Category Archives: Language Arts

Talking Tom and Ben News for iPad

You are probably familiar with the “Talking” apps.  There are a variety that are available for free, and work on iPhone, iTouch, and iPad.  This particular one is only compatible with the iPad at the moment, and is free (though there is an offer for an in-app purchase).  My Multimedia club students had fun playing around with the app to deliver some Thanksgiving Jokes on our school news, which is a video broadcast.  They recorded the jokes, then sent them to the computer, where, once the MOV file was converted to WMV (with a little help from Zamzar), we were able to add music and subtitles.  If you are not crazy about all of those complicated steps, don’t worry.  You can just record and e-mail it.  We have not had a chance to use one of the coolest features of this app, which allows you to insert a video from your iPad on which Tom and Ben can comment.  This offers a lot of learning opportunities in which students can explain some of their own homemade videos.  (Example:  Imagine, “This just in – Allison figured out how to solve 13 times 14!”)

Here is a sample of our jokes from our video club:

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Storybird

As a teacher, do you ever have a moment when no one needs your help, and you are standing in the middle of your classroom wondering what you should be doing?  In my twenty years of teaching, I think that’s happened twice:  when I was student teaching and had no idea what I was supposed to be doing anyway, and today.  I showed my students Storybird, which allows you to choose sets of art to illustrate a story that you write.  I meant for it to be a station on some computers in my classroom, but the students who started at that station didn’t want to leave.  So, I started pulling out laptops until everyone was working on their own stories.  For over an hour, there was silence in my room, and every child was engaged in creating his or her own story.  We had been studying Figurative Language, and the assignment was to create a story with a winter theme that used at least 4 different types of figurative language.

After lunch, I thought the students might be weary of sitting in front of computer screens.  I began saying, “Okay, you have a choice.  You can either continue working on your Storybirds or – ” I didn’t even get to finish.  They unanimously agreed that they wanted to continue.

Storybird is free.  Register as a teacher, and you can add a class of students easily.  The students do not need e-mail addresses to register or log in.  You can view their work at any time, and they can also view the work of other students in the class by clicking on a tab at the top.  They can comment, as can the teacher.  It’s online, and easy to share, so they can show friends and family.  The teacher can post specific assignments or the students can just create.  Collaboration on stories is possible, and reading the stories of others is inspiring.  The art work is charming and lovely.

Here is a sample from one of my 4th graders: (I apologize if some of the words are cut off – WordPress does not “play well” with embed codes!)
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60 Graphic Organizers

This is a great resource for differentiating.  Many teachers use graphic organizers, but there are a few here that I’ve never seen – such as the jigsaw puzzle.  Changing things up always grabs the students’ attention.  To apply this to different abilities in your classroom you could try the following levels, in order from least ability to greatest ability:

  • organizer that is pre-filled
  • organizer that is attached to a worksheet with the different words or phrases for the students to cut out and apply
  • blank organizer with no word bank
  • select your own organizer and fill out

I have tried the last one in my classroom, and the students love being given the option to choose.  It is interesting to see how they can apply the same information in several different types of diagrams.

Six-Word Memoirs

A couple of years ago, a fellow Gifted and Talented teacher, Michelle A., introduced me to these brief biographies by showing me the book Not Quite What I Was Planning.  I was immediately intrigued, and went out to buy my own copy.  There is something deeply moving about the power of six words to tell an entire life story, and I looked for ways to incorporate it into my classroom.  Apparently, Michelle and I weren’t the only ones who saw the potential of this writing technique.  It has taken classrooms by storm.  On this site, a teacher explains how she used the idea with her second graders, and gives instructions for the classroom activities. (Be sure to click on “Expand to Read More”.)  And at Smith Mag, there are lots of examples and ideas – even 6-word questions.  And Daniel Pink has a variation on this idea, as well, with “What’s Your Sentence?”.   I would not recommend that you set younger students loose on any of these resources, as there are some mature topics discussed, but you can gather plenty of appropriate ideas to jumpstart their creativity.

Make Beliefs Comix

Apparently, I really like this site.  I keep coming across it in my Bookmarks and Favorites on several different computers, as well as my online bookmarking site.  One reason I like this site is because my students like it.  They enjoy the different comic templates and the choices of characters and scenes.  Another reason that this site is appealing is because it offers alternatives for those who may not have access to many computers.  If you don’t want to have your students create the comics online, there are many printables offered by the site, which could also be used for planning out the cartoons.  In addition, there are Teacher Resources (I like that the page is titled “How to Play) with 20 suggestions for using comics in the classroom, and there is a link to Writer Prompts.

The Learning Network – NY Times

According to its website, “The Learning Network provides teaching and learning materials and ideas based on New York Times content.”  Although the site is designed for students who are 13 or over, I have found many lessons that can be adapted to my elementary level Gifted and Talented students.  The site includes lesson plans with links to related stories in the New York Times, as well as news quizzes and crossword puzzles.  I find the “Student Opinion” section to be a treasure chest of engaging questions that can help students connect themselves to the real world.  The “Poetry Pairings” section is also intriguing.  The site is a great resource for teachers, and gives teenagers a voice and a place to see how the news relates to them

Mensa for Kids

This site offers resources for teachers and parents, as well as games, activities, and contests for kids who like challenges.  I like the “Living Poetically” challenge, as well as the “Excellence in Reading Award”.  In the games section, there is a neat “Family Crossword” that is updated twice a week.  It includes clues for kids and for adults, so families can participate together.  The “Word Roundup” is a fun way to learn new trivia and vocabulary, and there are several math games as well.  According to Mensa’s website, Mensa for Kids just won the 2011 APEX Grand Award in the category of Electronic & Video Publications (Nonprofit/Small Office subcategory). With its treasure trove of lesson plans and entertaining activities, I can certainly see why!