Archive for January, 2008

The Edge of the Forest

I recently found a great children’s literature website, The Edge of the Forest.  They offer interesting reviews on picture books, middle grade fiction, non fiction, young adult fiction, and graphic novels.  My favorite feature, however, is Kid Picks.  Each month, a group of kids is asked to report on what they are reading.  For January, the editors talked to 3rd and 4th graders.  Big surprise… the majority of them recommended Harry Potter!


Lazy Readers Book Club!

The same two teachers I mentioned in my last post pointed me to the Lazy Readers’ Book Club! I love the premise of this site (as stated on the home page):

As teachers, parents or whatever state we find ourselves in, we often cannot find time to read for fun, and I think it is important that our children see us reading for pleasure. Therefore, each month I provide book recommendations that are quick and easy to read for personal pleasure. I try not to include any books over 250 pages, and I always include books written for a variety of ages (don’t be shy about reading kids’ books, though; they are my favorites because they generally have shorter chapters, bigger print and colorful pictures).

This site is fantastic because you can find books for all ages, quick book reviews and ideas and links to Amazon to purchase the recommended books. Since there are only a few days of January left over, how about fitting Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs onto your read aloud list this week (this is book number 8 on Danny’s January lazy readers list).

Plus you can feel good about purchasing the books on Danny’s list since all of the proceeds from books purchased through the Amazon links on the site are donated to BookEnds–a non-profit literacy organization that aims to increase community literacy and access to books.

Off to be a lazy reader!


Mr. Lyons’ Kindergarten Class

During my week at the Florida Education Technology Conference, I met two very resource-savvy literacy/technology teachers. I was so excited to chat with them because they had a fantastic running list of literacy resources on the Internet. One of the resources they recommended to me was Mr. Lyons’ Kindergarten Class. I like this site because it is filled with downloadables like these word walls. Since February is coming up, why not print out Mr. Lyons’ February Word Wall for your students so that they can learn about Abraham Lincoln, groundhogs, pennies, quarters and more!

Thanks Mr Lyons.


Spelling City

While reading Larry Ferlazzo’s edublog this morning, I learned about Spelling City. The site states: is a website that helps students prepare for the weekly spelling test and it is surprisingly fun. In addition to helping kids test themselves, it has learning games that you can use with your own spelling list such as hangman and word scramble. These games can be printed out and done on paper or played online. For the younger kids, you can print out the list on writing paper for them to practice their spelling and forming the letters. Students like using the computer to learn with. And they particularly like hearing their spelling list said backwards! Teachers can put up their spelling list online which saves everyone a lot of time and encourages the kids to study. And don’t worry about the cost, there is none.

Tell parents about this site for sure! Playing the spelling review games brought back memories of late night spelling practice sessions with my mother as an elementary student. I am sure she would have asked me to use Spelling City if it had existed back then.

Happy S-P-E-L-L-I-N-G!


Florida adopts free open content reading platform–

The state of Florida officially adopted (a free open source literacy program) as a K1 supplementary intervention for its 2008 instructional materials adoption process! Learn more about it:

eSchool News: Florida adopts open-content reading platform

USA Today: Fla. approves free, online reading program

Kathy Schrock’s Guide for Educators!

Yesterday while walking from my hotel to the Florida Education Technology Conference, I bumped into Kathy Schrock–creator of Kathy Schrock’s Guide for Educators! I’ve been a fan of her Guide for years, so as you can image I was super excited to meet her! Take a look at her recommended Literature and ELA resources! Through Kathy’s Guide, I found:

1) The Portland Public Schools Leveled Picture Books Database and The Beaverton School District Leveled Book Database

2) Professor Garfield’s Teachers’ Lounge reading fluency resources, tips and tricks

3) Read Print–a site filled with free copies of classic books for “students, teachers and the classic enthusiast”

Thanks Kathy!


K12 Open Ed: Another place to find links to free education resources

Check out K12 Open Ed–a site filled with links to sites on the Internet that provide open source and free educational content such as Textbook Revolution and OERCommons. -Anna adopted by the Florida Department of Education


Today EdWeek posted the following article:

Florida Approves Free, Web-Based Program for Struggling Readers.

As a member of the team, this is very exciting news! For Literacy is Priceless Readers that want to learn more about, click here.

At, educators everywhere can access a free, high-quality, sequential, research-based reading intervention program for grades K-1. Open source and Web 2.0 technology enable educators to adapt FreeReading content to their needs, add their own lessons within the 40 week scope and sequence and participate in discussions about early literacy and best practices in the classroom. -Anna

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Silly Books

Silly Books is a great new website for teachers.  All children, ages 4 through 16, are invited to “publish” their books on the website.  All writing is accepted.  As an additional motivator, each month the site turn the best story into an animated flash book!   

Welcome to where every child’s story gets published. All of our kids are authors! And every month one story is produced as an animated book, complete with voices, music and sound effects for all to enjoy. There are even cash prizes for the winning authors. is an animated world of free reading, writing and learning fun for kids. 

This site is incredibly useful in the classroom.  It motivates students to write by giving them a place to publish their books.  All kids love to see their work going somewhere.  It is also a great place for students to brainstorm different writing ideas, by seeing what kids in classrooms across the country are doing.


