TeachersFirst's Summer Sparklers

Other TeachersFirst Special Topics Collections

Whether your want to create something, ignite new learning, or hold on to what you already know, you will savor these safe, reviewer-recommended resources. Be sure to share with your friends, neighbors, and family. Teachers will want to share this page with students departing for summer break.

Summer will never be "boring" again! 

 

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Big Huge Labs: Map Maker - John Watson: Big Huge Labs

Grades
2 to 12
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Create maps -- for multiple reasons -- with ease. As you 'travel' through your geography or history course, create an ongoing map of the places you've visited and embed/post it ...more
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Create maps -- for multiple reasons -- with ease. As you 'travel' through your geography or history course, create an ongoing map of the places you've visited and embed/post it on your blog or any webpage. Simply type in the title of your map, choose the land masses you wish to include, and then click on the correct boxes for your particular locations. When finished, click the You're Ready box at the bottom of the screen. Now scroll to the top to see what your map will look like. The embed code (geek-speak term for computer gobble-dee-gook that tells your computer how to find and display the map you have made) for your map is ready to copy and paste into your webpage. You can find the embed code to the right of the map. There is also a button to Reset and Start Over.

tag(s): maps (298)

In the Classroom

Create a map to track where your students went on summer vacation (or have ever traveled). Create a map of places you have visited in a work of literature, or where students have written about going on fantasy vacations. Share the maps on an interactive whiteboard or projector. Have cooperative learning groups work together to create maps related to lessons in your social studies, history, or literature classes. Embed multiple student project maps in your class wiki along with student writings that accompany the maps. Check out the Big Huge Labs educator account. Easily pre-register students to avoid creating logins, view and download their creations, and view the site advertisement free. You will find information about the Educator Account here.

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PicLits - PicLits.com

Grades
K to 12
12 Favorites 0  Comments
    
The title says it all: "Inspired Picture Writing!" Use this free drag and drop literacy tool to create great sentences inspired by beautiful pictures. Alternatively, add inspirational...more
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The title says it all: "Inspired Picture Writing!" Use this free drag and drop literacy tool to create great sentences inspired by beautiful pictures. Alternatively, add inspirational or humorous captions to pictures. "Lesson Plans" provides learning opportunities and examples for creating captions, compound sentences, or paragraphs. Video tutorials can be found under the FAQs tab. "Explore the Gallery" to see already-created PicLits as well as comments and ratings. After selecting a picture (or using the one they provide) and dragging a word onto the screen, choose different forms of the word by using the drop-down menu next to the word. Move your words anywhere on the screen for creative writing. You can also click "freestyle" instead to type in your own words instead of choosing from their list. Word lists change, depending on the image selected. Here is an example from one of the TeachersFirst reviewers: Come to the Edge. If your district blocks YouTube, the videos may not be viewable. You could always view them at home and bring them to class "on a stick" to share. Use a tool such as ClipGrab, reviewed here, to download the videos from YouTube. NOTE: Our editors regret that PicLits occasionally allows advertising on their home page to include images that are not classroom-friendly. Teachers should preview to determine whether or not your students can ignore the ads.
This site includes advertising.

tag(s): creative writing (165), digital storytelling (155), images (278), sentences (51)

In the Classroom

Users of PicLits must be able to navigate tabs on sites, manage logins, and use URLs and embed codes to share results on websites and blogs. Play to learn the tools before or after joining. The FAQs tab also provides a short-and-sweet text explanation of the tools. Find these under the Video Tutorials.

Registering for a PicLits account requires the use of an email address. PicLits can be used without an account but users are unable to save or blog about their creation without an account. A class account can be created instead of individual student accounts. However, it does not show which work is attributable to which student. You may want to require that students initial their contributions in order to get credit. All work on the site can be seen without a login. All projects are public.

You may want to create a word doc, Favorites folder, or other "collection" of the URLS to all your students' projects in one place for easy work at grading time. Some teachers use a class wiki or blog with links to all projects from there. A simpler alternative would be to use a bookmarking tool such as Buttons, reviewed here. You may allow students to self-register, but be sure to keep a written record of their passwords for when they "forget." It may be worth your time to do advanced registration for your younger students or simply use a whole-class account.

Share a PicLit on your interactive whiteboard or with a projector at the start of a grammar or writing lesson to discuss word choice, figures of speech, or vocabulary. Use the visual picture prompt for journal or blog writing, allowing each student to compose a unique poem or haiku. Even science classes can write about concepts illustrated in the many nature photos. Emotional support teachers will love the chance to discuss feelings and how to describe facial expressions in the pictures. Make a collection of PicLits using a tool like 3 x 3 Links, reviewed here, for a curriculum topic. Create or challenge students to create an online literary magazine using a tool such as Zinepal, reviewed here. ESL students can create PicLits to learn new vocabulary. Have students create PicLits for special occasions and special people (mom, dad, grandparents, school nurse, or others). Use the embed code to place your creations on many other sites, including your class wiki or blogs. Share your PicLit by using a URL or code for an embedded widget.

