I recently held Back-to-School night with my 5th grade parents. While preparing for it I asked myself, ‘what are you excited about for this year?’ Oh sure – I’m going to have to cover reading and math curriculums, homework expectations, behavior, routine and schedules, and IB traits… but what is unique about this year?
So I pondered this and I realized that the resources I have available to me right now I was either ignorant of or they hadn’t been created before.
So I decided to create and title this blog post the Practical Post. This blog is full of exciting new resources – but will I use all of them this year? Nope. These tools can quickly become overwhelming. So what is at the forefront? What are the tools that I will absolutely introduce on Back-to-School night?
Here’s the list:
1. Class Website: This website will be the hub for the parents to find tools used throughout the school year. Oh – don’t get me wrong, I also use it to communicate through, but the primary purpose is to create a place where parents can go to to find links to useful resources to aid their students.
2. Khan Academy: Many of my parents ask what their children can be doing at home to further their education. Here’s an excellent website. Last year I requested from my district that all students’ district e-mails work on this website. This year they all work! This means that my students have pre-assigned logins and I just simply have to add myself as a coach for each student. Students work through a knowledge map and achieve energy points along the way. Eventually this will earn them badges and awards. This site is also full of ‘tutorial’ videos which are clever and easy to follow – and they explain everything from basic addition to university mathematics and sciences. If students ever get stuck they can watch a quick video to aid them in understanding the concepts and content. In addition – I, as the coach, get to see each students’ statistics.
3. Spellingcity: This website is a must have and use for elementary classrooms. I have my spelling lists pre-loaded for the students so they can just find my name and get going. The website offers games to go along with the words and pre-tests (which I give an additional 10% extra credit if they print off a pre-test they completed at home). This website is such a help for students who just can’t figure out spelling.
4. Games: I have a link to Games that I have added on to my symbaloo page. These games are all educational. The first few weeks of school I let the students discover some of them (otherwise – I’m not sure they would ever be discovered). As a result – the students fall completely in love with them. Let me highlight a few of them: Oiligarchy, Electrocity, and Energyville are all games related to our unit on Energy. The students learn a lot about expenses and energy types as they work through the games. Kerpoof is a website that allows for teachers to set up their own class list and student logins. Then the students can access the website and create videos, drawings, and storybooks. The students absolutely love it. Icivics is a fantastic website for finding games related to history and civics.
5. Tools: The last link I share with my parents is the tool page. This page is full of web-based presentation tools, media tools, and search tools that the students will be using – especially in their Exhibition (the culminating event in the IB process).
I wanted to give you a quick synopsis of what I actually use in the classroom. That being said, every year I do discover new resources to use and I try to adapt my classroom. Even now I am trying to figure out a way that I will use KidsBlog inside and outside of the classroom. I hope this Practical Post gives you a better idea of what web-resources I prioritize at the beginning of the school year. Feel free to link to my games page if you have a class website (or let me know of any other excellent educational games you have discovered).
Every class needs a website. True or false? The biggest issue I see with class websites today is their functionality. What’s the purpose of the website? Is it practical – with daily homework assignments posted? Is it entertaining with game-links? Is it memorable with pictures and classwork? Does it allow for students to hit the 3rd stage of technology education – allowing the student to be the producer?
As a teacher – I have become overwhelmed with creating a class website. Don’t get me wrong – it’s not that I don’t want to, it’s simply – what is going to be the purpose of the website? I have built, now, four class websites with four different companies – I will highlight these now:
1. Google Sites: My first class got a class website from Google Sites that I created. It wasn’t super engaging, but it served a very practical purpose – to outline the expected homework and curriculum taught that week in 6th Grade. All the teachers in our grade got together and posted the work expected to be completed that week. Also, all homework and notes were uploaded to the site for students to download at their own leisure.
Was the site used? Yes. Most definitely, but only for the purpose of notes and homework.
2. Glogster – My third class received a website I constructed from Glogster. Glogster is really fun to use and allows for teachers to do a lot of ‘crazy’ stuff. Unfortunately, I found myself getting carried away with pictures and random ‘junk’. I also found my site difficult to navigate.
3. Wix – My third class received a website from Wix in the second semester. Wix is flash based and allows for much sleeker looks than Glogster. That being said, Wix was not created for the same intent as Glogster, thus not having some of the educational functions that Glogster has. Wix is still was snazy looking.
Was the site used? Perhaps – to view pictures and to check out my book list of books that students should read.
4. Weebly – This is the newest website creator that I have played with. It is more user-friendly than any of the other website creators (Really easy to use – just drag the templates or formats you want onto the page). Unfortunately, Weebly does not allow for all of its tools to be used unless you are a ‘pro’ member. Nonetheless, Weebly has an educational function and support unlike Wix. It’s a mixture of Wix and Glogster.
Those are the four website builders I have played with thus far. None have wowed me out of my socks. I am considering creating my own HTML script and using that within one of these builders. I first need to know what purpose my website serves. Either way, I am going to make sure I incorporate Symbaloo this next year – because I believe that will organize links or films very well for my classes.
As a fifth grade teacher my students are all over the spectrum of development. Some of them are ready to handle the challenges of middle school, others are very sheltered, and still others crumble awkwardly at any uncomfortable expression. It is really difficult to know what materials are appropriate for this grade level.
In the past I have always relied on parent signatures for literature that I think may be questionable. This is all about literature by the way, I don’t mean movies or music… because I don’t really interact with students and movies or music (I keep those purely educational). Recently I have discovered a resource that has greatly helped.
Wouldn’t it be nice to have a website dedicated to giving excellent information about the ups and downs of books and the age appropriateness? Common Sense Media. That’s your answer.
- My favorite reason for everything: it’s free
- It gives information on movies, games, tv shows, apps, websites, and books.
- It rates – on a one to five scale – what to watch out for (specifics): take a look here: Ender’s Game
- It provides a summary of what parents need to know
- It provides ideas of what parents can talk to their kids about
- It gives an age appropriate rating
- It gives a summary of the story
This website has been a life-saver. At the beginning of the year I am going to share the link on my class website and with the parents so that parents can always know what content their children are reading.