1 April 2014

A Creative Approach to Book Reports

marsmet546 via photopin cc

When prepping lessons, two things often on my mind are how to offer the best workflow for students (i.e. moving between digital devices for learning tasks and paper-based tasks) and providing opportunities for students' own creativity for learning. Book reports, for instance,  are not new, but by adding digital tools for students to create them, we can offer a new experience for learning.

Tackk is a content creation board, which  I came across in TechCrunch. It allows you to include images, text and video; it's free and embeddable. If you would like to keep your work, you only need to sign up and it's saved, (otherwise it expires after 7 days).

For students who need to write a book report, preparing their book report with images, video, a soundtrack and text gives them the opportunity to be more creative in their task. Working in a small group,  they can  then share their work either in their blog/class blog or LMS. Tackk can be used for different kinds of projects - from school events to any kind of group project.

Below is an example, demonstrating how simple it is to find images and how to add content.

What other ways do you ask students to present book reports?

DonkeyHotey via photopin cc

Further Suggestions:

10 Technology Enhanced Alternatives to Book Reports

32 Interesting Ways to Use Padlet in the Classroom

Other digital boards:

Create your own Playlist on LessonPaths!

17 March 2014

The Revision Game

Revisions just have to be fun! And FlipQuiz is a great tool to use for revising language or content.

After signing up, one begins by creating a new quiz board, give it a name, and with the choice of six categories, there will be five questions for each. Then, for each question, the creator of the quiz board, adds the correct answer. Save, and it's ready to go. 

In class, before projecting the quiz, I give each small group a laminated white board and their own marker. The groups then have to write their answer and raise their board. The first team with the correct answer wins the prize (i.e. if the question is worth 1 point, 1 chocolate coin, if 2 points, 2 chocolate coins; up to the 5 coins for the 5 point question). 

Flipquiz works well on iPads as well, so that is another bonus using it, if you happen to be teaching with iPads. 

Revisions? Definitely a lesson to look forward to!

22 February 2014

Writing Prompts, A Story Dice and Book Creator

AlicePopkorn via photopin cc

It's easy to say that students need to be creative in classrooms - but what if they aren't in the mood for fantasies or letting their imagination fly freely? And what if - because it does happen - the teacher has run out of ideas for writing?

That's when it's helpful to have a resource of writing prompts to turn to. 

Plinky offers writing ideas on a daily basis, and teachers don't necessarily have to have their students create an account. Instead, a teacher can use Plinky  and select a topic/prompt which may be appropriate for the whole class.

Enchanted Learning - Essays to Write  is another source to look for writing prompts;
many may be geared towards K12, but work well for ESL/EFL as well.

Writing Prompts, offers another selection of prompts, often with interesting  visuals. 

After writing their paragraph or short essay, students can then continue and create a publication. If working with iPads, Little Story Creator 
is free and fun to use. Besides the props already included, learners can upload their own images and  record their story.

Story Dice is not free ($1.99) but is fun to use as an ice-breaker, group story-telling activity, end of a lesson wrap up, or as a writing prompt. You can select how many dice you want on the board, each will turn up with a pictogram (which also helps ESL/EFL students with vocabulary).

As I don't ask students to buy apps, I usually use this projected on the board, with the whole class. Then in smaller groups/pairs, students write their story - often including another twist to the one done together with the whole class.

You only need to roll the dice to see where the next story will lead.

How do you nudge that extra bit of creativity into your writing lessons?

Further Suggestions:

Story Starters

Picture This! Building Photo-Based Writing Skills 

The Imagination Prompt Generator

7 February 2014

The Fairy Tale Re-Mix

AlicePopkorn via photopin cc

As much as creativity is necessary in learning, it is not realistic to expect learners, who have never had the opportunity to think for themselves, let alone be creative in the classroom, to produce creative work from one day to another.  Asking students to write creatively takes time. 

Fractured Fairy Tales (by ReadWriteThink) offers the well needed scaffolding to help in the creative process.

The three fairy tales which you can see on the left, are well known to many around the world and have become part of childhood references.