BBC Children: Word Matching Golf

The BBC has some fantastic online educational resources for children. The games for primary students are quite fun! Try a swing at Matching Word Golf! This is a fun online activity for studying synonyms. -Anna

LibriVox: Free Audio Books

I just came across Librivox–a free audio books website. The site states:

LibriVox volunteers record chapters of books in the public domain and release the audio files back onto the net. Our goal is to make all public domain books available as free audio books.

Search and browse the available audio books here.

For example, your students might enjoy listening to Alice and Wonderland.

Happy listening!


Using cell phones as teaching and learning tools

This morning after reading, “Thumbs Race as Japan’s Best Sellers Go Cellular,” I learned about a new genre of literature called the cell phone novel. Not surprisingly when you think about it, young people across Japan (especially women) are using their commute time to tap away at best selling novels on their cell phones. For example, the New York Times article notes:

A 21-year-old woman named Rin, wrote “If You” over a six-month stretch during her senior year in high school. While commuting to her part-time job or whenever she found a free moment, she tapped out passages on her cellphone and uploaded them on a popular Web site for would-be authors.

After cellphone readers voted her novel No. 1 in one ranking, her story of the tragic love between two childhood friends was turned into a 142-page hardcover book last year. It sold 400,000 copies and became the No. 5 best-selling novel of 2007, according to a closely watched list by Tohan, a major book distributor.

This article immediately brought back memories of my time teaching English and early literacy classes in Japan 5 years ago. All of my students had cell phones. In fact, I constantly had to tell my 7-year-old students to put away their phones during class! That said, after reading the aforementioned article this morning, I began thinking about cell phones not as villains of the classroom, but as teaching and learning tools. Children love their cell phones, so how can we get children to use cell phones in a manner that might help build their literacy skills?! Some ideas:

1) Have students type their own cell phone novels. Make sure to okay this with parents in advance! Text messaging can be expensive without a prepaid package!

2) Have students make a photo documentary using the camera function on their cell phones. After they take a sufficient number of photos, they can upload them to sites such as Flickr and type narrative descriptions for each picture to share with classmates, family and friends.

3) Have students create educational podcasts with their cell phones (or home phones) using free services like Gabcast that allow users to record podcasts using their phones. The podcasts can then be uploaded to blogs or other multimedia sites to share. Thanks to Liz Kolb for sharing this idea!

4) Have students text message their parents homework assignments so that after school there is no confusion as to what is due the next day.

For more ideas on how to use cell phones as teaching, learning, technology and literacy building tools, check out this excellent video presentation by Liz Kolb filled with ideas on how to incorporate cell phones into classroom and homework activities. Her ideas are guaranteed to get your students excited about school assignments! Thanks Liz!


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BIG Idea: Open-Source Education!!!

What if curricula were free?

What is a technology infused classroom?

How much would physics textbooks cost if you didn’t have to pay royalties to editors and publishers?

To what extent should children be invited into the curricula-creation process?

What is open-source education?

When and how can traditional education models catch up with the world in terms of technology, modes of communication and more?

Does NCLB prevent innovation in education?

Check out this Pop!Cast to explore these ideas and more!

Thanks to Barbara Kurshan (Executive Director of Curriki–an open-source curricula provider and online education community) to pointing readers to Pop!Tech/Pop!casts in her article, How Open-Source Curricula Could Bridge the Education Divide (from the New England Board of Higher Education winter 2007 issue).


How are children faring in reading and math in your state?

Today the Washington Post published, ‘Dashboards’ Provide Data on Schools:

U.S. Education Secretary Margaret Spellings has unveiled a new tool to show the public a snapshot of how schools fare in reading and math achievement, graduation rates and participation in challenging Advanced Placement exams.

The so-called dashboards, one for each state and the District, aim to distill the overwhelming amount of data on student achievement into a simple format that illustrates troubles and bright spots for schools. The two-page reports, filled with graphics, include pass rates on national and state reading and math exams for fourth- and eighth-graders, national and state graduation rates and the number of schools meeting or falling short of No Child Left Behind goals.

6 years into No Child Left Behind, it is interesting to see if all of our efforts to improve public school literacy and math programs are showing up in statewide education statistical reports. Check out your state literacy and math stats here. While viewing the New York State Report, I was surprised to learn that only 23.7% of children that are eligible for tutoring provided by public dollars are actually participating in such tutoring and that only 1.2% of children eligible to change schools under the school choice provisions of NCLB are actually doing so. Are these real options that students and parents have to exercise? Or, in reality are most children in “failing” schools not presented the option to get tutoring nor the option to change schools?


Doing a unit on animals? Check out National Geographic Kids!

After writing my last post, I started poking around the Internet for resources that I could use for developing lessons around the unit theme “Animals.”

National Geographic Kids is a fantastic resource to incorporate into animal-themed literacy centers, computer time, science units and more! The number of free animal videos on the site makes this a resource worth adding to your favorites list!

I like the National Geographic Cartoon Factory–a game where children are given various cartoons with empty thought bubbles. After typing their own dialogues into the bubbles, students can print out their cartoons to take home and put on the fridge! -Anna

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