NewsELA

newselaNewsELA is AWESOME!!!  This is a Non-Fiction Literacy and Current Event website for your students.  One of the best features on here is the ability to change the student lexile reading level.  That feature alone can help you differentiate and level the articles for all your students of various levels.  The second feature that is how it relates to the new Common Core State Standards (CCSS), and the Anchor Standards for English Language Arts – PLUS some articles have a quiz that is rigorous.  Also,the quizzes occasionally have questions where the students have to use text evidence and click the paragraph or sentence the answer is located.

Did I mention that this is FREE?  Yes, it’s all free and all you have to do is register and give your students the class signup code, then they sign up themselves.  Another thing is that it works on tablets, PCs, or other handheld devices.

Teachers can assign articles for students to read and take their quizzes on.  It keeps all the data in your “Binder” and show what standards the students are doing well or struggling.  My students really like the articles because they are highly interesting, current topics/events.  They are separated into these topic areas: War & Peace, Science, Law, Money, Kids, and Health.

I have really liked having classroom discussions on certain articles and having them write some opinion/argumentative writing.  They share and provide evidence from the article or their personal knowledge to support their argument, which is very powerful and fits right in with the CCSS.

Sign up and get your students reading some great non-fictional articles to peek their interest in current events happening around the globe.

A Few Websites to Checkout!

Here are a few great sites that I haven’t mentioned on my blog, but they are great resources for all teachers and people in education.

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The Teaching Channel is a great tool for videos that show teachers doing lessons.  The lessons are extremely helpful seeing them in real life classrooms, not just hearsay.  I personally love the Common Core lessons and new ideas to engage my students in meaningful, rigorous lessons/activities.  Plus, when you sign-up for updates, you’ll get a email with new videos that relate to you!

edudemic_weblogoEdudemic is another great site that includes many articles and updated daily with articles that show how to add more technology into your 21st Century classroom.  Get lost with this treasure trove of great resources.

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Teachers Pay Teachers has been around for a while now, but I never really looked into it.  This website is pretty AMAZING… I find so many resources created by teachers, and there are many FREE things on here that you can use right away.  There are many great things to buy on here, and you won’t have to re-create the wheel.  Have fun getting lost in resources on here…

Do you have any other sites you visit often?  Leave a comment to share yours!

When Did “Fail” Become a Four-Letter Word?

This is my opinion and a little stray from my normal technology blogs!  You may disagree, but I think most teachers will agree!  I wish more parents of students would read this and think about it!  Here we go…

I think most of my teacher friends and parents out there have seen our education system change a bunch since we were a student in the classroom.  We didn’t have all this technology at our figure tips and the world wasn’t so ever-changing or fast!

When I ask my students to “try” something new, they say “But, I have never done this before!  What if I get it wrong?” or they are “Scared” to even try it because they may fail or do it wrong.  This is what our education system has created lately – a student who must have multiple choices (A, B, C, or D)!  If an open-ended question or scenario is given with little details, they are stumped or tell themselves “This is too hard!”  Many won’t even try – unless they are bribed or rewarded with something.  Whatever happened to getting the right answer(s) or working hard or learning from your failures?  We have really thwarted creativity and critical thinking skills…and we wonder why our country is falling behind other countries in the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) areas.  In my opinion, this is one of the main reasons why other cultures and countries have passed us by.

Also, I feel that some students learn at an early age that “Failing” is bad.  I am not really talking about their report card, but more about learning from your failures.  We need to change this is our classrooms and teach our students or children that:

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Failing is the First Attempt In Learning! 

I try to tell my students about Thomas Edison – the inventor of the light bulb.  I ask them what he did and a few students say he was an inventor of the light bulb, and I ask them if he got it right the first time?  The majority of my students know he didn’t, and then I ask how many times he did his experiment (great Scientific Method introduction)?  I will get the answers 10, 100, 500, etc.  Do you know the answer?

He failed about 111,000+ times before he got it right!!!  How many of us would keep trying like that and learn the power of perseverance?  I know I wouldn’t have went that far, but I know that I can use the power of technology, experts, friends, etc. to help me learn anything.  We need to teach our students and kids how to fail and steer them in the right direction – knowing how and where to find the answer is the key!  I think that was my “real life” lesson I took from college, along with starting something and finishing it.

I really hope parents and teachers let their kids know that we learn from our failures.  We can’t tell our kids, “No that’s wrong!” or “Let me do that for you.”  If we continue enabling them, they will never be able to think for themselves and expect to have everything laid out for them – life isn’t always an A, B, C, or D test, sometimes “Life Happens” and we need to adapt and learn on our own.

Let me step of my soapbox…

I have wanted to type this for a while, but I just hadn’t felt the need to until my wife showed me the image above about what “Fail” really means!  Thanks wife!

