Learning the syntax and grammar of English is never an easy thing for small children, but there’s online help from Grammar Girl, aka Mignon Fogarty. Her site on Quick and Dirty Tips has everything from the difference between Farther and Further to how to correctly pronounce etcetera. There’s even a section on the pesky problem of pluralizing words that end in an s. Everything is light-hearted and many of the lessons have videos.
Those casting about for 3-D printer projects, Thingverse’s Quick Projects page has several that make the most of lessons and the gear. In addition to lesson plans for making book report projects and key chains, the Thingverse site has ones that allow students to create model buildings or 3-D objects from drawings. My favorite is the decoder ring that can teach not only about 3-D printing, but letter frequency and breaking codes.
Even though it’s one of the most important skills for the present and future, many schools struggle to provide computer literacy beyond using the basic Office apps and mostly ignore computer technology and programming instruction. That’s where the Virtual High School fits in with a new curriculum and certificate aimed at computer science. The courses include Visual Basic and Java programming classes as well as VHS’s year-long AP Computer Science Principles course.
The next time you’re teaching about earthquakes and the ring of fire that surrounds the earth, go to the US Geologic Survey’s Earthquake site. It not only shows all the recent quakes with a magnitude greater than 2.5, but plots them for you and your students on a map. You can show not only recent action in California or Japan but zoom in one any of six geologically active regions. While you’re thinking of temblors, the USGS’s lessons page can help teach about what causes earthquakes, a glossary and what to do in the event the ground starts to shake.
Apple’s Hour of Code program takes a big step off of the Internet and into the company’s iconic showrooms. From December 5th through the 11th, every Apple store will host an Hour of Code Workshop. Just type in your state, pick a store and pick your time. The latest addition is the Swift Playgrounds app that can help get younger students to use their iPads to write programs and create games. Based on the open source Swift language, the playground software may seem like fun and games, but students (and teachers) will quickly learn the basics of coding and how programs work.
The place for the virtual curriculum is everywhere because it can free up students to study at their own pace and teachers to concentrate on actual teaching. Pearson’s Connections Academy is an elementary school curriculum, including math and science to reading, writing and social studies. The big bonus is that in addition to the basics, the online academy’s curriculum has electives for students interested in digital art, music and a small set of foreign languages. Schools can set up the Connections Academy digital curriculum directly with the company or through their district or state officials.
If your school can’t afford the expense and hassles of dedicated digital whiteboards for its classrooms, you might have all you need at hand. That’s because Ormiboard can turn any connected computer into projector collaboration tools. Just connect to the Ormiboard site, pick your lessons from the hundreds available and start working on it. The site has full lessons on everything from the solar system to nouns and pronouns as well as a good variety of clip art, educational games and audio so you can make your own. You can try it out for free, but the service costs $60 per teacher and school-wide discounts are available.
With election day coming quickly. Second Avenue’s Voter’s Ed 2016 Edition is ready. At $10 it’s a bargain of an app that can turn any student into a presidential pundit with insight into the coming vote. There’s a look at the history of presidential plebiscites, a continually updated Electoral College map with the latest polling data as well as a candidate tracker. It comes with a lesson plan for your choice of lower- and upper-elementary, middle, high school as well as AP students and works with just about any connected computer.
In this age of thumb typing and spell checkers, you’d think that actually learning to spell would take a backseat to free expression. Happily, spelling is even more important to keep the writer’s meaning true and avoid ambiguities or misunderstandings. Here’re seven apps that can help kids learn that it’s always “i” before “e,” except after a “c” – or something like that.
Anyone who’s been in an early education classroom with computers probably recognizes School Zone Spelling because it’s been around for nearly a decade. At $25, it can be used with an interactive projector and works with both PCs and Macs. The program has 2,800 words ready to be spelled (or misspelled) for grades one, two and three, and you can add your own word lists to its vocabulary. It focuses on independent self-paced learning with a variety of animated characters who help students to spell correctly, which is reinforced with exercises.
This name Ultimate Speller is appropriate here because this program is the complete package for classrooms with games that help kids learn to spell correctly and the ability to create class worksheets to hone skills. It delivers extensive analysis and reports while covering the gamut of platforms with compatibility for PCs, Macs as well as Linux computers and Chromebooks. its unique Word Explorer shows how different words are related shows it in an innovative visual manner. Ultimate’s $30 price tag for up to five users can be lowered for schools with a volume licensing program of the company’s EDU edition.
This small program does one thing and does it exceedingly well: Creates tests to give a class to see how well they can spell the latest word list. With 10,000 words at its disposal, Spell Quizzer reads the words of interest to the student and then checks what’s they have typed. On the downside, there’re no games or activities to actually learn the words. It costs $30 and is well worth it.
HOOKED ON SPELLING
While not as lively as its Hooked on Phonics series, Hooked on Spelling is custom made for the classroom with 20 minute discrete lessons that’re aimed at making 5-through-8-year old students into better spellers. The Hooked on Spelling lessons cover everything from consonant and vowel sounds to plurals and singulars. Along the way, there’re several games to reinforce the instruction, but the program won’t work on newer Macs.
With more than 9,000 words at its disposal and a sample sentence for each, Spelling Force can help a learn the ins and outs of spelling. There’s a special emphasis on phonics and homonyms, so everyone should be able to tell the difference between their, there and they’re. An Australian import, the $35 program runs only on PCs, but includes four separate games that help build spelling skills, rules and patterns.
Got a lot of Android tablets? Socratia’s Spelling Bee can help a class master the ins and outs of spelling with more than 2,300 words available as text and as audio to listen to. If you like the app, it can be set to deliver increasingly hard words and its assessments have the word in a sentence next to a place to type an answer. At the end, Spelling Bee tells you how you did and the level of severity.
LITTLE SPELLER—THREE LETTER WORDS
This is an iPad app that starts small for a school’s youngest students. Little Speller has a vocabulary composed entirely of simple and easy to learn words that can be built upon in subsequent grades. Built around flash cards, Little Speller has an image of the item, a place to play an audio clip of the word and a keyboard to type in the word. Best of all, it’s simple and free.