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Social Bookmarking

Bookmarking How many times have you found a website that you really like and you bookmark it on your computer? Then later when you aren't around your computer, you tell someone else about the site and don't know the URL.  You may also have the problem of too many bookmarks that aren't organized somehow. Social bookmarking is a solution that may help you.

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April Showers Bring May Flowers and Other Poetry

Tulips Michelle's blog last week got me thinking about poetry. I remember not liking poetry when I was in school. April Showers Bring May Flowers used to be my favorite poem. But once I started teaching first and second grade and needed to teach the genre, I fell in love with it. I found poems that kids loved and taught them how to write their own poems. My class also decided that they needed to record some of their poems and share them online.

When I was looking for poetry samples, themes, poetic forms or poet interviews I checked out The Children's Poetry Archive, Scholastic's poetry, Poetry Teachers, Poetry4Kids and Poetry Foundation. I also looked at poetry lessons online. I really liked using Giggle Poetry and Jack Prelutsky's poems with students. Silly poems are my favorite.

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National Poetry Month

Young red hired girl uid 14 Each year, during the month of April, the Academy of American Poets hosts National Poetry Month.  It's a month-long celebration of the art and beauty of poetry and the role it plays in American literature. Here are some ways you can bring the celebration into your classroom!

Idea #1: Read a Poem

There are lots of great poetry sources out there, but one that's especially good this month is straight from Poets.org.  By visiting the site, you can sign up to receive a poem in your email inbox every day during the month of April. The poems vary in theme and level, but are probably most appropriate for middle and high school readers.  For elementary age students, have fun exploring the poetry of Shel Silverstein and  Jack Prelutsky at their websites.  Both have lots of colorfully animated poems and activities to explore.

For interesting visual poems, check out the Graphic Poetry site. The combination of striking photography with free-verse poems is something that might inspire your students to create their own!

Idea #2 Write a Poem

Get your students involved in writing poetry with tools and resources from across the web. A good starting point is from the National Council of Teachers of English with their Read•Write•Think online activities and interactive tools. Students can write an Acrostic PoemDiamante, or even create a Shape Poem with support and guidance right on the site. When students are ready to write independently, send them to the Poetry Rhyming Dictionary and Thesaurus to help them brainstorm for rhyming words.  


Idea #3 Share a Poem

This year, Thursday, April 30 is "Poetry in Your Pocket Day" where poetry enthusiasts are encouraged to carry a poem with them to share with others.  Have students select a favorite poem and then create bookmarks or postcards to share with others that day.  For the Poetry in Your Pocket celebration a few years ago, my students and I designed stickers with lines from their favorite poems.  Students then traded stickers with others all day until they had a collection of stickers and a list of new poems to read!

Poet Laureate Robert Pinsky formed the Favorite Poetry Project in 1997 to help others share the poems they love. By visiting the site you can see Americans from all walks of life on video as they read or recite the poems they love best.  For even more poetry reading pleasure, check out the audio library on the Poets.org website where they've collected over 300 author interviews and poetry readings.

At my school, our Creative Writing students are getting into the poetry mania by writing and publishing their best poetry in video form. Travis Brown, Creative Writing teacher, worked with his students to select the best poetry from their portfolios and then had students work in teams to develop visual interpretations.  Every week this month they'll publish an new example of their work. Check out their first entry, titled Time, on our school podcast channel.


For more ideas on teaching with poetry, check out the Scholastic Poetry site where you can participate in poetry workshops with renowned authors as well as find lesson plans and activities to make every day of April into poetic perfection!

Discovery Liftoff

DiscoveryLaunch On March 15 I was in Orlando, Florida giving a presentation at the Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development (ASCD) Conference. Integrating the Internet into the Primary Classroom links can be found here. After I finished my presentation, my husband and I drove east to catch the Space Shuttle Discovery's liftoff. Since we're from Minnesota, not Florida, we hadn't anticipated the traffic also heading to watch the liftoff. I used our GPS to find back roads which weren't very crowded. We pulled over to the side of the road where there was a clearing three minutes before liftoff. My husband grabbed the video camera and I grabbed my Nikon D60.

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Web Sightings

So many great links have come my way this week and I'm excited about sharing them with you!  Here are three I think you'll love:

Teaching Shakespeare Audio and Video Resources  On Wednesday evening, I attended an online webinar entitled "Remixing Shakespeare" hosted by PBS Teachers Connect and Classroom 2.0.  The 90 minute free session shared lesson ideas and resources for teaching Shakespeare using digital tools. One of the resources that I discovered during the webinar was the Folger Shakespeare Library and their Audio and Video Teaching Resources. There you'll find brief audio and video recordings to help teachers learn new strategies for teaching classical literature. If you're interested in seeing more of the links shared during the webinar, you'll find a link to the entire presentation on the PBS website. If you're more into Science and Math, never fear! The next two webinars in April and May focus on Math and Science strategies.

ShowUSA Data Visualization  This resource came to me via Twitter when Cindy Grabe shared the link.  The Show website makes demographic and place-based statistical data really easy to visualize. Simply select a set of data from the pull down lists and watch as the states resize in relation to the data.  You can select from data sets sorted into the categories of People, Planet, Business, Politics, and Living. Here's a version that shows the number of rollercoasters per state:

I can see this site being an interesting addition to a lesson in graphing and statistics!

