Free Rice ~ it’s a very good thing!

You play multiple choice brain games.  You get questions right.  Hungry people get fed.  That’s the idea behind a really wonderful website called Free Rice.  It’s really that simple, and it’s really fun for children and grown-ups, too!  Here’s a screenshot so you can see how easy it is:



See?  You just click on an answer, and if you get it right, 10 grains of rice appear in that bowl!  The rice keeps adding up, the bowl keeps getting filled, and and United Nations World Food Programme really donates food to hungry people in the world!  

The link I’ve provided you takes you automatically to the English Vocabulary section.  You basically guess word meanings.  If you get it wrong, you are shown the correct answer and the question comes back randomly a few minutes later…so you really LEARN the word!   But wait – you can change the subject!  I’ve used this with students as young as 2nd grade, because it even has Math facts & multiplication tables!  Older kids, teens, and even we grown-ups can even choose from a variety of topics such as Geography, foreign languages, S.A.T. prep, Literature, Anatomy…here’s a link to the various Free Rice Subjects.

Teachers, it might be fun to create a desktop shortcut or provide a common link for your students to use this site.  When I teach students to use this site, I REALLY, REALLY rah-rah the fact that kids can do something so simple that does so much good!  We usually have a heartfelt discussion about the needy, homelessness, and hunger in the world…and that hooks the kids emotionally so that they want to become frequent players.  BTW……users can play randomly, but real addicts can sign up for an account that tracks your progress & donations and even join groups.  (I’ve had many students do this, & I’ve overheard competitive discussions about who has donated the most rice!  How awesome is that!)

So why not step away from the Angry Birds, the Farm, the Candy Crush, and even the Solitaire and come play a game that makes a real difference in the world….Free Rice


Want a little more help?  Check out this simple YouTube video (3.5 minutes long) that shows how to fully navigate the site:


From the site…….

Freerice is a non-profit website that is owned by and supports the United Nations World Food Programme.

Freerice has two goals:

  • Provide education to everyone for free.
  • Help end world hunger by providing rice to hungry people for free.

This is made possible by the generosity of the sponsors who advertise on this site.

Whether you are CEO of a large corporation or a street child in a poor country, improving your education can improve your life. It is a great investment in yourself.

Perhaps even greater is the investment your donated rice makes in hungry human beings, enabling them to function and be productive. Somewhere in the world, a person is eating rice that you helped provide.





Kid President’s Pep Talk to Teachers and Students

If you haven’t seen Kid President yet, you are about to fall in love.   This adorable child has a whole bunch of inspirational, motivational, supercalifragilisticexpialidocious videos on YouTube.  After this one steals your heart, try a few of the others.

This one goes out to all of the remarkable and inspiring teachers who are about to make the world even more awesome!


Online Bookmarking: Saving Your Sites!

For years, my district provided us with something called eBoards.  Each teacher got one, and it looked like a virtual bulletin board with square sticky notes.  We could categorize by tabs, subjects, grade levels…and then subcategorize with as many sticky-notes as we wanted within each category.  I spent about 12 years building mine, and it had THOUSANDS AND THOUSANDS of my favorite collected links, sites, and attachments.

This year, the district is getting rid of eBoards.  Holy link-loss, Batman!  I’m going to lose it all!  Years & years of work, collection, organization…gone!

No wait – there’s hope!  It’s definitely going to take some time, but I’m going to transfer all of those valuable little categories of links like my sanity depends on it (which it probably does!)  But I’m going to do it the smart way this time.  I’m not transferring to whatever the new platform/website/staff webpages the district gives us!  What if they choose another option a few years from now?  I’m not doing this again.  So….I am putting all of my cherished links….in the cloud!

Online bookmarking sites have been around for years.  You can store all of your favorites online on a website of your choice.  I thought I’d share three of those choices with you, and I’ll end with my new favorite:

  • – I first started using this about 12 years ago, and I still have mine.  It”s great.  It is free and it is super easy to use.  You just create categories, add links, you can even add descriptions, and then share a password with your students or others so that they can access the hyperlinks but not edit them.  It looks nice, and students use it with ease.  The only reason I’m not still going with this option is just because I’ve had it for so long, it feels old to me.  Dumb reasoning, because it’s still perfectly awesome.  Here is a link to the How to set up Portaportal page, and here’s what one looks like:


