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Refdesk - Refdesk

Grades
2 to 12
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Use this free site for finding the best information on the Internet. Enter the search term directly into the fields you wish. Refdesk provides many search engines to choose from. ...more
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Use this free site for finding the best information on the Internet. Enter the search term directly into the fields you wish. Refdesk provides many search engines to choose from. Use the dictionary and thesaurus, search literature, scan news, or read about articles, pictures, or headlines of the day. Refdesk provides one place to find an abundant amount of information at your fingertips. Students should be cautioned to not click on ads which are scattered throughout the site.

tag(s): news (260), thesaurus (23)

In the Classroom

Use this link in the resources section of your wiki, blog, or website for students to quickly find or use information from the Internet. Build information literacy as your students do research. As a beginning activity, have students use the same search term but use different search engines and identify the differences in the top results. Use Refdesk to find interesting information for writing prompts or discussions/blog posts for the day. Use this site for research projects, homework help, and more.

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Tales from the Public Domain: Bound By Law - Center for the Study of the Public Domain (Duke Law)

Grades
9 to 12
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An online, interactive graphic novel(formerly known as comic book) created at Duke Law explains the highly-sophisticated concepts of "public domain" and other intellectual property...more
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An online, interactive graphic novel(formerly known as comic book) created at Duke Law explains the highly-sophisticated concepts of "public domain" and other intellectual property issues related to using film clips, artwork, Broadway shows, and more in a documentary. In the digital world of the 21st century, copyright is a concept most foreign to our students, and this interactive book may only fan the flames of their outrage at such limitations to the "rights" they perceive in today's connected world. As one panel in the book itself says, "To many artists, the question of 'Fair Use' can seem like a game of blind man's bluff." These concepts are very challenging, even to adults, but this interactive comic book can at least alert users to what some of the legal issues involved with intellectual property may be. This site requires Flash. You can get it from the TeachersFirst Toolbox page.

tag(s): air (149), copyright (51), media literacy (65)

In the Classroom

Since this content requires concentration and understanding of concepts beyond the typical high schooler, you may want to share selected frames from the book on your interactive whiteboard or projector as discussion starters or inspiration for debate on copyright issues. Whether you are introducing a research project that requires adherence to Fair Use and proper documentation, are coaching a debate team, or prompting a piece of persuasive writing on this hot topic, this resource will provide fodder for discussion. Don't expect mastery of the legal concept, but you will certainly hear opinions as students navigate this "book."
 This resource requires Adobe Flash.

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Spezify (beta) - Spezify

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K to 12
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Get an overview of any web search visually using Spezify. Spezify is a search engine that provides both visual and verbal results for the search terms you enter. It pulls ...more
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Get an overview of any web search visually using Spezify. Spezify is a search engine that provides both visual and verbal results for the search terms you enter. It pulls in images from Flickr and anywhere on the web as well as print excerpts, and (coming soon) video. Click on the image or text box you wish to read just as you click on text in search results lists. Visually display the "big picture" on any topic. Searching "edison inventions" brings up pictures and articles for visual learners, ELL/ESL students, or non-readers to get the gist of the topic at a quick glance. Spezify also suggests possible additional search terms and related topics across the top of the page as white text within the narrow black stripe. If you click the plus sign (+) next to one of these terms, it will add that term to your search, narrowing the results. If you click on the word itself, Spezify will search that term instead (not adding it to your previous search). There does not appear to be any specific ranking (as Google has) or sorting of the results by reputation, popularity, etc. No "about" information is provided to explain how Spezify determines which results show first. The tool is still in beta and provides a way for you to provide feedback, as well. NOTE: as with any online image search, you should be careful what you enter as search terms, since Spezify will pull up images without any "filter."

