TeachersFirst - Featured Sites: Week of Apr 20, 2014

Here are this week's features. Clicking the tags in the description area of each listing will present a list of other resources with this topic. | Click here to go to the Featured Sites Archive

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Readability - Arc90

Grades
K to 12
7 Favorites 0  Comments
 
This simple but powerful tool allows you to view ANY web page as simple, clear text. It removes all of the flashing, moving, distracting elements that interrupt concentration and understanding....more
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This simple but powerful tool allows you to view ANY web page as simple, clear text. It removes all of the flashing, moving, distracting elements that interrupt concentration and understanding. Visit the Apps and Add-ons page before making an account. Readability will recognize most browsers to download a Readability add-on or extension for your browser so you can "clean up" the pages you're viewing with a single click. You can also install a "bookmarklet," a simple mini-program that runs inside Internet Explorer, Firefox, or other web browsing software on your computer. "Installing" is then as simple as dragging the Readability button to the Favorites bar of your browser, a one-click button to scrub webpages clean of distractions. No Favorites or links bar to which to drag? Go to the View menu on your browser and click to turn on your Favorites or links bar. Once you have the Readability button, go to ANY web page and click "Readability" to see the page magically change to simple text passages, ready for your interactive whiteboard, easier for your young readers, or enlarged for tired eyes. Share your Readability links through email or Flipboard. There are also Readability Twitter clients as well as many other features offered on the Apps and Add-ons page of the Readability site. Note: Pages with content created in FLASH will not work in Readability, since FLASH text is actually an image to a computer. Test it first before planning to use it in class. Readability delivers a great reading experience on every platform and provides an avenue for connecting readers and publishers on the Web. iOS and Android apps for Readability are available to use on mobile devices.

tag(s): DAT device agnostic tool (49), media literacy (36), reading comprehension (81)

In the Classroom

Install Readability on any computer you use with interactive whiteboards so students can highlight key words from any web page and practice notetaking, main idea, summarizing or other comprehension skills to improve web literacy and overall reading skills. If your school computers are locked down, show it to tech staff and special ed/reading department chairs to convince them it is worth installing! Use Readability as you project any advertising-laden site or to help attention-deficit students stay focused on the words. Special ed and ESL/ELL teachers will appreciate the ability to focus on the words without other distractions, allowing you to determine how much students are actually reading words vs. using images as context clues. Try turning Readability on and off to show students how they can use images to help in comprehension once they find some meaning from the words on a page. All readers would benefit from stopping to compare how they construct meaning from words and text. Advanced art and design or media literacy students will enjoy examining the advertising techniques on a web page by stripping them away, then turning them back on. This tool also provides a clean way to make printable versions of web page text, even adjusting text size to your preferred option. Please consider the trees before getting carried away, though!
 This resource requires Adobe Flash.

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Tynker - Krishna Vedati

Grades
3 to 8
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Learn computer coding using simple and easy activities, lesson plans, and an interface sure to please all ages! Click Schools to access the free school activities, or click on Hour...more
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Learn computer coding using simple and easy activities, lesson plans, and an interface sure to please all ages! Click Schools to access the free school activities, or click on Hour of Code to find ones you can use at home or school. Build an animated character (everyone loves the zombie) and then animate it. Learn to code by dropping blocks of commands into sequence on the left side of the screen and seeing the results along the right. The lessons provide step by step instructions, missions, and other materials to learn to code. Teachers can create a class and add students to the class. Once lessons are assigned, the progress of students can be tracked. Click on student view of each lesson to see the tools and student tasks. Follow the instructions along the right pane. Note the tools that are in the various panes and along the top including undo and redo! This tool also features a question bar along the top. Note: This free portion of the resource offers three units of lessons, a visual programming environment, an art studio to draw and paint you own scenes, and a media gallery. The free units of lessons have unlimited student space.
This site includes advertising.

tag(s): animation (49), computers (36), STEM (50)

In the Classroom

Use this tool to learn basic coding skills. Students will quickly catch on to this program when allowed to "tinker" and see what they can make. Provide a simple assignment with defined rules/tasks to learn the tools. Younger students may familiarize themselves more easily working with a partner. Be sure to recommend that students "ask three before me" (the teacher). Have students use a storyboard to write down what they plan to do/draw/say with their creation in order to keep tabs on students and their creations. When finished with these lessons, move to other free tools such as Scratch, reviewed here. Teachers of even very young gifted students can turn them loose with these challenges when they have already mastered math or science curriculum. Have them create a creature they can explain to the class or share with gifted peers in other classrooms.

