Tuesday, June 26, 2012

K-W-L Charts Made Easy

KWL Charts are nothing new. In fact, many educators use them on a regular basis because they are excellent tools to recruit student interest and help students take responsibility in their learning. Like any classroom tool, the more "on the ball" the teacher is when monitoring its use, the more successful the learning outcome will be.

Engaging students in our classrooms is critical to their success. Sure, we can't make everything a "dog and pony show" or do a song and dance, but we can teach them how to develop as a learner. A KWL chart is a great way to help students organize their thoughts and summarize information.

If you are not familiar with what KWL means:

  • K - What I already Know (about the topic)
  • W - What I Want to Know/Learn (great questions to ask before learning / reading about the topic)
  • L - What I Learned (a great post-assessment question to be completed after learning has taken place)
The low-tech way of creating a KWL chart is by using paper and folding it into a tri-fold, with each column representing each letter of the KWL chart. One of my favorite sites called Read Write Think, has a tool that teachers can use to create an electronic version of a KWL chart. Students can create a personalized KWL chart, save it, and come back to it at a later time! The application runs off of flash and is very easy to use! All you need is an Internet connection and no downloads are necessary! 

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Power Paragraph Organizer

You either like it or you don't. What am I talking about? I am talking about writing. Many of our students struggle with writing prompts and writing assignments, due to the nature that they do not like or understand how to write a paragraph. I was listening to a Wall Street Journal podcast the other day and they had mentioned that many employers are concerned about the deterioration of writing in the workplace.

We live in the era of texting, emails, and tweeting. How in the world do we get our students to write a simple paragraph? Here is a modification that you could make for ALL students in your classroom. I have modified the original document to better fit students within my classroom. I call it the Power Paragraph Organizer. It is a color coded sheet of paper that ALL students could use, not just our learning support students. It is divided into 3 different sections:

  • Red = where students write the main idea
  • Green = where students write the details of the paragraph 
  • Blue = where students write the conclusion 
I am planning on using it for writing prompts this fall, so that my students have flexible options on how they write a paragraph. They still have to respond to a writing prompt, but they have a choice on how to do it. 

For example, I may ask students to write 5 - 7 sentences on a particular topic. They may use a piece of regular notebook paper or the Power Paragraph Organizer. This is what UDL is all about, providing the supports necessary for ALL students to access the curriculum. 

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Online Crossword Puzzles

Crossword puzzles are a great way to have our students interact with content in different ways. Not only does it provide another way of representing materials, it also provides another means of engaging students with content.

A really great online crossword puzzle maker that I found is Armored Penguin's Crossword Puzzle generator. Not only does it give teachers a chance to make an online version of a crossword puzzle, but there are literally hundreds of other crossword puzzles to choose from.

Depending on your computer lab situation, students can solve online or your can create a PDF or HTML text copy of the puzzle. This may be a great tool to use over the summer, when you are preparing those lesson plans for the fall!

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Safe Ways of Sharing YouTube Videos

Are you looking for a way to show YouTube clips without all of the suggestive video suggestions, comments, or advertisements? Here are some good tools that you may want to consider using to block out these inappropriate suggestions:

  • Safe Share TV provides you with a unique link that you can watch you video from. It's very simple to use. All you need to do is provide the YouTube link and it will generate a unique URL for your video.
  • YouTube XL is a way for you to watch the big screen version of your YouTube clip from YouTube. There is no clutter from comments, advertisements, etc. 
  • Clean Video Search is powered by YouTube and allows you to search YouTube without advertisements, comments, and inappropriate video suggestions. 

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Supporting Students with a Readability Search Engine

Part of creating expert learners involves providing supports that help students learn material. With the proper supports in place, students can better understand material and comprehend its meaning. Just this morning, I was reading something about the importance of vocabulary and how it unlocks learning. Without a proper understanding of vocabulary, our students can be lost!

Readability is an important piece of understanding vocabulary, content, and material. In the past, I have told you about the Google Advanced Search feature, which allows you to search according to readability level. Here is another resource for you called Twurdy, which is short for "Too Wurdy (or wordy)."

I was introduced to this search engine this morning and really enjoy its features. Simply type in a term and it will generate a list of different options for you. The list is color coded according to its readability level (easy to hard). Each item has a number that is generated to show its readability level. There is also a feature that allows you to show approximate ages that the articles are intended for.

I really like this search engine because it is simple to use and the color-coding allows students to understand which material is the most appropriate for their reading level. Give Twurdy a try today!

