Monday, December 20, 2010

Holidays Around the World

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Here's a "re-gifted" Holidays Around the World project from my classroom days.  Some of the links are broken, but it was a neat activitiy that my 7th graders really enjoyed.  While it's probably too late now for you to incorporate this into your classroom activities before Winter Break begins, the links from the project offer good resources to curious kids (of all ages):

Winter "Holiday" History from the Pagans, Vikings, & Romans

Hannukah (Spell it as you like)


Santa Claus



Happy Holidays!


The Year In Review

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Flocabulary - the folks who bring you The Week In Rap - has posted a Year In Rap: 2010, summarizing a number of the big news stories from the past year.  This might offer a way to review Current Events in your classes when you return to school following our students' "Long Winter's Nap."

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Teach Parents Tech

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 On the personal side of things, my parents are in their 80s and love to use their computer to keep in touch with the family & the rest of the world, especially during the Winter months.  When they need a little assistance, guess who they call?  ME!  How many times have I been in the other room helping Mom figure out how to open that attachment from Aunt Mildred while one of my nephews plants himself in the comfy chair watching SpongeBob instead of the Rose Bowl???

Now, I think it's always important to make time for family, but if you're anticipating a busy Holiday season you maywant to deliver a pre-emptive strike to your parents' inbox.   That's where this cool little site from Google called Teach Parents Tech comes in.  Here's a little about the site, from their "About" page:
Every December, millions of tech-savvy young people descend on their homes only to arrive to a long list of tech support issues that their parents need help with. A few of us at Google thought there had to be a better way that would save us all a few hours each December...

The result of our brainstorm was, a site that allows you to select any number of simple tech support videos to send to mom, dad or uncle Vinnie. The site is not perfect and hardly covers all the tech support questions you may be asked, but hopefully it’s a start!

 Teach Parents Tech is simply a quick form you fill in to create and send a holiday greeting card to your parents or loved ones.  The trick is, there's a how-to video embedded in the card that shows the recipient how to do some of those simple little things, like changing wallpaper or screensavers, making the text larger on web pages, and so on.  There are also some important  safety tips, too, like how to create strong passwords, how to tell if an email is legitimate, and how to stop getting online newsletters, etc.  There are also some great suggestions for more advanced users on how to find information on the Web, how to manipulate photos and other media, and even how to make a blog or use VOIP and Internet chat services.

Teach Parents Tech might be a nice way to helpout the folks and spend a little more quality time with your family over the holidays!

PS: They are YouTube/Google videos, so they're blocked from our school computers.  If you trust YouTube's & Google's content, you can send them from your school computer, but you'll just see an empty space where the video should be.  Don't worry - the video will be there when your folks receive it at their home.  However, if you want to preview the video before it's sent, you'll have to do it from home.

Super Book of Web Tools for Educators

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Richard Byrne of Free Tech for Teachers has done it again!  With the help of 10 leaders in Ed Tech, he has published an e-book entitled The Super Book of Web Tools for Educators, and filled it with over 70 different tools for elementary school, middle school, high school, and alternative school teachers, ELL/ESL teachers, and administrators.

The easiest way to enjoy the book is to click the Enlarge this document in a new window in the Yudu window embedded in the blog post and read it online.  It can also be downloaded (PDF) and read when you're not connected by clicking the Downloadbutton in the DocStoc window that is embedded below that.

Please keep in mind: A few of the tools that are discussed in this e-book are blocked within our District (like YouTube, Facebook, etc.), so before you spend your Winter Break developing a great lesson to utilize these tools, head into your classroom and double-check to make sure you can access the tool(s) at work.

SMART Live Online Training

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Looking for a way to spend some time learning over Winter Break?  SMART offers a number of Live Online Training courses to help you learn how to use your SMART Board and its various hardware and software components.  All you need for most of the sessions is a computer with an Internet connection and a telephone that you can also use simultaneously during the 30- to 75-minute demonstration, so you can learn at home over Winter Break in your flannel jammies & bunny slippers!

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Courses include (all times Central):
  • SMART Board Basics - Every Monday @ 11 am
  • SMART Notebook 1: Getting Started - Every Monday & Wednesday @ Noon
  • SMART Notebook 2: Enhancing Your Skills - Every Monday & Wednesday @ 1 pm
  • Using Lesson Activity Toolkit - Every Wednesday @ 2 pm
  • SMART Notebook Math Tools - Every Friday @ 9:30 am
  • SMART Response (Senteo clickers) - Every Wednesday @ 10:30 and every Thursday @ 4 pm
  • SMART Slate - Every Friday @ 11 am

I've "attended" a few of these sessions, and they are very good - at least as good as a webinar can be.  The trainings are focused on creating or using something that you can apply directly to your classroom practice, so you won't feel like its a waste of your valuable time.  I don't know how the Holidays will affect this schedule, but its an ongoing FREE opportunity for you, so keep it in mind for other times of the year, too.

Filter Search Results by Reading Level

Many thanks to Richard Byrne of Free Tech for Teachers for this tip!

