It’s not a mirage, there is a site helping students transition to college!

As we are entering into the lovely spring days of May and early June, many seniors are preparing to go to college as first time freshman. This can be a daunting situation, especially for someone who is the first person in their family to be attending a college or university.  Luckily there is a free Website to help them make the transition – Transitioning to College.  This site is run by Kent State University and is a sister site to the TRAILS Program – a real time assessment of a person’s information literacy skills from grades 3 – 12.

Transitioning to College provides text and video compilations to help students do the best they can as they move from high school to the college environment.  It has sections on what to expect when going to college; college libraries and what they offer from studies to socialization; tips for college research and projects; learning modules where current students provide advice and discuss what they learned from their own experiences as first time college students; resources for teachers working with high school seniors on how they can help prepare their students for college; free assessment tools to determine a high school student’s current information literacy skills and a section where users can share and/or view other favorite Websites on what it means to be a college freshman.

There are also videos on how to use academic libraries and their databases.  This is a skill not many students will be fluent in when arriving at college; but will be expected to use for their projects and reports.  For someone who has limited or no experience, using these services can be an intimidating task.  By visiting this Website and watching the videos, students have a resource where they don’t feel put on the spot or embarrassed to find ways to fix their lack of knowledge in this area.

Users also are taken step by step on how to develop the type of research paper their college professors will be looking for.  Some of these steps are acted out by college students in a more accessible manner than by just reading the text alone.

Links are provided to other aspects of college life.  There is a section on the steps one needs to take to get to and pay for college.  Users can find links for information on different aspects of life experiences one may encounter on a typical college campus.  Links to study guides and study strategies are a great help for first time students and are easily found on the site.  Time management skills is a big hurdle for many freshman who are on their own for the first time.  Information and links are provided to ease a student’s way into learning these skills.  There is also a section for students with disabilities.  Tips, videos and a list of disability friendly colleges are provided.

Finally, if users have additional questions – e-mails and phone numbers are provided for staff members at Kent University who might be able to solve the problem.  You can find someone at Academic Advising; Career Services; Computer Labs; Counseling; the Disabilities Office; the Health and Wellness Center; the Library; the Student Life Center; the Tutoring Center and the Writing Center.  Whatever your question is, there is someone who can help you find the answer.

So whether you are an educator, a student, a parent, a guardian or a friend helping someone who is going to college for the first time – Transitioning to College may be the free, reliable resource you are looking for.

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Filed under College, Free, Information Literacy, research

It is such a relief when our students use Make Belief.

Make Belief is a wonderful tool for a variety of activities, both in an educational setting as well as for personal use.  The site is free and very easy to use.  Creations can be saved and used in presentations, e-mailed, stored on individual servers, printed out for projects and be uploaded to YouTube.

Make Belief allows users to create 2, 3 or 4 panel comic strip representations.  You can choose the characters, backgrounds, text bubbles, thought bubbles, expressions, etc.  Users can create comic strips in English, Spanish, French, German, Italian, Portuguese and Latin.  There is a Special Needs section for teachers, educational therapists and parents on ways the site can be used to help those with a variety of disabilities.  There is also a lesson plans page with accompanying standards for educators to utilize.

Here are some examples of projects you can use Make Belief for:  life skills practice, e.g. – a college/job interview or dealing with a bully; autobiographical comix; imagery; practicing new vocabulary words; collaborating as a team; political cartoons; applying conversation skills; practicing social skills scenarios for people with autism; showing a bias; foreign language practice; introduction to creative writing; daily diaries; serialization in writing; an alternative for students who have difficulty writing in the traditional sense; persuasive writing; commentary on current events; how to show empathy; public speaking practice (students show and read their creations in a group setting); reflection on conflict resolution skills;  daily theme tie-in; story boarding and character perspectives.  Of course the site could be used just for a fun experience :).

So whether you are looking for a tie-in to a lesson idea, want to give yourself and your students a creative pathway or looking for some safe and clean fun, Make Belief might be just the site for you.

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Filed under ELA, English Language Learners, Foreign Language Learners, Free, Language Acquisition, lesson planning, Social Studies, Special Education, The Arts

Make Science Come Alive with the Website ARKive!

I am surprised that I have not run across ARKive before.   I recently learned about this Website through my librarian listserv.  I am so glad that this information was shared with me so I can in turn share it with you.

ARKive is a not-for-profit initiative from the charity Wildscreen.  Its purpose is to use information contributed by the world’s best wildlife filmmakers, photographers, conservationists and scientists and present the material in a fun and interesting manner.  You do not need to create an account and the site is free.  Material is presented across age groupings from 5 through 18.  Of course adults can find plenty on the site to stimulate their interest as well.

You can search for information by species, places or topic designation.  Each category has multiple sub-categories so you can broaden or narrow your search as much as you need.   Photographs, news articles and videos are available to all users.

In addition to the prior methods of presentation, ARKive endeavors to make learning fun as well.  There is a blog where readers can read about and view quick facts with up-to-date news about wildlife from around the world.   You can sign up to have the blog sent to your e-mail whenever there is a new post.  The blog can be searched by recent posts or by category if there is something specific you are looking for.

