech is the brand through which I offer PD webinars.
BoomWriter provides a fantastic tool for creating writing lessons. 
Storyboard That is my go-to tool for creating storyboards and cartoon stories.
MidWest Teachers Institute offers online graduate courses for teachers.
HelloTalk is a mobile community for learning a new language.
Discovery Education & Wilkes University offer online courses for earning Master's degrees in Instructional Media.
PrepFactory offers a great place for students to prepare for SAT and ACT tests.
The University of Maryland Baltimore County offers graduate programs for teachers.
Boise State University offers a 100% online program in educational technology.
EdTechTeacher is hosting host workshops in six cities in the U.S. in the summer.
SeeSaw is a great iPad app for creating digital portfolios.