If you use Google to find classroom resources on the Internet, you can filter sort your search results by "Basic," "Intermediate," or "Advanced" reading levels.  Here's how:
  • Visit
  • Type in what you're searching for & click "Search" or hit the Enter key
  • Once your Search results are displayed, Click the Advanced Search link beneath the Search button
  •  On the next screen you can refine your search results.  Under Need more tools? you'll see a drop-down box next to Reading Level
  •  This will let you choose to:
    • Annotate results with reading levels - You'll see all of your search results analyzed overall, along with a note on each of your individual results 
    • Show only Basic reading level results
    • Show only Intermediate reading level results
    • Show only Advanced reading level results

This could be a great tool for teachers who are looking to develop classroom activities with materials at reading levels appropriate to their students.

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Tuesday, December 14, 2010

More Pearl Harbor Resources

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Following my earlier post, I was made aware of another resource recounting the events of Dec. 7, 1942
  • National Geographic on Pearl Harbor - NatGeo has a great web site on the Pearl Harbor attack.  Don't miss the Interactive Map, which takes visitors on a moment-by-moment tour of the events of that fateful morning.  It also contains first-person interviews of Pearl Harbor survivors from both sides of the conflict.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Looking for Holiday Resources?

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Check out last week's post for resources on Hannukah, Christmas & Kwanzaa!

Also, have a look at NewsWord for lots of holiday-themed puzzles, and reproducibles.

Free Education Resources

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Open Educational Resources Commons is a web site allowing teachers to post or search for educational resources, lesson plans, and virtually anything you might need for your classroom lesson activities.  While there's no guarantee about the quality of the information, it makes up for it in quantity - there are literally thousands of lesson plans available for you to download and modify to fit your own needs.

Illinois Parents

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IllinoisParents is a site sponsored by the Illinois State Board of Education, the Academic Development Institute, and the Early Childhood and Parenting Collaborative at the University of Illinois.

Illinois Parents is a searchable database of articles and resources to help anyone who parents or works with children (ages preK-12).
  • Resources for parents helps parents find resources, materials, and links to other websites that provide pertinent information.
  • Resources for schools provides a portal to information and materials to help educators encourage increased parent involvement.
  • Four community organizations are featred on the site's home page each month.
  • There are also links to the School Community Journal, an archive of school & parent related articles.   

Most of the resources are searchable by grade level, topic/keyword, etc., and cross-referenced by elementary, middle, and high school, ELL, and Special Education categories.

Free Poster for Social Studies Classrooms!


C-SPAN is offering free timeline posters of American PresidentsClick here to get yours!

CSPAN Poster

Holiday Word Search for SMART Board

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Jim Hollis from Teachers Love SMART Boards has developed some free word search activities you can use with your classroom SMART Board.  There are also a number of fun kid-riddles to help stimulate divergent thinking this holiday season.  Enjoy!

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Interactive Lessons on the Revolutionary War

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Found this site on Free Tech For Teachers:

Teaching American History has published an intereactive history of the American Revolutionary War.  Users are presented with an interactive map that takes them on a chronological journey through the major battles & turning points in the War for Independence.  A brief quiz and text-based descriptions are offered at each "stop" along with links to external site so students can gather more information.  (*I did find a number of inactive or "broken" links, though.)   This would be a great site to help kids review important events in the American War for Independence.

60-Second Civics

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Sixty-Second Civics is a project I learned about from Free Tech For TeachersSixty-Second Civics offers a brief podcast about a given topic in Civics and includes a one-question quiz with the podcast to encourage listening comprehension.  The page has an archive of past podcasts, allowing teachers to search the page (CTRL-F) for topics relevant to their daily lessons.  This site would offer a high school or middle school social studies class a great resource for bell-ringer or warm-up activities.  There are a number of other links to civics-related podcasts and other resources along the left side of the page, too.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Business English Materials

I learned of this site from a post on Larry Ferlazzo's blog.

The Business English Materials web site has lesson plans, downloadable printables, etc., to help older students learn about worldwide buinesses and corporations.  (WARNING! Some of the links discuss businesses such as breweries, distilleries, etc., that may not be appropriate for the classroom.)  This might be a nice site for resources and lesson plans to help kids learn more about businesses, corporations, and the global economy.  There are handouts, printables, quizzes, etc., for each business listed on the site.  However, the lessons plans and content are sort of "cokie-cutter," offering similar activities and worksheets for every business linked to the site.


I learned of this website from Jim Hollis' Teachers Love SMART Boards blog.

ABCTeach has a number of free downloadable resources for teachers.  There are a number of pre-made PDF worksheets, especially for elementary school classrooms in the reading/language arts and math subject areas.  (There are some available for other subjects and for middle grades classrooms, too.)  The resources are searchable by subject area or grade level to help you find things quickly.  There are also a number interactive tools available for teachers, like puzzle generators, sorting activities, handwriting templates, math worksheet generators, and so on.  However, the real gem to be found on this site is under the "Interactive" tab, where yuou'll find a number of pre-made SMART Notebook files ready to download, customize, and use with your classroom almost immediately!

Even more resources are available by subscription.  To learn more and receive a 20% discount off of the annual subscription fee, please visit Jim Hollis' Teachers Love SMART Boards blog!


The Best Hanukkah, Christmas, and Kwanzaa Resources

Lary Ferlazzo maintains a blog page containing an exhaustive listing of online resources to help kids learn more about the Hanukkah, Christmas, and Kwanzaa holidays.  If you're looking for resources about Winter Holidays, Larry's place is your best friend!

