Posts from the ‘Technology’ Category

ePals

Almost a month ago, I signed my classes up at http://www.epals.com.  It is a website that matches classrooms from around the world that are looking to work on similar projects together.  I had my students get parental permission and started e-mailing teachers in other countries that had students of a similar age.  I finally had a class respond over the weekend and my students e-mailed students in Italy today.  My students are incredibly excited and enthused about communicating with students from around the world.

Here is how it works.  After you get parent permission (the site wants it for students under the age of 13, I made all of my students get one), you create an account for each student.  There are several options on the types of accounts that you can create for them – those are explained at the site.  After you have created the accounts, you get to select the amount of monitoring that you would like to have over each account.  I selected the highest level of monitoring, which means that each e-mail has to be approved for delivery both incoming and outgoing.  My students grumbled a little bit about this, but when I explained why this was necessary, they understood.  It was also a selling point with parents.  Students can access their account anywhere they have access to the internet.  I have signed up for computer lab time, our ePals are e-mailing us from their homes.

Even after our first day e-mailing, I can see the types of conversations that we will have about letter writing, use of slang, how to write questions, spelling, and editing on the computer.  I am excited to have them start receiving responses.

Eventually, I want them to share the books that they are reading and the literature that their ePals are reading.  This might lead into a shared project – the sky’s the limit!

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Slideboom

Slideboom.com is a place where you can host your PowerPoint presentations or search for presentation that have been uploaded by other users. The website is very easy to use and quickly uploads presentations. Slideboom is a great tool for sharing your presentations with other educators and students. Also, if you create a presentation at home or at school, just upload it to slideboom and you can access it from any location. I hope you find slideboom.com as easy to use and useful as we have. If you would like to look at the presentations we have uploaded, you can find them at slideboom.com/people/ellclassroom. Feel free and please download them and modify the presentations to meet the needs of your students.

ELLclassroom's presentations

Amazon Book Reviews

As I looked at my students’ proficiency levels at the beginning of this school year, I noticed that most of my students struggled with their writing.  My district requires quarterly assessments, and again, they were unsatisfactory or partially proficient in writing.  I didn’t just want them to write for class, but I wanted an audience and for them to publish it as often as possible.

I was surfing Amazon and it finally connected for me – my students could post book reviews online.  I decided to find a way for them to use this site to publish their writing.  As I looked further into the site, I discovered that they could post their reviews as “A Kid’s Review.”  This was perfect as I don’t want them to put up their names or locations.  They will log in under my name, type their reviews, and post it as a kids’ review.

Earlier in the year I showed my students amazon.com (most of them had never visited the site or heard of it) and how to search for books and read book reviews.  So that was where I started.  With a borrowed laptop and LCD projector, my students and I search the site, looking specifically at book reviews.  We pulled up reviews on books that they were reading.  They were shocked that people wrote reviews about books that they didn’t like and that people didn’t necessarily like the books that they loved.  They were also concerned that the authors would read the reviews and see that people didn’t necessarily love their book.  We made sure that we previewed some of the reviews before class so that we could specifically show them some examples where the reviewer had a lot of voice and was creative.  One of my students wanted to post a review about his favorite book right there, so we did.  He dictated what he wanted to say, read it over, edited it, and then we posted it.  It takes about 48 hours for a review to post, so I checked back a couple of days later, and there it was.  I showed it to him, but he said that he had already looked online and seen it.  

My next step was to have my students start breaking apart reviews and looking for the “must haves.”  I created a PowerPoint presentation to show students the various parts of a book review.

 

Pod area set up ready for class.

Pod area set up ready for class.

 

After going through the example, students worked in groups to highlight the major parts of their book review.

 

 

Students highlighting book reviews.

Students highlighting book reviews.

 

Groups working.

Groups working.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I discovered that it was difficult for them to tell the difference between opinions and plot.  I can tell that we are going to have to work on this as they begin writing their own reviews – which will be next week.

If you would like to see or use the PowerPoint, it is uploaded at:  http://www.slideboom.com/people/ellclassroom

Writing to Publish

I am trying to focus my classroom instruction on authentic student writing this year.  I feel that if students feel that they have a real audience, then they will craft better writing.  I have devised several ways to publish their writing.  

I recently signed my class up for ePals.  This is a program that matches classrooms from around the world.  Your students e-mail other students their age.  They can share their history, experiences, culture, etc.  You can also set this program up so that you and the other classroom work on a project together.  I want my students to not only establish a relationship with their ePal, but to talk about the literature that they are reading.  I am hoping that it will broaden my students’ thinking.  If this is something that you are interested in also pursuing, I would visit their site at http://www.epals.com

I am also going to use amazon.com to publish my students’ book reviews.  They can post the reviews on books they have read under an account that I created.  The website allows them to select under 13 as an option.  When that is selected, the review shows up as “Kid’s Review” so I don’t have to worry about them adding their name or any personal information.  I have just started this project, and will post my classroom experiences soon.  The title of the post will be Amazon Book Reviews.

