Friday, October 2, 2015

Using Newsela to Differentiate a Classroom

One of the expectations of every classroom teacher is to differentiate the classroom and create lessons that fit to the needs of each student.   Many teachers who incorporate reading into the classroom are probably finding difficulty managing this concept and struggle to get good, quality articles.   I have come across a way:  Newsela 

Newsela is a collection of nonfiction articles that cover an array of topics.  It is free to use, just create an account.  The exciting part about this website is the ease of differentiation.   Every article has options to choose the lexile level of the text.   What does this mean?  You can print the same article but have different versions so the lower reader can read the same information with simpler text.

The site allows you to establish classes so you can store content relevant stories for later use.  These are saved in binders.  What is awesome about this, it also creates reading comprehension questions for each article as well.

I created a student account and a teacher account so I could see how it worked. It was very easy to establish a class and find articles.  There is even a progress check which identifies student needs.

This is definitely a site to look at and play around with.  Every content area can benefit from the articles and it helps pull that nonfiction need into the classroom. 

Friday, September 25, 2015

Symbaloo organized my library

Being organized via weblinks helps me share what I know with my staff and students.  Symbaloo is so easy to use and user friendly that anyone can figure it out. The outcome can organize a lot of great links for your students and for you.

I decided after I saw a school library media specialist library use her Symbaloo to organize her library, I had to do it as well.   I made a color coded Symbaloo for the different components of information kids can access through the library website.   I learned that I can actually embed the Symbaloo directly on the Follett Destiny site so kids can see it immediately when they go to the card catalog.

I selected links that are specific to my kids.  Book report info, PBL type materials, Research sites (paid and free), citation sites, even some places for homework help.   It was a simple process and it was fast to complete.  When I did in class lessons, I shared the Symbaloo with the students and showed them how simple it was to use this method to access their needed information.  I even have some additional space later to make more tiles if I come across some.  

Symbaloo is a MUST HAVE for any educator.  It is a simple way to sort and organize.  For my purposes, it offered a large amount of information in a more organized way.  It has made life for my students easier for sure.

Friday, September 18, 2015

Voki to audio record

Being a foreign language teacher, I am always looking for neat and innovative ways to make class fun and different.  I went to the Central States Conference a few years back and was introduced to a lot of web 2.0 tools to use for audio recordings but the one I liked for a quick chat was Voki.  I loved the idea of making an avatar that talked and so did my students.  I sampled the Voki site with my French three and four students and they really seemed to like all of the things they were able to do.  The fact that they can use their cellphone and call their voki to make the recording is also a great way to incorporate byod and cell phone usage in the classroom.

Voki is a free site, but there is a classroom version that can be purchased.  The paid version lets you create the student accounts and also lets you view student work.  I stuck with the freebie, my students are old enough to create an account on their own.  The free version still gives you access to lesson plans, ideas and templates.

I have used voki for a few things in my classroom.  I have made a welcome page to the media center website.  My students made a short one to talk about themselves.  I have a few other plans in mind as well.  Some could be used for more than a foreign language class.

1.  Day one introductions. Students can record themselves and make an introduction. Talk about name, age, family members, etc.  They can submit that to the teacher and the teacher can assemble the link on a wiki and the students can guess who is who.

2.  Practicing a reading.  Have students read a poem or a paragraph aloud in the target language and submit it.  The practice will make fluency so much better and a voki is a different way to do a task that sometimes lacks excitement.

3.The alphabet.  Have students record the alphabet in the target language and submit the voki to you.  It's a different way to do the same thing.

4. To practice conjugation and tenses.  Have students record themselves practicing the verb of the day.  For example, in French we use the verb avoir a lot, so, kids can record themselves using avoir in expressions or just breaking it down.

5. Pretend phone call.  Have students call their voki via phone and have a pretend conversation to practice talking on a phone in the target language.

6. Short  presentations.  In a foreign language, there is always a cultural need. Have the students record themselves talking about a country, a cultural icon, a landmark, etc. into the voki.  It's something different.

7.  Ask the kids.  Let your students help you come up with some interesting ways to use a voki in the classroom.   Kids love to guide their learning.

8. Book Reviews.  Have the kids do a book chat about a favorite or do a book report orally via Voki.

Remember, however, don't overdo it.  There are so many tech tools out there.  Using the same one over and over gets frustrating for the kids.  The spark goes away if it is overused.

Friday, September 11, 2015

Pixton as a writing tool

Someone on twitter once mentioned that she used Pixton to practice writing.  I had to check it out.  I have used comic strip generators before, but I decided to nix them because they were a little boring and the final outcome was published online for many others to see.   Pixton is a little different.  It is very colorful and visual.  There are numerous options for comic strip layout and it allows for foreign language symbols.  I was really excited at how fast it went to complete a task.
I spent about ten minutes making a comic strip.  I was able to manipulate the positions of the characters, add text and accents, and a cool background.

There is an educational version as well as a for fun account.  (There is a 30 day trial, so if you are going to use it that way, make sure you get it when you need it so you don't lose the opportunity.)  The for fun account posts the work on the web, so if you have students who do not have permission to post work online, don't use it, or print off a blank template and have the kids fill it in. I created the for fun account.  It is free. The educator account is based on the number of kids.  I have 9 students, so for me, it isn't worth $60/ year.  I can add up to 20 kids for that price, but it isn't worth it to me.  I see myself using it but not often enough to justify the cost.

Here is my quick comic to review lesson 1 in French 2: Quick and simple, and a great model for my kids.  I think this program is very good for foreign language teachers.  I also think it could benefit elementary teachers to address writing skills and it could be used as a means of identifying incorrect grammar.   One could have grammatical or spelling errors and ask students to identify them.  That is a way to make grammar fun.

So, if you are looking for a simple way to practice writing and do so in a funny and creative manner, check out Pixton.  It is something different for your classroom.