Monday, November 29, 2010

Message from Santa

If you aren't an elementary teacher, have children of your own, or don't celebrate Christmas, you can skip this post...but since decorating my house this weekend, I had to share the coolest site for your children or Santa to get a video message from Santa! If you are a teacher, I highly recommend sharing this site with your students' parents. I did this last year for my 4 and 7 year olds and they were amazed!

The site is Portable North Pole. Basically, this site allows you to create a video message from Santa to a toddler, child, or adult. It allows you to customize it with 3 pictures of the recipient as well as a picture of a gift they want for Christmas.
Here is a link to the video I made for my son this year.
Again, if you are a teacher and don't have time to create a video for each student, email this site to the parents. To create the video, you simply fill in the child's name and some personal info such as what they have been good at this year, what they need to keep working on, and age, eye color, etc.  Such a fun, easy, FREE way to get a message from Santa to a special child in your life. Enjoy!

Monday, November 22, 2010

Smilebox Teacher's Toolbox

If you are a teacher, I recommend you visit Smilebox and sign up for the Teacher's Toolbox program.

Smilebox is a great way to showcase what is happening in your classroom in a very easy way! The teachers who use it at my school LOVE it!

I have started using Smilebox to send out our family Christmas "card" by email to share more than one photo and also help save paper by sending an online greeting rather than sending a card that more than likely will be viewed then thrown in the trash. (see example of my card from last year below)

Click to play this Smilebox greeting
Create your own greeting - Powered by Smilebox

Here is more information from their website.

The Smilebox Teacher’s Toolbox program is a teacher’s digital companion for creative classroom communication. Teacher’s Toolbox gives teachers at all grade levels an easy and creative way to safely share photos, videos, and classroom updates to students and parents. Smilebox is perfect for:

  • parent newsletters and updates
  • overviews of teaching units for at-home learning and modeling
  • award and merit certificates
  • performance and field trip scrapbooks
  • classroom activity slideshows
  • end-of-year photo albums and yearbooks
  • much, much more
Classroom creations can be emailed, posted to a school blog or website, burned to DVD or photo frame, or printed for bulletin boards or backpacks. Parents will experience these learning moments as if they were sitting right alongside their child in class. Your kids will love to see themselves and friends featured in creative multimedia designs set to the music of your choice. You’ll be amazed at how easy Smilebox is to use and how quickly you can share classroom memories.

As a member of the Smilebox Teacher’s Toolbox program, you will receive a FREE annual subscription to our premium Club Smilebox service (a US$39.99 value). The premium service gives you unlimited access to more than 900 Smilebox designs. You can also choose from hundreds of music options or add your own music, email and blog your creations full screen without ads, burn a DVD, and print any page at school, home or at a local retail store. We add new designs each week to keep you supplied with fresh ideas for every holiday, season and special event. You will also receive special offers and a newsletter with great ideas on how to use Smilebox in your classroom.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Robotics Class and Great Resources

I teach a Robotics Elective Class to 6th graders at our school. The class lasts one trimester and we meet once every six day rotation for 40 minutes. This is my second year to teach this to every 6th grader. Previously, it was an after school enrichment class option for students. I work at an all boys' school, so needless to say, Robotics is a class they all enjoy.

We use LEGO Mindstorms Robot kits. I did lots of online research and thought I was teaching it ok-at least for being self taught.
Then, the power of twitter came to my rescue! @damienkee saw a tweet I sent out about a Robotics question and we started a conversation. Basically, I was frustrated that the robot in the instruction book that came with the kit took at least 4 or 5 class periods for my students to build due to time restraints. That left only 3 classes left to program (last year, we were on quarters, not trimesters.) Damien told me that I was building the wrong robot and sent me this link to one of his website on robotics to build a smaller robot that would only take one class period.
I printed the directions for my boys and on the first class, every group except one finished building the robot. I was overjoyed! We had 10 weeks left to program....which leads me to a resource that you should really consider purchasing if you teach LEGO Mindstorm Robotics.

Damien shared 3 books with me that he has written. Here is the link to the books.
The one called Classroom Activities for the Busy Teacher: NXT has great programs in it for you to share with your students to help them understand what all the commands in the programming software do. It seriously took my Robotics class to another level in a short amount of time! I realized that it was exactly what I needed to help the students create programs to really get their robot working at a new level! This site has a video of some of the programs for the robots from the book as well as a link to download some sample lessons.

Here is also the link to Damien's main Robotics website.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Word Cloud Choices

Word Cloud from ABCya!

Today I wanted to share a few sites that our 1st-3rd grade students use to create word clouds.

First, let's look at Wordle. Wordle describes their site as "a toy for generating “word clouds” from text that you provide. The cloudsgive greater prominence to words that appear more frequently in the source text. You can tweak your clouds with different fonts, layouts, and color schemes. The images you create with Wordle are yoursto use however you like. You can print them out, or save them to the Wordle gallery to share with your friends."

Wordle allows you to keep phrases of words together by using a tilda between the two words you don't want separated (~). This is helpful to know before using this tool with your students. Wordle also lets you choose various fonts and color schemes as well as orientation of your words.

Jen Wagner has a great site called Guess the Wordle that is great to use with students on a daily basis.

Here is a description of this site:

"Every day (Monday – Friday) a new wordle will be posted for you and your students to view.
Each wordle will have a TOPIC and you will need to use your diciphering skills to figure out exactly what that topic is. (feel free to use the tools of the internet to figure out the topics)
Monday & Wednesday Wordles
Monday’s Wordle will be easy. All the words will have ONE thing in common.
Wednesday’s Wordle will be a bit more complex. All the words will have TWO things in common.

Tuesday, Thursday, Friday Wordles
Tuesday’s Wordle will be the date of a famous event in world history.
Thursday’s Wordle will be the title of a book, poem, song, fable, etc.
Friday’s Wordle will be a famous location."

Another great site for word clouds is from ABCya! This is a little more user friendly for younger students than Wordle. This site also allows changing the font, orientation of words, and color scheme. One different I really like about ABCya! is that you can save your word cloud as a jpeg to post on a blog or wiki site with one click!

Check out these 2 sites and let your imagination go wild! I think your students will love it. I know ours have enjoyed using this great tool!