Monday, June 11, 2012

Take a Math Jog this Summer

On my way to work this morning, I encountered about a dozen people going for a morning jog. What a great morning to do so! 

Our students need to workout over the summer too. Way too often they are sitting in front of a TV playing video games or staring at their cell phone texting for hours on end. How do we keep their brains in shape? Maybe their brains need to take a run...Math Run that is.

Math run is a game, where you solve basic mathematics facts by stating whether they are wrong or right. It's quite challenging way of solving math problems. First you have to figure out the answer and then choose whether the given answer is wrong or right.

There is another version out called Math Sprint, which is much more challenging. You have to solve 20 random math facts as fast as you can. The concept is still the same...choose whether the answer is right or wrong; however, you have a variety of math problems to solve. 

What about you? Do you have any other educational games that you would recommend? 

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Are Your Ready for Redz?

I am a very visual learner. In fact, I often wish that search engines were more visual. I have found a few that I like, but none have really stood out. The other day, I was on Twitter and came across a tweet about this site called Redz. I wasn't sure what it was.

When I saw it, it was unbelievable! It was a visual search engine! If you do a quick web search, you will see a thumbnail preview of the website that you may possibly visit. Is it as fast as a Google search? No. However, Redz may be onto something here. This could change the way that we search for information!

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

An Interactive Way of Learning Math Times Tables

In order to make connections with materials, our students often need different ways to express how they learn and understand information. Learn Your Tables International is a very unique site that helps students learn their times tables in an interactive way. Simply choose the language of your choice and begin.

An automated sequence of times tables will appear on your screen. Need to review your 10's, 7's, or 3's? The website will automatically go through different times tables to help you review. It also provides you with an interactive way of learning a single table (10's) or random tables.

There are a couple different modes to quiz your students:

1. Drag Mode - allows you to drag and drop a problem with an answer

2. Answer Mode - gives you a problem and you have to type in your answer into a calculator

3. Quiz Mode - gives you a timed quiz to check your knowledge of math problems

Whether you have a Smartboard or not, this is a great way to have students interact with their multiplication tables!

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Exploratree - Good Brainstorming Tool

Are you looking for a new way for your students to brainstorm information? Exploratree is a free and unique brainstorming resource out of the UK, that allows students the opportunity to access a variety of "thinking guides" or graphic organizers. You do need to create a username and password to save your templates; however, you can also print out graphic organizers without a login or password.

There are different types of "thinking guides" or graphic organizers, which are organized according to purpose:

  • Mapping Ideas
  • Solving Problems
  • Exploring
  • Analyzing
  • Viewing Different Perspectives
This may be a good add to your summer exploration list! What technologies are you planning on exploring this summer? Feel free to comment below or on our Facebook Page! 

Monday, June 4, 2012

Visual Math for Visual Learners

As the end of the school year approaches, I often take the time to speak with my students about their performance in class. It is during this time that I often ask for feedback on what worked and didn't work for them in class. Having these honest conversations with students show that you care, you are committed to improving the education of students in your classroom, and you are a confident teacher. It was during one of these conversations that my student pointed out that he enjoyed one of my classes because it was very visual. However, he didn't enjoy another one of my classes because he was a visual learner in a course that focused on mathematics.

You read in the news about how students in the United States lag behind students in other countries in Math. Is it that our students are not as intelligent as students in other countries? I don't think so. We live in one of the most visual and interactive societies in the world, where information is at our fingertips at all times.  Perhaps many of our visual learners feel lost without visual stimulation through the recognition part of our brain. Brain research has shown us that students need to be stimulated in different ways. Our visual learners may need to see it represented differently in order to understand it. For example, I often use the example of lifting weights and connect it with the Accounting equation. What you do on one side of the bar (or equation), you have to do on the other side of the bar. For example, if you put 25 pounds on one bar to bench press, you need to put 25 pounds on the other side of the bar.

A great site to help our visual learners connect with Mathematical concepts was suggested by one of my graduate students (thanks Joelle!). It is called the National Library of Virtual Manipulatives. Whether you are an elementary teacher who wants your students to understand measurement, a middle school teacher who wants your students to understand basic algebra, or a high school teacher who wants your students to understand geometry, this site is a great tool to connect your visual learners with mathematical concepts. I really enjoyed trying out the Algebra Basic Scales game, where you solve "X" by using a weighing scale. It's a great way for students to learn in a visual way! It is overwhelming to see how many games are available for students to learn!