Tuesday, November 10, 2020

A Handful of Games for Fun Typing Practice

Last week I was writing a blog post early in the morning when my three year old came out of her room. She saw what I was doing and wanted to help. Since she can recognize all of the letters of the alphabet I let her type a few letters of each sentence. That little process reminded me of how fast I type even though my technique isn't perfect. All that to say, practicing typing whether through writing or playing a game does make you a quicker typist. For kids, playing a game is a more fun way to develop typing skills than writing blog posts or email. Here's a handful of games for kids to play to develop their typing skills. 

Before it was acquired by IXL ABCya produced a lot of games designed to help elementary school students sharpen their skills in a lot of areas. Those games are still available. Included in ABCya's catalog of games is a fun typing game called Cup Stacking. In this game students have to type the letters that they see on the cups that appear on their screens. When they type the correct letters the cups stack up into a pyramid. Once the pyramid is built students have to type the letters again to deconstruct the pyramid. The object of the game is to build up and take down the pyramids as quickly as possible.

Typing Rocket is another typing game developed by ABCya. Typing Rocket is a sixty second game in which students make fireworks explode by typing the letters that appear on the rockets in the games. In the sixty second span of the game students try to correctly type as many letters as they possibly can. The rockets speed up as the game progresses.

Typing Club is a free typing instruction site that offers some unique features for students and teachers. One of those features is a story-based typing practice activities. In those activities, demonstrated here, students unlock stories as they type. Unlocking the next part of the story provides and incentive for students to type accurately and quickly. That's not the only way to develop and practice typing skills in Typing Club, but it is the most engaging way to practice.


TypeTastic is a service that offers free typing games. The games start with basic skills like identifying the letters on a keyboard and build up to touch typing skills. TypeTastic has its games divided into three sections. The first section called "Let's Build a Keyboard" features games for the youngest students who are just learning to recognize letters on a keyboard. The second and third sections called "Hop Onto the Keys" and "Keyboarding Kickstart" feature progressively more difficult games intended to help students develop their touch typing accuracy and speed. Each game within each section contains multiple levels for students to work through. Each game could take students an hour or more to completely master.

Create Your Own Online Typing Practice Activities!
Flippity offers a free Google Sheets template for designing your own online typing activities for your students to play. To do this you simply make a copy of the template provided by Flippity then fill in the words and or phrases you want to have appear in your activities. Flippity hosts the activity and provides unique URLs for your activities to share with your students. In this video I provide a demonstration of how the template works. (Please note that the beginning of the video references a Google Sheets add-on that is no longer available. Instead, simply get the template here on Flippity.net). 

Three Thanksgiving Science Lessons

I don't think there's a meal I like better than a classic Thanksgiving turkey with potatoes, squash, stuffing and cranberry sauce from a can (my mouth is watering just thinking about the "shlop" sound the cranberry sauce makes as it pops out of the can). Behind all of that deliciousness is a whole lot of interesting science. The Reactions YouTube channel, produced by The American Chemical Society, has a few good video lessons that address the science of a traditional American Thanksgiving meal. 

Better Thanksgiving Potatoes Through Chemistry explains the chemical properties of raw potatoes and which ones to pick for roasting based on their chemistry. The video then goes on to explain the science of roasting potatoes before finally revealing the best method, based on science, for roasting potatoes.



The Truth About Tryptophan explains why it might not be just the turkey that is making you sleepy after a big Thanksgiving dinner.



Finally, How to Fry a Thanksgiving Turkey Without Burning Your House Down provides an overview of the science involved in deep frying a turkey and how you can use that knowledge to avoid a disaster on Thanksgiving.

Monday, November 9, 2020

Short Lessons on the History of Veterans Day

Veterans Day is this Wednesday. If you find yourself looking for some quick lessons to review with your students tomorrow, here's a small collection for you. 

ReadWorks is one of my favorite places to go when I need information texts about a holiday to share with students. ReadWorks has a good collection of Veterans Day articles that are arranged by grade level and are accompanied by question sets. 

