Category Archives: Teaching Tools

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.

Triptico

Triptico is one of the most user-friendly teacher tools I’ve come across in a long time.  Designed by a teacher named David Riley to use with interactive whiteboards, this is free software that you download to your computer. Don’t despair if you don’t have an IWB, however.  If you can project your computer to a screen in the classroom, the activities (over 20, and the teacher plans to add more) can still be utilized.  Included in the package are random name generators, timers, text and photo spinners, word magnets with graphic organizers, and several games.  One intriguing game is “What’s in the Box?”, and eerily reminds me of the game show “Deal or No Deal”.  The interface is very simple, and the download takes less than a minute. I guarantee you will capture your students’attention – or your money back!

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

Weird, or Just Different

This short (less than 3 minutes) TED talk by Derek Sivers would make a nice follow-up to any discussions you may have had recently with your students about Steve Jobs and the Apple “Think Different” campaign.  It reminds us to think globally and to try to look at things from other perspectives.  Before showing the video, it might be nice to ask your students if they had ever witnessed something they thought was “weird”.  After the video, you could revisit the pre-discussion, and see if the students can think of reasonable explanations for those “weird” sights or behaviors.  Alternatively, have them develop a list of their own behaviors that others might perceive as “weird”.

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!

Kids’ Science Challenge

Free Technology 4 Teachers recently had post about this great website from the National Science Foundation.  Be sure to check out Richard Byrne’s description of the site.  And, when you visit the site, don’t miss the neat brainstorming tool and the information for parents and teachers.