Put This One in Your POCKET And Save It For Later!

So I just found out about Pocket.  Good stuff.  Good stuff.  Pocket is another curation site, or basically a place to save stuff that you like in a nice, categorized way.  I have a bunch of these bookmarking-type sites, and I use them in different ways.  For instance……

  • draggo.com is a site I use to bookmark sites for my students.  It’s easy for them to use an navigate.  It’s simple for me to save things there.  It looks cute for kids, and it has tabs plus categories within tabs.  I like draggo for that purpose. (Here is a link to a former blog post about other curation sites that work well with kids: Click Here)
  • Feedly is a site I use to have all of my favorite blogs and news feeds sent to me.  If you haven’t used it, it’s sort of like a mailbox of your favorite magazines – and you get to pick which magazines make it in.  (Not which articles, specifically, just the magazines/blogs/news feeds).  I like to follow certain people’s blogs and definitely keep up with specific sources.  Feedly brings me exactly what I’m asking for in that way.
  • Pinterest is so awesome.  I use it to ‘pin’ pictures of things I like, want to make, ideas to try, places I want to go.  Basically, Pinterest (for me)  works like a big ‘wish list’ or ‘gonna do’ list, and after I’ve tried/done/visited some of those ideas, I’m just really glad I still have them saved on Pinterest.  I also use Pinterest to occasionally self-promote my own blog posts and articles.  I can follow other people on Pinterest, and other people can follow me.

You get the idea.  Different curation (bookmarking) sites for different needs.  Which brings me back to Pocket.  THIS is a site I have long needed for a completely different reason.  Sometimes, I just want to save a specific article to come back and read later.  Or a blog post.  Or even a website page.

Enter Pocket.  It’s super simple, works on all of my devices, and it has a bookmarklet!  (like Pinterest) It’s interesting that Pocket used to be called “Read It Later“.   I use Pocket when I’m on Twitter and someone suggests a blog post, but I’m trying to make it through a long Twitter feed and just want to remember to read it later.  On my computer, I just open the link to the blog post, then click my little Pocket bookmarklet that sits up there next to the URL line in Chrome.  Pocket kindly asks me if I’d like to name a category, I hit enter, and it’s saved.  For later.

save to pocket bookmarklet I also used Pocket for a recent vacation search.  My husband and I were trying to find rental properties at the beach.  Each time we found a website page of one that we liked, we just Pocket-ed it for later review.  Some were images; some were videos; some were just static pages. (I wouldn’t want to use Pinterest for this, because I don’t necessarily want my followers to see this kind of thing.)

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Pocket is great for Christmas or gift-giving lists, too.  Again, I don’t want my Pinterest followers to see (Yes, I know I can create private boards, but I think Pocket is easier.)  I can categorize under Christmas, or get even more specific with Christmas- Husband or Birthday- Suzie…yadda yadda yadda.  Of course, Pocket has a search feature so I can find all of my things easily later, mark certain ones as ‘favorites’, and delete items after I have read them and no longer need them.

One more thing – Pocket has an app.  I use this just as often because it’s not that often I want to read an entire article or blog post on my iPhone.  In Twitter, if I just ‘long hold’ my finger on a blog hyperlink, it gives me the option to “send to Pocket“…and I use that a lot!   I don’t want to over-explain this site, because it’s really just super simple and fun to use.  Just get in there and start Pocket-ing your favorite stuff!  You’ll be glad you did……later!

And hey…if you didn’t have time to read this whole post or you want to revisit it later, why not just Pocket it!

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Scholastic’s Story Starters – a Fun Way to Play with Writing Prompts

It’s hard to make writing fun sometimes.  I know, I’ve been there.  I’ve picture-prompted and poetry-prompted and current-event-prompted and movie-prompted and advice-column-prompted and every-other-kind-of-prompted over the years.  So, I never turn down another trick or tool to keep things fresh and interesting when it comes to teaching writing.  I found – and am thrilled to share – a very cool site that would make ME excited to write (so I sure hope it works for you & your students, too.)

The site is Scholastic’s Story Starters.  It doesn’t take much explaining, so I’ll just put a few screenshots here to show you how awesome it is…

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You can pick the genre: Adventure, Fantasy, Sci-Fi, or Scrambler

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Then, students enter their names and choose their grade levels. (The writing tasks really do differ by grade level!)

adventure story

This is the really fun part! Click on the spin wheel and the required story elements are generated for you! If you want to change just one, you can click on those buttons below each element. It is so fun to watch and see what kind of writing prompt is created!

