Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Bring maps to life with Animaps

Animaps is a website that allows you to make animated, interactive maps. This is NOT just a geography tool, it can be used in any content area. With animaps, you design your route/path and can show points of interest along the way. Animaps uses google maps, so you are able to use real streets, towns, countries, etc.  It is a great tool for showing a path or route and what happens along the way. I used it to show my students the Silk Road path and things that happen along the way. It would be a cool tool to use to show a character's journey in a book or the spread of a disease. Animaps does take some time to figure out how to use it and make your product, but it is worth the time. Let me know if you would like me to show you how to use it. Once you get the hang of it, it is a lot of fun.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

A Pep Talk from Kid President

Here's a little encouragement for you from Kid President. Not sure if you have seen any of this kids' videos, but they are worth watching. Again, YouTube is blocked at school, I know, so please take the time to watch it at home. I don't post stuff not worth watching or looking at.

Get your students thinking with Lino It! (Try it yourself HERE!)

I have posted about Lino It before. Lino It is a virtual wall that allows you and your students to post "sticky notes" onto the virtual wall for everybody to see. This virtual board/sticky note concept is quite popular: Lino It, Wallwisher, corkboardme are some examples of websites that do this. Finding these tech tools is one thing, but how should we use them? One example of Lino It that I have used with success and found to really make my students think is a "Category Organization" activity. On Monday, I post a Lino board on my website. I set the settings to allow anyone to post a lino sticky note. I tell my students that throughout the week, they need to post a lino sticky note with any fact about Egypt (we were currently in our Egypt unit). I told them the requirement was 2 sticky notes per student. I used a different board for each of my five classes. All 127 students on one board would not have been good. At the end of the week, I took my classes into the computer lab and they needed to organize all the sticky notes on the Lino board into 4 specific categories: Nile River, Mummification, Religion and Miscellaneous. I told them that they needed to find at least 5 sticky notes per category. This gets them thinking about what categories each fact belongs to. It also can produce some debate on where the fact belongs or fits the best. If you can not get a computer lab for the organization activity, simply tell them to do it on their own.  Try it below!

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Gaining a little perspective

A thought to start the week: I think as teachers, we too often get focused on small things and lose sight of the big picture. We get too caught up in our content and then get frustrated when our students don't get it or don't want to get it. We complain about the number of copies we are allowed to make, or put up resistance to common core or some other new thing. We spend our time complaining about students, rather than trying to think up ways to help them. We start looking for the easy route, not the best route. We begin to lose sight of the position we hold and the influence we have. I saw this story on Facebook. It's a story that reminds us of who we are and what we chose to do with life. It's from the "BusyTeacher" and I thought I would share it today to start our week. I know for me, it made me stop and get a little perspective on things.  It will take you 5 minutes to read and it will be worth your time.
"As she stood in front of her 5th grade class on the very first day of school, she told the children an untruth. Like most teachers, she looked at her students and said that she loved them all the same. However, that was impossible, because there in the front row, slumped in his seat, was a little boy named Teddy Stoddard.

Mrs. Thompson had watched Teddy the year before and noticed that he did not play well with the other children, that his clothes were messy and that he constantly needed a bath. In addition, Teddy could be unpleasant.

It got to the point where Mrs. Thompson would actually take delight in marking his papers with a broad red pen, making bold X's and then putting a big "F" at the top of his papers.

At the school where Mrs. Thompson taught, she was required to review each child's past records and she put Teddy's off until last. However, when she reviewed his file, she was in for a surprise.

Teddy's first grade teacher wrote, "Teddy is a bright child with a ready laugh. He does his work neatly and has good manners... he is a joy to be around.."

His second grade teacher wrote, "Teddy is an excellent student, well liked by his classmates, but he is troubled because his mother has a terminal illness and life at home must be a struggle."

His third grade teacher wrote, "His mother's death has been hard on him. He tries to do his best, but his father doesn't show much interest and his home life will soon affect him if some steps aren't taken."

Teddy's fourth grade teacher wrote, "Teddy is withdrawn and doesn't show much interest in school. He doesn't have many friends and he sometimes sleeps in class."

By now, Mrs. Thompson realized the problem and she was ashamed of herself. She felt even worse when her students brought her Christmas presents, wrapped in beautiful ribbons and bright paper, except for Teddy's. His present was clumsily wrapped in the heavy, brown paper That he got from a grocery bag Mrs. Thompson took pains to open it in the middle of the other presents. Some of the children started to laugh when she found a rhinestone bracelet with some of the stones missing, and a bottle that was one-quarter full of perfume.. But she stifled the children's laughter when she exclaimed how pretty the bracelet was, putting it on, and dabbing some of the perfume on her wrist. Teddy Stoddard stayed after school that day just long enough to say, "Mrs. Thompson, today you smelled just like my Mom used to." After the children left, she cried for at least an hour.