Jeopardy Labs  One of my favorite ways to help students review for tests is by using games.  There are dozens of  templates out there where you can create a PowerPoint style presentation modeled after the television show Jeopardy.  The Jeopardy Labs website makes it even easier by creating an online template that you simply fill in with questions and answers. You can create your own or browse through the ready made games for one that matches your curriculum.

What's your favorite web sighting of the week?  Share them with us here!

Connect with Tech

Busy If you're a classroom teacher, then there are probably entire days that you don't see another adult for more than a few minutes.  It's tough to develop professional connections with your fellow teachers if the best you can manage is a quick hello as you run to meet your class at the end of recess.

Never fear! There are lots of great technology tools you can use to connect with other innovative teachers to share lesson plans and ideas.  The best part? The sharing can occur between teachers in the same building or across the globe!  Here are some of my favorite tech tools and websites to foster collaboration and communication with other educators:

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Science Tech-explorations

Science Science is always one of my student's favorite subjects.  Learning about the world around them while being able to explore and experiment makes science a hands-on, minds-on class.  While experiencing science directly is best, it's not always possible for many reasons (I'm guessing a field trip to an active volcano wouldn't be something my principal would approve...).   That's where virtual experiences can really give your science curriculum a boost.

Here are some of my favorite ways to use online tools in science:

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TCEA Tech Notes

Austin Last week I presented and learned at the Texas Computer Education Association Conference. I arrived in Austin Tuesday night and gave a 3 hour workshop on Wednesday morning. The workshop was Podcasting Stories and Poems. We explored Internet resources and created podcasts using GarageBand. To teach about writing stories and poems I used these Scholastic resources. I also shared he podcast resources.
        • Storytelling Workshop with Gerald Fierst
        • Writing With Writers
        • Poetry Idea Engine
        • Poetry Writing with Jack Prelutsky
        • Poetry Writing with Karla Kuskin
        • Poetry Writing with Jean Marzollo
        • Write It Poetry
        • Tech Tutor articles: A Guide to Digital Storytelling
        • Monsters
        • Tech Tutor Blog
        • 10 Podcasts for Teachers and Kids
        • Harry Potter Podcast Tour
        • TeacherShare

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Picture This!

Wea01505Kids are naturally visual.  By adding an arsenal of image-friendly techniques to your toolbag, you'll help your students link what they see to what they're learning. Here are some of my favorite ways to use images in the classroom along with a couple of great image search websites.

  • Create a slideshow preview. Collect photographs based on the current science or social studies unit and create a slideshow that can play as a screensaver on classroom computers during down time.  I love to use this technique at the beginning of a new unit so that when students arrive in class, they see images related to what we're about to study. It makes for a great conversation starter as students use prior knowledge to explain how the images link to the unit.
  • Create writing prompts.  If you have students use a daily writing prompt for journals, create a set of interesting images that can be used as story starters.  This is a great way to help students learn to add descriptive elements to their writing too.  I keep a set of images in my iPhoto library that are labeled Writing.  As I find interesting pictures that are begging for a story, I add them to the folder.
  • Make student stickers.  This is great for Kindergarten classes and pre-readers! Take a picture of each student and print their picture and name on address labels. Use the labels to mark mail cubbies, notebooks, and other personal storage spaces.  If you use chore charts or group lists, use the stickers to create index cards for each student to denote their tasks.
  • Create a class memory movie.  Select a student of the day to take pictures of each day's events.  At the end of the year, use the photos to create a slideshow or video from the first day of school to the last.  If you have a DVD burner, you can make a copy of the movie to send home with your students as a keepsake.

If you'd like to find more ideas, check out this list from Gayle and these ideas from "Digital Cameras in the Primary Classroom." Want even more ideas? Look no further:


If you don't have access or time to take your own photos, all is not lost.  Look to one of these sites for classroom friendly photographs.

  • US Government Photos and Graphics.  Links to dozens of government websites that contain public domain photographs.
  • NASA Image Exchange. Space images, video and audio from NASA's archive.
  • My Florida Digital Warehouse. Images and public domain clipart collected and housed by Florida's Center for Instructional Technology.
  • Pics4Learning. This collection of photographs was largely donated by teachers, students and others who wanted to create an image bank geared to education.  You'll find a dozen of my photos in there.  Why not work with your students to add to the collection?
  • Flickr's Creative Commons Search. Flickr is a social photography site where users share their photos. Many users license their photos under a Creative Commons license to make them available for use by others. Read more about the license at the site. (Note: Flickr may contain images that aren't suitable for younger students.)

Wondering where the photograph above came from? It's part of the NOAA Image Library, which is one of the many sites listed under the US Government Photos and Graphics link above.

Learning Online

If you're like Gayle and I, the holidays are a great time to spend a little time learning something new. Last week, Gayle shared several excellent tutorial sites for learning new technology skills.  If you're looking for new teaching skills too, here are some thoughts that will help you meet your professional development goals.  The best part?  None of these require travel - all it takes is a comfy chair, a computer, and time to sit back and learn!

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Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in Tech Tutors "Supporting Teachers Use of Technology" are strictly those of the author and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Scholastic, Inc.