Gamestar Mechanic

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Gamestar Mechanic is simply a site for students to play, design, and share games.

This site is mainly geared toward 4th – 9th grade, but can be used for younger and older students!  You can register and start your students playing and designing their own games for FREE – or upgrade for $2 a student to full version.  My plan is to use this as an after school club or activity.  I registered and signed up tonight – Then, I started playing the games and was hooked!

The concept of this site is pretty simple – students will learn how to design and create video games.  Designing games builds:

  • Systems Thinking,
  • 21st Century Skills,
  • Creative Problem Solving,
  • Art and Aesthetics,
  • Writing and Storytelling,
  • and creates a motivation for STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) learning.

This is from the “Getting Started with Gamestar Mechanic” PDF –

What Skills are Learned in Gamestar Mechanic?

Systems-Thinking: Students design and analyze dynamic systems, a characteristic activity in both the media and in science today.

Interdisciplinary Thinking: Students solve problems that require them to seek out and synthesize knowledge from different domains.They become intelligent and resourceful as they learn how to find and use information in meaningful ways.

User-Centered Design: Students act as socio-technical engineers, thinking about how people interact with systems and how systems shape both competitive and collaborative social interaction.-

Specialist Language: Students learn to use complex technical linguistic and symbolic elements from a variety of domains, at a variety of different levels, for a variety of different purposes.

Meta-Level Reflection: Students learn to explicate and defend their ideas, describe issues and interactions at a meta-level, create and test hypotheses, and reflect on the impact of their solutions on others.

Check out this very cool and fun way to have students learn the basics of video game design and computer programming – I mean what student doesn’t like or play video games?

K12 Reader

K12 Reader

K12 – Reader

Reading Instruction Resources for Teachers and Parents

This isn’t really a web tool, but more of a FREE resource for English – Language Arts supplementals.  We can never have enough materials to use for homework, classwork, independent practice, tutoring, enrichment, etc.

This site is divided into a few sections:

  • Reading Instruction
  • Spelling
  • Sight Words
  • Grammar
  • Phonics
  • Reading Comprehension
  • Teaching Tools
  • Writing Prompts
  • Themed Worksheets
  • Graphic Helpers
  • Games and Activities
  • Book Lists

I am so happy to have stumbled onto this page last week.  Enjoy this new resource and let me know what you think of it!  Feel free to share this with your friends and parents.

Kerpoof

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This week’s educational web tool is Kerpoof – http://www.kerpoof.com/

Kerpoof Studio is owned and run by The Walt Disney Company.  It has many great features and aspects that are for Pre-K – 12 students and classrooms.  This site has some really fun activities:

  • Make Animated Movies
  • Make Artwork
  • Make Printed Cards
  • Tell a Story
  • Make a Drawing
  • Spelling Games
  • Plus much more…

Another area that is truly beneficial for educators is their resource page – Kerpoof Teacher Resources.  It has lesson plans and ideas to implement this valuable web tool in your classroom.  Once you have signed up for your FREE account, you will then be able to add student accounts.  Then, your students can create and save their work in a sort of digital portfolio.  Once they have their accounts, they can also collaborate with other students in their class or across the globe.  They can give feedback and get feedback on their digital creations.  With CCSS (Common Core State Standards) coming, this web tool could become an essential part of those standards.

Get your class started on here and watch the students get excited to create digital stories and movies.  Have them re-tell a book or story you just read or have them design and develop a how-to video on a math concept.  The possibilities are endless!

 

California Missions Project

CA_MissionsThis week I want to share something slightly different.  Across California 4th graders are working on their California Missions Project.  If you lived here in California, you probably remember doing them as a child.  Since I have been teaching 4th grade the past 7 years, I have always made it a point to give my students different options when doing their project.  By that I mean I have given my students choices – making a models, posters, dioramas, picture collages, etc.  But, this year I have decided to have my students really take it up a notch.  They will be completing two portions – one arts & crafts activity and one technology activity.  Here is the link to my Activity Sheets (English – Spanish).  The technology activities include a few web tools that you should look into incorporating in your class and have your students play and have fun with them.  I have added Prezi (www.prezi.com), which is a FREE online presentation software, think of it as PowerPoint on steroids!  Two new activities I have added this year are Minecraft (www.minecraft.net)  and Sketch-Up (http://www.sketchup.com/intl/en/) to create virtual models of their mission.  Also, I have added Microsoft Photo Story (http://www.microsoft.com/en-us/download/details.aspx?id=11132) to make a digital story.  I can’t wait to see how my class does with this project and the new technology requirements.  Feel free to customize the project for yourself and let me know how your projects turn out!