In the Classroom

Use Spezify on an interactive whiteboard or projector as you introduce a new topic in science or social studies or when the class asks "What is ____?" . With very young students or non-readers, use Spezify to help them find information they can understand and to inspire them to try to read some of the short text excerpts alongside the images. Activate students' prior knowledge as they recognize the images and remark, "I didn't know Edison was the one who invented that!" Visually show the "big picture" on any topic. As you teach research skills, try a comparison of Spezify results with Google results for both functionality of the search engine and reputability of the results. NOTE: Preview any search terms you plan to display in class if the terms could possibly bring up inappropriate images. You may need to adjust your terms. Of course your students know what they are supposed to do if something inappropriate comes up when using a search themselves, right? If you have not discussed this, now is the time!

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Video: Web Search Strategies in Plain English - Common Craft

Grades
4 to 12
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This site offers a VERY short video (under 3-minutes) that offers tips on how to get the best responses to your web searches. This is a perfect addition to your ...more
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This site offers a VERY short video (under 3-minutes) that offers tips on how to get the best responses to your web searches. This is a perfect addition to your research unit, helping students to find information FASTER. Despite a paid membership model, Common Craft still offers this video for free, but it does have a watermark saying, "For evaluation only." If you wish to share this with a group, they will need to view it on individual/partner computers (or IOS devices) or on a projector that has a zoom function to enlarge a selected area of the screen.
This site includes advertising.

tag(s): search engines (61)

In the Classroom

Share the video clip on your interactive whiteboard or projector. Have students apply the tips from this video during independent or cooperative learning research projects.
 This resource requires Adobe Flash.

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Visual Dictionary Online - Merriam-Webster and QA International

Grades
3 to 12
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Be sure to save this site in your favorites for your visual learners! As its name implies, this dictionary 'defines' the word a student types by providing a detailed, labeled ...more
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Be sure to save this site in your favorites for your visual learners! As its name implies, this dictionary 'defines' the word a student types by providing a detailed, labeled graphic. In 15 category themes, there are over 6000 images and 20,000 definitions available. Use the index for easy access to the words you need locate. Once the image is seen, click on the audio button to hear the correct pronunciation. Scroll down the page to find words and phrases that relate to the word being investigated. This site requires Flash. You can get it from the TeachersFirst Toolbox page.

tag(s): images (279)

In the Classroom

Science teachers will love this site. Most of the 15 categories revolve around science terminology that benefit from images. ESL and learning support students who have difficulty with verbal definitions will also find this resource helpful. Speech and Language teachers can use the Clothing and Articles categories to build student vocabulary. Use your whiteboard alongside your science text to clarify terms. Encourage students to study for tests by perusing this site.
 This resource requires Adobe Flash.

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Plagiarism Court - Fairfield University

Grades
9 to 12
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Fairfield University's introduction to "avoiding plagiarism" will also prove useful to secondary students who may be doing their first research involving documentation of sources. This...more
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Fairfield University's introduction to "avoiding plagiarism" will also prove useful to secondary students who may be doing their first research involving documentation of sources. This resource is particularly useful in that it stresses the various "shades" of source notation and the requirements for each. Add this one to your collection of term paper writing aids. This site requires Flash. You can get it from the TeachersFirst Toolbox page.

tag(s): copyright (51), plagiarism (37)

In the Classroom

Share this site with your students on an interactive whiteboard or projector.
 This resource requires Adobe Flash.

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refseek - refseek.com

Grades
4 to 12
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RefSeek is a different search tool for beginning researchers as well as those already knowledgeable about the process. Although this search engine appears "plain vanilla," it is a great...more
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RefSeek is a different search tool for beginning researchers as well as those already knowledgeable about the process. Although this search engine appears "plain vanilla," it is a great option for research purposes. As they explain it, they "search the entire Web for freely available academic information, providing relevant results while filtering out most commercial content." This is different from Google's standard search. RefSeek looks through web pages, books, encyclopedias, journals, and newspapers for your chosen topic. With special search features, students can also limit searches to specific web pages, search two topics (either-or option) at once, and even include search words usually dismissed by academic searches (like "the" and "if"). After starting a search, click on Directory to limit searches to certain types of publications and resources, including quotations, almanacs and teacher resources.

tag(s): news (260), newspapers (98), search engines (61)

In the Classroom

Use this site to compare the validity of various types of reference material sources. Compare results of searches to teach critical reading skills and 21st century information literacy. Compare info from sources on this site to those in print materials. Encourage your students to use this tool for individual as well as group projects. Encourage ESL and ELL students to find sources with lower reading levels that still give the necessary information.