Looking for Some Winter Reading?


This post from Free Tech for Teachers offers up 17 different FREE e-books for your Holiday enjoyment.  Read them on your computer, or maybe Santa will drop an e-reader down the chimney for you... Ho Ho Ho!  Topics include:
  • Digital Storytelling
  • Web 2.0 Projects for your classroom
  • Developing Critical Thinking Skills 
  • Making Home-School Connections
  • Creative Exercises for Artists (and everyone else)
  • Keeping Kids Safe online & on social networking sites

How Parents Can Help In the Digital Age

Thanks to Dr. Scott McLeod's blog, Dangerously Irrelevant, for the tip on this article.  Dr. McLeod is one of the co-creators of the original, viral, & now-famous Did You Know? Shift Happens video.  Though I personally find the original the most interesting and though-provoking, the video is now in its 4th iteration.

The New York Times recently published an article identifying the need for parental knowledge of and intervention in the cyber-lives of kids today.

As we all know, it's hard to keep up with our kids in the realm of technology today.  We all struggle when attempting to draw the line between allowing students the freedom to explore versus our ethical duty to keep kids safe.  It is, however, essential for every adult to stay in-touch with our children's online activities and offer an open avenue for real face-to-face communication should something unpleasant or unwanted happen to a child.  This article offers a candid look at how we can help kids deal with some of those online unpleasantries before they turn into real-life tragedies.

28 Tools for History Classes

Here's a great article from iLearn Technology on tools to help "bring out the 'story' in History".


Interactives, from Annenberg Media, contains a wealth of resources for students in all grades and subject areas.  Most of the Math & Science activities are geared toward middle grades and high schoolers, but a few of the Language Arts & Social Studies activities are appropriate for elementary-aged kids as well. I've previewed a few of the activities - the sites are well-done but a bit text-heavy, and some of the links are small - you'll want to use the site with kids who have good dexterity & hand-eye coordination, and who aren't afraid to do some reading.  There are few "games" here - these are high-quality web sites, though much of the learning is focused on the lower & middle ranges of Bloom's taxonomy.

Their interactive online activities include (with suggested grade levels):
  • Math
    • Geometry - 3D shapes (6-8)
    • Math in Daily Life (9-12)
    • Metric Conversions (6-8)
    • Statistics (9-12)
  • Science
    • Amusement Park Physics (9-12)
    • DNA (9-12)
    • Dynamic Earth (7-9)
    • Ecology Lab (9-12)
    • Garbage (9-12)
    • Periodic Table (9-12)
    • Rock Cycle (7-9)
    • Volcanoes (9-12)
    • Weather (9-12)
  • Arts
    • Cinema (9-12)
  • Language Arts
    • Elements of a Story (2-5)
    • Historical & Cultural Contexts (9-12)
    • Literature (9-12)
    • Spelling Bee (all grades)
  • History
    • Collapse (9-12)
    • Middle Ages (9-12)
    • Renaissance (9-12)
    • US History Interactive Map (5-8)

Many thanks to Galesburg's own Kim McGuire for the tip on these activities!

Monday, November 29, 2010

The Economics of Seinfeld

Professors at Eastern Illinois University and Baker University have created courseware using clips from Seinfeld to reinforce economic concepts and theories.  Their Web site, The Economics of Seinfeld, cross-references clips from the episodes with important concepts related to the way Econ works.  (The references are time-marks on the DVD versions - similar versions could be found on Hulu, etc.) 

The web site could be a nice way to jazz up an Econ or Social Studies class at the high school level.  It's also offers teachers a new way to look at old favorites even if you don't teach HS Econ...

...Not that there's anything wrong with that...

Museum of Modern Art

The Museum of Modern Art has a great web site for teachers and great web sites for kids.

The MoMA web site for teachers contains teaching guides and lesson plans that can be used with resources available from their website.

Destination: Modern Art is designed for younger children (ages 5-8 or so), allowing them to explore modern art and artists, tour a virtual museum, and learn to look carefully at art and the influences of the world on artists.

The Red Studio is designed for teens (middle school and high school students).  Red Studio contains
  • Behind the Scenes looks at artists & staff at the museum;
  • Remix, an interactive collage site;
  • Fauxtogram, making virtual photograms or camera-less photographs;
  • Chance Words, a site that allows users to make a Dada-ist poem (yeah, I had to look that one up, too.)

Wow!  See, pretty cool site, huh?

Animated Gettysburg Address

Here's a great video to enrich your studies of American History and the Civil War.

Gettysburg Address on Vimeo


Here's a great film (around 12 minutes) showing how ELL/ESL kids might feel during standardized testing or any other lesson that is language-dependent.  (And what in our classrooms is NOT??)

Immersion, on Snag Learning

Many thanks to Free Tech for Teachers for the heads-up on this video.

Skype In The Classroom

Skype has recently announced the development of a directory of Skype educators - teachers who use Skype to reach out to the world from their classrooms.

For those of you who haven't heard, Skype is a free Voice-Over-Internet Protocol (VOIP) service.  It allows you to share voice-to-voice (if you have a microphone) or video-to-video (if you have a web cam) with other Skype users absolutely free.  It is being used increasingly by educators in much the same way as inviting guest speakers into your classroom - only this is world-wide and doesn't require travel - and did I mention it's free?

