Friday, March 30, 2012

Student Book Reviews Using Google Sites

Our district is a member of Google Apps for Education. We have started to use Google Sites for a number of initiatives. We started to use Sites for teacher websites in some of our schools. We also  used Sites to build instructional resources. Our interactive Pyramid of Intervention and  Collaborative Group Work Resource are two great examples. 

Recently two of our grade 2 teachers were looking for an online solution to publish their student's book reviews. We decided to use Google Sites as the tool. Each student illustrated a picture of themselves and a picture of the book. I created pages on the site to publish their profile pictures with links to their book reviews (that the students typed in MS word).  The result is a fabulous site that publishes their book reviews. Please take a look at our student's work here. 

By providing an opportunity to publish their book reviews we established an authentic task that proved to be engaging for the students. They were writing for a global audience and were very connected to the assignment. It was positive experience for everyone!




Monday, March 26, 2012

How to Bring Celebrities into Your Classroom for Reading Instruction?

Storyline ( is a website published by the Screen Actors Guild. The site features videos of  famous actors and actresses reading children’s books.  There is an index of books to select from.

The videos display well on an interactive white board. They can also be used in a listening center. With most stories there are activity guides and extension activities.

Storyline may be used during whole group instruction as part of interactive read aloud. It may also be used in centers. Storyline may be used to model inflection, fluency, and to engage students in the process of reading.  They are able to apply the strategies that we teach them while having fun listening.  You can pause, stop and rewind. You can also display captions in order to discuss word use throughout.

Storyline is fun and interactive resource that is a great tool for any balanced literacy initiative. There a re a number of uses in an elementary classroom. I would love to hear how you use this with students. Please leave a comment below to share how you use Storlyline Online with your students.




Friday, March 16, 2012

Insert Your Own Flash Content in Smart Notebook Software

The smart notebook software is a powerful and feature rich addition to any classroom. The gallery is loaded with images, backgrounds, interactive content and flash-based lesson activities. Did you know that you can add most flash activities from the web directly into a smart notebook page? Here is how it works.

First, using Google Chrome, conduct a search for the topic you are looking to explore with students and add that to the search bar. Add the phrase  "filetype:swf" at the end of the search. This will limit the search to flash based activities that fit that search criteria.

Example: Search for   fractions filetype:swf

The search will return a list of sites with flash based activities for working with fractions. Select one of the sites and open it.

After you have the site  open click on the wrench on the top right side of the Chrome toolbar. In that menu select "save page as". Save the file as a  "Flash Movie".

Open up smart notebook and navigate to a page in the file that you want to insert the flash activity. On the top toolbar click on INSERT - FLASH FILE... and browse to the flash file you saved.

Viola... You now have an interactive flash file embedded into your smart notebook presentation!


Thursday, March 1, 2012

Create Your Own STEM Textbook for Free!

The CK-12 foundation has introduced a new resource called the flexbook. CK-12 provides free access to textbooks for science, technology engineering, math and SAT review. They are now offering the ability to design your own "flexbook". You can read more about this initiative here. 

The web interface allows the user to select chapters from a text and then add them to your personalized flexbook. The editor allows the user to edit content in the chapter, insert text, insert images and insert videos. There are a series of easy to follow video tutorials that demonstrate how to add your own content.   Besides utilizing or editing existing chapters you can author your own chapter. The editor is very intuitive and offers a breadth of functionality.

Once you have finished curating the resources in your book you have options for sharing.

  1. Share or Print as a PDF

  2. Share as an online electronic book

  3. Share as an HTML website.

  4. Some of the books can be downloaded directly to the IPAD, Kindle, Nook Color, or Android Tablet.

You can share the book with your students by adding a link to it on your website or Moodle course.  There are a number of relevant books in the library. In many cases these books are best used to supplement the existing text and instructional materials already in place. The online textbooks utilize a number of primary source documents. They are designed to develop critical thinking skills.  You can search for textbooks that are aligned to the New Jersey standards and the common core standards.

The use of web-based, online textbooks that allow for the addition of personalized content offers a simple solution for educators to incorporate the resources of the web in one organized place.  Students, teachers and curriculum coordinators may author chapters or complete textbooks. Special education teachers may work collaboratively with general education teachers to provide flexible and differentiated content to meet the needs of their students. The possibilities are endless.