As a teacher, I know that it's important for my students to be reading nonfiction as well as fiction. One great way to incorporate nonfiction is by having students read online news articles. I like to use The Week, The Huffington Post, and the NY Times. I'm also a frequent visitor of Kelly Gallagher's Article of the Week archives. While all of these websites offer great news articles, printing nice "clean" ad-free copies for student use can be a bit of a hassle. That's why I recommend the following web tools:
I recently discovered ImageSpike after reading about it on the Free Technology for Teachers blog, and I can see endless possibilities with this tool! This would be a wonderful way to make my images more interactive. According to the website, ImageSpike allows users to "mark up" photos with "interactive hotspots." This sounds confusing at first, but it's easy to understand the concept once you see a "spiked" image. It's also very easy to create one.
To spike an image, first upload a picture from your PC or supply the URL address. Next, click on areas of the picture to create "hot spots." Hot spots are dots that appear on your image. When you hover over the dot, a link appears. You can link these hot spots to videos, web pages, images, etc. Again, just supply the URL for the content you want to link to the hot spot. It's multimedia on steroids.
Below is my first ever "spiked" image--a photo of Bernini's The Rape of Proserpina. This shows how I would use ImageSpike in my own classroom: to link resources to an image, keeping my information organized and visually stimulating. I could also see having students create images loaded with their own hot spots; this could take place of a standard poster board presentation, or could be used as part of a student presentation. I could also have students visit a "spiked" image (similar to the image below) and then take notes or answer questions related to the media that students are directed to. This would also work great with maps; I already have plans to create a spiked image of the journey of Odysseus to use this upcoming school year. How will you use ImageSpike?
By visiting Scholastic Scope online, viewers have access to tons of free resources, including PDF files of stories and readers' theater pieces, vocabulary and grammar worksheets, ACT-style quizzes, essay writing prompts, and much much more! I'm truly amazed that there is no log-in required to view these materials. There is even information regarding how the materials align with the Common Core State Standards. According to the website, these materials will be password-protected in the future, so visit their website and save these files while it's free! I plan on using many of the resources (my school has a subscription, so I will be able to access information even after it is password-protected); I'm particularly interested in the readers' theater pieces because they are a great way to expand students' background knowledge regarding literary masterpieces.
Strip Generator is a great tool that allows even the most artistically-challenged students to create stunning comic strips. Students use a simple drag-and-drop interface to select from various customizable characters; then, they can add thoughts, words, and titles. Students can also customize the slide layout. There is no need to create an account, unless students want to save projects for accessing later on. If the project is simple and can be completed during one trip to the computer lab, accounts aren't necessary; however, some of my students created accounts because they liked the website and wanted to continue work on comic strips from home. Also, there aren't many options for adding color, but because the computer labs at my school aren't equipped with color printers, this is a bonus, in my opinion. Students can create their own original comic strip stories, or comic strip versions of stories that they read in class; my students create comic versions of myths that we read during a mythology unit.
No Fear Shakespeare is put together by the fine people over at Sparknotes (essentially, digital Cliff Notes for those of us who still remember those eyeball-assaulting little flip books). No Fear Shakespeare offers numerous works of the bard, including 19 of his plays as well as his sonnets. Each play contains the original text on one side of the page, and a modern translation that your students will easily understand on the right. (Caution: All the dirty jokes are translated, too, so be advised!) This is a great adaptation for RtI students, or for groups getting their feet wet for the first time with Shakespeare's language. If you like the texts, they are also available in print. (I bought both Romeo & Juliet and Macbeth at Barnes & Noble for around $10 a pop, although you could probably find them used at a cheaper rate.)
Note: Also available are a few non-Shakespearian texts, including Beowulf, The Canterbury Tales, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, Heart of Darkness, The Scarlet Letter and A Tale of Two Cities.
The Academy of American Poets has a fantastic database of poetry-inspired photography called the Free Verse Project. You can access the photos on the academy's website, or check out the "Free Verse" group on Flickr. This would be a wonderful way for students to find poems that they may enjoy. This year, I'm thinking about having students participate in the project by bringing in their own poetry-inspired photography and posting it in a highly-visible location at school in celebration of National Poetry Month (April). Of course, students' photos would also make a wonderful addition to a classroom webpage.
Note: While visiting the Academy of American Poet's homepage, check out their available lesson plans, searchable database of poetry and poets, and their audio recordings. Teachers can also request a free copy of the National Poetry Month poster, and find NPM activities for their classroom and community.
Update: As of March 2011, my students are currently working on their own Free Verse Project. Photos will continue to filter in until the April 8, 2011 deadline. http://pilgreenenglish.weebly.com/free-verse-project.html
Below, I'm embedding the handout that I distributed to my students. If you would like a copy as a Publisher file that you can edit and customize, please send me an e-mail.
ZooBurst is "A digital storytelling tool that lets anyone easily create his or her own 3D popup book." This a fun tool that would really get students engaged, and eager to share their work with others. Books can be viewed later and controlled via keyboard commands or webcam. (Let's face it, though--the webcam option is so much more fun!) Below, I'm embedding a Screenr screencast of myself interacting with a very simple pop-up book that I created in about 10 minutes in order to "test drive" ZooBurst.
Books of Hope is a wonderful nonprofit organization that assigns schools in the United States to schools in Uganda. US schools then create educational books for their sponsored schools overseas. There is a $200 participation fee per school. In the past, when my school district was able to cover the cost of the project, this was one of the most fulfilling projects that my students participated in all year. Books of Hope does a wonderful job of providing background information for multiple age levels, in order to provide a context for students to better understand their audience. Students will truly enjoy knowing that they are creating a valuable tools that will affect the lives of others.
While Kelly Gallagher may not be a "Web 2.0 Tool," his website is a wonderful resource. I had the pleasure of attending one of his workshops on reading comprehension strategies, and I have been using his Article of the Week database ever since. Gallagher and his coworkers post PDF files of nonfiction articles on current event topics. I have students highlight main ideas, new words, and areas of confusion; they also annotate passages in the margins and then write a brief response to the articles. This is an excellent source for "beefing up" the nonfiction component in your curriculum.
I learned about DocStoc from Richard Byrne's blog, FreeTech4Teachers, in his post 7 Visually Appealing Ways to Post Documents Online. What I liked the most was that it offered the ability to embed documents to websites so that people can view them without having to download them. Of course, there is a download option for those who do want to keep a copy. I first used DocStoc to post my classroom syllabus on my class website, and then I started to go a little crazy with embedded documents. The downside is that, if you get as excited as I did with your embedding, your website can become cluttered and difficult to navigate, so I recommend using DocStoc sparingly. This would be great for classroom newsletters or for publishing student writing online. Another thing that makes DocStoc so wonderful is that you don't have to worry about the person viewing the document having the same version of software as you.
Dr. Jessica Pilgreen, Ed.D.