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Sharp Brains - Sharpbrains

Grades
6 to 12
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Do you see the gorilla? Use the basketball mind stretcher to find out! This site offers some traditional and not so traditional mind stretchers. The general topic areas include How...more
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Do you see the gorilla? Use the basketball mind stretcher to find out! This site offers some traditional and not so traditional mind stretchers. The general topic areas include How Your Brain Works, Attention, Memory, Pattern Recognition and Planning, Visual Workouts, Visual Illusions, Language and Logic, and others. Some of the activities are quick (less than a minute) while others require more time. The activities could be used in many subject areas; there are language activities, math, general logic, and even some for physical education.

Be aware: each mind stretcher activity includes a blog. Some of the blog comments may not be appropriate, so be sure to READ any blogs that you plan to share. You may want to make these activities a group challenge, rather than individual exploration. Many are interactive and require Flash or Java. You can get it from the TeachersFirst Toolbox page.

tag(s): brain (68), logic (248), puzzles (203), stress (14)

In the Classroom

Start your class (any subject area) with a mind stretcher or include this as part of a psychology or biology lesson on how the brain works. Share the puzzle or challenge on an interactive whiteboard or projector. Challenge your students to create their own logic activities and create a class "Logic" wiki.
 This resource requires Adobe Flash.

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Geni - Everyone's Related - Geni, Inc.

Grades
4 to 12
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This tool allows you to create an interactive family tree. Once you are registered, you can easily create a family tree. You are able to include family member's birth-dates, death-dates,...more
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This tool allows you to create an interactive family tree. Once you are registered, you can easily create a family tree. You are able to include family member's birth-dates, death-dates, email addresses, pictures, video clips, and more. This site also has the capacity to create timelines for births, deaths, weddings, divorces, education, occupation, and other important events and information.

tag(s): family (58), genetics (88), immigration (60), migration (58)

In the Classroom

This site is fairly simple to use. Join the site (free) and log in. Navigation of the site is simple. Click on Tree to start your family tree (or Timeline to use that free resource. For the family tree, arrows are provided to add family members. The arrows pointing up indicate a parent, arrows to the left or right are used to add a wife/husband or brother/sister, and arrows pointing down are used to add a son or daughter.

This site allows users to set-up their family tree or timeline as PRIVATE. It allows you to control who can and can't view your profile, family tree, and other information. For more information about this feature, visit the Settings link (on the top right corner). Before you plan your family tree project, be sure to get parental permission.

Possible Uses: Use this site to create family tree projects in elementary or middle school classes. Have high school students create family trees as part of an immigration unit studying patterns in social studies classes. In science class, have students create fictitious "people" as they study genetics. With younger students, create a class timeline sharing important dates for individuals (i.e. birthdays) and class dates (field trips, tests, or other special events). Have students share their family trees on an interactive whiteboard or projector. Be sure to "advertise" this project on your class website (and newsletter, if applicable) so students have time to gather names, birthdates, and other information about family members. In world language classes, have student create a family tree using the correct vocabulary for relatives and talk about it as they share it on the interactive whiteboard. When researching famous people, reading biographies, or even reading literature have students create a family tree illustrating their discoveries about their famous person, writer, artist, musician, explorer, literary character, etc.

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Sounds Factory - Austin Chang & John Foster

Grades
4 to 10
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This rhythmic website tells the story of a factory worker who is bored with his job. The activity challenges students to create various rhythms using the tools and equipment in ...more
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This rhythmic website tells the story of a factory worker who is bored with his job. The activity challenges students to create various rhythms using the tools and equipment in the factory, to keep the factory workers entertained. There is an animated introduction that describes the scenario. Descriptions and instructions are provided throughout the activity. Once your students are familiar with the site, you are able to skip the instructions. Note: this site is slow to load! Preview it on your classroom machines to get it into your "cache." This website requires Flash. You can get it from the TeachersFirst Toolbox page.

tag(s): rhythm (21), sound (105)

In the Classroom

Introduce your music students to various rhythms and the interesting tools available to create music. Use an interactive whiteboard or projector (and speakers) to demonstrate the program. Then have students work with a partner to create their own music. Students can save and send recordings to friends, but this uses email addresses. Check your school policies or have them "send" the recordings to your teacher email for sharing. They might even "turn in" a music assignment that way!
 This resource requires Adobe Flash.

