Friday, November 20, 2015

Thanksgiving Lesson Plans - One Last Round-up of Resources

American Thanksgiving is now less than one week away. Over the last month I've shared a bunch of resources for teaching and learning about Thanksgiving. If you're looking for some Thanksgiving lesson plan resources to use in the next six days, take a look at the suggestions below.

A digital wall of thankfulness.
Create a Padlet wall for your students on which they can share what they are thankful for this year. Students can post text notes, picture notes, or video notes about what they are thankful for. Another way to do this is to have students create drawings of what Thanksgiving means to them then take pictures of those drawings to post on your Padlet wall. Click here for directions on using Padlet.

Thanksgiving storyboards and cards. 
On the Storyboard That teacher guide site you'll find five Thanksgiving lesson plans. As you would expect, all of the lesson plans incorporate the use of Storyboard That. All five lesson plans are appropriate for elementary and middle school ELA. The five lesson plans are The Story of Thanksgiving, Symbols of Thanksgiving, What Thanksgiving Means to Me, Thanksgiving Cards, and I Am Thankful for... 
Click here for directions on creating Storyboard That Thanksgiving cards. 

Record Thanksgiving stories with parents, grandparents, aunts, and uncles.
The Great Thanksgiving Listen is a StoryCorps initiative intended to facilitate conversations between students and adult family members over Thankgiving weekend. StoryCorps has released a toolkit for teachers to use to guide students in the process of recording interviews with family members. The toolkit recommends using the StoryCorps mobile apps to capture the conversations. The StoryCorps mobile apps includes question prompts and a suggested script for conducting interviews.

Multimedia turkeys.
This idea was inspired by my sister who has my nieces (ages 3 and 6) adding items to their "thankful posters" throughout the month. Throughout the month leading up to Thanksgiving she has my nieces write down the things for which they are thankful. When I saw my sister post this idea on Facebook, I thought that it was a perfect fit for a ThingLink project.

ThingLink makes it easy to create interactive, multimedia images. Upload a picture of a turkey and you or your students can add interactive pins to it. Those pins can include text, images, audio, or video. You can go back and edit your image at any time. So in that way you could have students add one new item to their images every day or two. Images can be emailed and or embedded into blog posts so that your students' parents can see them.

Thanksgiving vocabulary lessons.
BoomWriter publishes handy writing lesson plans for most major holidays in the United States. This month, as you might expect, they published lesson plans about Thanksgiving. BoomWriter is offering three lesson plans one for elementary school and two appropriate for middle school and high school students. BoomWriter's Thanksgiving lesson plans utilize a word bank of key vocabulary terms that students need to utilize in completing writing assignments. Through the BoomWriter platform you can monitor your students' progress on their assignments. You can give feedback to your students through the BoomWriter platform.

Thanksgiving readings by grade level.
ReadWorks is a non-profit service that offers hundreds of lesson plans and more than two thousand reading non-fiction and fiction passages aligned to Common Core standards. A quick search for the term "thanksgiving" on ReadWorks yields 41 articles. Articles are labeled with a grade level and lexile score. Most articles are accompanied by a set of reading comprehension and or discussion questions.

Thanksgiving foods.
Favorite Thanksgiving dishes, like all favorite foods, vary from region to region. The New York Times has a neat site about the favorite Thanksgiving dishes served in each state (and D.C. and Puerto Rico). The United States of Thanksgiving lists the signature Thanksgiving dish of each state. Select a state and find a dish. The recipe for each dish is included on each page.

Thanksgiving videos.
When Is Thanksgiving? Colonizing America is an episode in John Green's Crash Course on US History. The video starts with the history of Jamestown before moving onto Plymouth. Green does a good job of illustrating the differences between why and how each colony was established. This is video is suitable for high school students, but Green's use of sarcasm (which I actually like) and the details would probably be lost on middle school students.

The History Channel's History of Thanksgiving provides a short overview of the history of American Thanksgiving. This video is suitable for middle school students.

And just for fun here's a video that explains the differences between American and Canadian Thanksgiving. This video is appropriate for high school students. (I would stop it before the credits roll at the end).

Disclosure: Storyboard That and BoomWriter are advertisers on

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Creative Storm - A Next Vista Video Contest

Next Vista for Learning is my favorite place for teachers and students to share their videos. Next Vista isn't like any other video sharing site because all videos hosted on Next Vista are created by teachers and students for the purpose of teaching short lessons. Throughout the year Next Vista for Learning hosts challenges that are designed to get students and teachers thinking about creative video projects. The latest contest is called Creative Storm.

