Monday, June 28, 2010

Summer Spent Updating

Please follow me on Twitter @writetechtools or Facebook @ for current postings. Throughout the summer I'll be gathering new links to test out in the coming school year. When I find ones I'd like to share I'll post them on Twitter and FB.

Happy Summer!


Saturday, June 26, 2010

Young Author Workshops

National Novel Writing Month's Young Author Workbooks (elem, ms and hs):

Wednesday, February 3, 2010 for mindmaps and more.

Today was a great day using! I've used this site in the past on my own, but today I fired it up for my sophomore class. We've been stuck in essay purgatory and it's been really difficult for me to get across to my students the need for details and examples in their writing. I was hoping that could help.

I have to admit that I was not completely sold on the site when I used it on my own. It can get a bit unwieldy as more links are added. It takes some patience to work through how to move each section or individual bubbles. Even so, I am happy to report that my students LOVED it! They needed almost no instructions from me but attacked the site as soon as it opened. They were changing colors and adding bubbles and typing away in no time. I heard all sorts of positive side-talking, like "I'm totally going to use this for my history notes," and "It makes WAY more sense because I can color-code it!" allows you to save your work to the site, email it to yourself (or someone else), save it as a web link to share, embed it in a web page, and share and collaborate with others. My students were very excited to use this tool. It's user-friendly and has a ton of uses for any discipline.

How can you use in your classroom?

1. Use it as an alternative to outlining or webbing for the prewrting process. As my students work through their "bubbles" I'm encouraging them to write in complete sentences. That way they can copy/paste into a Word document and have a strong draft for their essays.

2. Use it as a character map, writing out parts of a story that connect one character to another.

3. Have students create their own family tree and write about each person (you can also add images and sound).

4. Have student create a family tree for characters in their own original stories.

5. Have students use the bubbles to write collaboratively. Have one student write the first line of a poem with the "Parent" bubble, then other students contribute lines for each "Child" bubble.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Create an eBook or PDF "magazine" from Web Content

Zinepal is a user-friendly site which allows one to create a printable (and digital) magazine from online content. There is a free version of the service as well as a "pro" version for a subscription fee. There are quite a few uses for this beyond the classroom, but below I've shared some of the ways I've used it with my students.

1. Capture the content in your class' or students' blogs to create a literary magazine, complete with pictures.

2. Students can create zines as part of their research on a given topic. Because content can come from a varitey of sources, students are able to print a mash up of complementary information.


xTimeline is an interactive site for creating and sharing timelines. While it's free there are numerous ads (most of which seem to do with belly fat!).
On xTimeline, students can not only connect events to dates, but they can embed images, links, audio, and video. Students can save their work to the site, email it to others, and link their timelines to other pages as well. Another nice feature is the ability to comment on timelines.

There are hundreds of timelines already saved to the site, with topics covering most everything you could think of. The timelines are user-generated, however, so it's a good opportunity to teach your students to fact-check.

How can you use xTimeline in your classroom?

1. Have students create a timeline of an author's life or events from a novel.

2. Create a "bogus" timeline filled with mistakes and incorrect dates. Have students research and then revise your work.

3. Have your writing students plan out the plots of their short stories.

4. Have students write out their "life stories" and then place major events on a timeline. This assignment had an added bonus for my writers. Many felt like they didn't have "timeline-worthy" events in the personal essays they had written, even though, as one student commented, they had written "basically [their] whole lives, word for word!" Focusing on finding "timeline-worthy" events made them edit their work down to the "good parts."

Friday, January 29, 2010

Digital Comic Strips

This was something I'd had students do for YEARS. I'd drag out the ancient markers and copy paper and have students draw out a scene from our reading. Despite my students being high schoolers, I always got stick figures floating around in white space. It was a good assignment in theory.

There are lots of sites where students can create digital comic books, graphic novels and the like. Two which I've used before are Bubblr and Pixton. Each have a free version you can use, but Pixton also has a space just for educators which has a very small subscription fee. Both have a lot to offer, and do basically the same thing. Depending on your students, one may be more appealing than the other. For instance, Bubblr uses images from Flickr which may or may not be an issue with your school or grade level. When I used this in my satire unit, I presented both sites and let my students choose which one they wanted to use.

How can you use these sites in your classroom?

1. Have students satirize a serious theme or topic from your class content.

2. Have students summarize plot lines through comic strips. This is a nice way to check for understanding.

3. Have your writing students become "cartoonists" with a stock set of characters and a weekly deadline for new strips.

2 Fun "Magnetic Poetry" sites

Here are two fun sites which I've used when students complain of "writer's block." They're a simple way to get the creative muscles working again. Fridge Poetry is a simple application that allows you to stick magnetic letters onto a "fridge" to write poetry, short messages, or whatever you like. You also have the option to send your Fridge Poetry to someone else via email.

Another similar site is called Shocked Poetry. This site functions like a virtual magnetic poetry kit. You can create a poem from scratch, start with a theme, or get inspired by others' work that has been saved to the site. You can save your poems to the online gallery or send your work as an e-greeting. I haven't found anything offensive on the site, and since the words for the poems are from a preselected bank, I assume that there aren't any taboo words. I never had an issue when I used this in my high school classes as far as inappropriate content, but you might want to preview it first. I wouldn't recommend Shocked Poetry for lower grades.

How can you use Fridge Poetry and Shocked Poetry in your classroom?

1. Use these sites for brief breaks during an extended creative writing task.

2. Use these sites as warm ups. Set a timer for 3 minutes then have each student share his or her creation. Vote for the best one.

3. Use Shocked Poetry to explain to your writing students that words are tools that all writers manipulate in a different way. By browsing the gallery of poems within a theme, your student will see how many others used (essentially) the same words each in his or her own way.

4. Use Fridge Poetry to leave messages in the voice of either a character in a story your student is reading OR a character from your student's original story.

5. Have students use Fridge Poetry to post comments from characters in your class content, then have other students try to guess who left the message.

6. If your student is having a hard time condensing a line of poetry, have him or her try to revise it using Fridge Poetry.