Skype's newest development is this directory of Skype-ers for education.  They're starting out with educators who want to connect with other educators - sort of like the old adopt-a-classroom or "Flat Stanley" relationships many of us used to cultivate.  They hope to expand to other users to help educators connect with the private sector as well.

All you have to do is register, expand your profile a little to help others decide if they want to connect with you, and start Skype-ing away.  Then, connect a web cam or microphone to your computer.  The directory they create will help educators connect with one another to mutually enrich their classrooms.

NY Times: Fix The Budget

This article from the New York Times (published Nov. 13) and related web site would make a great addition to any secondary Social Studies, Current Events, Political Science, Government, or Economics class.  After reading the article and researching various ways to reduce the federal deficit, students can enact their plan by checking a series of boxes to see what impact their ideas would have on the deficit over time.  This could be followed up by a class debate on the different policies and debates.  It would be a great way to encourage kids (middle grades through high school) to get involved with current events and learn about our political and economic systems.

ChemEd Digital Lab

Want a great site for teaching Chemistry concepts to your middle school or high school students?  ChemEd Digital Library will offer you a wealth of resources to help enrich your curriculum.  ChemEd Digital Library contains lots of student tutorials and downloadable lesson plans for teachers.  ChemEd Digital Library also offers 3-D modles of organic & inorganic compounds as well as a periodic table of elements with explanations of each element.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

FBI & Internet Safety

At the Illinois Education & Technology Conference last week, I learned of the Federal Bureau of Investigation's Safe Online Surfing (FBI-SOS) Internet Challenge.  It contains some amazing Internet Safety activities, available free for schools and parents!  What's more, it allows teachers to track which students have completed modules on which topics, allowing for easier documentation of activities and a simple way to be certain that schools are complying with Internet Safety mandates.

The FBI-SOS curriculum is concise, with each module consisting of pre-tests, scavenger hunts, and post-tests, in the following areas & grade levels:

There are a couple of drawbacks:
  1. Participation does require the collection of parent permission slips (available in both English & Spanish), as student names are required to assign usernames in the system.  The FBI-SOS Privacy Policy is very clear about what data is collected and how it is used.
  2. Each module's pre-test, scavenger hunt, and post-test must occur within the same calendar month, which could make for some tricky scheduling in some cases.

However, these drawbacks are fairly minor considering the benefits:
  1. Comprehensive, levelled curriculum from arguably the most reliable source for quality information about student safety on the Internet.
  2. Fun and interesting activities that entertain, engage, and inform.
  3. Pre-tests & post-tests that measure student growth & learning.
  4. Students do not need email addresses to participate.
  5. Teachers have no papers to grade - the site does everything for you.
  6. Teachers and administrators are provided with reports on student progress through topics covered, to ease documentation for Internet Safety Mandates.
  7. Come on, it's the FBI!  How cool is THAT?

This might be a nice addition to your current Internet Safety lessons in Grades 3-8.  If you're still wondering how to help your school comply with Internet Safety Mandates, this would be an excellent way to start!

Related Topics:

Monday, November 22, 2010

SMART Boards & Word Problems

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Jim Hollis of Teachers Love SMART Boards has developed a great Thanksgiving-themed SMART Notebook file called "Turkey Trot" to help teach kids a 5-step approach to solving word problems in elementary/middle grades/early high school Math classes.  It contains a number of different pre-made word problems - teachers could certainly download and edit the file to customize it to whatever concept you're currently teaching.  It's very cute - tap the turkey on each slide to advance to the next step. 

The instructions are found at the end of the file:

  • The Turkey Trot is used to review a five step process for solving word problems.
  • Choose a student to lead the class through each word problem. Students should go through each word problem step-by-step and students should participate on each step for each problem to reinforce the steps.
  • Each word problem has an answer page following the "Check" step. Time should be provided for students to complete the word problem before advancing to the answer page.

Take a look at the link on the left side of the page for lots of other Thanksgiving-themed SMART-Board Resources as well!

Thanksgiving Resources

Okay, so I know this is last-minute, but maybe you'll tuck this away in a file somewhere and pull it out for next year.

I've run across3 nice sites for lots of Thanksgiving Resources for teachers:

Illinois Education & Technology Conference

Last week I attended the Illinois Education and Technology Conference, held annually in Springfield, IL.  The Conferences always contains helpful information and loads of resources for classroom teachers.

The Conference has a Ning networking site that is free to join.  On the site you can access presenters' handouts and learn loads even if you were unable to attend.  If you have time and are interested in learning new ways to incorporate technology into your daily lessons, you'll find loads of great ideas there!

Monday, November 1, 2010

Bright Hub Interactive Whiteboard Games

Many thanks to Galesburg Ag Teacher Corrine Smith for this link!

Bright Hub is an "all-around answers" site, inviting experts from all areas to submit answers to readers' questions from areas including Technology, Science, Health, Parenting and Education.  (The downside is that the site is heavilly ad-supported, and articles may include professional writers or self-proclaimed free-lance "experts" who self-publish through the site.  Both types of writers are paid for their published works.)

