Recently, I discovered a vocabulary website called Membean. The site offers personalized vocabulary lessons to help with preparation for the SAT, the GRE, or general vocabulary improvement for both individuals and schools. The vocabulary lessons are visually stunning and very interactive; however, they are not free. Personally, I know that my school simply cannot afford to pay for tailored vocabulary development for each student, but Membean's format has given me the idea of setting up a vocabulary wiki and having my students create their own interactive vocabulary pages, including definitions, pictures, videos, sentences with context clues, etc. If your school has money to spend, by all means, it appears to be well worth the money, but I know for some of us, spending even a penny more isn't an option.
With that said, let me tell you what Membean has for free. (Doesn't the word "free" have a beautiful ring to it?) Membean has a wonderful collection of podcasts featuring different root words. (Thanks, Membean!) I plan to use a study in roots, prefixes, and suffixes as an integral part of my vocabulary curriculum this upcoming school year. In fact, I plan to use Membean's podcasts as a bellringer activity in my classroom by having students make note cards to record the meaning of each root word. I'll have students record the root, its meaning, and definitions of multiple words based on that root; they will also draw an illustration to accompany the root word. Students will be given an online pretest to assess prior knowledge, and will be retested throughout the school year to measure to assess growth. Below, I am sharing the template that my students will use to create the note cards. As always, feel free to copy/print/distribute.
PodBean offers free audio and video podcast hosting, so that when you are finished making your amazing podcasts, you have somewhere to put them. PodBean will also generate code for you so that you can embed one of those handy-dandy bars on your website. PodBean also gives you access to tons of free educational (and entertaining) podcasts. Some that might interest educators include: TED Talks, NOVA, Grammar Girl, CNN Student News, and Kidspeak. (Kidspeak podcasts feature student-created tutorials for other students on topics such as Microsoft Word tips and long division). Podcasts can be streamed from your computer or downloaded for later viewing. You can also subscribe to different "shows" to get updates when new podcasts are uploaded.
Note: Below, I am embedding a sample podcast. It's an audio recording of one of my students reciting an original poem. I plan on making more of these recording to post on our literary club's website. This will give you an idea of what PodBean podcasts will look like on your own website or
According to their website, "Voki is a free service that allows you to create personalized speaking avatars and use them on your blog, profile, and in email messages." This is a great option for student-created videos without compromising students' privacy. It can also be handy way to capture your students' attention while simultaneously introducing the day's agenda or directions for an activity. Voki could also be used to create a virtual substitute teacher for days when you know you will be absent. Simply embed your Voki on the classroom website and the sub can play the audio file to the class. Below is a sample Voki I created in about five minutes.
Voki for Education FAQ http://www.voki.com/voki_faq.php#4
Voki Lesson Plans http://www.voki.com/lesson_plans.php
Quick and Dirty Tips offers some wonderful podcasts by experts. I have used Grammar Girl and The Public Speaker in my classroom as bellringer activities by writing my own questions and having students write their responses on note cards. Podcasts can be downloaded as an mp3, streamed from the website, or printed as a transcript. Most of the podcasts are broken down by subject area; for example, Grammar Girl's podcasts are organized into categories including punctuation, usage, and style. Other experts that look promising include the Math Dude and the Nutrition Diva.
Myna is the free audio editor offered by Aviary, which also offers photo editing among other useful tools. In the past, I have always stuck with Audacity and, while I am still a fan, I like the fact that Myna is web-based and doesn't require the user to download anything. This would be a great tool for creating student podcasts, practicing foregin language skills, manipulating audio for student projects, etc. Check out this website for some great tutorials to get you started.
Dr. Jessica Pilgreen, Ed.D.