  • – I first brought Symbaloo to my district way back when it was new.  It’s pretty cool and it looks awesome.  There are all these little colorful squares that look like apps, and each one is basically a hyperlink.  You can organize, categorize, color code, and even put your own symbols on these squares, and they call this a webmix.  You can have multiple tabs (by subject or grade level, for example) with categorized links on each tab.  They’ve even come out with an EDU version (free or paid versions)  just for us teachers, and it has some bonus features like mobile access and collaborative webmixes.  I still have a couple of Symbaloos and I’ll probably continue to use these.  I like Symbaloo,  especially for  young children because it uses pictures & icons as hyperlinks.  Here’s their video intro:

  • – This is my new favorite – BY FAR!  It’s the one I’ll be using for myself.   It’s pretty new (just out of beta), really cool, user friendly, and looks most like an eBoard. Here’s a screenshot:


This screenshot doesn’t even show my FAVORITE part:  When you begin installing Draggo (which is free, of course), it prompts you to install a Draggo button (in Chrome).  Now, at the top of my screen, just under the URL bar, is a permanant button that says SAVE TO DRAGGO.  Whenever I am browsing the web and happen to notice something that I want to save & bookmark, I just click that little button and it automatically saves the site to an ‘inbox’ in my Draggo account.  The next time I log on to Draggo, it shows me all my tagged items in this ‘inbox’ and asks where I’d like to categorize them!  This is such a huge timesaver and a major bonus!  I also just like the way the site looks – the tabs, categories, links, and a password that lets students access my draggo but not edit it.  I also like that I can set up a few “private” tabs – visible only to me.

Please click “share” if you know of other teachers (or any kind of human being) that might like to know about these 3 online bookmarking tools.


*** Note:  another great organizational bookmarking tool that’s popular is called LiveBinders. I’ve gotten a lot of very nice resources from existing public LiveBinders, and it’s definitely worth checking out!  Let me know in the comments (or on Facebook) if you want to learn more, and I’ll do a separate post about it!

Presenting….emaze! Prepare to be emazed!

I’m in love.  I really am.  I don’t know how I have not known about this site before now, but it is blowing my mind!  I just learned about emaze a few days ago, and I’m already addicted to creating presentations in the most clever, cool, and fun ways!


Okay, so the site is called emaze, and it is AMAZING!  It’s a presentation tool, like PowerPoint or Prezi, but I like love it SOOO much better!  I could tell you all about it, but I’d consider myself a total emaze slacker if I just blogged about it, so I created an emaze presentation to show you everything that rocks about emaze!

 Click here for my emaze about emaze!

I know, I know, I know….now YOU’RE in love too, right?  I’ll bet you want to go create one right now, don’t you?  Well please – go right ahead!  And if you’re proud of your work and don’t mind sharing, would you post the link to your own emaze presentation in the comments on this post (or on Facebook if you’re following My Primary Techspiration there?)  Oh, and if you have some buddies who might like to know about this cool tech tool & others, please click on the SHARE button and spread the love!

Word Tamer – teach story elements

Word Tamer greets you with the giant face of a lion and challenges you to ‘Enter if You Dare’.    After that, a circus master in a top hat appears in a video and welcomes you to “tame words and train stories.”  You enter a funfair world where games, activities, and interactives teach a multitude of amazing lessons about story elements!   Prowl through the Plot, Capture a Character, Wild Words, Setting and Genre…there’s so much to explore!

Teachers, especially at grades 3 and up, really should keep this site bookmarked or in their back pockets!  There are just so many reasons to return to Word Tamer as part of your Readers’ or Writers’ Workshops throughout the year!





Here is a link to a review and website synopsis from my favorite tech blogger in the world wide blogosphere, Richard Byrne.  I just I like the way he described Word Tamer:


I hope you and your students have a phenomenal time at the funfair!  If you use this site, please stop back at this blog to let us know how you used it, what your students thought of it, and any extention activity ideas!  We’d love to be TechSpired by you!

Start This Year the WRITE Way!

Let me introduce you to My Storymaker.   My StoryMaker

 It is one of the most creative Web 2.0 tools for digital storytelling for young students.  This would be a phenomenal way to get your students excited about writing AND using technology ~ in a format that is easy for them (and you) to use!