The Interactive Whiteboard Games, written by Jonathan Wylie and edited/published by Elizabeth Wistrom of Bright Hub, include Power Point and SMART Notebook versions of:
  • Who Wants to be a Millionaire (SMART Notebook or Power Point)
  • Are You Smarter Than a 5th Grader? (SMART Notebook or Power Point)
  • Deal or No Deal (SMART Notebook only)
  • Jeopardy (Power Point, SMART Notebook, and SMART Senteo/Response Clicker Game)
  • Classroom Feud (Like Family Feud, only in SMART Notebook)


These are all fine game templates that would be very helpful in a classroom for kids of most any age, especially grades 3 and above.  However, some of the Power Point versions (Jeopardy, etc.) use "invisible" hyperlink boxes that could be a bit difficult for novice users to use appropriately.  The SMART Notebook files are slick looking and have some nice interactive features.  It is unfortunate that only one of the games (Jeopardy) includes directions for editing, and only 2 of the games that I previewed had game play directions/rules for the kids.  Most of the teplate files downloaded quickly.  In the files I previewed there were very few problems with the files as written - most of the hyperlinks take the user to the appropriate slides in the file and what-not.  (I did not have time to look at every slide in every file, I'm afraid.)  I can see how these might be easy to mess up for the novice or reluctant user, but those who are familiar with Power Point and SMART Notebook (especially the hyperlinking feature) wil  greatly enjoy these files, though!

District #205 teachers: If you would like to use these and have any questions, please let me know.  I'll be happy to help you with hyperlinking in either Notebook or Power Point!

Thanks again, Corrine, for helping out our colleagues!

Monday, October 18, 2010

Tons of Halloween Resources

From Larry Ferlazzo, ELL/ESL teacher and resource blogger-extraordinaire!

Halloween: It's thought of by many as a fun "holiday-of-sorts"  for kids almost anywhere.  Whether you love it, hate it, or tolerate it, Halloween offers an interesting opportunity for cross-curricular and multi-cultural study.  Over the last few years, Larry Ferlazzo has developed an extensive listing of resources about Halloween, organized by topic.
  • Historical Context
  • Basic Vocabulary and Elements
  • Online Games
  • Dia de los Muertos ("The Day of the Dead")
  • and more!

(I STRONGLY recommend that District #205 teachers AVOID the E-Card links.  I'm sure these links may be just fine, but I'd rather we not push our luck.  We've rolled those bones before...)

Interventions That Work - Educational Leadership

The latest edition of Educational Leadership, published monthly by ASCD (the Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development) is devoted entirely to Response to Intervention (RtI).

An excellent audio introduction to the issues can be heard here.

One notable article was "The Why Behind RTI."  While varying degrees of support and guidance have been made available to Districts from various agencies and organizations, this article shows that the efforts not underway in Galesburg CUSD #205 are moving in the right direction.  Our teachers and administrators need to hear from experts outside the District that they are doing right things right.

Teachers & Administrators: Thank you for all you do.  Keep up the good work!

Text-Speak Dictionary

While researching Internet Safety resources, I found a verycomprehensive Internet Lingo Dictionary linked to the Be Net Savvy blog.

The Dictionary was compiled by the State of Idaho Attorney General's Office.  Currently, their Internet Safety web site has an excellent video for parents & community members about online safety.  The video and associated materials are available free-of-charge to Idaho residents on DVD; those of us who live elsewhere are encouraged to view the video and access the resources through their web site instead.

Halloween SMART Board Resources

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A number of great Halloween resources were recently posted on Teachers Love SMART Boards.  Categories include:
  • Clip Art
  • Games
  • Jigsaw Puzzles
  • Informational Activities (including Halloween safety)
  • Create-Your-Own resources
  • Notebook Resources
  • Sound Files (Spooky ones, as well as favorites like "Monster Mash")

Do you have other Halloween resources to share?  If so, please leave them in a comment below!

Geography Links

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Great post from Teachers Love SMART Boards:

SMART Boards and the Fifty Nifty States & Capitals is a great post from Jim Hollis, et al., outlining some slick SMART Board files and resources that you can download and use for free with your classes.  By the way, there is a link at the bottom of this post to a YouTube video.  The same video is also available on Teacher Tube. However, my favorite is the Animaniacs Sing the States, also on Teacher Tube.  (Log in or create a Teacher Tube account to skip the ads.)


Illinois Arts Education Week Poster Entries Due Nov. 15

The 2011 Illinois Arts in Education Week Poster Contest is under way!  Entries are due no later than November 15, 2010.  For more information, please visit:

The upcoming contest is open to high school students (grades 9-12) only.  Next year's contest will be open to grades K-8.

2011 Illinois Arts in Education Week is March 14-20, 2011

Romeo & Juliet - Interactive

Found this posted on Free Tech for Teachers:

An "Interactive Folio of Romeo and Juliet" has been created by the Canadian Adaptations of Shakespeare Project.  The site takes the reader through Shakespeare's text,  with certain words & phrases highlighted.  Clicking on the highlights brings up definitions of "Bard-speak," images, and even clips from classical and modern film and audio adaptations of the play.  This might work nicely on a SMART Board or projector to explain & illustrate important passages in a whole-class setting.  Could be an excellent way to jazz up the classic tale for today's students!