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Art and Architecture Thesaurus - Getty Museum

Grades
6 to 12
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The Getty museum has compiled a very complete, easily used thesaurus of art and architecture terms. Type in a generic search word related to art and architecture, and this handy ...more
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The Getty museum has compiled a very complete, easily used thesaurus of art and architecture terms. Type in a generic search word related to art and architecture, and this handy research tool will provide its definition, related terms, and position within the site's hierarchical database. Art teachers and students will find this one a valuable research and study tool for understanding art terminology and vocabulary. This is a text-only resource, but useful for clarifying concepts and styles.

tag(s): architecture (85), thesaurus (23), vocabulary (320)

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Define It Fast - WordNet 3.0 Princeton University

Grades
K to 12
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The goal of this website is to become the easiest, fastest online dictionary available. Is it? Try it, you'll be impressed. An exciting tool is the audio component, allowing ...more
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The goal of this website is to become the easiest, fastest online dictionary available. Is it? Try it, you'll be impressed. An exciting tool is the audio component, allowing you to listen to the English pronunciation for selected words ( the triangular "play" button will show next to the word on the entry) . DefineItFast.com has a bookmarklet that you can drag and drop to your browser's link bar (if your computer is not "locked down" at school). When you look up definitions, highlight the word and click the linkbar button or you can directly type the word by clicking the button and click 'OK'. View the tutorial video to learn more about the bookmarklet feature. This site requires Flash, you can get it from the TeachersFirst Toolbox page.

Note: The dictionary, like many real-world dictionaries, includes words that may not be classroom-appropriate. Decide how you will handle students who make inappropriate choices in using this tool.

tag(s): dictionaries (59)

In the Classroom

Definitely investigate the free Search Engine download that's available to make this tool even more useful. This may become your favorite dictionary-- bar none. You may want to save this site in your favorites on your class computer(s), but see the cautionary note above about the FULL database of words available.
 This resource requires Adobe Flash.

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YourDictionary - LoveToKnow Corporation

Grades
K to 12
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A definitive authority on words, this free site gives you definitions, thesaurus entries, spellings, pronunciations, and etymology results. Add to that list an audio pronunciation system...more
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A definitive authority on words, this free site gives you definitions, thesaurus entries, spellings, pronunciations, and etymology results. Add to that list an audio pronunciation system that allows you to hear the word as well. YourDictionary also provides resources to help you find foreign language translation sites. It even directs you to medical, computer, or electricians' dictionaries, and many more. Haven't you always wanted to say a tongue-twister in the Asante language? Words have never so much fun. This site does include some advertisements.

tag(s): thesaurus (23)

In the Classroom

Send students to this site to look up those difficult words. ESL and ELL students can use this site to practice the pronunciation of new words. Be sure to mark this site as a favorite or share on your teacher web page for easy access.
 This resource requires PDF reader software like Adobe Acrobat.

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Academic Integrity - Ryerson University

Grades
9 to 12
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This is an incredibly rich site for teaching and learning about resources, plagiarism, and writing a research paper. Although geared for Ryerson University students, all students can...more
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This is an incredibly rich site for teaching and learning about resources, plagiarism, and writing a research paper. Although geared for Ryerson University students, all students can access the animated "story" told in episodes and many of the resources discussed in the story. Particularly helpful for students are such resources as the Assignment Calculator, which helps plan when to do what, and reference sources to access online. The key draw to this site, however, are the stories which cover unintentional plagiarism, buying or borrowing coursework, cheating on tests and exams, forging/misrepresentation & unauthorized group work, and group work. All of the episodes use the same characters and teachers can download the scripts to preview or use at their discretion as supplemental. Note: the interactive quizzes offered at the end of the series are not accessible to non-Ryerson students. This website requires Flash. You can get it from the TeachersFirst Toolbox page..

tag(s): cheating (2), plagiarism (37)

In the Classroom

Downloading the scripts would offer an opportunity for groups of students to act out the episodes, always a popular idea. Having 5 groups of students watch different episodes and then report on them is another way to use the site. You can also have students watch certain episodes as assignments or enrichment. Be sure to check out the additional resources shown at the end of each episode. Social studies teachers assigning research projects may want to make these tutorials available for reference at research time.
 This resource requires Adobe Flash.

