Summer is a great time to explore the MiddleWeb Hot Links archive. Each week we select an interesting item for the MiddleWeb homepage that doesn't appear here in the newsletter. You'll find an eclectic mix of topics and content areas, with an eye toward lesson planning. Recent entries include: the American History Image Collection; Money Math; Duke U's archive of TV advertising; historical children's books; secrets of an Egyptian tomb; a comprehensive kid-friendly site about the oceans, and ideas for better PowerPoints.
This popular free service, used in many schools, recently changed domains, so it's a good time for us to mention it again. Also known as "My Vocabulary," the site offers thematic puzzles (across many content areas), vocabulary lesson plans, specialized word lists, and the all-important test prep for SAT/ACT. A basic tool for any vocabulary-minded teacher's kit.
Any time in the testing schedule to engage students around the Winter Olympics? Seems like a good year for it, with snow on the ground in many parts of the nation. It's been awhile since we shared a resource collection from Surfing the Net with Kids, one of our favorite long-running services. At this page, editor Barbara J. Feldman offers five excellent sites related to the global athletic event, including one developed by fourth graders in Sleepy Hollow, NY.
You might be familiar with online social bookmarking tools like "Delicious" that allow users to create an account and then add URL links they want to reference later by simply clicking a browser button. These tools let you "tag" your saved URLs with categorical names (e.g., "scaffolding" or "math games"), making it easy for you and others to build a useful database of sortable favorites. That's the background you need to check out a new bookmarking tool called "Sharing Links," aimed specifically at teachers. It's a project of Barbara Feldman, well-known for her site "Surfing the Net with Kids." It's still in "beta" but could become a good resource center as more and more teachers get involved.
WatchKnow is the new one-stop site for education-related videos created by Larry Sanger, a co-founder of Wikipedia. The site's slogan tells the story: “Videos for kids to learn from. Organized.” WatchKnow serves as a resource collection point -- an information database that makes it easy to search for and sort through videos that are tagged by topic and subtopic and have short descriptions and user ratings. Like Wikipedia, the project's success will depend in part on contributions of time from volunteers. But there's already plenty of content to search (12,000 videos) by topics (2,000) and age groups (3-18). Teachers were heavily involved in the initial selection of videos and the development of safety protocols.
The Awesome Stories website, with its emphasis on engaging stories and primary sources from history, is a great place to find resources about our nation's Native American heritage, this month or any month. Click on any of the two dozen content links on this page and sample the rich offerings, including Little Bighorn, the Trail of Tears, Code Talkers, the Buffalo in Indian Life, Sacajewea, the Navajo Nation and much more.
An award-winning middle grades English teacher shares her lesson plan for writing spooky stories that focus "on setting, good plot twists, suspense and the use of surprise in the ending." Bruhahaha. Kellie Hayden points to the Monster Librarian website as a good source of examples, with dozens of scary storybooks, summaries and reviews.
3-Minute Motivators is a collection of over 100 simple, fun activities that will help you use "a little magic" to take a quick break, engage students, and refocus them on the task at hand. Click here to browse Chapter 1 online!
Thanks to Stenhouse Publishers for their support of MiddleWeb and middle grades educators.
Better Lesson is a lesson-oriented website unlike anything you've ever seen
before. The lesson plans and curriculum resources are mixed with some
great discussion about teaching and learning — all supported by social
networking software designed for professional use. The site was founded
in 2008 by a group of teachers from Atlanta and Boston public schools
"to save (K-12) educators from reinventing the wheel" and give them
more time "to focus on creating and delivering innovative content,
grading, tutoring, analyzing data, communicating with parents,
finishing paperwork, and sleeping." They call it a "Facebook for lesson sharing." The site is in beta right now, with free sign-up.
Invented by a Japanese math teacher,, KENKEN allows students to sharpen their puzzle-solving ability while improving math skills. Among the many sources of Kenken puzzles is this page at the New York Times, where six puzzles of varying difficulty are posted each day and can be filled in online. The rules are simple, and there's a video by NYT/NPR "puzzlemaster" Will Shortz explaining how the pencil game works. As Shortz notes, it's not as simple as it first may seem. Similar puzzles are available under the non-copyrighted name Mathdoku. (Click on the image to make it bigger.)
The Awesome Stories site for students and teachers has gone to the trouble of loading 650 YouTube videos (and counting) on their server, so your students won't be exposed to anything inappropriate at the YouTube site. This link leads to the expanding list of education-oriented material in these current categories ("channels"): Disaster, Famous Trials, Flicks, History, Inspiration, Religion and Sports. If IT blocks YouTube (as many do), ask them to OK Awesome Stories (as many do).
The vast Internet Archive, a global library that provides "universal access to human knowledge," continues to grow at a rapid pace. It includes not only text, but moving images, audio and live music. The Archive currently houses nearly 1.25 million texts (85 billion pages), nearly 160,000 movies, close to 60,000 concerts, and more than 300,000 recordings. It's all copyright-free and open to the general public. The link above leads to the Archive itself where you can, for example, sample nearly 500 youth media products http://sn.im/ia-youthmedia. If you're intrigued by the "mass mind" of the Internet, here's a recent news story telling how the Recaptcha anti-spamming software doubles as a human translator for the library.
This commercial-free site, Study Guides & Strategies, is all about effective study. We think it’s really pretty amazing! It's maintained by an academic web developer at a Minnesota university. Topics include: preparing to learn; studying; classroom participation; learning with others; project management; reading skills; preparing for tests; taking tests; writing basics; math and science, and online learning & communicating. Teachers are granted permission to freely copy, adapt, and distribute individual Study Guides in print format in non-commercial educational settings that benefit learners.
Here's another useful entry in Education World's "Strategies That Work" series. Teachers are finding that hand-sized whiteboards are a good way to increase student engagement and gather immediate feedback and assessment. This page points to a half-dozen whiteboard resources, including ideas about making your own whiteboards for $1 or less each. They may not be smart boards but they can be put to very smart uses!