Monday, October 11, 2010

Vote Easy - Get to Know the Candidates

Vote Easy is a site designed to help you and your students get to know the candidates.  Making an informed decision about which candidate to vote for can be tough.  Enter your zip code into Vote Easy and you will be presented with the candidates who are running for national seats this November.  Clicking on their pictures gives you insight on the candidates, their backgrounds, and points-of-view.  Answering questions about the hot-button issues listed across the top of the screen will show you how the candidates' views align with your personal opinions.  If desired, you can even enter your email address to be reminded to re-visit the site a week before the election, so you can re-familiarize yourself with the candidates and their views prior to your visit to the polls.

This would be a great tool to use with a Social Studies, Civics, Government or Current Events class, as well as a supporting activity for a Mock Election.

Register to Vote in Knox County (IL)

SMART Board Lessons from the Jefferson National Accelerator Facility

The US Department of Energy and the Thomas Jefferson National Accelerator Facility (The Jefferson Lab) have put together a collection of teachers reasources for STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) teachers.  There are many games and activities that would work wonderfully in a whole-class setting on a SMART Board.  There are also a number of online resources for students to use at home or in a lab setting.

I learned about this link from Teachers Love SMART Boards

Spark!Lab Science Experiments for Kids

Spark! Lab is a web site from the Lemelson Center at the Smithsonian's Museum of American History.  Spark! Lab  contains a number of simple step-by-step experiments that you can do with your students to get them interested in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) topics.  Experiments range from creating a musical whirligig and hydropnic gardening to building a skyscraper and creating your own wind turbine.  The site also includes resources for educatorsprofiles of inventors & oral/video histories, and the stories behind a number of everyday products that were once innovative inventions (like the "bendy straw"). 

Thanks to Larry Ferlazzo for the heads-up on this link.

National STEM Video Game Challenge

 The National STEM Video Game Challenge is about game design, not racking up the highest scores on HALO.  The National STEM Video Game Challenge encourages middle school students interested in the subjects of Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics ("STEM") to develop and create an educational game to help kids of any age learn more about science- or math-related topics.

Don't just pass this off as some "techie-thing," however!  There are 2 categories: electronic and paper, and they are judged separately!  And, of course, middle school students are judged separately from video game developers as well.  The prize pool includes laptop computers, software, and other prizes to support student inquiry into STEM-related interests.

Kids can use simple (and free demo) versions of video game design software, like Scratch, GameMaker, and GameStar Mechanic.  There are fewer parameters posted for paper-based designs, so check back to the National STEM Video Game Challenge site for details as they are released.

I learned of this post last week from Free Tech for Teachers.

Monday, October 4, 2010

What Is "Good" Homework?

This month's (September 2010) Educational Leadership, published by ASCD, contains several articles surrounding the topic, What Is "Meaningful Work"?

There are "Five Hallmarks of Good Homework," according to author Cathy Vatterott.  Homework should:
  • Have a clear academic purpose
  • Efficiently demonstrate student learning
  • Offer choices to make homework relevant to personal interests
  • Be completed with little or no outside assistance, developing a student's sense of competence (academic efficacy, or the 'I can do it' attitude)
  • Be enjoyable & interesting to the student

In "Show Us What Homework's For"author Kathleen Cushman describes the findings from the "What Kids Can Do" Project, which collected students' perspectives on homework & motivation to complete it.  She relates ideas that are both obvious and revealing in the article:

Kids won't do homework if they don't know why they're doing it.  If it's just busy work, they'll skip it and take the zero.  If it's meaningful to them, they're more apt to do it.  Also, occasional & meaningful homework made more of an impact on students than daily routine homework.
  • They understand that some homework-for-practice is necessary.  However, if it interests them, making them think deeply or divergently about a classroom topic or how it will affect them out in the 'real world', then they were more likely to complete the homework-for-practice because they understood that it was a small part of a bigger picture that would help them be successful later in life. 
  • Kids want feedback on the work they do.  If their teachers spent the time to give feedback, help with corrections (not just mark something right or wrong), and thereby validate their hard work as important to the teacher, then the students said they would be more likely to continue or increase their efforts.   In short, if the teacher blows if off, so will their students.
  • There's a difference between correcting and grading, and the kids understand that.  Correcting means helping fix mistakes.  Grading  tells a kid they're either "good" or "no good," and over time, that can have dramatic effects on how kids feel about themselves and their ability to complete future tasks.  If kids must be graded on homework, then they appreciate and understand when the value (points) are comparable to the effort expected/needed to accomplish the task.
  • Kids also had some ideas about homework logistics:  Talk to other teachers to balance the homework load.  Give time in class to start on homework & make sure it was being done correctly.  Having multiple days to complete an assignment or project is more helpful than daily busy work.  No one's perfect, so allow opportunities to revise or correct work before collecting it for a grade.

The article also contains a number of "instead of... try this" ideas, to help teachers make homework assignments more meaningful and engaging.

In addition, the September 2010 Educational Leadership points out a number of other homework-related topics, including:
  • Using technology to support student learning
  • Peer-to-peer teaching
  • Experts in the classroom
  • Project-based learning
  • Community-based education
  • ...and more!

BTW: Next month's (October 2010) issueis on RtI "Interventions That Work."  Don't miss it!

Collaboration without Registration


Post from Free Tech for Teachers:

So you want to have your students collaborate on a document or project, but you don't want to go through the hassle or potential legal entanglements of signing your kids up for free email accounts and what-not, hmmm?  This Post from Free Tech for Teachers will explain just how to do that.