ARKive also presents Team Wild.   You can join this “squadron of superheroes” as they work to protect and conserve the plant and animal species on our planet.  There are four teams you can join:  6 or under; 7-10; 11-13 and 14+.   Information is presented in an interesting and interactive manner.

Users can also choose to play Survival  – an endangered species game.  Players race against the clock as they go through a number of mini-games to discover the identity of our most endangered animals.  The game has beautiful color photographs and users will have to use all their skills in order to become a top survivor.

For those of you who are “arts and crafty” there are even activities that you can download for fun.  Be able to create origami of different plant and animal species, go on treasure hunts, create a shoe-box habitat  and  find links to other safe hands-on adventures.

So whether you are  looking to learn about science, have a fun interactive for your students or child or just having some fun while viewing spectacular images from around our planet, ARKive may be just the site for you.

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Filed under Free, games, lesson planning, research, Science, Videos

You Don’t Have to Work too Hard, Check Out Screenr.

Many people have enjoyed using Jing from one of my prior entries, but were looking for something that allowed for a increased recording time without a great deal of additional effort.  Never fear, Screenr is here.

Screenr allows you to video capture what you see on your computer screen and create a voice over audio file to accompany it.  The site is free and easy to use.  This is a great site for sharing lesson ideas with colleagues, teaching online skills to your students or sharing experiences (perhaps pictures you took and now can add the accompanying story) with friends online.

When you go to Screenr you are given a choice to make an account, or you can sign in with an existing account you have on Google, Yahoo, Twitter, Facebook, etc.  The choice is yours.  The site is free, no payments required. This is a Web based program, so you are not required to install or download any software.  The only things that is required is that you have Java capabilities on your computer.  Your computer will also need to have  a microphone if you wish to record your voice.  The site works on both Macs and PCs.

When you are ready, click the “record” tab.  A frame will open up on your computer screen.  You can enlarge the frame or minimize it.  You have the capability of recording your entire screen if you wish.  Once you have your size set up, open up the window of the information you wish to record.  The Screenr page disappears, but the frame you wish to record with remains.

Once you have what you wish to record on the screen and know what you want to say, click the “record” button.  The screen will count you down as “3…2…1” and then recording will start.   You do not have to speak throughout the recording, only at the parts you wish.  Whatever you do on the screen within that frame will be recorded for your viewers to see.  You can record from 5 – 15 minutes worth of material.

When you are done recording, hit the “Alt” and “D” key at the same time.   You will then be taken back to Screenr  where you can play the recording  to see if you like how it came out.  Then you can choose to delete it, publish it and/or save it.  If you want to save it, you’ll need to publish it first.  Just click on the button and a little over a minute later you are ready to go.   If you still want to save the video to a device,  just click on the “save” button and choose where you want the video to be saved.

You can also choose to share your video in other ways.  You can upload it to YouTube, but you will need to have a registered YouTube account to do so.  You can e-mail your friends the link, or embed the video into an online Website you have (Facebook, Jupiter Grades, etc.).  Once you embed the video, your viewers will be able to click on the page and watch it right there instead of having to go to Screenr‘s page to view the information.

So whether you are looking to share vacation memories, lesson plan ideas or information you wish for your students to view at home – Screenr might be just the tool you are looking for.

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Filed under Free, lesson planning, Websites for sharing

This Website is VITAL for Your Classroom

Are you looking for one Website that provides access to digital media, the Common Core AND covers all subjects and grade levels?  Then look no further –VITAL NY is the Website for you.    This Website contains video resources which support the core standards across all subjects.  There are  over 33,000 videos to chose from as well as interactive presentations, games, primary source documents and much more.   Even the subject with the smallest amount of resources – Health, has over 990 resources to chose from.

Upon accessing VITAL NY you will be asked to create a free account (accounts are free if you are associated with a New York State school system).  Registration is easy and takes less than two minutes  If you would like to explore the Website first, you are allowed to view three items before you create an account.  You can also create accounts for your students either assigning them all the same password or individual passwords so they can look at material you have saved or perform assigned work.

Once you are registered you can search by grade level, subject, standards, collections or keywords.  While this Website is a fantastic resource, they did run into one issue.  Much of their collection actually applies across many topics, but it is listed under only one.    They recognized this issue and have hired a librarian to make searching more productive.  If you do not find what you are looking for under a particular subject heading, try doing a general browse utilizing keywords to find what you need.

The videos are “purpose built.”  This means instead of you having to watch an entire documentary or video to find what you are looking for, the material has been edited to cover the exact subject, lesson, idea that you found in your search.  Most of the videos are 3-7 minutes long and perfect for implementation in a lesson.  For example, say you are performing a lesson on Kinetic and Potential energy.  There is a video of circus performers practicing their acts.  Students will see the performers flipping in the air, work out bands snapping and contracting, bodies at rest, etc.  As they are watching, a voice over is explaining exactly what is happening with the energy transference taking place.  The students SEE the concept in action.

