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

Image from

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

Image from

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.

Read the latest post!

"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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