There are three tools that allow collaborative document editing without the need for registration:

These services allow you, the teacher, to create an account and allow others to collaborate and/or create documents. 

Here are ideas to integrate these and other collaborative tools into your classroom activities.

If you're interested in collaborating on documents that DO require sign-on, try:

  • Microsoft Office Live Apps (my personal favorite because the apps look exactly like the Office Suite I use at work)

  • Google Docs (Quick, light, handy, and easy to learn & integrate with other Google tools, like Blogger, etc.)

Progressive Phonics

Progressive Phonics

From iLearn Technology:

Progressive Phonics is a comprehensive, all-in-one site,that allows access to read-aloud from your computer or printed out.  Most have accompanying handwriting pages, activity worksheets, etc., too.  The site says that it can be used by anyone (brief registration & download required) to help teach kids essential reading skills. 

This could be a great tool to use with kids in the classroom, as well as refer to parents for use at home with their kids.

American History Google Tours

America 1

Wow!  If you are a Google Earth user, this site is for you!

WW Norton has published 10 Google Earth Tours to accompany their college-level textbook series.  However, you don't have to have a copy of the book to access these Google Earth Tours - simply download, install, and enjoy with your students!  Google Earth is a great tool to use in History classes with SMART Boards!

These 10 tours cover pivotal topics in American History, including:

  • Pre-Columbian Sites

  • American Revolution

  • Lewis & Clark

  • Indian Removal

  • Causes of the Civil War

  • WWII Conflicts

  • Civil Rights Movement

  • Vietnam Conflicts

By the way, if you're not familiar with Google Earth Tours, these are collections of "map pins" and other resources that help enrigh your subject area.  Google Earth allows you to create and save these Tours in a special file format that is only read by Google Earth.  Once you have either created or installed these sets of locations & routes, you can click on the place markers to learn more about the location as related to your topic (in this case, American History).

Another one of my favorite site for Google Earth Tours is Google Lit Trips.  This site contains free Google Earth Tours related to literary works, from The Grapes of Wrath to Paddle To the Sea.

Download & Install Google Earth

Google Earth User Guide for Educators - Unfortunately, the Tutorials are videos hosted on YouTube, which is blocked in our District.

Thanks to Free Tech For Teachers for this posting!

WatchKnow - Alternative to YouTube


So you've heard about this great video on YouTube, but that's blocked in our District.  How do you access a similar video?  (without illegal downloading, violating our AUP through a proxy portal, etc., that is)

WatchKnow is a site that will allow you to search for videos available on a number of other web sites.  If you're searching from school, there's a simple check box to screen out YouTube sources, so you can see what is available for you to view in your classroom.  Leave it un-checked to find the YouTube video you want, and you'll also see the same or similar videos that are available on other sites that aren't blocked!  It's the perfect solution for a common problem.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Guys Read - Getting Boys to Read

Guys Read

We all know that boys... ahem... young men are some of the hardest students when it comes to teaching reading.  That's where Guys Read comes in. 

Guys Read is a web site that helps connect boys with books.  Hmm... Let's try that again...  This time in an R. Lee Emery-in-Full-Metal-Jacket-drill-sergeant tone of voice...

Guys Read is a manly web site, made by a manly man, that teaches other manly young men about how awesome books are.  Biff!  Pow!  Bam!

There are no wimpy drop-down search-me menus here.  No-sir-ee-Bob!  There's a list here.  A manly list.  A manly list with manly topics like, "Action/Adventure," "Dragons," "How to Build Stuff," "War," and, my personal favorite, "At Least One Explosion."  Now who wouldn't want to jump into somethin' like THAT, huh?  THAT'S THE GOOD STUFF, SON!  NOW GO GETCHA' SOME!

So, maybe you're still not convinced that this is all this namby-pamby "encouragement" is all that necessary.  Click the "Guys and Reading" link for research supporting the need to GET MORE GUYS READING. DON'T YOU CLICK THAT BACK BUTTON, SON! CAN'CHA SEE I'M TEACHIN' YA' SOMETHIN' HERE!

While we're at it, why don't you STUDY LIKE A SCHOLAR, SCHOLAR"You're in the library with THE MAN YOUR GRADES COULD BE LIKE!"  (That awesome spoof ad for the Brigham Young University Library)

<We now return you to your regularly scheduled blogging.>

Math Homework Tips for Parents


This week's Lesson of the Week is on Math Homework Tips for Parents. (It changes weekly, so visit soon to download!)  Visit the District Web Site weekly to learn something new about what's happening in Galesburg Schools, and how you can help kids succeed!

Banned Books Week

Beware Book

Here's a great post from Free Technology for Teachers.  In it you'll find an interactive map showing book bans and challenges.  What's staggering is that the map shows data from the last 3 years (2007-2010) only!

The point, folks, is this: People are STILL trying to ban books and limit learning and creative expression, everywhere, almost every day. 

Is it right?  Is it wrong?  Does it depend on certain situations?  That's up to you and your students to decide...

Learn more about the American Library Association's Banned Books Week

Image by florian.b on Flickr, from

The Cost of NCLB Testing


A post from iLearnTechnology breaks down the costs of standardized testing into an easily-undersandable graphic format.