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Know Your Body - Brent Barson

Grades
2 to 7
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This simple interactive shows the major organs and functions in the human body systems. Click on a system to see it appear on the human body. Hover over each part ...more
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This simple interactive shows the major organs and functions in the human body systems. Click on a system to see it appear on the human body. Hover over each part of the system to read about its function.

tag(s): body systems (55), human body (87)

In the Classroom

This site is ideal for an interactive whiteboard or projector. Though it is very basic, the information on this site is useful for learning about the human body. Partner weaker readers with someone who can help them with the written explanations. As students look at the various systems of the body, collect questions they generate. Use these questions as starters for research or ideas for further lessons. Encourage students to find interesting facts about the human body to share. Have students create a simple infographic using Easel.ly, reviewed here.
 This resource requires Adobe Flash.

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Fantastic Contraption - KONGREGATE

Grades
1 to 12
1 Favorites 0  Comments
 
Test out your logic, mechanical understanding, and creativity as you create amazing 2D contraptions! Each contraption uses wheels, wooden stationary logs, and power moving water rods...more
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Test out your logic, mechanical understanding, and creativity as you create amazing 2D contraptions! Each contraption uses wheels, wooden stationary logs, and power moving water rods to create a moving vehicle to push a target to the goal. Get a taste of the challenge by trying your hand at the introduction activity. Then begin your regular contraption. Each level adds more challenge. Use the delete button, and try again until you succeed. Registration is not required to use this site. However, more options are available if you register (FREE). As you progress through a level, earn points and badges. Save your designs and send your best designs to your friends using a specific url. You can turn off the (rather annoying) music by clicking the speaker icon.
This site includes advertising.

tag(s): creativity (89), energy (162), gifted (66), inventors and inventions (97), logic (199), machines (29), motion (49), problem solving (170), STEM (50)

In the Classroom

In the classroom, develop logic, perseverance, and creativity for not only gifted and high achieving students, but all learners. Use this activity as part of a unit on inventions or as a lead in to a Maker's Faire. Introduce this activity on your interactive whiteboard or projector and you will have all students hooked! Your ESL/ELL students and weaker readers will be on equal footing with their peers since this site requires very little reading after the introduction. Capture the attention of your students by gamifying science and logic. Continue with class discussions of movement, energy, logic, and strategy. Use as a stepping stone to begin a unit on geometry, energy, or motion. In elementary science classes, include this activity for students who have mastered required curriculum to go beyond the basics of simple machines and motion. Have students add a written explanation of the contraption to take sequencing to a new level. (A screenshot would help them illustrate their writing.) After drawing a scaled model, create the contraption using real objects. Discover the types of energy and movement that are in the model. Organize a contraption competition. Share this link on your class website for students (and their parents) to "tinker" with at home.
  This resource requires Adobe Flash and PDF reader software like Adobe Acrobat.

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Mathademics! YouTube Channel - Dan Rezac

Grades
4 to 10
1 Favorites 0  Comments
  
Mathademics! is an excellent YouTube Channel with many helpful math tutorials for upper elementary and middle school. Browse the video list of available videos. Browse through playlists...more
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Mathademics! is an excellent YouTube Channel with many helpful math tutorials for upper elementary and middle school. Browse the video list of available videos. Browse through playlists of topics including Fractions and Decimals, Algebra and Functions, and Number Sense. The videos are under 5 minutes, making them a quick and easy addition to any math classroom or study session. The videos are hosted on YouTube. If YouTube is blocked at your school, you could always view the videos at home and bring them to class "on a stick" to share. Use a tool such as KeepVid reviewed here to download the videos from YouTube.
This site includes advertising.

tag(s): area (50), conversions (18), decimals (110), equations (124), fractions (206), integers (41), mean (24), multiples (31), number sense (75), percent (70)

In the Classroom

Share these videos on your interactive whiteboard or projector. FLIP your classroom and have students view the videos at home to discuss and apply the next day in class. (This is a great option if YouTube is blocked in your school.) Use the videos to introduce or practice any math topic and assign others in the series for homework. Be sure to provide this link on your class website for students (and their families) to access at home for additional Math practice.
 This resource requires Adobe Flash.

