Archive for November, 2007


While I was searching the Internet over the long Holiday Weekend, I came across Edutopia.  Edutopia is a part of the Geroge Lucas Educational Foundation.  From the website:

The George Lucas Educational Foundtion (GLEF) was founded in 1991 as a nonprofit operating foundation to celebrate and encourage innovation in schools.  Since that time, we have been documenting, disseminating, and advocating for exemplary programs in K-12 public schools to help these practices spread nationwide.

 We publish the stories of innovative teaching and learning through a variety of media – a magazine, e-newsletter, DVDs, books, and this website.  Here, you’ll find detailed articles, in-depth case studies, research summaries, short documentary segments, expert interviews, and links to hundreds of relevant resources.  You’ll also be able to participate as a member of an online community of people actively working reinvent schools for the twenty-first century. I clicked on the video page found a variety of PD videos, ranging from assessment to Community Partnerships to Parent Involvement.  I found the High Expectations Video, a 9-minute documentary on a low-income elementary school in Portland, Oregon to be very useful.  I just subscribed to their online newsletter, so I’ll see if any other great resources come up.-Melissa


Thanks to Mary Ann Zeher for another informative post on her blog Learning the Language. Through her post, I learned about Lingro. Using Lingro, English language students can look up definitions of unfamiliar words on websites in just one click!

Lingro’s about page states:

Lingro was conceived in August 2005, when Artur decided to practice his Spanish by reading Harry Potter y la piedra filosofál. As a competent but non-expert speaker, he found that looking up new vocabulary took much more time than the reading itself. Frustrated with the how slow existing online dictionaries were, he wrote a program to help him translate and learn words in their original context.

Lingro’s mission is to create an on-line environment that allows anyone learning a language to quickly look up and learn the vocabulary most important to them.


Phonics has never been this entertaining!

This morning while browsing through the Bering Strait School District Open Content Initiative link that Melissa sent me to, I discovered a link to StarfallStarfall is a website that provides interactive phonics-focused content aimed at helping young children learn how to read. It was created by a team of educators, artists, designers, animators, musicians, and engineers and made possible by the Polis-Schutz family (founders of Blue Mountain Arts publishing).

If your children need help practicing their letter sounds, click here!

For animations that help children learn how to decode, click here!

The Starfall video on chunking is hilarious!


International Digital Children’s Library–Free Online Children’s Books!

Over the Thanksgiving holiday I had some time to explore the web for new reading resources. This morning I learned about the International Children’s Digital Library. This is an excellent online resource filled with illustrated books in numerous languages from around the world. The site states that the Library’s mission is:

To support the world’s children in becoming effective members of the global community – who exhibit tolerance and respect for diverse cultures, languages and ideas — by making the best in children’s literature available online free of charge. The Foundation pursues its vision by building a digital library of outstanding children’s books from around the world and supporting communities of children and adults in exploring and using this literature through innovative technology designed in close partnership with children for children.

To search for books, click here. Notice how the site contains both fiction and non-fiction books, as well as short picture books and longer chapter books! As a former English as a Second Language teacher and a student of Spanish, I was happy to see books like Angles Ride Bikes/Los Ángeles Andan en Bicicleta–that contain passages in both English and Spanish. The site also has books in Japanese, Farsi, Yiddish and more! This is a fabulous resource. Please spread the word!

Thanks to Kim Tabor for suggesting this site in her June 2007 Teacher Librarian article titled, “Great Educational and Fun Web Sites to Explore During the Summer.” -Anna

FreeRice: Brush up your own vocabulary and help feed a hungry person!

As you spend time over the school year preparing vocabulary lessons for your students, why not brush up on a little vocabulary yourself (and feed a hungry person or two)! Or, share this site with high school students prepping for their SATs!

My friend Michael sent me the link to FreeRice last night and all morning I’ve been hooked! The site is a essentially a multiple choice vocabulary quiz. For example, the site will present to you a word like declivitous and then you have to choose the closest definition from four choices, such as, downward-sloping, fussy, harmonious and yearly. For each definition you get correct, the United Nations World Food Program delivers 10 grains of rice to hungry people around the globe!

To learn more about FreeRice and click here.

Peer Review?

Eduwonk got me again!  I recently saw this post on teacher peer review.  In Toledo, teachers are evaluating each other, instead of principals.  What?  Maybe I am just very ready for Thanksgiving break, but seriously?  Teachers already have a full time job – they teach and manage a classroom.  Administrators also have a full time job – they manage the teachers and school processes.  Let’s not add yet another responsibility to our already overworked teachers.  Maybe if administrators did their job in the first place and hired quality professionals, they wouldn’t find themselves in this predicament to begin with.  And here is one more thought… a school where teachers are constantly thinking about being reviewed by their peers is not a school that fosters professionalism and a collaborative working environment.


BrainPOP! Who were the Pilgrims?

Last year I discovered BrainPOP–an educational site for kids filled with movies, information and activities about science, social studies, English, etc. While browsing through the site recently, I learned about BrainPOP Jr. The site states:

BrainPOP Jr. provides educational movies and homework help for K-3 students. Each animated movie has quizzes, games, vocabulary, and activities for kids. BrainPOP Jr. is a great resource for teachers and homeschools, offering lesson plans and lesson ideas that develop critical thinking and inquiry skills.

I love this site because it is filled with wonderful animations that are exciting for children (and adults) to view. Plus, resources like the reading word wall and games page are great links to send home to parents, so that they can help their children learn key vocabulary and skills at home.

Since many of us will celebrate Thanksgiving this week. Why not share this BrainPOP Jr. Thanksgiving video with your students titled, “Who were the Pilgrims?