C-SPAN Classroom has a "bell ringer" activity titled The History and Evolution of Veterans Day. The activity features a five minute video and seven corresponding questions along with a short list of vocabulary terms. The video is informative if you can get your students to pay attention to it. It's not a terribly engaging video. The questions and vocabular terms would work with most of the following videos as well. 

Bet You Didn't Know: Veterans Day is a video that explains the origins of the holiday and why its date of celebration has twice shifted in the United States. The end of the video includes an explanation of the differences between Memorial Day and Veterans Day. 


Veterans Day by the Numbers is also from History. As the name implies, the video provides a statistical overview of Veterans Day including what percentage of the American population has served in the military among other interesting facts. 


Elementary school teachers may find this video from PBS Learning Media useful in providing an overview of Veterans Day. I prefer this one from Kid History

How to Create and Conduct Polls in PowerPoint and Google Slides

A few weeks ago I published directions on how to create and conduct a poll in Google Slides. That video featured using the Poll Everywhere Chrome extension. People who prefer to use PowerPoint over Google Slides can also use Poll Everywhere in their slides. 

Poll Everywhere offers a free PowerPoint add-in that you can use to create and conduct polls directly in your presentation. You can create polls that are multiple choice and open response. Results of the poll can be displayed in a variety of formats. Students can respond to your polls from their computers of phones anonymously or as logged-in users. 

In the following video I demonstrate how to create and conduct a poll in PowerPoint. The video also shows you how students respond to a poll created using the Poll Everywhere PowerPoint add-in. The features shown in the video work with both free and paid Poll Everywhere accounts. 


For the Google Slides users who missed the video about using Poll Everywhere in Google Slides, here it is

Saturday, November 7, 2020

The Week in Review - Heading Into Hibernation

Good morning from Maine where we're going to enjoy the last warm days of the year this weekend. Warm is a relative term because while those of us here think that 50F-60F is warm many of my southern friends will disagree. Either way, the Maine black bears that my daughters and I saw preparing for hibernation last Sunday think that winter is close. (We saw this bears at the Maine Wildlife Park, a center for wildlife rehabilitation and visitor education). 

Rising counts COVID-19 cases, election news, and the new and constantly changing challenges of teaching during a pandemic have contributed to a stressful week. Writing my weekly summary of popular posts is a bit of a soothing process for me. I hope that you also benefit from it. Have a great weekend!

These were the week's most popular posts:
1. Three Ways to Conduct Polls in Google Slides
2. The 2020 Great Thanksgiving Listen
3. Use a Zoom Virtual Background for Lesson Outlines
4. Five Uses for Wakelet in Your Classroom
5. A Template for Getting Permission for Publishing Student Blogs, Podcasts, and Videos
6. How to Record a Video in PowerPoint (Windows Desktop Version)
7. Two Short Lessons on Checks & Balances

On-demand Professional Development: 
Through Practical Ed Tech I'm currently offering an on-demand course called A Crash Course in Making & Teaching With Video

Thank you for your support! 
  • More than 300 of you have participated in a Practical Ed Tech course or webinar this year. Those registrations help keep Free Technology for Teachers and Practical Ed Tech going. I couldn't do it without you!
  • Pixton EDU is a great tool for creating comics and storyboards. 
  • Wakelet is a great tool for making collections of resources, recording video, and more!
  • GAT Labs offers a great, free guide to using Google Workspaces in online classrooms.  
Other Places to Follow Me:
  • The Practical Ed Tech Newsletter comes out every Sunday evening/ Monday morning. It features my favorite tip of the week and the week's most popular posts from Free Technology for Teachers.
  • My YouTube channel has more than 30,000 subscribers watching my short tutorial videos on a wide array of edtech tools. 
  • I've been Tweeting as @rmbyrne for thirteen years. 
  • The Free Technology for Teachers Facebook page features new and old posts from this blog throughout the week. 
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