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Ecoplexity - Portland State University

Grades
9 to 12
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Use Ecoplexity to learn the complexity of ecosystems, feedback loops in ecosystems, and how to design and carry out an inquiry project. What is the best way to learn? Through ...more
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Use Ecoplexity to learn the complexity of ecosystems, feedback loops in ecosystems, and how to design and carry out an inquiry project. What is the best way to learn? Through Inquiry! View research from various locations: Chihuahuan Desert, Shortgrass Steppe, Temperate Forest, Tropical Forest, or Urban Desert. Explore how complex ecosystems function and the consequences of human behavior. Be sure to look at the list of resources and follow through the Scientific Inquiry tab to look at the steps for inquiry research.

tag(s): biodiversity (39), climate change (51), data (130), ecosystems (76), inquiry (31)

In the Classroom

Even though this site is an introduction into an inquiry program, there are many great resources to use. Find useful data sets to share with students to identify how researchers collect and analyze data. Use these data sets as inspiration for the kinds of data students can collect in your local ecosystem. Use this site to explain ecological complexity, climate change, and many other problems that affect ecosystems. This site could be the inspiration for science fair projects or an Earth Day activity for a school environmental science club.
 This resource requires Adobe Flash.

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Tweetchup - Alex Kaul

Grades
4 to 12
2 Favorites 0  Comments
 
Tweetchup is an easy to use Twitter analytic tool. Registration is not required. Login with your Twitter account to view an analysis of your Twitter account stats. View mentions, average...more
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Tweetchup is an easy to use Twitter analytic tool. Registration is not required. Login with your Twitter account to view an analysis of your Twitter account stats. View mentions, average mentions per day, the potential number of followers you reach, and more. What makes Tweetchup different from other Twitter analysis sites is the ability to analyze other Twitter users' hashtags and keyword histories. Use the "Profiles" link to analyze the profile of any other Twitter user. The "Keywords" option allows you to enter any keyword to analyze the last 1600 tweets using that keyword. Your analysis includes recent tweets, most retweeted tweets, and most favorited tweets.

tag(s): internet safety (90), social networking (96), twitter (40)

In the Classroom

Looking for more ways to use Twitter in the classroom? Read more about Twitter at TeachersFirst's Twitter for Teachers page. Use Tweetchup to find and analyze popular and viral hashtags. Have students create a simple infographic sharing their findings using Easel.ly, reviewed here or Venngage reviewed here. Use Tweetchup to analyze your class Twitter account to find and improve content and connections. This is also a great way for students to realize the extent of their digital footprint!
 

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30 Boxes - Julie Davidson and Nick Wilder

Grades
K to 12
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Create a simple, easy-share, online calendar using 30 Boxes. Use the wizard to fill in birthdays, email connections, your zip code (for weather information), and more. Click on any...more
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Create a simple, easy-share, online calendar using 30 Boxes. Use the wizard to fill in birthdays, email connections, your zip code (for weather information), and more. Click on any date to add events, add start and finish times, notes, tags, or make private. Use the dropdown box to choose times for reminders by text or email. Send an invite to your contacts or add any email address. Choose from many personalization options to change color, add online calendars to your feed, or change privacy settings. Share your calendar using the link, embed code, or other share options.

tag(s): calendars (33), social networking (96)

In the Classroom

Create a 30 Boxes calendar and share on your class website. Include homework, upcoming events such as conferences and holidays, and test dates. Share with your school's Parent Teacher Organization as an excellent way to share school events with the community. Create an online calendar including professional development opportunities to share with others in your school and district. If you advise a club, this is a handy tool for sharing the events calendar.