Happy Thanksgiving! -Anna

Parent-Teacher Conferences

I just finished my First Parent-Teacher Conferences of the school year.  Even though I know all of my grading is very fair, I can’t help but get a little nervous.  You never know how parents are going to react upon seeing their child’s report card.  Here are a few things I have found to be very helpful:

  • Create a welcoming classroom.  Make sure lots of student work is on display.  This year I had my kids each decorate a folder and write on the front “Look what I can do!”  We filled the folder with current work from each subject.

  •  Stress that you do not GIVE grades, students EARN their grades.

  • If parents do have questions or concerns, have grades at hand and be able to refer to exact totals and percentages

  •  Have a few handout for parents, such as a sight word list, a list of favorite books to read at home, or an article on study skills.

  • Perhaps my best piece of advice – be positive!!  For every negative thing you have to tell a parent, make sure you accompany it with at least one positive comment.  Start with something the child is doing well, and then move into what needs to be improved.

Good luck!


Thinkfinity: Free Online PD and Resources For Teachers and Parents

Today some colleagues referred me to the website. The website points out:

“Thinkfinity Literacy Network (TLN) is part of, the Verizon Foundation’s signature education and literacy platform. TLN features content specific to the adult and family literacy communities. It offers teachers, volunteers, parents, community groups, adult students and program administrators free online courses, best practices, program assessment tools, teaching and learning tools, model programs that demystify technology for parents, and abundant research highlighting the importance of literacy development across the life span. All TLN content is free and is developed and approved by leading literacy experts like the American Library Association, National Center for Family Literacy and ProLiteracy Worldwide.”

There is a ton of free and informative resources on this site! Check out the online literacy PD courses here. Each course is short (~60 minutes) and packed with useful and research-based teaching tips. For example, the course objective for “Before, During, and After – A Reading Comprehension Technique” is as follows:

“Comprehension – obtaining meaning from text – is the purpose of reading. While the definition is simple, the skills, strategies, and techniques that good readers use to comprehend what they read can be quite complicated, especially for someone who is learning to read. The fact is, adults with low literacy skills need direct instruction in reading comprehension because they will not discover effective strategies on their own. This course features the Before, During, and After reading technique. Tutors and teachers can use this technique to help students interact with text and systematically apply reading strategies that will improve their comprehension.”

Also take a look at the Verizon Lifespan Literacy Matrix. When I taught literacy in Japan, I was always looking for materials I could send home with parents to inform them about their children’s literacy development. This matrix is something you can send home to parents, so that they can learn the stages of literacy development and help their children learn how to read.

-Anna :)

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Free online materials could save schools billions

USA Today just published a great article by Greg Toppo about Free-Reading (a site that provides free K-1 literacy curricula as well as opportunities for teachers to share lessons and ideas regarding early literacy).

As a contributor to and fan of the site, I just have to share the link: Free online materials could save schools billions


Fun Story for Beginning Readers: Bob Bug

I love the illustrations in Julia Donaldson’s early reader Bob Bug. If you are doing a reading center on bugs, this would be a fun book to print out and share with your students. Bob the Bug’s Teddy Bear is SO cute! -Anna

Information Literacy

As I was surfing the internet this week, I came across the blog of Michael Lorenzen, The Information Literacy Land of Confusion.  Michael has an interesting persepective on the world of education, from a librarian’s viewpoint. 

In searching his blog, I came across an older post that really got me thinking about my own school.  In Parents Paying for Library Instruction, Michael tells the tale of schools who have used discretionary funds from Parents and PTA’s to fund their school library.  I remember going to library when I was in elementary school and middle school.  We learned the Dewey Decimal System.  We learned how to search for books.  We learned how to look things up in Encycolpedias and Dictionaries.  And when I send my own students to the Library every Monday right after lunch, they sit on the floor and watch a Charlie Brown movie or they listen to a story.  There is no librarian teaching them how to use the library.  There is just a paraprofessional reading a story or pushing the play button.  Now, I realize the Dewey Decimal System may be out of date.  But shouldn’t my students be learning about search engines and online encyclopedic resources?  Maybe we should come up with a new fundraiser to improve the library program…


Doing What Works

Today I received EdWeek’s “Learning the Language” newsletter. From that I learned that yesterday the US Department of Education launched Doing What Works. As the site explains on its FAQ page:

“Doing What Works is a website dedicated to helping educators identify and make use of effective teaching practices. Doing What Works relies primarily on the Institute of Education Sciences at the U.S. Department of Education to evaluate and recommend practices that are supported by rigorous research. Then, Doing What Works provides examples of possible ways educators might apply those research findings, but these are not necessarily the only ways to carry out these teaching practices.”

Click here for a video tour of the site. The website is still in its early stages, but it does have a nice beginning collection on “Doing What Works” with ELL students. I like the sideshow on Warfield Elementary’s Intervention Program for ELL students. Also, check out the video on ELL Vocabulary Instruction. -Anna

Mobile Musings, iPods and Garage Band

While reading through recent community contributions on Free-Reading, I came across a Free-Reading entry by Karen Fasimpaur with links to her blogs. I was particularly impressed by Mobile Musings–A blog that contains many entries one how to incorporate technology (especially mobile technology) into the classroom. Check out her entry “Mini movies for learning sight words.”

For those of you looking for additional easy and fun ways to incorporate technology into the literacy classroom, the Apple Learning Interchange has some awesome ideas! For example, the activity “Reading Fluency with iPods and GarageBand” helps teachers track student fluency progression throughout the school year. Furthermore, by participating in this lesson, students will:

  • “Increase reading fluency level”
  • “Increase reading comprehension and understanding of the story”
  • “Understand music genre”
  • “ESL students will learn how language is used in fluid way”

Thanks Carol Anne McGuire from Imperial Elementary School for sharing this lesson on the Apple Learning Interchange!


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