The Creative Storm video contest asks students and teachers to produce videos demonstrating a creative approach to teaching a concept a student might encounter in elementary, middle, or high school. Videos should be no more than 90 seconds long. Submissions are due by December 18th.

Next Vista now offers a resources page for students and teachers to consult when they are creating videos. The resources page includes links to sources of Creative Commons-licensed pictures, video clips, and audio files. The resources page also provides guidelines for citing those resources within a video.

One of my favorite Next Vista videos of all time is embedded below.

How to Read Music - And Seven Other Lessons About Music

Last month one of the most popular posts that I published was about writing music in Google Documents. That feature is useful only if you know how to read and write music. A TED-Ed lesson that I recently stumbled upon explains the fundamentals of reading music. Watching the video won't turn students into composers over night, but it provides a good start.

TED-Ed offers a lot of interesting and useful video lessons for students. Many of the videos are organized into playlists. Unfortunately, I couldn't find a playlist of all of the TED-Ed lessons about music. To remedy that problem, I made a playlist of my own featuring eight TED-Ed lessons about music.

5 Thanksgiving Lesson Plans from Storyboard That

With less than a week before Thanksgiving break in the United States, many of us are looking for Thanksgiving-related lesson ideas. If that describes you, Storyboard That has some ideas for you.

On the Storyboard That teacher guide site you'll find five Thanksgiving lesson plans. As you would expect, all of the lesson plans incorporate the use of Storyboard That. All five lesson plans are appropriate for elementary and middle school ELA. The five lesson plans are The Story of Thanksgiving, Symbols of Thanksgiving, What Thanksgiving Means to Me, Thanksgiving Cards, and I Am Thankful for... 

In the video embedded below I demonstrate how to create Thanksgiving Cards with Storyboard That. 

Disclosure: Storyboard That is an advertiser on

Padlet iPhone App Now Available - 5 Ways to Use Padlet in School

Padlet is one of my all-time favorite tech tools for the classroom. Over the years I've used Padlet (formerly known as Wall Wisher) for everything from hosting online brainstorming sessions to organizing bookmarks to creating simple blogs for students. This week Padlet improved again by launching an iPhone app.

The new Padlet iPhone app works like the iPad app that they launched a few months ago. Through the app students can take pictures and record videos that will appear directly on their chosen Padlet walls. Of course, students can also double-tap on their chosen Padlet walls to type notes and add links to notes on Padlet walls.

The playlist embedded below features four videos on using Padlet.

Padlet as a simple blogging platform:
Padlet walls can be arranged in free-form, grid, or stream layouts. Creating a Padlet page in the stream format could be a good way to create a simple, collaborative blog for students. You could create the page, select "stream" format, and make the page accessible for students to write short posts on. Their posts could include images and videos. If you want to, you can password protect your Padlet pages and moderate messages before they appear on your Padlet page.

Padlet Mini as a bookmarking tool:
Padlet Mini is a Chrome extension that you can use to bookmark websites. When you click the Padlet Mini extension in your browser you will be presented with the option to save to one of your existing walls or create a new Padlet wall. Click here for a video on using Padlet Mini.

Padlet as a KWL chart:
Padlet can be used to create a KWL chart that students can contribute to anonymously (or not anonymously if you want them to sign-in). Create a wall, make it public, and ask students to share what they know and what they want to know about a topic. If you allow anonymous posting you might get contributions from shy students who might not otherwise speak-up in class. Of course, if you allow anonymous commenting you should have a conversation with your students about what an appropriate comment looks like. (You could also turn on moderation and approve all notes before they appear). Padlet works well when projected on an interactive whiteboard.

Padlet for group research and discussion:
A few years ago I showed my special education students a short (18 minutes) video about cultural changes that took place in the US during the 1920's. After the video we discussed what they saw. Then I had students search online for other examples of cultural change in the 1920's. When they found examples they put them onto a Wallwisher (Padlet's previous name) wall that I projected onto a wall in my classroom. The wall started with just text being added to the wall and quickly progressed to YouTube videos being added to the wall. Once every student had added a video to the wall we stopped, watched the videos, and discussed them.

Padlet as a showcase of your students’ work:
If your students are creating digital portfolios, creating slideshows, or producing videos you could use Padlet to display all of your students’ best work on one page. Create the wall, call it something like “my best work this year,” and have your students post links to their works.