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!
Lemelson Center’s Invention at Play is a website that encourages creative thinking. The philosophy is that, by playing, we become more inventive. Cloud Dreamer allows the students to use their imaginations to create their own visions in the clouds. Puzzle Blocks emphasizes problem-solving with tangram pieces. In Word Play the students create stories. By far, one of the favorite playgrounds among my students is Tinker Ball. This is basically a web version of the Bubble Ball app I posted about not too long ago. The students have to use various pieces in combination to get a ball into a cup. It’s fun to challenge them to find out who can do it successfully with the least pieces or the most. I love that they are problem-solving, but that there endless solutions to the problem. You could have them write a “How To” paper giving instructions, or get them to think about their own thinking and describe the process they followed to reach their final solution.
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!
This idea is one of several provided in an article on Scholastic.com entitled Making Connections/Self-Monitoring: A Differentiated Learning Centers Unit Plan. You may want to check out the entire unit. Or, if you have less time, be sure to visit this section, which gives you suggestions for using the above reproducible to encourage your students to make connections to the text they are reading. The students could use this independently or in a game format in pairs. This lesson is excerpted from Differentiated Literacy Centers by Margo Southall.
UPDATE 9/23/12: Class Dojo now has an app that allows you to easily access your classes to add and subtract points from your iOS mobile device. Click here for more info!
Class Dojo is a website that also has a mobile platform, meaning that you can access it from a classroom computer, laptop, smartphone, or any other device with Internet access. The purpose of this site is behavior management, and there are several features that would make this a great teacher tool. Once you receive the link (you need to enter your email in order to obtain a free account), you can then enter the names of your students. If you have multiple classes, you can enter each one separately. To increase the appeal to the students, you can even choose an avatar for each individual name. Then, you can type in the names of the targeted behaviors you would like to reward. There is also a column for negative behaviors.
Once you have everything set up, it is a simple matter to click the mouse or tap a screen every time a behavior is observed. The site keeps track of each student’s tally, and you can even print out a report of the class behavior or each student’s performance.
This is a great site for classroom management, making it easy to differentiate and to motivate a variety of students.
I am not a huge fan of spelling tests, particularly when everyone in the class is responsible for the same words. However, this site has some amazing tools that will allow you to customize lists for your students. There are also fun games that they can play to practice those specialized lists. The site is free, although you need to register. There are some perks for purchasing a premium membership, but it can still be a valuable tool without all of the bells and whistles.