Thursday, January 29, 2009

Add Interest to Economics and Social Studies

The site of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) doesn't sound very exciting, but within are a few cool finds for teachers - who knew?

A nice middle school resource I like is a game called Where in the World and What in the World is Money? The game includes some basic economic and monetary concepts, as well as incorporating history.

For high school students Monetary Mania is a game in which students can test their knowledge of economic theories.

Beyond these games, teachers will find complete sets of pretty quality lesson plans and other interactives for teaching economics/social studies to middle school and high school students.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Use Cramberry to help your students study the right stuff

Cramberry is a very easy to use online flashcard tool. The really great feature about Cramberry is that after you set up a stack of flash cards, you can share it. That means, you can have your students sign up for Cramberry and share your card stacks with them. They can study them any time. To register - they just want a username, password, and email. Then you're ready. Just start a stack of flash cards. For elementary students who don't have emails, you can just log them in on your teacher password and they can do a little independent studying by themselves.

This is a great tool for when students have to know and remember steps, procedures, main points, facts, or specific vocabulary. When they see a card, they can guess, then check to see if they were right. If they were, they hit "correct". If they weren't, they hit "incorrect". Cramberry keeps track of which ones they are having trouble with and keeps bringing those back.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Science Fun and Learning for K-3

Animal Games has fun games about animals that help children learn animal classification, the difference between herbivores and carnivores, the food chain, endangered animals, producers and consumers, animal diet, and animal characteristics. The games are fun and easy to play and teach some important animal science concepts from our GLE's.

Animal Games is perfect for the kindergarten through third grade classroom. They teach the basics of the food chain, animal kingdom, and animal classification through an interactive game environment.

There are many ways for elementary teachers to work this into your classroom - as a center, on the computer overhead to go through with a whole group with students pointing out answers or giving input and ideas, on a smartboard (if you have one), as a learning activity to be followed up by a project or task that has them apply what they've learned - tons of ways to use it!

The graphics are really nice and colorful but not over the top - very basic - great for the little guys. No sign up or registration - very self explanatory and ready to use. There are a few small ads around the edges, but no biggie.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Analyzing Political Cartoons

Omigosh! When I find something great like this it makes me wish I was teaching social studies right this second! It's No Laughing Matter - Analyzing Political Cartoons is a great learning activity developed by the Library of Congress for teaching current events and the nuances of political satire.

In order to understand political cartoons students need to know the elements that are part of a good political cartoon; symbolism, exaggeration, labeling, analogy, and irony. This fantastic interactive helps you guide your students through these understandings, and then prompts the real questions for analysis:
  • What issue is this political cartoon about?
  • What is the cartoonist’s opinion on this issue?
  • What other opinion can you imagine another person having on this issue?
  • Did you find this cartoon persuasive? Why or why not?
  • What other techniques could the cartoonist have used to make this cartoon more persuasive?
This guide has a real potential to open the door for you to introduce this type of reading and analysis often in your classroom for studying history, current events, and writing styles.

Bubbl - an easy webbing, brainstorming, mind-mapping tool

We used to have to spend a lot of money on software that would do this, but now there are some good free web-based brainstorming/mindmapping tools. happens to be one of the easier ones to use that I have found. It's pretty self explanatory - you get your center bubble, type in your main idea or topic, and then expand side to side (sibling idea), or down (child idea). Once you create your bubbles, they are easy to manipulate and move, and you can even decorate it up and post url links in them. You can keep your bubbl web-based, download it, print it, email it, embed it - whatever you need. Another great thing is, you can share your Bubbl with others for collaboration.

I've had a chance to use Bubbl in my French class this year when we analyze French language articles looking for the main idea. I have two students pair up and create a Bubbl, adding to it as they scan the article together. We don't have time to complete these in class, so the students can set their bubble to "share" and each can work on them at home later still sharing their input.

As much as I like the dedicated fun programs and activities on the web, I really love a good general tool like this that is so versatile! You have to do a quick sign-up for a Bubbl account - pick a username and password - but it's free and worth the extra few seconds it takes to sign up.

I found a video that gives a great 9 minute tutorial on how to use Bubbl (this is how my students and I figured it out!). I tried to upload the video to this post at home and no dice - probably too slow. So I'll try at school and if it works I'll edit this post to include the how-to video, so check back!

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Printable Paper - Not Exciting, Just Really Useful

Printable Paper is one of those oh-so-practical sites that you need to have bookmarked in your toolbar because you'll probably use it as much or more than your word processor. I am looking for this stuff all the time and have ended up spending too much time creating it on my word processor.

The site offers hundreds of paper formats you can download and print for free. They have graph paper, lined paper, financial paper, music paper - literally hundreds of formats. Just click on the main category on the left hand side of the site and it will pop up all of the examples within that category. Click on the one you want and it downloads it immediately.

When you first go on the site a little yellow pop-up window comes up asking you to sign up for their news letter - this is not a sign-in or registration. Just click outside of it and it goes away.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

e-Tutor Graphing Calculator - no more expensive graphing calculators!

These online graphing calculators have been popping up for awhile, but I am seeing e-Tutor's version get consistently high ratings by teachers in ed. publications. No registration or sign-in, extremely simple to use.

Enter functions of x using a standard mathematical format. You can enter more than one function by separating functions with a semicolon.

I entered sin(x) and got this result:
You can play around with it by changing exponents, constants, etc. Really cool feature - roll (don't click) the mouse over the line and see the x and y coordinates.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Easy Bibliographies For Students with OttoBib

It seems nary an English class goes by that we don't have to do major battle with our students to include a bibliography - a proper bibliography. One of the major difficulties is getting students to cite works in a standard style. OttoBib is a simple web tool that students can easily use to create bibliographies. No sign in or registration is necessary. The main page has a simple entry box and all you have to do is enter the ISBN(s) of the books you want to cite. You don't have to enter dashes, and if you are entering more than one just separate them with a coma. Best of all, you can choose the citation style you want (MLA, APA, BibTeX, etc.).