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Paste to Grid (Beta) - pastetogrid.com

Grades
K to 12
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Create custom photo collages with Paste to Grid. Choose one of the templates that include up to 9 images. Select your border color and size, or select "no border." Click ...more
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Create custom photo collages with Paste to Grid. Choose one of the templates that include up to 9 images. Select your border color and size, or select "no border." Click in each box to add an image from your computer. Lesson learned from our editor: Be sure to select border options before adding images; choosing them after causes the images to disappear. The site's authors state this feature will be improved in the next version. When complete, choose to save as PNG or JPG file to your computer.

tag(s): collages (14), images (202), vocabulary development (98)

In the Classroom

Create and share collages of classroom activities, field trips, and much more. In lower grades, create the collage together with your students. Embed collages into your class website or blog for viewing at home. Have students create collages using their own pictures of land formations, types of plants, colors, words beginning with the same letter of the alphabet, and whatever else you can think of! This is a great tool for your visual learners. Special ed, speech and language, or ESL/ELL teachers can create collages of images together with their students to promote vocabulary development. World language classes could create them on their own or use them as prompts for oral language practice. A collage could feature articles of clothing or types of weather, for example. Create cards as gifts for moms or dads or for thank you's to members of the school community. Print the cards, fold over, and handwrite messages inside. Practice simple thank you notes on your own creative cards. Older students can use this tool to to create collages they can then annotate using a tools such as ThingLink, reviewed here.

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Penflip - Collaborative Writing and Version Control - Loren Burton

Grades
6 to 12
1 Favorites 0  Comments
 
Penflip is a collaborative writing tool that allows groups of three or more to write together with complete version control. Write together without distractions or ads right in your...more
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Penflip is a collaborative writing tool that allows groups of three or more to write together with complete version control. Write together without distractions or ads right in your web browser! Click on "Share" at the bottom of the right menu to copy/paste the address into an email to your collaborators. Clicking on "Contributors" gives options to add users as editors or delete them as contributors. Once revisions are made and submitted, the contributor is notified via email of any future changes to that piece. When reviewing suggested changes, you can delete the changes you don't want and accept others. Accepting changes will merge these into the master (your original project). Penflip calls any writing a "project" whether it's a book, a short story, a poem, or a research paper. The free version makes all projects "public," but you have the choice to refuse pending revisions by clicking on "Contributors" in the right menu and clicking the minus symbol, deleting that contributor.
This site includes advertising.

tag(s): creative writing (123), process writing (28), writing (312)

In the Classroom

Immerse students in the peer review process by allowing them to collaborate using Penflip! Teachers and students can use Penflip to make comments in a side box or directly in the writing. All suggested revisions are in a different color with the original wording left complete. Penflip is the perfect place for students to put their writing and get feedback. Student peers can suggest different wording and ideas, and all are color-coded so the author knows what has been contributed and what is original. This tool will fulfill the Common Core Standard requirements for using technology for collaborating and writing across the curriculum. Students will save time and learn from each other when working in small groups on projects or research papers in world language classes, science, math, or social studies. The best part of this site: it is EASY to use!

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Dropmark - Oak Studios, LLC

Grades
K to 12
1 Favorites 0  Comments
 
Dropmark is a tool for collaborating, curating, and presenting files, links, and text. Create your account and choose the basic (free) plan offering 250 MB of storage. Begin by dropping...more
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Dropmark is a tool for collaborating, curating, and presenting files, links, and text. Create your account and choose the basic (free) plan offering 250 MB of storage. Begin by dropping and dragging images or files from your computer onto your Dropmark collection. Add links to URLs and online media by choosing the + button and adding link information. Once complete, adjust privacy settings as desired and share using your unique URL. If you prefer, save your collection to your computer in ZIP format using the download link. You can also collaborate with others "in the cloud" by sharing files and links.
This site includes advertising.

tag(s): bookmarks (55), organizational skills (78), social networking (96)

In the Classroom

Use Dropmark to create a bank of resources to use for each content unit within your subject or classroom. Student can then download and use the raw materials you provide to make their own projects or to learn independently. Create a separate class account for students to curate their own lists or bookmarks and resources. Use this tool to compile web treasure hunts to learn or introduce any topic within your content area. Collect links to informational texts for students to read "closely" a la CCSS. With younger students, create links of audio books for children to view and listen to or simple interactives teaching colors, numbers and more. Have students create their own Dropmark as a place to store links for a project. Share a link to your Dropmarks on your class webpage. Save pictures of class activities with a Dropmark collections then share with parents.

