"If we teach today's students as we taught yesterday's, we rob them of tomorrow." --John Dewey

Sunday, February 26, 2012

And the Award Goes to . . .

Print, cut out and magnet to your fridge.
You've earned it, faithful blog reader!
The Hollywood awards season may have come to a close with the presentation of the Oscars, but it's not too late to do some award presenting of your own.  As a matter of fact, this may be the perfect time to recognize outstanding achievement in our classrooms.  I know what you're thinking--isn't this a topic for the end of the year?  Isn't that when we're supposed to award achievement, attendance, effort, etc.?  Sure, sure . . . there are plenty of awards to be given at the end of a successful school year.  But at the end of February when we're all getting tired of the every day routine, and the dreary weather, and the standardized testing, and . . . well, just about everything . . . this may be the perfect time to give someone (student, colleague, administrator, . . . blog reader) an unexpected, probably much-needed shot in the arm.

If you're a creative sort, you can certainly make your own custom award certificates in your favorite word processing or graphics program.  If that would require far more time than you can spare on any given day, though, there are lots of quick and easy online alternatives.  One of the quickest is at: http://www.senteacher.org/Worksheet/3/FreeCertificates.xhtml (It's actually called the Quick Certificate Printer!)  This one really is quick and easy, without having to settle for images or wording that are not quite right, or not editable.  Worth bookmarking for the times you need to capitalize on an unexpected moment of brilliance.

Have a little more time to prepare?  Try http://www.schoolexpress.com/awards/index.php or http://www.certificatestreet.com/templates.html.  Both are loaded with options for making some fun and interesting awards.  My favorites, though, are http://www.123certificates.com, where you can customize countless certificates as well as trophies and award ribbons, and http://www.printwithmypic.com/certificates/ where you can, you guessed it, add pictures to personalize awards.

So go ahead.  Take a moment to thank all the "little people" who contribute to your success, and let them know how successful they are as well. No need for a golden statue on the mantle when you can have a certificate from the teacher to proudly display in the place of highest honor in every home--the front of the fridge.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Fall in love with LiveBinders

If you are an experienced teacher with more than a few years under your belt, chances are that you have a bookshelf or file drawer filled with the materials that you use year after year.  After all, why reinvent the wheel when you have one that actually rolls pretty well?  Now, though, in addition to your resource books and printed materials, you also have bookmarked websites and Word documents and PDFs and videos and podcasts--all of which relate to a particular unit, and most of which are stored in various places online or on your computer's hard drive.  If only there was a way to keep all of your resources neatly organized and easily accessible in that 3-ring binder there on your shelf.  (Insert audible sigh here.)

You may not be able to store your digital files in a 3-ring binder, but you can store all of it in a livebinder!  LiveBinders.com is an awesome site that makes organizing your teaching materials easier than you ever thought possible.  Every binder you create with your free account can be divided into tabs and subtabs, each of which can hold virtually any sort of digital content.  Add text, images, documents, PDFs, calendars, videos, web links, widgets . . . whatever.  Use html to embed material in your binder, and use html to embed your binder (or a whole shelf of binders) in a web page--a tidy little package, indeed.

In addition to the two binders I have embedded in this blog, I have binders with professional development resources for workshops I present; class lists, seating charts and emergency info for substitutes; and one that contains web links with log in hints for my students.  These examples, however, just scratch the surface of the potential uses for livebinders.  Create accounts for your students (from sub-accounts of your Gmail) and livebinders become portfolios of their work.  Planning a vacation, or a wedding?  Use livebinders to organize flight, hotel, and rental-car info; or wedding dress, catering, and florist details.  Anything that needs to be organized, needs to be organized in a livebinder. Add the "LiveBinder It" bookmarklet to your browser's toolbar, and adding content to your binder couldn't be easier.

Visit LiveBinders.com and take a look at some of the amazing work that our generous colleagues have chosen to share at the site.  Even if you decide not to create a binder of your own, I promise you'll find some remarkable treasures that will cause you to fall as madly in love with livebinders as I have.

Here's a sample of the binders on my shelf:

Well . . . look at this!

My pleasure, ladies! 
Always happy to spread the word about my favorite resources.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

A Voki for Your Valentine … or Your Vocabulary Lesson

If you've been paying attention to the news in the U.S. lately, you know that President Obama made quite a splash recently for singing just a few measures of an Al Green song during a fundraiser at the Apollo Theater.  Those few seconds of song garnered the attention of news stations around the country, not just because it was good, but because it was unexpected.  Thanks, Mr. President, for reminding us that a little novelty can go a long way towards getting the attention of your audience.

Short of breaking into song in your classroom, you can add a little novelty by using a fun site like Voki.com.  An individual account at Voki.com is free, and easy to use.  Choose a character from the variety available at the site and make adjustments to hair color, eye color, etc.  Select a background or upload your own, and you're ready to give your Voki a voice.  You can upload saved audio, or record your own message using your computer's microphone or your telephone.  You can even make use of the text to speech feature and have your character speak what you type.  No matter how you add audio, your character will not only move its mouth as it speaks the words, its eyes will follow the movement of the mouse on your page.  Once complete, you can share your message by email, or embedding in a blog or wiki.  Whether you make one to send to your Valentine or for your vocabulary lesson, your Voki is sure to get your message to its intended audience.  Be sure to visit Voki.com to view the collection of lesson plans and see all the ways a voki can get the attention of your students … without singing a single note.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Blabberize.com … It Speaks for Itself

It isn't every day you find a classroom resource with usefulness that speaks for itself,  but blabberize.com does just that--quite literally.  Visit the website, play the sample blabber on the home page, and I'll bet the bank that you'll have a smile on your face before it's over.  The friendly talking llama entertains and inspires, and will most assuredly convince you to to create your own "blabber."

With Black History month in full swing, and Presidents' Day just around the corner, I'm guessing that there are more than a few oral reports on the horizon in many classrooms.  This year, instead of having your students talk about famous Americans, try having them talk as famous Americans. Upload an image to the blabberize website, use the tool provided to select the lower jaw, and record or upload a narration.  With no additional effort, you will have created an amazing talking picture.

Blabberize lets you make the ordinary written word something extraordinary. Oral reports, book reports, announcements, invitations, instructions, … blog entries, all become a lot more interesting when they're blabberized.  Really.  Judge for yourself.  Which do you prefer?  More importantly, which would speak to your students?