Working individually or in pairs, learners begin by choosing the fairy tale they want to re-write.

 After choosing, they can read an example of a "fractured" fairy before developing their own.

To help students, there are questions which lead them to think about the characters, the setting, whose point of view is going to be given as well as the plot. 

When students have completed their new twist of the fairy tale they have chosen, all they need to do is print, and by sticking their stories up around the classroom walls, it can be read by all. 

It's really simple to use this in lessons and doesn't require that students have their own blogs - they can share either by printing and sharing, or, if the class uses a LMS like Edmodo, they can then upload their work to their group. 

If students have easy access to digital devices, from writing out their new fairy tale, they could then create a short movie with the many apps/tools freely available. 

If students happen to be using iPads, another writing task that is simple to introduce in classes is writing a post-card with PhotoCard.

 PhotoCard is free and you can upload your own image to the card, write a short paragraph, add a stamp and even some stickers. By addressing it to the whole class, students can then share their card (again) in a LMS like Edmodo or in their blogs.  For language learners, writing a paragraph about their weekend or last holiday is often a boring routine; creating a postcard and addressing it to the whole class, adds novelty and encourages them to focuses more on their writing as it will be shared - and not just read by the teacher. 

Writing and creativity in the classroom don't always come easily.

By offering different media and opportunities to tell stories, even the most reluctant writers will be encouraged to let their imagination come alive.

What other ways do you foster creative writing in your classrooms?

h.koppdelaney via photopin cc

Nichole Pinkard from New Learning Institute on Vimeo.

Further Suggestions on Writing

Writing Skills, Diaries and Timelines

Writing Skills and Patterns

Release Your Inhibitions - Writing Resources

From Me to You - Collaborative Writing

And from Susan Stephenson

23 November 2013

Managing Bibliographies

Whether it is writing for academic purposes or for one's own note-taking/learning, how does one keep track of all the articles and publications one comes across? Evernote is a great tool for keeping notes , while both  iAnnotate  and GoodReader are  useful to work with files, but one still needs to make bibliographies. Here are some suggestions which offer students help. 


(Update: Apologies for blank Popplet! They don't seem to be embedding lately)

As for taking notes and annotations, PaperShip is free and synchronises with both Mendeley and Zotero.

PaperShip - Manage, Annotate, and Share your Papers On-The-Go from team shazino on Vimeo.

iAnnotate 3.0 from Branchfire on Vimeo.

Keeping track of bibliographies and using good annotation tools are relevant skills when it comes to writing and the abundance of information that emerges with each web search on a specific topic. 

What other tools do you use to create bibliographies and manage annotations?

22 November 2013

Animating Stories

From telling personal stories to narrating instructions (e.g. how to cook a meal) or historic events, there are plenty of tools to choose from. 

Narrable is an  App with which you can upload an image and record a brief message (a bit like Fotobabble) . However, it is Muvizu which has really captured my imagination for storytelling. 

Muvizu is animation software which creates 3D characters and is free to download. There is a wiki where you can find hints and tips when using Muvizu, including a tutorial page

For MAC users, there is also a video explaining how to use Muvizu:

Creating animated stories makes a great project for students, letting them re-mix what they have been learning in different subjects while adding their personal touch.

12 November 2013

Linking the Classroom Tribe

At the beginning of any course, teachers will be busy selecting ice-breakers for their new classes and finding ways to present expectations, ensuring that evaluation procedures are clear and essentially, setting up a new culture (i.e. classroom culture). 

This is usually a fun time, a "honey-moon" period, where everyone is getting to know others in their class. Yet, sometimes, there will be groups which take more encouragement to form a cohesive learning group. With increasing diversity in schools reflecting our social worlds beyond the school-gate, consolidating a cooperative classroom culture may take time to succeed. 

One approach may be to create a search engine just for a class or group. As an example, I include a search engine I made with my own name, but will certainly be making one for each of my classes!

Fun doesn't have to be only for the first week of learning  ;-)

Besides, learners need to know that their teachers care about them and their classroom experiences as much as they do about their grades.

A Tangled Tale from corrie francis parks on Vimeo.