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The HistoryMakers - The HistoryMakers

Grades
6 to 12
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The HistoryMakers offers an incredibly rich and deep collection of biographies and oral histories of 2000 African Americans who have made history in their respective fields. The database...more
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The HistoryMakers offers an incredibly rich and deep collection of biographies and oral histories of 2000 African Americans who have made history in their respective fields. The database allows you to search across 15 fields, for example, for "Artmakers," "Educationmakers," or "Sciencemakers." Special Collections curate additional groups of HistoryMakers such as Negro Baseball Players. The Advanced Search tool allows a search by birthplace, occupation, and even something like favorite food. Each entry includes a photograph, a brief biography, some fun facts about the person; some entries also include a video clip of the oral history interview collected as a part of this project. The collection goes far beyond the usual luminaries. There are musicians, scientists, politicians, athletes, artists, doctors, scientists, and more, many of whom are little known and whose lives can seem more accessible than those who are famous. The HistoryMakers deserves to be a resource for biographies of people from all walks of life whose accomplishments can inspire and inform. Access to the full video archives requires a membership fee, but there is plenty of content here at no cost.

tag(s): african american (109), artists (51), biographies (36), black history (47), business (50), heroes (19), medicine (47), politics (80), scientists (46), sports (76)

In the Classroom

Of course The HistoryMakers is ideal as a resource for projects for Black History Month, but this collection goes far beyond the usual luminaries who are often featured during February. Use the Advanced Search feature to compile a list of HistoryMakers from your home state or who attended a nearby school or college. Who among these 2000 has the same favorite color as you do? Who also loves ice cream? Students will find ways to relate directly to many of these HistoryMakers. Include this resource when investigating famous scientists, musicians, etc. in classes other than social studies and at times OTHER than Black History Month! Create an infographic about a HistoryMaker using a tool such as Venngage reviewed here.
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Golden Gate and San Francisco Bay Bridge Construction 1934-1936 - The Virtual Museum of the City of San Francisco

Grades
6 to 12
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This collection of photographs of the construction of both the Golden Gate and the San Francisco Bay Bridge during the mid-1930s helps illustrate what a massive undertaking these projects...more
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This collection of photographs of the construction of both the Golden Gate and the San Francisco Bay Bridge during the mid-1930s helps illustrate what a massive undertaking these projects were. San Francisco's Golden Gate Bridge is one of the United States' iconic landmarks. It's come to symbolize the vitality of the US West Coast and of the building projects that sprang from the later years of the Great Depression. There are both individual photographs, relevant documents, and a PowerPoint presentation overview of the construction of the Golden Gate. The articles accompanying the photos include extensive data about the structure and the challenges in accomplishing the construction.
This site includes advertising.

tag(s): bridges (8), california (25), engineering (75), great depression (22)

In the Classroom

These are great primary source images and documents for the study of 1930s construction projects related to the rebuilding of the US during the final years of the Great Depression. Share the PowerPoint and photographs on your interactive whiteboard. Have students create narration and soundtracks for photos and images using either the computer or cell phones using Yodio (reviewed here). To find Creative Commons images (with credit, of course), try Wikimedia Commons, reviewed here. Use the photos as part of a physics or technology unit about bridges. Include this as one of several structures for students to research and analyze using their new-found concepts.

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Shape Book Patterns - Eduplace - Houghton Mifflin

Grades
K to 3
2 Favorites 0  Comments
Find numerous printable shape patterns to create your own shape books or simply to use as paper for creative writing exercises. Although this site is SO simple (just click to ...more
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Find numerous printable shape patterns to create your own shape books or simply to use as paper for creative writing exercises. Although this site is SO simple (just click to download and print), it is extremely useful in the younger grades. The shapes will motivate students while the lines (if you choose to use them) help your weaker writers to stay "on the lines." Choose from patterns with or without writing lines. Select each link to view in the PDF, then download or print to use. Over 35 patterns range from an apple to umbrella.

tag(s): creative writing (123), preK (220), printables (31)

In the Classroom

Download a selection of patterns for your classroom writing center. Bookmark this site to find printables for use with any thematic unit. Include students' completed pattern books in your reading center. This site is ideal for any students with special needs in the area of writing or fine motor skills. You could offer lines to those who need them, and no lines to other students. Share this link on your class website for students to use for summer writing fun.
 This resource requires PDF reader software like Adobe Acrobat.

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