Category Archives: ELA

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

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

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