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Lingro - lingro.com

Grades
2 to 12
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This study tool and open content dictionary allows you to enter a web address (URL) and make all of the words on that page clickable for definitions and translation. A ...more
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This study tool and open content dictionary allows you to enter a web address (URL) and make all of the words on that page clickable for definitions and translation. A clicked word immediately displays its definition from the Lingro dictionary pages. The website looks visually the same within the Lingro window, but all words become clickable. You can also use Lingro to translate to and from English, Spanish, French, Italian, German, and Polish with more languages to be added. When students use the translation/definition tool, the site keeps a short-term record of their words and web pages, allowing them to study their own wordlists and to play games with these words. The wordlist and history feature only works short-term and at the SAME computer, unless you register, for free, to be able to take your personal history to any computer. With the translation capability, you can read websites in other languages. If you spell a word incorrectly, Lingro has a "best match" feature which finds likely definitions for your word of choice. There is also a tool to create electronic flash card type games from your saved wordlists.

Important technical note: Lingro cannot "see" words included in Flash interactives such as the "What's New" rotating content on the TeachersFirst home page. If you RIGHT click on an area of text and see "About Adobe Flash Player...," this means that the text is displayed in Flash and not "legible" to Lingro. Often pages offer a non-Flash version as an alternative.

tag(s): french (91), german (66), germany (27), italian (36), spanish (111), vocabulary (320), vocabulary development (124)

In the Classroom

When your ESL/ELL, learning support, or weaker readers do Internet research on sites above their independent reading level, have them open Lingro first and then enter the URL (web address) they wish to read. Use Lingro for vocabulary development in any subject. Mark this site as a favorite on your classroom computer or on your teacher web page so that ESL/ELL, world language students, or weaker readers can use the definition and translation feature and benefit from instantly-created word lists. If your school permits individual student accounts on web tools, this is a good one. If not, create a single teacher account to compile class word lists.

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Word Reference - wordreference.com

Grades
2 to 12
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This series of free translating dictionaries allows students to search to/from English in these languages: French, Spanish, Italian, Russian, and German. Once a definition comes up...more
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This series of free translating dictionaries allows students to search to/from English in these languages: French, Spanish, Italian, Russian, and German. Once a definition comes up in English, there are links to other dictionary pages where the word appears in a sentence. You can click on the audio button to hear the word spoken in both languages. This feature is only available in more commonly used words

There are also immediate clicks to other languages, so a student could check the same word in Spanish and French very easily. In addition to the translation dictionaries, there are also "English Dictionaries" (non-interactive) available in Portuguese, Polish, Romanian, Czech, Turkish, Chinese, Japanese, Korean, and Arabic (coming soon). Many of the foreign language dictionaries will increase in volume as the site developers add more vocabulary.

Be aware: this site does include minor advertisements. There is a link to Language Forums. It is probably best to advise students to stay away from the forums.

tag(s): chinese (50), dictionaries (59), italian (36), japan (60), japanese (45), korea (18), portuguese (21), russia (35), russian (28)

In the Classroom

Save this site in your favorites on your classroom computers for use by ESL/ELL and foreign language students or for use when studying derivations and word families in English (compare the same word across several languages to see how close they can be!). Students can take an active role in vocabulary preview work by using this site in prior to reading. Be sure to list this site on your class webpage so students can access this information both in and out of the classroom.