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As a teacher, I LOVE LOVE LOVE this part! It’s great for students to have choice, it’s excellent if you’re teaching any one of these particular types of writing, and it is fantabulous for differentiation!

  Okay, I’m jumping back in here for just a moment.  At this point, you have a decision to make.  If you have used a projector to share this site with the whole class so far, you may want to let them all begin their stories (on paper or computer) based on the class topic that you’ve shown.  However, if you really want students to have some real choice, you can put them all on their own computers and have them all log on to Scholastic Story Starters.

This is kind of one of the best parts of this whole site – it actually provides a related form on which the students can create their documents!  For instance, if a student chose “newspaper” from the screen above, the next screen would look like this:

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This particular page is from the 4-6th grade adventure story. It allows students to add additional pages and even leaves space for an illustration!

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If you happen to be teaching letter writing skills, look at this great writing paper! Don’t you think kids would be motivated to write with fancy paper like this?

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And yes, in the end, students can print or save their work! But I’m pretty sure they’ll go with option #3 and choose to start a new story!

So there you have it – Scholastic Story Starters!  If you use this site with your class, I would really love to hear how it went!  You can follow me on Twitter @kerszi, on Facebook at My Primary Techspiration, and here at my blog at kerszi.wordpress.com.   Happy writing!

Lingro…Makes Any Word on an Online Textual Page “Clickable”

I learned about Lingro last week at the NJEA Conference.  It’s quite a powerful tool, and I know that educators will want to not only know about this, but share it with their students SOON!  This is something that teachers in EVERY discipline can use, from elementary school through…well, through grown-up schools and beyond.

Basically, you open the Lingro site.  You paste the URL of any other site you were trying to read (or a student was) into the URL bar on Lingro.  It reopens the page, almost with an invisible film of Lingro on top.  You see, once it reopens in Lingro, ANY WORD on the page is “clickable”…and by “clickable”, I mean that the definition pops up immediately.  Seriously – any word on the page!

This is way cooler if I can show it to you instead of just typing about it, so I made a short screencast to demo it quickly with three different texts.  Watch and be amazed….oh, and watch it to the very end for an exciting BONUS feature!

Funny Friday – Full of Forgetfulness

I’ve created accounts with hundreds and hundreds of websites.  Whenever I set up an account, I have about 6-8 variations on a few passwords that I use.  I know, I know…I should change my passwords more often, create really unique ones, get a little funky with symbols and numbers and such…but I’m just not that good.  Usually, it takes me all 8 tries to finally find the one I’ve used for any given website.  Okay, sometimes it takes me a dozen tries.

password funny

And then there are days like today.  This morning, I read a blog that mentioned a website I used to really love, but haven’t used in a few years.  I wanted to go back and revisit it.  I entered my email and tried my password, and tried my other password, and tried….well, none of my dozen attempts worked.  I even tried variations that included capitals in various places, but I just wasn’t getting in.   I clicked the “Forgot your password?” link to have it emailed to me, but they didn’t email it quickly enough, and I’m obviously impatient.  So guess what I did…yup…I created a new account.  Has anyone else ever done this?

So, in honor of password forgetfulness, I’m sharing a little humor to kick of your weekend!   Do yourself a favor and watch this funny fella named Don Friesen help me feel that I’m not alone.

* And if this sounds like you or someone you know, click that “retweet” or “share” button and spread some chuckles!

EdPuzzle…My Favorite Web 2.0 Tool for Making Videos Meaningful!

EDpuzzle is one of the greatest teacher tools I have discovered in a long time. Really.  I wish I could’ve had this for my whole teaching career.  Oh, the wondrous things I could have curated by now!  EDpuzzle, how do I love thee?  Let me count the ways:

1)  You are free!

2)  Teachers choose videos and you give simple tools for cropping – so that only the necessary content becomes part of the lesson!

3)  You let us set up classes and assign our EDpuzzles to whomever we want in those classes – and track responses!

