Thursday, March 27, 2008

Taylor's Birthday

Today is our first son's birthday. I found this 'old newspaper' generator and threw together a fictitious news article announcing Taylor's birth in 1989. Students can write a short news article on an old topic and paste it in this generator. Printing it out on parchment paper would add an older look. Go to to access this generator.
There are lots more generators at this Generator Blog website but be careful they are addicting!

Citations Made Easy!

Want a tool for students to use to cite their sources? Bibme is a small database which simply requires the students to type (or copy/paste) the URL of the web resource they are citing. Bibme pulls in information from the website and then creates the citation. This tool can also be used for citing books, magazines, and more.
Enter the name of a book into the search field. Bibme searches the Internet for the necessary information to cite the book and then creates the citation.
If the student creates their own login at this site, they can actually make their entire bibliography then download it from bibme.
This tool is amazingly easy for students to use!

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Great Geography Ideas!!!

Gail Hennessey has been teaching 6th grade Social Studies for years and is published in many children's magazines. Gail's site has many fabulous ideas for teaching geography.
Most of you are probably too young to remember the game show, "To Tell the Truth." Gail has written several plays on historical characters. She is offering them ALL for free. Download one and see what you think. My students loved these!
"Where in Europe is My Teacher?" is one of my favorite activities. I created a little book with her descriptions and added pictures of the places. I personalized the last page of the book to be in a place I would have liked to visit - Brussels, the home of our former foreign exchange student. I have a copy of the book I created if you'd like to see it.
Geographic Alphabet Safari is another favorite activity. I also made this into a book for my students. Each week they completed a page. We used Google Earth to pinpoint the places on the map. Students were given extra credit if they found some fascinating information about that place. They couldn't share just simple facts like the capital city is . . . , or the President is . . . Facts more like "it is home to the world's deepest lake" or "this is the place of Julius Caesar's birth" are considered fascinating.
Use some of her ideas to create some of your own cyberhunts that match your curriculum. I've started one called, "Kansas GeoSafari?" If anyone is interested I'd be happy to share with you what I have.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Digital Kits

Digital Kits make creating multimedia projects much easier. Kits are made up of digital photos, videos, and sound effects or sound files. These kits can be used by the teacher to quickly and easily make a Keynote presentation to introduce a topic. The kits can be burned to CD's for students to use to make a digital story in Keynote or iMovie. Kits are great especially for primary students because of all the time saved in searching for all these resources. has many digital kits already created. Choose the grade level and the subject area. Click on 'View Kit' to see what is in the kit, then download it. These kits all vary. Some have photos and short video clips, others have audio files included. Kitzu is a great place to download digital kits that have already been created by someone else.
To make your own digital kit, start by creating a folder on your computer and call it the name of your topic (volcanoes, polar animals, water cycle, constitution, telling time, etc.). Next it is time to start searching for photos, videos, and/or sound files. Start at Discovery Education Streaming (formerly United Streaming). Download segments rather than entire videos. Search also for sounds and photos at DE Streaming. Save these into your folder.
If you need to find more resources than what is available at DE Streaming, visit my portal for sites under Multimedia Resources. Flickr, Picasa, Pics4Learning are all great sites for photos. If your collaborative team would like to get together this summer to create digital kits for your classrooms let me know!

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

iPhoto Workshop

Today we had a great iPhoto session at Dillon Nature Center. Kelly N. shared tips for taking outstanding photos before we all went outside on a photo shoot. When teachers returned they edited their photos and turned their album into a slideshow for a gallery walk. The teachers took amazing pictures! Rosemary talked to them about writing haiku and adding that to their pictures. Our tech cadre wiki is a growing document with several tutorials and classroom connections for many of our Mac applications.
This photo, taken by Lona, is one of my favorites of the day!

Professor Garfield in the Reading Ring

Sequencing is one of the text structures that our students learn in their early years of elementary school. Professor Garfield has a fun way for students to practice sequencing. Students will be given three panels of a comic to put in order. Students can click on Read This Panel to have it read aloud to them. After students successfully arrange the comic they are given three questions to answer over the comic.
G*Cubed, which is also at the Professor Garfield site, is a multiplayer trivia game over several subjects. Students will enjoy playing this with a partner and it will provide a review for them.

Random Name Picker

At there are several online flash games for educators. In the Random Name Picker the teacher can enter students' names then click the Fruit Machine to spin the wheel. Students' names will be chosen randomly. It is also suggested at this site that teachers enter vocabulary words then have a student come to the front of the room with their back to the screen. Students must give the chosen student hints to help him/her identify the vocabulary word.