It's an election year, folks.  Have you registered to vote? (Knox County IL)

Resize Multiple Objects - SMART Board Tip


Here's a great tip on how to resize multiple objects equally using a SMART Board or SMART Notebook Software, from Teachers Love SMART Boards.

Here are the steps:

  • Click-and-Drag ("marquee select") to select all the objects you want to resize.  You can also hold down the CTRL key and click the objects from your desktop.

  • Click or touch any one of the drop-down menus next to the objects, select Grouping and choose Group.  They are all grouped together as a single object now.

  • Click or touch the resize handle (the circle in the lower-right-corner of the object) and resize as needed.


It's like magic!





Graphic from

Don't Let the Pigeon Surf the Web?


I love it!  Mo Willems had developed a wonderful web site, Pigeon Presents, with loads of fun games and activities based on characters from his books.  On Pigeon Presents and the author's web site, GoMo!, you and your primary-aged students can learn more about the characters, other books by the author, and even watch video interviews about the author's love of reading & writing.

You can learn more about how to use this author's books and web sites in your classroom, as well as share how you and others are integrating these into classrooms, by visiting iLearn Technology.

The Week In Rap

Week in Rap

The Week In Rap is a nice addition to any class that looks at current events on a regular basis.  Produced each week by Flocabulary, it is available widely via Vimeo.  You can also download the video (.WMV file) from their web site  to play it straight from your desktop through Windows Media Player.  Their web site also has a transcript of the lyrics (...word!), and you can sign up to have weekly reminders emailed to you when each new episode is available.

While I would personally prefer to curl up with my old Rolling Stones or Bob Seger albums, kids today might prefer something a little more up-to-date to help them learn in the classroom.  Sometimes that old adage, "If ya' can't beat 'em, join 'em" holds true.  Many thanks to for the link!

Ignore the Test - from Dangerously Irrelevant

Dangerously Irrelevant

Dr. Scott McLeod, who worked with Karl Fisch to create the Did You Know - Shift Happens videos, has posted a very thoughtful discussion of the importance of teaching thinking skills in this era of high-stakes testing.  It is an excellent read.

Scott Mcleod Prepares For Jobs That Don't Exist

Dangerously Irrelevant

Here's another great post from Dr. Scott McLeod, who worked with Karl Fisch to create the Did You Know - Shift Happens videos. In this post, he discusses the need to move away from grading and points, and the teacher-centered classroom.  These two areas, he suggests, are the first step towards helping kids understand and develop solutions to problems that do not yet exist.  Another excellent read.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Free Images from ImageBase

ImageBaseImageBase is a collections of photographic-quality images available free to the public.  While the website states that users can access and distribute these images as if they were "public domain," it is still a good idea (and good Internet-iquette) to cite the provider of the images, David Niblack

Thanks to Free Technology for Teachers  and Larry Ferlazzo for the link!  Larry Ferlazzo also refers to an excellent post about teaching students to use and cite images appropriately, by Sue Waters of EduBlogs.  (Thanks for providing this blog, Sue!)

Role Model Activity for SMART Board

Role Models

  Here's a fun activitiy from Teachers Love SMART Boards that could be used in a variety of different ways to stimulate student interest, but be advised: It's a math trick (shhh... don't tell!)

Role Model Activity from Teachers Love SMART Boards

The activitiy guides students through a series of brief and fairly simple mathematical procedures that supposedly predicts their ideal role model.  However, no matter how they complete their calculations (assuming no errors, of course), the answer is always nine.  So, the teacher edits the list of possible role models to include herself/himself at position number nine, and the fun is sure to follow.  Of course, you could use the student's parents, the principal who provided you with the SMART Board, the Tech Dept. staffer who saved your electronic bacon last week, etc. - the choice is yours!

Which Founder Are You?



The National Constitution Center has created a 12-question personality quiz based on current knowledge of the Founding Fathers, at a site called Which Founder Are You?  Take the quiz and see which of the writers of the Constitution you are most like.  This might be an interesting way to generate interest in early American history or Civics/Government.  Appropriate for all ages.  Thanks to Free Technology for Teachers for the link!

Student Mindset List - Class of 2014

Mindset List

Each year, faculty members from Beloit (WI) College compile a list of characteristics of their entering class of Freshmen This list outlines some revealing, humorous, and sometimes disturbing trends among Freshmen, and helps their faculty understand just “where they’re coming from.” While this is aimed at college-aged kids (born in 1992 – last year’s high school seniors), high school faculty might also find some of the items both humorous and telling of the kids they work with daily.

Some examples from the list of 75 trends/characteristics:

  • Few in the class know how to write in cursive

  • Russians and Americans have always been living together in space

  • …they have never seen a carousel of Kodachrome slides

  • Al Gore has always been animated

 Read the Class of 2014 Mindset List here.

Watch the authors discuss the Mindset List here.

  • If you need the Microsoft Silverlight plug-in to watch the video, it is available here

Space Science Resources


 Here's a great post from Free Technology for Teachers on "8 Good Resources for Space Science Lessons."  Resources include:

The only link I might add is the the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum.  The sites above, though, are much easier to navigate & use.
Keep your head in the clouds!

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"New" IAR Replaces PARCC in IL

Image from After several years and no small amount of controversy, PARCC in Illinois is being replaced by the IAR: The Illi...

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