When I checked it out, I entered the ISBN's for several books by Ernest Hemingway. You can see my entry below:

I selected the MLA format (the standard), clicked Get Citations and here was my very fast result:

It also creates a permanent url (at the bottom of my result page) that can be bookmarked or jotted down if you want to save it for later.

Why didn't they have this when I was in college???

Monday, January 19, 2009

MetaCarta maps current events

MetaCarta is one of the new "mashup" sites that combines RSS feeds from Associated Press and Reuters with Google Maps to show current news on a map. On the left screen you'll see the most current headlines from AP and Reuters. A click will show the article and a map with all of the places referenced in the article. This is a handy way for history/geography/current events classes to do their reading and comparison activities that teach the interconnectivity of these events.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Some new ways to teach the Periodic Table of Elements

Here are three neat interactive visuals to support teaching the periodic table. These could easily be used with 5th grade science all the way through high school.

The Interactive Periodic Table is, at first glance, a normal looking table, but click on any of the elements and you get a direct link to their Wikipedia entry, complete with at least one picture and lots of information.

The second is the Visual Elements Periodic Table. It's cool looking, but even better, when you click on an element you get information in a very basic, easy to read layout, along with a few more links to view some pictures and get more visual information. Extremely easy to use, great visuals, and the text is very accessible by lower level readers.

The last one is fun and will definitely have a "niche" appeal to certain students - this is the Comic Book Periodic Table. You click on an element and you will get a listing of what comics that element has appeared in. When you click on one of the issues, you get the full page from that comic so you can see the story line, and how the element was used - a great way to bring science fiction and imagination to the periodic table!

Friday, January 16, 2009

Show students how to be creative with text - use Wordle

Wordle is a toy for generating “word clouds” from text that you provide. The clouds give greater prominence to words that appear more frequently in the source text. You can tweak your clouds with different fonts, layouts, and color schemes.

The images you create with Wordle are yours to use however you like. You can print them out, or save them to the Wordle gallery to share with your friends.

Let your students display their work creatively on Wordle by having them copy and paste things like a poem, meaningful quotes about a theme, or even a vocabulary word list.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Good online resources for teaching about the inauguration

Here is a compilation of some of the most talked-about resources available online for teachers on the upcoming Presidential Inauguration.
  • The National Education Association and the American Federation of Teachers have prepared several lesson plans.
  • National Geographic has an article and slideshow about the history inaugurations.
  • EL Civics has a lesson on Presidential Inaugurations.
  • The Washington Post’s Inauguration Central has multimedia resources on just about every aspect of this upcoming inauguration and the ones that came previously.
  • The Joint Congressional Committee on Inaugural Ceremonies also has a number of resources. One feature is on the theme of this year’s inauguration — A New Birth of Freedom.
  • Another is an explanation of Inauguration Day Events.
  • The Presidential Inaugural Committee has materials, including a slideshow on Abraham Lincoln’s Bible, on which President-Elect Obama will be sworn-in.
  • The city of Washington, D.C. has a gallery of photos from past inauguration day parades.
  • The Washington Post has a slideshow on the History of Inaugural Balls.
  • The McClatchy Newspapers have two interactives — one is a game about famous lines from previous inaugurations and the other is a simple virtual tour of the White House. They also have some other resources on the same page.
  • Here’s a slideshow on Yahoo detailing the preparations being done for the inauguration.
  • The St. Louis Post-Dispatch newspaper website has an interactive feature that provides images and and short descriptions of each presidential inauguration since Washington’s time. Plus, they have a map of the parade route with images.
  • Inaugurals Of The Past is the title of a slideshow from the McClatchy Newspapers.
  • The Rochester Democrat and Chronicle has a page on the upcoming inauguration.It includes some interactive graphics.
  • A slideshow from The New York Times on the Inauguration Rehearsal.
  • Inauguration Practice is a slideshow from The Washington Post.
  • The New York Times also has an online video called Inaugurations In Times Of Peril.
  • Preparation For The Inauguration is a series of photos and simple captions from the Sacramento Bee.
  • These are from The Washington Post: A Photo/Video Collage called The Preparers and focused on preparing for the event, and a neat Panorama of the event’s stage.
  • An Inaugural Timeline is an interactive from the Associated Press.
  • Washington Preps For The Inauguration is a slideshow from The Wall Street Journal.
  • Top Inaugural Speeches is an interactive with short highlights from past key inauguration speeches.
  • I Do Solemnly Swear… is an interactive from The Wall Street Journal that highlights biblical passages each president used in their inauguration, along with showing images.
  • Capitol Crowds is a slideshow from the Wall Street Journal about the large crowd the inauguration is anticipating to draw, and similar large events that have occurred in the past at the Capitol.
  • A Peek At The Official 2009 Inaugural Ball Sites is a slideshow from the L.A. Times.

Want to do something different for Vocab study? Try Visuwords

Visuwords is a cool online graphical dictionary that helps the user "visualize" the meaning of a word in many of it's forms. For students, it's a great alternative to old school dictionaries. Enter a word and Visuwords will produce diagrams (that look a little like a neural net) so the user can learn how words associate literally at-a-glance.

You can click and drag to pan around and zoom. Hover the cursor over nodes to see the definition and click and drag individual nodes to move them around to help clarify connections.

You don't need to sign up for an account or sign in. Just book mark this page or even write the link on the board - and it's a quick click for students to have an alternative for vocabulary study.