4)  You have a super-simple, user-friendly, easy-to-learn site!   I learned to use this site without any YouTube video, screencast, tutorial, or workshop.  It was just pretty easy to learn, mostly because of the helpful tips you incorporate into your site and embed along the way!  You are SOOOO sweet!  Everybody is going to just love you!

5)  You allow teachers to insert voice comments while the video pauses – so that they can mention key points, focus students’ attention to something that is coming up, or reflect on something that just happened.

6)  You let us teachers insert text comments – allowing, once again, the video to stop for a moment while an important comment is textually highlighted on the screen.

7)  You auto-save!  You truly and honestly auto-save – and often!  (swoon!)

8)  This is where I truly, TRULY fell in love:  You, darling EDpuzzle, let us create embedded quiz questions throughout the video and track our students’ answers!  Multiple choice, open-ended…you let US decide, and for this, I adore you!  We teachers just LOVE formative data and setting a purpose for viewing!

9)  You let us set due dates – making “the flipped classroom” possible by assigning our videos!

10)  Your dashboard is extremely well organized!  You make us feel so special when we know where to find things and know how to put everything in its place!

11)  You store everything I do.  Forever.  You just save it in case I ever want it again...sigh….

Here’s a screenshot from my silly little trial EDpuzzle (but I had fun making it!)  See the cool on-screen tools?

edpuzzle1

Okay, here is the real test run for all my blog readers.  Please know that I was just being silly and testing EDpuzzle on one of my favorite videos, but you’ll get to see and learn all of the features of this (about 5 minute) EDpuzzle!

PLEASE, PLEASE click on this link to see it in action!  https://edpuzzle.com/media/5455234c7ffb209009f9c9cc

If you fall in love with EDpuzzle, too, it’s okay.  I’m not the jealous type.  

If any of you have anything I should add to this post, please just contact me @kerszi on Twitter, at My Primary Techspiration on Facebook, or at kerszi.wordpress.com.

Flying Over America – A Video to Inspire

My dear teacher friends,

You are seriously going to want to show this video, Flying Over America.  Do it for you, do it for the children, do it for the tremendous discussions and learning that can happen around a wonderfully creative video like this.  Do it for America, really!

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An animated biplane takes viewers all across America – flying over some of our most stunning and notable landmarks – in under six minutes.  It’s set to music.  It’s breathtaking.  It’s so cleverly done, and it’s under six minutes!

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But teachers, I encourage you to turn this into a much bigger lesson than just six minutes.  Flying Over America is pretty powerful.

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There are so many opportunities for truly phenomenal lesson planning that can happen around a clever video like Flying Over America, and here are just a few ideas:

  • Why not show it now, near the beginning of the year, and see how many of the landmarks and places your students can name?  Pause the video often for discussion and sharing.  It will be fun to see how much your students know individually and collectively. Record responses.  Definitely show it again at the end of the year, and see how much more your students have learned about our amazing America!
  • Assign any or all of the landmarks as research projects.  Encourage brainstorming of more places!
  • Have students practice letter writing skills to write away to these places to receive literature from state parks, landmarks, etc.  I have had students as young as 2nd grade do these kinds of writing projects.
  • Do Skype or any kind of pen-pal project with students from any of these locations.
  • This is my favorite:  Get students to suggest places that weren’t shown and write about/blog about/create videos about why they should have been included!  (This is great Common Core stuff – evaluating bias!)
  • Post a big ol’ map on your classroom wall and start putting location tacks in it.  So much fun and a lot of opportunity as the year goes on.  Let students celebrate their own travel experiences!
  • Post this Fly Over America video on your website, teacher page, or blog and ask students to independently try to find all the places they weren’t able to name – as a challenge
  • Create your own version of Flying Over America – maybe just a photo slideshow, but what a powerful way to celebrate travel, places your students have been, the stories of your families, and America!
  • Start a wiki with a page for each location and let students add to pages as they learn things throughout the year.

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In elementary school, especially in ‘Social Studies’, we are tasked with teaching students about their own neighborhoods, communities, states, country, and continent.  This six minute video can become SUCH a huge part of our year-long, or years-long lesson plan for learning and knowing more about this phenomenal country and inspiring pride in our United States of America!

Please, you know I always ask for collaboration and contributions.  If you have any ideas for using this video that you’d like to share, please do so on this blog, at My Primary Techspiration on Facebook or @kerszi on Twitter.  Thanks!