Click here for full screen version

Monday, March 17, 2008

Porta Potties

Ha! That's what everyone calls them. What I really want to talk about are portaportals. The portaportals are a type of social bookmarking. That means that your Internet bookmarks are available to others and can be accessed on any computer. is a wonderful tool for social bookmarking. I think it is great for teachers but I like the look of the portals for students. happens to be blocked in our district.
I use the portal over other social bookmarking sites because of its organizational structure. Teachers set up categories according to the topics they are studying. Students can easily find the web resources . No more having to type in long web addresses. I've also found that students are more motivated to practice interactive educational games when the teacher has them readily available on their portal.
I add resources to my portal for teachers. You are encouraged to copy these and add them to your portal for your students. Like anything else you create for the web, plan out your portal before you start creating it. The planning will save you time! What categories do you want to set up? Do you want to create a general category such as math, then create subcategories within math, such as fractions, geometry, etc. ? You want this to be easy for students to maneuver.
Here's a tutorial on portaportals that I created using Voice Thread for third grade teachers. Maybe it will help you as you create a portaportal for your students. Let me know if you need help! That's what I'm here for.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Pretty Darn Funny!

Ok, what is a PDF? No, it doesn't really stand for pretty darn funny. That was just to get your attention!
PDF stands for portable document format. So think that through. Portable - easy to carry or transport. Document - something created in word processing or spreadsheet or other software. Format - the way it is created. So a pdf is a file that can be moved from one computer to any other computer without having software compatibility issues. Word documents, Comic Life documents, AppleWorks documents can all be saved as PDF's so they can easily be transferred to other computers via email, ichat, flash drives, CD's, etc. These documents can be created on a Mac and still be opened on a PC, and vice versa.
Simply (yes, I really mean simply!) create the document in whatever software you want. Save the document but don't close it. Now pretend you are going to print the document - File/Print.
See the button that says PDF? Hold that down and choose 'save as pdf.' That's it! Now you can send the pdf file via email and the recipient will be able to read it. You need to know that a pdf is read only. The recipient will not be able to edit the document, only read it. This is very handy to know if you want to send out a newsletter to the parents of your students. You can create an awesome looking newsletter in Pages, then save it as a PDF, and send it to them through email. Most of them may not have Pages, but that doesn't matter anymore if you save it as a pdf.

Literature CyberGuides

Need some quick ideas for a literature book? California teachers have created these cyberguides for several literature books for grades K-12 including a few books written in Spanish. The cyberguides include essential questions, student activities that are standards based, and rubrics for assessment. The template for creating these guides (inspired by Bernie Dodge's webquests) is available at this site for teachers to use in creating their own cyberguides.

Friday, March 14, 2008

All About Animals

Everyone loves animals! Students love to bring their pets to school for Show & Tell. Adults are proud to show off their pets. Students and teachers alike enjoy learning together about animals. Some of the most popular books checked out of school libraries are about animals.
A site from the United Kingdom, All About Animals, is a site for elementary students. Students can submit original poetry about animals and photos too.
This site is full of interesting facts about animals plus much more. The older students can take a look at 'The Issues' which might stir up some good debates in the classroom. Should birds be kept in cages? Should deer be killed by hunters? Should rats be used for testing? These issues will help students think beyond just basic facts about animals.

How Do You Write a Thesis Statement?

For a sixth grader, writing a thesis statement for a persuasive essay can be a difficult task. Thesis Builder and Online Outliner is a great tool where students can enter their topic, their opinions about the topic, their arguments that support the topic, and an argument against the topic. The thesis builder takes what the student enters and turns it into a thesis statement. The Online Outliner then takes the entered information and plugs it into an outline and instructs the students on what they need to add to complete the outline.
I see these tools as a great help for students who have not yet had much experience with thesis statements and outlining or for students who need extra assistance. It's also another tool that the teacher might use to help teach these skills.

Where Did That Come From?

How do you keep track of all the resources you download from the web? The videos, the photos, the clip art, pdfs, etc. Maybe you start a word processing document and put the citation there. But that really takes time and can easily get separated from the resource. Here's a very simple way.
Let's use a Discovery Streaming video as an example. A nice feature in Discovery Streaming is that the citations are created for you. Just choose the format (MLA, APA, Chicago) that you want and copy it. Now click one time on the name of the downloaded video so that it is highlighted. Go to File/Get Info. This opens a window with a section called Spotlight Comments. Paste the citation right there! So simple. Now the citation stays with the video.
This works on all other documents also. But most sites do not create the citation for you. Either go to Citation Machine or Bib Me! to create your citation and paste it in or just copy the URL of the site from which you took the resource.