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Seashell Identification Guide - Seashells.com

Grades
2 to 10
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If students ever wonder exactly what seashells they managed to collect at the beach last summer, this is the site to use. Clear photos click to an even larger and ...more
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If students ever wonder exactly what seashells they managed to collect at the beach last summer, this is the site to use. Clear photos click to an even larger and distinct picture of many varieties. Along with the larger picture are the common name, scientific name, region found, and maximum size. Links on the page include more information about identifying shells, cleaning, preserving, and using as decorations.

In the Classroom

Use this site as a kick-off when students return to write their "What I Did on my Summer Vacation" papers. If you're teaching research skills, this site is a good place to start, since it is highly visual but definitive. ESL and ELL students can independently use this site since the vocabulary is limited to names, regions, and sizes. Biology teachers can use this site as a reference when teaching about classification.

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Art Attack - The Media Merchants Television Co.

Grades
1 to 8
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As support to a TV show from the UK, this site offers hints on creating art and crafts with various media. It gives great directions for many easy but original ...more
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As support to a TV show from the UK, this site offers hints on creating art and crafts with various media. It gives great directions for many easy but original art/craft projects, called Art Attacks. Every step of each project includes a photograph of the progression of the creation. There is a sharing gallery so that teachers can submit their students' creations, if they so choose. Some art attacks contain brief write ups about featured artists This site requires Flash. Get it from the TeachersFirst Toolbox page.

tag(s): coal (14), drawing (78), painting (66), photography (157)

In the Classroom

Quickly search this site for a unique but well-explained art or craft project to serve as a culminating activity a unit. Invite your students or a parent to share a favorite art activity by breaking it down into steps and photographing each step, thus creating your own "art attack." Share your "art attacks" on a class wiki as chance for students to practice writing sequenced directions.
 This resource requires Adobe Flash.

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Grammarman - grammarman.com

Grades
5 to 12
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This online version of Asian-created Grammarman regularly appears in foreign newspapers. Before reading, students can click on each character under Bad Guys or Good Guys to get the...more
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This online version of Asian-created Grammarman regularly appears in foreign newspapers. Before reading, students can click on each character under Bad Guys or Good Guys to get the character's background. The people of "Verbo City" need help with grammar problems when Grammarman comes to their rescue. Both still and movie versions of the various episodes feature his triumphs over bad grammar. This site is a refreshing break from grammar exercises and quizzes for all students (ESL, ELL, special education, and in the regular classroom). Downloadable Grammarman Dominoes allow students to carry the characters in their pockets and play a game with each other. You may notice some slight spelling or vocabulary differences, because this website was created using British English.

tag(s): grammar (212)

In the Classroom

What a fabulous grammar website to use with all students. Use your interactive whiteboard to share the "grammar story of the week." Challenge your students to find the grammar errors and help Grammarman "save the day." Use the free, downloadable templates to have students create their own Grammarman comics featuring their personal grammar "demons." Have another teacher judge the entries and allow the "winner" to wear the Grammarman "cape" for the week (or earn a homework pass).
  This resource requires Adobe Flash and PDF reader software like Adobe Acrobat.

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Grow Up Reading - West Bloomfield Township Public Library

Grades
K to 3
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This Web site, developed by a public library, is filled with excellent information on instilling a joy of reading in young children. Includes helpful book suggestions, book selection...more
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This Web site, developed by a public library, is filled with excellent information on instilling a joy of reading in young children. Includes helpful book suggestions, book selection tips, and a list of do's and don'ts when reading aloud.

tag(s): reading lists (81)

In the Classroom

Keep your primary students interested in reading even during summer vacation by sharing this resource with parents before the end of the year.

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Shel Silverstein's Official Website - Shel Silverstein; Harper Publishers

Grades
K to 6
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Shel Silverstein's outside-the-box style of poetry has delighted students for years. Now, his website extends that wacky literacy to another medium and level. You may be tempted at...more
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Shel Silverstein's outside-the-box style of poetry has delighted students for years. Now, his website extends that wacky literacy to another medium and level. You may be tempted at most sites to skip the intro. Don't skip Shel's. Familiar entities walk across your screen welcoming you. Screen Savers, animated Shel-creature-people to enjoy, reproducibles, and more await your enjoyment. Click on Poetry Month to find more activities and games that you can use during April. Your students will chuckle at Shel's own reading and lively animation of several of his poems. This is a site to explore with your class.

tag(s): humor (15), poetry (219)

In the Classroom

Take your students on this language-rich adventure using an interactive whiteboard or projector. Mark your calendar now to visit this site during April, when Poetry Month is celebrated. Download your free poetry kit from the poetry month link. Of course, Shel Silverstein's whimsical and slightly dark humor can be enjoyed any month. There is a link for Teachers and Parents with lesson ideas, printables, and more. This is a great site to share with parents and students for summer breaks.
  This resource requires Adobe Flash and PDF reader software like Adobe Acrobat.

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