Really??? Wordle is an Instructional Tool?

“Brooke,” you say, “how can I use Wordle in my classroom. The pictures are so neat, and my kids really like them, but I really don’t know how I might use it as an instructional tool???” Boy….do I have some resources for you!!!

First off, Wordle is not the only word cloud generator out there. Sometimes sites are blocked 🙁 in some schools and you may not have access to Wordle.net so you may want to try WordSift, VocabGrabber, ABCya!, or Tagul the next time you want your students to create word clouds. What sets them apart are the ease of use and customization options each site offers. Play around with the different word cloud online tools to see which might be the best one for you and your class.

If you need some help on how to use Wordle and other word cloud generators, or need some ideas on how you might use them during lessons, check out Peter Pappas’ blog post “Building Literacy Skills with Wordle” where he not only gives step by step instructions on using the site but also ideas for application such as defining skills, summarizing skills, and comparison skills.

The collaboration Google document which today is called “47 Interesting Ways to Use Wordle” has been created by educators for educators and was started by Tom Barrett. It’s an excellent source of implementation strategies for classroom use of word clouds. The coolest part…if you come up with a different use, you can add it to the Google Doc and share it with tons of teachers that visit that site daily and then you will be part of their PLN.

And for a little fun and learning – check out Guess the Wordle daily (M-F). Students will need to use their deciphering skills to figure out the topic for the Wordle each day. Today’s GTW is a great one for Missouri students.

Not sure what a Wordle word cloud is….take a look at the header and the PLN image in the previous post.

Brooke Higgins is an instructional specialist with the eMINTS National Center. You can visit her site here or read her blog, Higgins’ Helpful Hints.
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My Backyard Links to Authentic Learning Ideas and Resources

Sometimes when I began thinking about making those real world connections in a lesson my mind would go blank.  It’s easy when my kids came bouncing in all fired up about something but often I looked at the standards and had to figure out: How am I going to make this relevant to the students?  How on earth am I going to find the resources for them to investigate what they need?    I felt like I spent my time doing a lot of hunting.  The hunting thought sparked an idea.   Sometimes ideas and resources were as simple as looking or hunting in my own backyard.

So, here are my backyard links that I used to help me with this process.
  • National Wildlife Federation site provides information about eco-schools, school yard habitats, climate change, and volunteer opportunities.   There is also information on the Gulf oil spill as well as going green. (Also)
  • National Wild Turkey Federation site has connections to careers; particularly biologists, information about programs by state,  habitats, and conservation.
  • Audubon Society site has information and tips for classrooms as well as detailed information about their initiative with Toyota called Together Green; Act Today to Shape Tomorrow program.
  • The National Park Service  has an entire section about Teaching with Historical Places targeting grades 5-12.  Wow, think about the connection you could make to Google Earth.  The site can be searched by state as well and the Teaching with Historical Places site can be searched by curriculum standards.
  • The US Government even has a page full of government resources for K-8 educators at Kids.gov.  This provides links to government resources from a variety of areas.  Places you never even thought about.  It is definitely well worth the time to look.
Many of these resources first sound like science oriented sites, but don’t let their name fool you.  They often contain information and ideas for interdisciplinary connections as well.
Even though the following resources are targeted at Missouri, they might help educators in other states or countries, to get ideas of where to find local resources.
  • Missouri Department of Conservation – MDC has information for inside and outside the classroom. The Discover Nature Schools is a big part of this site.  Targeting grades 3-12, its purpose is to provide information about Missouri nature.
  • Missouri Department of Natural Resources – This site provides information on a variety of topics including Earth Day; with a list of contests even, to information on creating and maintaining worm farms.
  • Missouri Secretary of State provides a site for kids with information about Missouri history and government.  The Missouri Senate also has a kid’s page with additional information.
I hope that these links might help you as well to make connections for your students and spark ideas for real world learning experiences.   Happy hunting!

Terri Brines is a program coordinator with the eMINTS National Center.

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Get SMART for Free

Finally! Students, teachers, friends, and family can get SMART… And it’s free! No. It won’t increase your IQ, but it may increase learning opportunities. SMART Technologies has made available SMART Notebook Express web application. There’s no need to create an account and no software to download. It is available online to anyone at anytime.

  • Students can makeup lessons from home.
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  • Students can showcase their learning by creating Notebook files that can be linked from your website, and now their family and friends will be able to view their work.
  • Notebook files can also become part of electronic student portfolios since they (and others) will be able to open the files even after leaving your classroom.
  • Amazing lessons and resources are available for SMART Board interactive Whiteboards from the SMART Exchange . Now you don’t have to have a SMARTBoard or SMART Notebook software to view, modify, and save them!   With SMART Notebook Express, anyone can open, edit, and save SMART Notebook files that contain graphics, text, tables, and flash files.

Seasoned SMART Notebook users may classify the Express application as SMART Notebook Lite. That’s understandable since you will immediately notice that the Gallery is missing in the online application.  Additionally, you cannot create new tables or add attachments, but you can manipulate tables and open attachments already present in existing Notebook files. Multimedia embedded in Notebook files should also function properly.  So what is available in SMART Notebook Express? Well, some important features you might appreciate are the pen, highlighter, creative pen, screen shade, text edit, erase, infinite cloner, and page sorter. If you are working in the application and have questions, online help is available.

SMART Notebook Express is still in the Beta stage, so you can provide feedback and/or report “bugs” about this web tool. Just select the appropriate link on the Welcome page to help make this SMART application even SMARTer.

Debbie Perkins is an instructional specialist for the eMINTS National Center.

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Welcome to November!

Image Courtesy of FreeFoto.com

This blog is off to a fantastic start as we enter November! Look back through the last few weeks of posts for ideas and resources that can help you in the classroom of the 21st century. To the right, visitors can search this blog, browse our archive, peruse the categories, or simply click on recent posts or comments that interest them most.

Later this week and month, we have some great posts planned. There are posts featuring a free online tool for the SMART Board, resource links featuring authentic learning in your own backyard, using Wordle as an instructional tool, and an inspirational video about what motivates us. The rest of November is loaded with even more fantastic resources and teaching ideas.

Also, don”t forget to subscribe to this feed by clicking “Entries RSS” under the “Meta” category at the bottom right of this page. Plus, you can follow eMINTS by joining our Facebook group or following me on Twitter.

Thanks for stopping by and be sure to return all month to see the great things going on at the eMINTS National Center!

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