Tuesday, November 24, 2020

Good Places to Make and Find Story Starters

For some students the hardest part of a creative writing assignment is developing an idea to write about. Fortunately, there are many good tools and websites that teachers can use to generate writing prompts. Likewise, there are lots of good websites that offer creative writing prompts for students. Here's an updated list of some of my favorite tools for creating story starters and favorite sites for finding story starters.

Flippity Templates X3
Flippity is a great place to find Google Sheets templates to create all kinds of things including random story starters, random name/ word pickers, and Mad Libs-style stories.
Flippity Mad Libs template.



Flippity Randomizer template.



While it was designed to randomly select a student's name from a list, you can use Flippity's random name picker template to create story starters. Instead of listing names you could list story prompts in a Google Sheet and have it display a random story prompt every time the picker is shuffled. Here's a video about how it works.


Make Beliefs Comix
Make Beliefs Comix is a creative writing platform that I have recommended for years. The core of Make Beliefs Comix is a free set of tools that students can use to create their own comics in multiple languages. Here's a video overview of how it works. In addition to the comic strip creation tools, Make Beliefs Comix hosts free ebooks that you can use online or download for free. All of ebooks are designed as fillable PDFs that your students can write in. The ebooks are intended to inspire students to write about a variety of topics around the ideas of kindness, courage, hopes, and dreams. 



500 Prompts on The Most Dangerous Writing App

The Most Dangerous Writing App is a website that provides a blank canvas to write on for a minimum time of your choosing. The catch is that if you stop writing before the time is up, you lose your work. 500 writing prompts are provided for those who need a little inspiration to get started. In the following video I demonstrate how to use The Most Dangerous Writing App.



Writing Sparks

Writing Sparks offers timed writing prompts to share with your elementary school students. Students can respond to the prompts by writing on paper, in a word processing document like MS Word, or by writing on the Writing Sparks website. The Writing Sparks website provides students with templates to complete as they respond to each writing prompt. In the video that is embedded below I provide a demonstration of how to use the free Writing Sparks service.



Scholastic Story Starters
Scholastic Story Starters is a great tool that students will enjoy using to create short, creative fiction stories. Scholastic Story Starters offers four story themes; fantasy, adventure, sci-fi, and scrambler. To create a story on Story Starters a students picks a theme, enter his or her name, chooses his or her grade, and spins the big wheels of prompts. The student can spin the wheels until he or she finds a prompt he or she likes. After the prompt is selected the student can write his or her story using the letter, postcard, notebook, or newspaper format provided by Scholastic Story Starters. When the story is finished it can be printed.

Monday, November 23, 2020

How to Move Google Tour Builder Files Into Google Earth

Last week Google announced that support for Google Expeditions and Google Tour Builder would end in July 2021. I've already published a preliminary list of alternatives to Google Expeditions. If you're looking for alternatives to Google Tour Builder you don't need to look much further than to Google Earth. 

Google Tour Builder includes two options for moving your projects from Tour Builder into the web versions and desktop versions of Google Earth. 

The simplest way to move your projects from Tour Builder into the web version of Google Earth is to just select "Export to Earth" from the menu in the upper-right corner of the screen when you're viewing one of your Tour Builder projects. You'll then be asked to confirm that you want to connect your Tour Builder and Google Earth accounts. After that you'll get an email to notify you that your Tour Builder project is now viewable in Google Earth under "projects." 

The other option for moving your Tour Builder projects into Google Earth is to select the download option in the upper-right menu when viewing a Tour Builder project. You can then download your project as a KML file that you can then manually upload to the web version of Google Earth and or manually import into the desktop version of Google Earth. 

Both methods for moving projects from Tour Builder into both versions of Google Earth are demonstrated in this short video

Ten Google Meet Features for Teachers - Fall 2020 Update

Back in the late winter/ early spring of this year I published an overview of Google Meet features you should know how to use for teaching online classes. Since then Google has updated old features and introduced new ones. To reflect the updates made since the spring I created this new video overview of ten Google Meet features you should know how to use. 

The ten features covered in my new video are:

  • Meeting nicknames
  • Blurring and custom backgrounds
  • Disabling/ enabling student screen sharing
  • Disabling/ enabling chat for students
  • Disabling/ enabling "quick access"
  • Captioning meetings
  • Changing layout
  • Using Jamboard in meetings
  • Recording meetings

Parade 101 - Hands-on STEAM Activities for Learning About Macy's Thanksgiving Parade

Like millions of other Americans the Macy's Thanksgiving Parade will be on the television in my house on Thursday morning. In the past Macy's has published some resources for learning about the history of the parade. This year they've expanded their offerings to includes some ideas for hands-on STEAM lessons related to the parade. 

Parade 101 features four video demonstrations of hands-on activities that students can do at home with their parents or in your classroom. The four activities include inflating balloons through the use of baking soda and vinegar, designing balloons for the parade, making and using sculping dough, and building model floats. All of the videos include lists of needed supplies. 

I like all four of the activities. If I was to recommend one for Thanksgiving day it would be building model floats or designing because they can be done with cardboard, paper, glue, markers, and other common household materials that don't make a mess and don't have to be done in a kitchen. That said, I think the most fun one is the inflating balloons activity. 

In addition to the videos and STEAM projects Parade 101 offers some printable coloring sheets and puzzles. The interactive timeline of the history of the parade is still available to view as well. 

Finally, if you are looking for some history of the Macy's Thanksgiving Parade videos, take a look at the following videos that I've shared in the past. 

History of the Thanksgiving Day Parade.



The History of the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade

Sunday, November 22, 2020

The Differences Between American and Canadian Thanksgiving

American Thanksgiving is later this week. My Canadian friends celebrated Thanksgiving last month. Besides the timing of the holiday, there are some other differences between American Thanksgiving and Canadian Thanksgiving. There are also some commonalities between the two holidays. The following videos provide a humorous look at the similarities and differences between American Thanksgiving and Canadian Thanksgiving.




Reminder! You should always preview videos before showing them in your classroom. I know many high school teachers who will not have a problem sharing these, but teachers of younger students may want to proceed with caution.