Tuesday, March 15, 2011

10 Resources for Teaching Reading/Literature with Technology

The growth of the Internet has provided more and more people the ability to read books that normally they would not have access too and has provided valuable tools to assist in learning to read as well.  There are several Text-to-Audio websites that make hearing typed text easier as well as website to make annotating text easier as well.  Hopefully you will find a resource in this list that helps your students read, provides an extension on what you read, or provides ideas to teach reading to your students.

1.) 60 Second Recap is a GREAT resource for Literature classrooms.  The idea behind 60 Second Recap is it provides videos to explain important aspects of the books.  I highly recommend checking out their library to see some of the videos and the books that they offer (Hamlet, Of Mice and Men, Beowulf, Animal Farm, Farenheit 451, etc).  Each 60 second video clip provides some or all of the following: overview, context, plot, characters, theme, motif, symbolism, and conclusion. 

2.) Lit 2 Go is a free collection of MP3 audio books for 1000's of books, stories, and poems.  It might be worth examining to see what they offer in relation to the books that students are reading in your class.  I did see Hamlet.  You can print out the stories or read them online, and while doing so, listen to the text as well.  You can search the database by author, title, reading level, and subject matter.  Another option is Repeat After Us, which was created by a high school student.

3.) ZAP Reader and Spreeder are web based software that allow students to copy and paste material from the Internet and then apply settings to improve their words per minute reading ability.  For students who complain of being slow readers, this software could improve their reading speed. 

4.) Book Lamp is a website that provides readers the opportunity to find books that match their interest and styles.  Think of it is a Pandora for books.  Often times, students say that they can't find a book that interest them, well Book Lamp is an option to help students find books based on other text that they have read that they like. 

5.) I know that in high school we focus more on classical texts then we do on current texts.  If by chance you have a class that is reading more current books, there are several resources of interest.  First is the Skype an Author Network which provides ways to contact authors of books through Skype and then have them "visit" your classroom and discuss the book with them.  There is also the Author Website Listing which provides links to the websites for various authors, thus providing another way to get in contact with them and discuss the book. 

6.) Often times when students are reading a book the come across vocabulary that can be difficult for them to understand or even know the meaning of the word.  Luckily there are several options for learning vocabulary.  Lexipedia provides meanings and synonyms to various words in an web type graphic.  Wordnet provides a dictionary and thesaurus in one. 

7.)  Poetry can often be a troublesome subject not just to know how to write, but also to know how to read.  Poetry 180 provides a poem for each of the 180 days that students are in school.  It provides the poem as well as information about the author and copyright permission.  A great way to study poetry. 

8.) If you have never visited or used the site Shmoop, I highly recommend it.  Shoomp has a Literature section that provides learning guides and teacher resources for 100's of books that students read.  Each book they provide an intro, summary, quotes, themes, characters, analysis, questions, photos, and even assist with writing an essay about the book.  Each book also has a "best of the web" section that provides links to other resources about each book. 

9.) What Should I Read Next provides users the ability to type in a book that they have read and it will then suggest other books based upon the author and the book that the user might be interested in.  You could easily use this in class to discover other books based on what you are reading. 

Saving what I consider to be the best for last....
10.) Google Lit Trips is a site dedicated to the use of Google Earth to "travel" the destinations that are often mentioned or used in books and novels.  Lit Trips are available for K-5, 6-8, 9-12, and Higher Education.  High school level include: The Grapes of Wrath, Night, Macbeth, and The Odyssey to name a few.  You will need to install Google Earth so that when you download the Lit Trips files you have access to what they have to offer.  A different and valuable way to teach literature.  Also provide an idea for ways you might teach a literature lesson.  For more information check out the Getting Started page.

10 Resources for Teaching Writing with Technology

It never ceases to amaze me the available resources on the Internet for teachers.  The next few "10 Resources" post will focus on the English curriculum, so I want to start with writing.  Many English teachers will tell you that technology has damaged writing because students are so reliant on spelling and grammar check that the idea of proof-reading your writing has gone to the wayside.  these resources won't necessarily fix that, but provide other options for writing and proofreading.

1.) Piclits is a website where students can type or choose words to create poems or pieces of writing over an image.  Now, Piclits does not have to be used, but the idea behind using an image to inspire writing or to correlate with writing might be a valuable and different way to engage your students and encourage various forms of writing.

2.) Writing is Fun is a website that provides writing organizers.  Sometimes, the most difficult part about writing is learning how to write, what to write, and when to write it.  These organizers provide examples of each part of the organizers and then allow you to print out blank copies.  So you can easily teach the organizer and then provide a blank copy to your students. 

3.) Sometimes, free writing can be a great way to teach various forms of writing and encourage students to write.  The problem is that students often struggle with what to write; I know I did in high school.  Thankfully, there are a couple websites that can help.  Random Logline Generator will create a random sentence or topic and then students can use that to start their free writing.  There is also Creative Writing Prompts which provides over 300 possible prompts to get students creative juices flowing. 

4.) A great activity for the first day/week of school is to have students write a letter to themselves, or you about their expectations, fears, and joys as it relates to writing or being in your class.  Future Me is a website that provides an easy way for students to do that.  Students log in and type a letter to themselves, provide their email, and a date they want it sent to them.  They will then see their letter on that date. 

5.) A form of writing gaining steam is group writing where students can start a story and then other students work on it and then finish it.  Folding Story is a website that provides that opportunity.  As a teacher you can create a group and allow students to join that group and then start a story.  Allow for students to be creative and require a daily writing by certain students in order to provide a grade.  Another option is a site called Story Join which follows the same concept.

6.) In high school I would tend to write the same words more often than necessary.  Vocab Grabber is a website that allows users to copy and paste some text and then get data about the most useful vocabulary words and showing you how those words are used in context.

7.) Poetry was never my strongest form of writing, and I know that I am not alone.  I always struggled with finding words that rhymed.  I know rhyming is not the most important part of a poem, but for many students, to feel successful writing poetry, they want words to rhyme that make sense.  Luckily there are several resources available.  The Rhyming Dictionary provides synonyms, definitions, homophones, and same consonants. Write Rhymes is another option, but does not provide as much information.  As you type in the words, it will provide a list of words that rhyme.

8.)  Kelly Tenkely is an educator that I follow on Twitter and she has put together 10 Technology Alternatives to the Standard Book Report.  This is a great alternative for students and teachers looking to utilize technology for book report projects.  You could easily provide the list to students since it provides links to the resources and let them choose the one that they want to do.  Takes the guess work out of it.  Also, as part of the project, require students to create a rubric for the assignment so that you have one in the future.

9.) There is a big push for bell to bell instruction and often times, as teachers, we find ourselves looking for something to fill some time when a lesson went quicker then we expected.  Write for Ten is a website dedicated to providing students an area to Write for Ten Minutes.  The idea is simple....just write...about anything...for ten minutes.   You can create an account and like a journal it will log what you wrote each day, and students feel like it, they can share it with visitors to the website.

10.) Poetry and Letter writing are important parts of writing, and through a couple interactives, students can learn about these forms of writing.  Acrostic Poems and Diamante Poems provide an interactive with the steps to the process of learning to write these types of poetry.  At the same time, the Letter Generator is an interactive that provides instructions for the proper way to write a letter.   You could easily incorporate these into your units and have students complete these interactives.