If you are introducing new vocabulary words to your foreign language class. Have them use this site to find the appropriate translations. Then have the students work in cooperative learning groups to create online vocabulary guide books using a tool such at Bookemon (reviewed here). Have the groups share the online books on your interactive whiteboard or projector. Be sure to keep the links for future students to use the guides, as well.

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A+ Research & Writing Step-by-Step - Kathryn L. Schwartz

Grades
9 to 12
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Do you want to appeal to those students who are afraid of the whole research and writing process? How about those who just don't know how to pick a topic, ...more
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Do you want to appeal to those students who are afraid of the whole research and writing process? How about those who just don't know how to pick a topic, or narrow the focus? Are you dreading walking your students through the citation part? This site enables students to go through the process of writing a research paper from choosing a topic through writing the paper, revising, proofreading, and final submission. What makes this site appealing is the use of great graphics and the very simple, one-step-at-a-time approach that makes paper writing less daunting. Links take students to college-specific sites for interactive organizational tools such as mapping and outlining.

In the Classroom

This site helps you help your students and them students to work at their own pace through the pieces that are difficult for them. Use the entire site as a guide for you research process or select different pieces of this site as models when you teach research papers so students can practice right then and there "how to do it." Be sure to include the link on your teacher web page so parents can support students as they approach deadline-panic (and you know some will procrastinate, no matter what you do).

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Bibme - team exibeans

Grades
6 to 12
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BibMe is a one-stop source for all kinds of bibliography needs. It is a great online tool for bibliographies--and more. It even has a function for those students who ...more
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BibMe is a one-stop source for all kinds of bibliography needs. It is a great online tool for bibliographies--and more. It even has a function for those students who don't remember all the information for the source you cited. BibMe allows you to search from a database of millions of entries to find your source and autofill in the information. If you have the source in front of you, you can enter your entries manually. BibMe also offers resources to help you cite your work properly in the 'Citation Guide' section. It offers examples in MLA, APA, and Chicago formatting, making it useful for a wide variety of schools. Set up a free account for yourself so you can "save" bibliographies.
This site includes advertising.

tag(s): citations (37)

In the Classroom

This is a great tool for students who are both learning to cite correctly and as a helpful tool for those who forget some of the "little" things that count when writing a bibliography. It offers a great example, too, of the difference between what is in a "Works Cited" page and what actually appears in the text as a citation. Teachers can use this on a Smartboard or simply through a computer lab or projector to demonstrate the correct way to cite as well as mistakes to avoid. Be sure to include the link on your teacher web page for students finishing reports in the wee hours of the morning on the due date. Set up a free account for yourself so you can "save" example bibliographies. If you assign independent projects to your gifted students (or any student), be sure to make Bibme part of your instructions so they learn to organize their sources early on. If students are allowed to set up individual accounts, this tool is worth the time! They must be 13 or have parent permission.

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Visuwords - Paul R. Dunn

Grades
6 to 12
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This graphical online dictionary will make looking up words and figures of speech addictive, and visual learners will start to understand meanings as never before. The dictionary pulls...more
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This graphical online dictionary will make looking up words and figures of speech addictive, and visual learners will start to understand meanings as never before. The dictionary pulls it information from Princeton's WordNet, an opensource database built by University students and language researchers. A WORD OF WARNING: because the source of the words is a university, where speech is completely open, there are word included in this "dictionary" that are NOT classroom appropriate. Use it only under teacher monitoring.
The color-coded word "entries" display like a mind-map or graphic organizer, showing parts of speech in different colors and showing related words and phrases, as well. Be sure to look at the color key at the bottom to understand all the information presented. This site requires FLASH. Get it from the TeachersFirst Toolbox page..

tag(s): dictionaries (59), thesaurus (23), vocabulary (320)

In the Classroom

Introduce new vocabulary before reading or starting a new unit, using this site on an interactive whiteboard or projector. The distinctions, examples, and relationships the site features for new words will help students build better connections and understanding as they read and study the words in classroom context. English teachers will love this as a learning tool for teaching distinctions between similar words. Just remember to use it in a monitored situation (see above).