My StoryMaker allows children to choose, click on, and manipulate their story’s characters, setting, and objects.  Based on their choices, sentences are constructed for the students.  For young students who are not yet adept at writing or spelling, this is a fantastic way to help them fall in love with story creation.  For older or more able children, there is the option for students to write their own sentences.  All students will be exposed to understanding story elements like plot, setting, sequencing, and characters.  The interactive and decision-making elements of this website make it entertaining for all ages!

My suggestion would be to use this first as a whole-class experience…write a story together!  There are so many fun options with this program that you may want to do this as a group SEVERAL times before letting the students try it with a partner or on their own.  This gives the teacher an opportunity to not only demonstrate use of the website, but also to discuss common core writing standard concepts that are relevant to a particular grade level.  Students will feel supported and less intimidated about writing when they are able to participate in group writing.   I’m pretty sure you’ll ALL get a few laughs as you develop the story together and watch it unfold on  the screen.  

A few things to note about this site:

  • It’s quite well done.  It was developed by Carnegie Mellon at the Carnegie Pittsburgh Library.  
  • When you click on a character, a set of choice icons appears in the upper left hand corner.  It allows you to choose the character’s emotions and movements.  When you choose one of these, a correlating sentence appears at the bottom of the screen in the text area.
  • When you finish a story, you may ‘publish’ it.  You are given a secret code to write down so that you may access your story again.  I believe that the stories are held on the site for one month.  There are also options to print, share (email) the story, or view the story as a virtual book with turning pages.
  • In regard to Core Content Standards, you can easily teach key concepts from the Reading, Writing, Speaking/Listening, and Language standards. 
  • This would be adorable and highly motivating on a SmartBoard, where students could take turns coming to the board to actually touch and manipulate objects as part of their participation!
  • There is a little tutorial that can be played at the beginning of the site.  Even if you’re familiar with how to use this site, I recommend playing the tutorial for the whole class so they get the benefit of hearing/seeing the step-by-step guide.


Just for you, here’s a link to a quick 5-minute video tutorial that makes using this site easy-cheesy:  My StoryMaker Video Tutorial


And here are just a few screenshots of the website in action:

mystorymaker_screenshot    slide4

Random Student Pickers

Okay – raise your hand if you’ve ever made a jar full of popsicle sticks with your students’ names on them.  Yup, thought so!  We all have, right?  It’s a good thing because it keeps things fair and keeps us from calling on the same students all the time.  Oh, and those kids KNOW that when you pick up that jar, they all have to be paying attention because you might just pull their stick.  I love that!

Why not take it to the next level and add a little tech?  There are several sites that allow you to enter your students’ names and then the computer picks the victim (I mean student.)  All of these sites work pretty much the same way, and after you enter the names your work is done.  (Most of the sites have a way for you to save the list so that you don’t have to enter them each time you want to use it.)  When you have any of these sites projected on to a whiteboard or SmartBoard, you’ll see that the kids REALLY pay attention!  You can make it even more engaging by having students take turns being ‘the picker’ or pushing that GO/SPIN/CHOOSE button (this works especially well on a SmartBoard!)  There are many of these randomizers out there, but I’ve found a few that I think work especially well for primary schools.

Here are very brief descriptions of three of my favorite and free randomizer tools with screenshots of what they look like:


Random Name Selector – basically just click on “Change Names”, enter your students, and click Go.  You can slow it down and turn the sound on/off, but it’s really quite simple.  I love that it’s so big & clear.  Save & Share button gives you a way to save it.  (Your quickest, easiest option is to copy that top code & email it to yourself.)

random_name by primary


Dart Board Selector – You do have to sign up for an account, but it’s free.  The fact that you have an account means that your names save automatically.  It is just SO fun to throw darts at that spinning dart board!



Random Name/Word Picker from ClassTools looks like a slot machine.  They call it ‘fruit machine’ instead, which is pretty cute.  What I REALLY love about this one is that it gave me a new idea:  I could put WORDS in there.  Try putting a list of your Reading vocab words in there and calling on students to use them in sentences, draw them, or act them out.  Put adjectives in and have students call out synonyms or antonyms for selected words.  Put Spanish vocabulary words in there and have students write down the corresponding word in English.  There are a lot of creative ideas for this, so if you think of any, please share them in the comments here, on Twitter, or on Facebook!




