Friday, November 5, 2021

The 2021 Great Thanksgiving Listen

The Great Thanksgiving Listen hosted by StoryCorps is back for the seventh year in a row. This annual event is intended to get people to record audio stories with family and friends. This year there might be a lot more remote recording than in the past, but the goal of the project is still the same. 

The Great Thanksgiving Listen was originally developed to get high school students to record the stories of their parents, grandparents, and other older family members. It has expanded over the years to be open to anyone who wants to participate.

StoryCorps has always provided materials to help students and teachers get involved in The Great Thanksgiving Listen. Last year the resources have expanded to include a video overview of how to use the StoryCorps Connect platform to remotely record stories. If students can record in-person, the StoryCorps mobile app is still available as well. Resources for teachers include lesson plans, handouts, and even letters and a permission slip that you can send home to help explain the project to parents.

Applications for Education
I love Thanksgiving and I love oral histories. I would have my students participate in The Great Thanksgiving Listen as a way to have them gather local history stories in the context of personal stories. Before The Great Thanksgiving Listen came along I did this kind of project with a social studies class by having them record their parents' and grandparents' stories about going to our local county fair.

This video provides little tip about recording that makes post-production a little easier. It's one you'll want to teach to your students before they record for The Great Thanksgiving Listen. 

Five Good Places to Find and Create Story Starters for Students

When it comes to creative writing assignments, the hardest step for many students is coming up with things to write about. Fortunately, there are many good tools and websites that teachers can use to generate writing prompts for students. Likewise, there are lots of good websites that offer creative writing prompts for students. Here are some of my favorite tools for creating story starters and favorite sites for finding story starters.

Create Story Starters in Google Sheets
Flippity offers a random name picker Google Sheets template. While it was designed to randomly select a student's name from a list, you could list story prompts instead of names in the sheet and have it display a random story prompt every time the picker is shuffled. Here's a video about how it works.

Flippity MadLibs is another Google Sheets template that can be used to create story prompts. As the name implies, it can be used to create MadLibs-style fill-in-the-blank stories. Watch the following video to see how it works.

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.

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.

Make Beliefs Comix
the Make Beliefs Comix journaling ebooks filled with ideas for students to write about. Many of those ebooks are excellent for social emotional learning activities as well as creative writing activities. All of the ebooks are available as fillable PDFs that your students can download and share with you when they're done writing. Watch this short video to learn how to use the free ebooks from Make Beliefs Comix. (Disclosure: Make Beliefs Comix is an advertiser on this blog). 

WriteReader is a good tool for elementary school students to use to write multimedia stories. WriteReader has two distinguishing features that I always point out to new users. First, it provides space for teachers to give feedback to students directly under every word that they write. Second, WriteReader has a huge library of images, including some from popular programs like Sesame Street, that can be used for writing prompts. WriteReader does have a Google Classroom integration that makes it easy to get your students started creating picture-based stories. A series of WriteReader tutorials is available here

Thursday, November 4, 2021

Webinar Recording and Next Live Webinar - Two EdTech Guys Take Questions

Last week Rushton Hurley and I hosted the fourth fall installment of our Two EdTech Guys Take Questions series. In the episode we answered questions about making green screen videos, questions about collecting audio-only responses from students, and questions about making ebooks. We also answered a few Google Workspace-related questions. You can watch the full recording here and get all of the shared resources here

We're hosting the next episode of Two EdTech Guys Take Questions next Thursday (November 11th) at 4pm ET/ 1pm PT. You can register for the session right here. Use World Time Buddy to find your local time for the webinar.

NatGeo MapMaker - Create, Share, and Print Custom Maps

National Geographic MapMaker is a nice mapping tool that I've been using and recommending for years. It was recently updated with an improved user interface, additional data sets, and more annotation tools. 

With NatGeo MapMaker you can create custom maps to display datasets, to compare datasets, to illustrate collerelations, and to illustrate points. National Geographic MapMaker includes lots of datasets that you can have displayed on your map with just a click. You can display multiple datasets on the same map for comparison or correlation illustration. 

National Geographic MapMaker can be used for more than just displaying datasets. You can also use it to illustrate ideas for students by highlighting, annotating, and adding custom points to your map. Additionally, you can choose from six base maps the one that best fits with the purpose of your map. Maps that you create with NatGeo MapMaker can be shared online and or printed as PDFs to distribute to your students. 

In this new video I demonstrate how to use National Geographic Mapmaker. My demonstration includes using NatGeo Mapmaker to create a map that displays fault lines and volcano locations relative to where I live. 

Applications for Education
National Geographic MapMaker is a great tool for making maps to distribute to studnets to use in all kinds of geography lessons. As I demonstrated in the video above, you could use it to create a lesson about tectonic plates and volcanoes. National Geographic MapMaker could be used to create lessons in which students make correlations between population density and light pollution. Or you might simply use it to print a map with latitude and longitude lines to help students learn about where they live in the world relative to other locations. 

Wednesday, November 3, 2021

A Punny Explanation of Savings Bonds

Last weekend I was talking with a friend about Christmas presents for our kids when I sarcastically said, "just give them savings bonds, that's what every kid wants." A day later I was still thinking about that conversation when I wondered if kids even know what a savings bond is. That thought prompted me to search on YouTube for a kid-friendly explanation of savings bonds. That's when I found Bond. Savings Bond

Bond. Savings Bond. is a pun-filled explanation of what savings bonds are, how they work, and why they're generally safe investments. The video also explains what junk bonds are, why they're risky, and why some people buy them despite the risk. As you might have guessed from the title, the video is full of fun James Bond puns. 

Applications for Education
Bond. Savings Bond. could be a good video to use to introduce or recap a high school lesson about basic savings and investment methods. If you and your student like this video, you might want to check out some of the other videos produced by Two Cents, a PBS Learning Studios production.