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Research 101 - University of Washington

Grades
9 to 12
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Research 101 is an interactive online tutorial for students needing an introduction to research skills. The tutorial covers the basics, including how to select a topic and develop research...more
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Research 101 is an interactive online tutorial for students needing an introduction to research skills. The tutorial covers the basics, including how to select a topic and develop research questions, as well as how to select, search for, find, and evaluate information sources. This site teaches kids HOW to research so it works with ANY subject matter.Teaching kids how to research and the differences between kinds of sources can be challenging. This site makes it a little easier for you and simpler and more fun for them!

In the Classroom

What is terrific about this site is its interactive capability-- so you can introduce it on a projector or whiteboard at the beginning of class, then let them continue by themselves as you go around and check on individual issues. After each section there is a "review quiz" that students can take right there and get their score immediately. Require them to raise a hand to report a score--or they risk a zero!

This site is a must for your teacher web page during research season.

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H2O Playlists - Berkman Ctr for the Internet and Society, Harvard Law School

Grades
9 to 12
1 Favorites 0  Comments
 
Create an online collection of annotated links and materials for academic research or have your students use this site to collect sources and materials for a collaborative project....more
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Create an online collection of annotated links and materials for academic research or have your students use this site to collect sources and materials for a collaborative project. A "playlist" is a set of links with explanations and tags that you (or students) can use to initiate self-directed research or that students could use to prepare or present content. Have students make a "playlist" on a research topic, such as the Vietnam War, displaying and speaking about the resources in a class presentation on a projector. You can monitor the progress of collaborative research by checking their playlists-in-progress. Students who have Internet access at home can add to the playlists from any computer. Playlists can be published and shared. You can also find other playlists with the same tags, extending the reach of your research.

tag(s): citations (37)

In the Classroom

The site requires a log-in, so you may want to set up a single account and password based on your "extra" email account (always recommended for joining all these great web-based tool sites). When your students are finished with their projects, you can simply change the password. Skills needed to use this tool: join site (free), copy/paste links, create tags (keywords), reorder list items, start new lists (all very easy by clicking on text links). TeachersFirst Ede staff strongly suggest that you create a sample playlist to start and model the process to your students. They will catch on fast. You will also need to prevent them from altering profiles or creating unmonitored accounts and profiles, for safety reasons.

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Online Etymology Dictionary - Douglas Harper

Grades
6 to 12
0 Favorites 0  Comments
as the author explains, "Etymologies are not definitions; they're explanations of what our words meant 600 or 2,000 years ago." Use this quick online reference to locate the point in...more
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as the author explains, "Etymologies are not definitions; they're explanations of what our words meant 600 or 2,000 years ago." Use this quick online reference to locate the point in time when a word entered into usage the way we know it-- or to find out what it used to mean, such as in Shakespeare. Use the richness of these historical meanings to understand literature or to illustrate the living nature of language.

tag(s): vocabulary (320)

In the Classroom

Mark this one in the Favorites on classroom computers or in links on your English teacher web page. Feature a word a week on a projector before you start your lesson to help students think about the evolution of language.

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Citation Machine - David Warlick and the Landmark Project

Grades
8 to 12
0 Favorites 0  Comments
This site enables students to correctly cite sources in a Works Cited page in both MLA and APA style. The student provides the information (such as title, authors publisher, etc.) ...more
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This site enables students to correctly cite sources in a Works Cited page in both MLA and APA style. The student provides the information (such as title, authors publisher, etc.) and the software will show what the entry ought to look like. This is a helpful tool when writing a paper or properly documenting sources fro a student-made PowerPoint show. The directions are in small type in the main column of information. The basic idea is to select the type of style (MLA, Chicago, etc) you want at the left, enter information, and generate the citation.

tag(s): citations (37)

In the Classroom

Be careful that all entries look as you instructed students to do them. the only caution with this site is that there are sponsored sites on the right-hand side that students can click on to buy term papers. Show them the site in class and warn them that you can see these sites, too, and they are better off not even trying. The citation site itself is too good not to use as a tool.

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