Another project that I am going to start next month with my students is a Holiday Letter.  Every year, my husband and I seem to get letter after letter from family members telling us about their year.  It really is a “year in review.”  It seems to me that this is just another form of summary writing, which, let’s face it, most students struggle with.  I am going to have my students write their own Holiday Letter and then mail it to family members that they don’t live with.  I then plan to piggy-back this with summaries later on in the year.

I am also looking to incorporate dialog journals into my class.  Another teacher in my district and I have started talking about ways to share our students’ writing with each other.  So far, she sent my students some writing to assess.  I am hoping that this will lead to a dialog journal of some sort.  I haven’t completely worked out the logistics yet, but it is something that I am excited about.  

I really think that all of these authentic writing projects will help my students refine and polish their writing.  At least, that is my hope!

20 Questions

Last Christmas, my husband and I were invited to a white elephant party and were looking for a nice but fun gift to bring when we came across the handheld game 20Q’s. My husband was immediately addicted and we bought one as our gift. That little bit of background leads me to my current thoughts on an inexpensive but useful classroom tool for English language learners or struggling readers.

In order to play the game, you must pick a common object that most people would know about, be able to read or have someone read the questions for you, and then answer questions about your object’s characteristics. The choices are yes, no, and sometimes. The online game provides more answer choices. Here is a sample question. (I indicated that my object was an animal.)

Q2.  Does it have fur? 

 Yes ,   No  , Unknown, Irrelevant, Sometimes, Probably, Doubtful

Fun for struggling readers:

My nephew turned 15 this summer and I was stumped as to what to give him that wouldn’t just be thrown in his room and never used. Thankfully, I remembered the 20Q’s game and thought that it would be something he would enjoy. I was right. He and my husband played with the game pretty much all day and then again at dinner that night. My nephew is what most educators would classify as a struggling reader due to dyslexia and isn’t interested in reading. However, this “toy” required him to read the questions presented in order for the game to guess his object. My husband commented later that he thought the 20Q’s game would help our nephew with his reading because there were times when he did not know a word and would have to ask for help. 

Reinforcement/Fun for ELLs:

In an ELL classroom (only ELL students such as NEPs or NEPs and LEPs), 20 questions could be used to teach vocabulary and the characteristics of vocabulary. For example, if students are learning English for the first time, it is important for them to learn common school objects. The facilitator (teacher, instructor, para, tutor) will show them pictures of these objects or point them out around the school or in a book. Once the students are familiar with the names of these objects, identifying their individual characteristics creates a deeper understanding of the object and allows the students to then begin comparing and contrasting the objects or categorizing them into groups (comparing and contrasting and categorizing are higher level thinking skills). 

In addition to the content vocabulary such as the school objects, ELLs would also need to understand the academic vocabulary that is included in the game such as yes, no, unknown, irrelevant, sometimes, probably, and doubtful. If the students have no knowledge of these words then it is impossible for them to answer the question correctly. 

In a content classroom with ELL students, this “toy” could be useful as a “filler” (something that they could do after they have finished their work or if there are a few minutes left of class). 

The game is available in stores such as Target, Wal-mart, K-mart, and Toys r Us for approximately $7-$10. 

It is also online at http://www.20q.net/

If you have used 20Q’s in your classroom or have any other ideas on how 20Q’s could be incorporated into the classroom, please share your experiences and ideas with us.

Interactive Whiteboards

Interactive whiteboards, electronic whiteboards, smartboards, whatever they may be called, they have been a huge hit with teachers across every grade level and content area. Display your computer screen on your whiteboard, show a video/ multimedia presentation, create a graphic organizer or fill one in as a class, manipulate virtual manipulatives in math, create words or sentences with letter and word tiles, demonstrate how to ______ (you fill in the blank), save, cut, copy, paste, and print notes from class, etc. Think outside of the box and the options are endless. 

 

Please share your ideas and experiences, we would love to hear how you have incorporated this multifaceted tool in your classroom.

Virtual (online) Math Manipulatives

For Teachers:

The National Library of Virtual Manipulatives (http://nlvm.usu.edu/en/nav/vlibrary.html) is a math resource provided by Utah State University. Here you and your students have access to a large (almost unlimited) number of virtual math manipulatives. The manipulatives are categorized by grade level as well as the five standards of mathematics: number & operations, algebra, geometry, measurement, and data analysis & probability. If you have Spanish or French speaking students, they can select to read the site in their first language. 

Electronic whiteboard users or even facilitators with only a single computer and LCD projector can use these resources to demonstrate how to use the classroom manipulatives or as whole group instruction of the concept.

For Students:

If math is hard or you are stuck on a problem, it sometimes helps to see a picture of the problem. In math class, your teacher may have manipulatives (hands-on objects) that you can move or change to help you understand the problem. Here is a link to virtual (online) math manipulatives just like the ones you may use in class. You can also select Spanish or French at the bottom of the page to read the instructions in your first language.

http://nlvm.usu.edu/en/nav/vlibrary.html