Most of the material is able to be downloaded.  This will enable you to embed the material in Power Point and SMARTBoard presentations.  It is also a nice feature if you are showing material somewhere where Internet access might not be readily available.  Another piece of good news, as far as they know ALL of their videos are view-able across school filtering systems, unlike YouTube.  Much of the material comes from PBS affiliates like NOVA.  If by chance you do come across a video that is blocked, contact them and they will usually have it rectified within 48 hours.

Lessons come with a variety of resources.   All come with some of the following resources: Do now activities, exit activities, framework set ups, anchor vocabulary, activation of prior knowledge, summation, questions to ask to elicit higher order thinking, standards connections, teaching tips and study guides.  You can also create folders that the teachers across your genre or grade level can access and add too.  There are “notes” sections where you can type out reminders to yourself for future lessons.

As for the Common Core connections, here are the main ones; however, I am sure you can find many more.  The videos are non-print text resources.  You are providing multiple sources of information in diverse formats. Information is gained from a variety of resources.  If you are new to the Common Core, there are even videos on the Website explaining the Common Core standards and showing you how you can apply the resources to specific subject area Common Core standards.

So whether you are looking to find material for an entire unit plan or just one lesson, VITAL NY is an absolutely amazing resource for you to use.

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Filed under Common Core, ELA, games, Health, lesson planning, Math, research, Science, social media, Social Studies, The Arts, Videos

Ahoy Mateys… Pirate Pad Off the Starboard Bow

There are many Websites out there which allow you to have friends or students post thoughts, ideas and questions on one page; however, it is often the case the site runs slow or has issues.   PiratePad seems to have overcome these difficulties and it is also a free resource.

When you get to the site, you will be greeted by a frog wearing an eye patch.  This page provides you with a quick hint on how to get the site to work better if you are having trouble viewing the page.  Click on the frog to continue.  As soon as you do, you are taken to a page with a Web address you can use.  You are able to immediately start typing onto the pad.

You can give your page a name or change the colors of the text. Don’t worry if you want different colors or other features on different lines.  As you type, each line is designated with a line number to make it easier for you to make changes.   There is a simple “pad options” icon to help you decide how you want your page to look like.

What is great about Pirate Pad is that you can share what you created right away.  So if you gave your students a homework assignment to perform on Pirate Pad, you can literally create the page when the school day ends and the students will be able to interact with it the moment they get home.  You are given choices on how to share the URL.  You can copy the link and create your own e-mail or text to send to people you want to invite to work on the pad. There is also a ready made welcome letter you can e-mail out to those who you want to participate.

This site makes it easy to distinguish who shared what thought.  As each person signs in and contributes to the page, they are assigned a different color.  Their comments as well as their name in the chat window share that color.  This makes it easy for you to scan and see which students have posted and/or participated in the chat discussion.  There is also a timeline you can utilize.  For example, If you require the students to participate three times a week, you are able to verify their number of times logging in with this feature very quickly.

Pirate Pad is a great tool to have your students brainstorm about ideas, discuss issues for debate, work on group projects, review the day’s lesson, etc.  If you have a large class, you might find it easier to assign 4-5 students to a group and have 6 or 7 groups to ensure you don’t run out of colors.

While Pirate Pad may not offer as many bells and whistles as other sites, it does offer many features to make it a valuable resource.  This can be a plus if you have students (or you yourself) are familiar with basic set ups similar to a Word document, but have difficulty with information intense sites.

So whether you are using the site for a lesson or gathering ideas for a friend’s surprise party, Pirate Pad may be just the tool you are looking for.

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Current Events For All Readers

Many of us have faced a similar problem.  Either we ourselves, or someone in our care needs to do work involving Current Events.  Quite often, the person might have difficulty understanding the article at the given reading level.  Sometimes the person is an advanced reader and finds the given article too easy.  Now there is a solution for both – Newsela.

Newsela is an organization that provides articles at reading levels from fourth grade to college ready.  Viewers can read the original article or choose the reading level that is just right for them.  Newsela edits the article to fit that particular reading level.  In addition to world events, science, law  and financial matters, readers can find articles relevant to children and young adult interests in today’s world.  All of the articles are obtained from well-known, news worthy organizations.   If the reading level is changed, the “meat” of the article is kept, while the vocabulary of the reading is altered to fit the requested level.

You do not need to register; however, if you do not, you are limited to five articles a day.  Registration provides you with unlimited access and it is free.  You can create class groupings and assign your students a code for them to use so they can register safely.

You also have the ability to create online quizzes on the material for the students to take.  The quizzes are aligned with the Common Core standards and will help you to determine what reading level and understanding level your student is currently functioning at.

If you are using Newsela for assignments, I would still double check that the material you want to be covered is available in all of the reading levels your group requires.

So whether you are looking for a news source in your personal life, for your child or your student, Newsela is an excellent resource to try.

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Filed under Common Core, ELA, lesson planning, research, Social Studies, Standards