On that very day, she quit teaching reading, writing and arithmetic. Instead, she began to teach children. Mrs. Thompson paid particular attention to Teddy. As she worked with him, his mind seemed to come alive. The more she encouraged him, the faster he responded. By the end of the year, Teddy had become one of the smartest children in the class and, despite her lie that she would love all the children the same, Teddy became one of her "teacher's pets.."

A year later, she found a note under her door, from Teddy, telling* her that she was still the best teacher he ever had in his whole life.

Six years went by before she got another note from Teddy. He then wrote that he had finished high school, third in his class, and she was still the best teacher he ever had in life.

Four years after that, she got another letter, saying that while things had been tough at times, he'd stayed in school, had stuck with it, and would soon graduate from college with the highest of honors. He assured Mrs. Thompson that she was still the best and favorite teacher he had ever had in his whole life.

Then four more years passed and yet another letter came. This time he explained that after he got his bachelor's degree, he decided to go a little further. The letter explained that she was still the best and favorite teacher he ever had. But now his name was a little longer.... The letter was signed, Theodore F. Stoddard, MD.

The story does not end there. You see, there was yet another letter that spring. Teddy said he had met this girl and was going to be married. He explained that his father had died a couple of years ago and he was wondering if Mrs. Thompson might agree to sit at the wedding in the place that was usually reserved for the mother of the groom.

Of course, Mrs. Thompson did. And guess what? She wore that bracelet, the one with several rhinestones missing. Moreover, she made sure she was wearing the perfume that Teddy remembered his mother wearing on their last Christmas together.

They hugged each other, and Dr. Stoddard whispered in Mrs. Thompson's ear, "Thank you Mrs. Thompson for* believing in me. Thank you so much for making me feel important and showing me that I could make a difference."

Mrs. Thompson, with tears in her eyes, whispered back. She said, "Teddy, you have it all wrong. You were the one who taught me that I could make a difference. I didn't know how to teach until I met you."

(For you that don't know, Teddy Stoddard is the Dr. at Iowa Methodist Hospital in Des Moines that has the Stoddard Cancer Wing.)

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Give your students an Online Quiz

Click HERE to go to
I feel that part of our job as teachers is to get our students ready for their future in education, namely college. I know not every student will go to college, but we can start introducing them to things that they will have to do in college as things continue to move towards online classes. One thing that I do with my 6th graders is give them online quizzes and online assignments that they must do on their own. After covering a topic together, I post the link to the online quiz on my website. I give the students 5 days to complete the quiz and they can take it whenever they are ready. Keep in mind, though, that you must be comfortable with the students using their notes because they will, and that's okay because with online quizzes and online classes in college, they can use their notes as well. I took an online class last semester at USF and had many online quizzes and used my notes every time, which the professor said to do. With that said, make the quiz harder so they actually HAVE to use their notes. It is a good learning opportunity and a quick way to see where your students are at with their knowledge. It is also a good way to teach responsibility. You can also provide an online article with a ProProfs quiz to go along with it. To do this, I use a website called which allows you to create your own quizzes for free and password protect them so only your students can log in. Provide your students with the quiz link and the password and they are on their way. 

(password: china)

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Another Argument for Opening the Internet

Open the Internet. I do not think the internet should be 100% open at school, however, some sites should be open. YouTube and Vimeo are two sites that need to be open and left open. The arguement for keeping YouTube closed is that kids mess around too often on YouTube. My question is: why are the kids messing around at all? Put them to work. If they want to go watch YouTube videos, find ones that help them learn about your subject. Another arguement from the anti-Youtuber's is that there are other sites like it, such as SchoolTube and TeacherTube that can be used and are open. My response: those sites are terrible. We don't want them. Give us the top dog! Give us YouTube! is another example of a great teaching tool we are unable to use. This site provides the ability to search for videos on youtube based on subject, grade, etc. Unfortunately, we can't use it because most of the videos on this site are hosted on YouTube or Vimeo. There are ways to get YouTube videos downloaded so we can watch them in school, but that requires a lot more steps than just simply hitting  "play" on the video player. 

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Online Trading Cards: web and app versions

The online trading card web version (on the computer) and app (on the iPad) is a great tool to focus on a particular person, character, or thing. The online trading card program is free and easy to use. This tool can be used in any class: famous person in history like George Washington, famous literary character like Katniss Everdeen, or a famous scientist like Bill Nye. This tool allows the students to create a quality product, which focuses on their topic/person. The teacher can make one for their students to learn about the person or have the students make them to show what they know/learn. I always like the students to make/use the tools but obviously computer availability is limited at BVMS. Check out Online Trading Cards on the web or the iPad.