Tag Archives: language arts

Novel Engineering

As many schools begin to realize the need to integrate more STEM/STEAM into the curriculum, those of us in elementary education who may feel a bit inadequate when it comes to lofty fields like engineering sometimes have a hard time incorporating it into our lessons.  Novel Engineering is a project that aims to show how engineering and language arts don’t have to be in separate time slots on your daily schedule.

From what I can tell the Novel Engineering project is open only to a few schools at the moment.  However, you can see what it’s all about in the video synapsis on the home page.  Basically, certain books seem to pose engineering challenges which are just waiting for a skilled design thinker to solve.  You can see several examples of novels that could be used here.  For example, Tuck Everlasting offers two potential engineering problems – how to hide the water that gives eternal life, and how to help Mae Tuck escape jail before the town discovers that she is immortal.

Even though it would be nice to have access to additional program materials and examples, I think that teachers can certainly get many ideas from the novels and their corresponding engineering challenges that are shared on the site.

image from armymaterielcommand on flickr.com
image from armymaterielcommand on flickr.com

Customized Padlet Backgrounds

@LearnMooreStuff and I had a history-textbook-worthy Twitter battle yesterday over who would blog first about this amazing resource from @TechChef4U.  Laura Moore graciously conceded (although I think she is secretly afraid that my light saber is more powerful than hers).

I love to use Padlet (formerly known as Wallwisher), and I’ve recently started to make my own backgrounds to organize the notes added to the board.  Yesterday, Lisa Johnson (@TechChef4U) tweeted out an awesome resource that she is offering for free – 13 Graphic Organizer backgrounds to add as your Padlet wallpaper.  That is truly an awesome deal!  She even gives instructions on how to insert them.

Padlet Graphic Organizer Background from @TechChef4U
Padlet Graphic Organizer Background from @TechChef4U

 

If you want to make your own Padlet backgrounds, one easy way is to make one in Powerpoint or Keynote and save the slide as a .jpg file.  If you check out this post from Cari Young, there is a video from The Organized Classroom that gives a tutorial for using slides to make desktop backgrounds – which could easily apply to making Padlet backgrounds as well.

Recently, I’ve used backgrounds in Padlet for mini-EdCamp type PD. Teachers add notes about what they would like to learn about, and then the notes can be sorted into sessions.

Padlet is such a versatile tool – device neutral and user-friendly.  And, there have been two recent upgrades – an option to have a grid layout, as well as a Chrome extension.  Now, thanks to Lisa Johnson, it has even more potential!

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!)
Vodpod videos no longer available.

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!

Tic-Tac-Connect

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.

The Amazing Word Tamer

This is an awesome site brought to you by author Judy Waite.  It is designed to immerse students in the writing experience through interactive experiences that introduce them to:  plot, genre, character, and settings.  In her own words, “I wanted to utilise all the benefits that image, sound and animation can bring, connect this with creative exercises that have been proven to enhance children’s creative writing skills, and package it with a work of fiction that would support all these aspects.” I guarantee it will appeal to your students’ imaginations and enhance their writing.