Keeping it Clean with YouTube: ViewPure

Teachers, this is a tool you will DEFINITELY want to use!  Have you ever begun to show a wonderful, preplanned, previewed educational video to your students on YouTube, only to have some embarrassingly inappropriate content show up in the sidebar?  (I’ve got to admit, it has happened to me!)  You’re so excited for the students to learn about how sedimentary rocks are formed, but you totally lose the class when there’s a semi-nudie pic in the thumbnails over there on the right.  So much for rocks.  Hopefully, you weren’t being observed that day!


ViewPure is a website tool that allows you to enter the web address (URL) for any YouTube video, and it removes all of the sidebar distraction!  Yup ~ it shows a pure view!  Just your video with a white screen as the background.  And oh, is it easy to use!  There are two things that are especially nice about this site:  you can search for videos right on ViewPure (so you don’t have to go to YouTube first; then copy/paste); AND it allows you to install a little bookmarklet on the bookmarks bar.  

Just watch the quick little screencast by clicking the link below to see exactly how this all works:


Gotta Love Free Posters!

Teachers love free stuff, and we primary school teachers love decorating our classrooms, too….especially at the beginning of the year when everything is new and fresh and shiny!  So here’s a timely little gem for you….Poster Street.


The site couldn’t be easier to use.  There are 5 main categories:  Office, Home, Teacher, Teen, and Kids.  Just find any poster that you like, click on the red “free download” button, and print!  There are some really beautiful and inspirational posters here, and I’ve found some great items in every one of the categories!   If you’re looking for cute, quick, easy, and free…this is a site for you!

A few random thoughts:

  • Although I’m using the term ‘poster’, it’s really more like a sign.  If you simply go to print your selection, you’re going to get a printout on your standard 8.5×11 piece of paper ~ unless you set up some advanced printer options for multi-page printing and then do a little assembly work with the pages.
  • Teachers, Coaches, & Parents:  If you scroll to the bottom of the home page, you’ll see that they have a link to their sister-site, Certificate Street.  It’s not bad, but the free versions of the certificates have a watermark.  
  • The poster-printing that I’ve shared with you IS free, but of course websites are interested in making money.  They do have a link to their store on the page, where you can choose to buy clothing, stickers, etc. with the same graphics.
  • If you have a blog or website, you’ll notice that Poster Street kindly includes an easy embed code for each poster.  

Here’s the link again, and I hope you find some great posters to jazz up your space and inspire your students!


Navigation Tip:  I’ve shared this before, but it’s a good tip to know.   On this site (most sites), if you click on the logo (Poster Street), it will always take you back to the site’s home page.  

Listen to a Book! Storyline Online

Often, I like to do ‘list posts’ like many other bloggers.  “5 Great Sites About Seeds” or “Top 10 Websites for Learning About Spiders”.  Today, I’m dedicating this post to just one site – Storyline Online.  I think it’s really a clever, well-done site.


The site currently has a selection of 27 books that are suitable for all primary grades, and they will be adding more.  Each book is read aloud by someone famous.  (The site is actually put together by the Screen Actors’ Guild.)  Look for readers lilke Betty White, Elijah Wood, and Melissa Gilbert.  The actor appears in a video, introduces him/herself and the book, and then reads the book aloud as the video cuts to the actual pages of the book.  

There are a few extra features about this site that really make me love it:

  • There is a close-captioning option.  I like to turn it on.  I think that it only helps students when they can see the words as they hear them being read.
  • There is a full-screen option.  You’ll probably want to put this on if you’re using a projector or SmartBoard.
  • There are sound effects like music and noises that are added to the readings to make them even more interesting.
  • The stories all run somewhere between 5 and 17 minutes…you can preview the times before you begin
  • There are standard video control buttons, so you can pause or rewind to discuss the story.

This can be such a valuable site for teaching and discussing so many of the Reading strategies:  inferencing, visualization, drawing conclusions, making predictions, etc.  I love the idea of using it for whole or small groups to teach these concepts, but it would also be great as a computer station Reading activity.  If you had a prepared set of questions for students to answer, as a student independently views the book, he/she could rewind and go back ‘into the text’ to find answers.

Random little tip:  After you view a book, or if you’ve been navigating around the site, just click on the title STORYLINE ONLINE at the top of the page.  It will bring you back ‘home’ to the main page.  (This works with most websites, by the way!)

  Here’s the link to the site:


Feel free to leave comments on this blog or on the Facebook page if you have other suggestions for using this site or extension activities you tried with any of the stories!