TeachersFirst - Featured Sites: Week of Jan 22, 2017

Here are this week's features. Clicking the tags in the description area of each listing will present a list of other resources with this topic. | Click here to return to the Featured Sites Archive

 

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Skimcast - Bill Hollingsworth

Grades
5 to 8
1 Favorites 0  Comments
Read less to find out more! Pressed for time? Use Skimcast to pare down articles you need to read. Just get the facts - choose a summary anywhere from 1 ...more
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Read less to find out more! Pressed for time? Use Skimcast to pare down articles you need to read. Just get the facts - choose a summary anywhere from 1 - 99% of the article. Paste in a URL or upload a PDF. Not only will you get the entire document back with the summary highlighted, but also see a list of clickable theme words and phrases to the right of the document. Click one and see it highlighted where ever it appears in the article. Use Skimcast on the web or find a button at the bottom to add it as a Chrome browser extension on your toolbar. To more fully understand this tool, read the Top Tips.

tag(s): note taking (35), reading strategies (46), summarizing (14)

In the Classroom

Skimcast would be the perfect tool to show students how to take notes for a report or speech or create a study guide during, or at the end of a unit of study. Work together as a class and read the sentences that are just the relevant facts. Then show students how to pull out just the important words - deleting all prepositions, articles, and connector words. Resource teachers can use Skimcast to make reading from core classes shorter and easier for their students. ESL/ELL teachers can use this tool to make the text more understandable to limited English speakers. Before introducing Skimcast to students, you may want to review Fact Fragment Frenzy. You will find this linked in Research Building Blocks, reviewed here.
 This resource requires PDF reader software like Adobe Acrobat.

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Thought Plan - Max Schmitt

Grades
K to 12
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Write down your thoughts in an organized, structured way with Thought Plan. The simplicity of the features allows for easy use with flexible editing for personalized use. Register for...more
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Write down your thoughts in an organized, structured way with Thought Plan. The simplicity of the features allows for easy use with flexible editing for personalized use. Register for an account to begin creating your first Thought Plan. Add a title, then begin creating a list of your main ideas. Share or download to your computer with the provided links. The introductory video resides on YouTube. If your district blocks YouTube, the video may not be viewable. You could always view the video at home and bring it to class "on a stick" to share. Use a tool such as KeepVid, reviewed here, to download the video from YouTube.

tag(s): gifted (95), organizational skills (127)

In the Classroom

Use Thought Plan to plan and organize your yearly schedule. All students will appreciate having an online time management account, but learning support students and disorganized gifted students need one. This is also a great tool for ESL/ELL students to help learn organization skills with very simple features. You may want to model using this online tool to help middle and high school students learn personal organization. Share this site the first week of school to get students started on the right foot! Make a demo account for a mythical student and organize his/her daily schedule together so students can see how it works. Share the steps on your interactive whiteboard or projector. Alternately, this idea will work with group projects where students need to learn to manage their project time.

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Add Text - FlamingText.com Pty Ltd.

Grades
4 to 12
0 Favorites 0  Comments
 
Add text to any image or photo, using a web browser or smartphone, and share with no registration. Choose images from one of seven categories or upload your own. Change ...more
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Add text to any image or photo, using a web browser or smartphone, and share with no registration. Choose images from one of seven categories or upload your own. Change the color of the text or elect to add more text. Share using FaceBook, Twitter, or Google+ or the URL given. At the time of this review, all images in the Gallery were appropriate for the classroom. However, we recommend to preview the images before you share with younger students.
This site includes advertising.

tag(s): creativity (116), DAT device agnostic tool (166), digital storytelling (152), editing (66), images (271)

In the Classroom

Use Add Text to add captions to images to create memes or posters for your bulletin boards. Use this easy tool with students during back to school time as a way for them to get to know each other. Have students upload a picture of themselves doing their favorite activity and label it with amusing text or a favorite quote (or song lyrics?). Have them upload images that represent their interests and character traits. Print the images with text for a back to school bulletin board. Use after a field trip for students to write captions on the photos they took. Be sure to share the photos on your class webpage, blog, or wiki. Haven't started blogging yet? Check out TeachersFirst's Blog Basics. For other uses, have students practice new words in a world language class by labeling and identifying images in that language. Help ESL/ELL learn English by labeling the images. Create writing prompts using several annotated images. Have students create annotated images to explain key terms in science class. In ELA class, make homophone or vocabulary images to show the correct word along with a picture that explains it.

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StackExchange - English Language & Usage - StackExchange

Grades
8 to 12
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StackExchange is a question and answer community. StackExchange English & Usage will have an expert answer any question you might have about the English language. Ask anything - the...more
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StackExchange is a question and answer community. StackExchange English & Usage will have an expert answer any question you might have about the English language. Ask anything - the difference between "then" and "than", anything about idioms, a euphemism for poor performance, or when trying to remember a word you heard by describing what it means and the context in which it was used. View questions from the categories of newest, frequent, featured, and more. Look at tags and view questions from there. You don't need to be a member to read questions and their answers, but you do need to sign up to ask or answer a question.

tag(s): idioms (44), vocabulary (325)

In the Classroom

Explore this site with students using an interactive whiteboard or projector. Sometimes students ask a question that stumps you. Use StackExchange English & Usage to get the answer. There are times when we know the approximate meaning of a word we want to use but not the word. That is when this tool will come in handy. ESL/ELL students will find this site helpful when it comes to understanding the idiosyncrasies of the English language. Put a link to this site on your class website for students and parents to use. Share with other staff members and teachers on your campus.

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Skillwise - BBC

Grades
7 to 12
1 Favorites 0  Comments
   
Find extensive assistance for older ELL/ESL students with reading, writing, word forms, sentences, and speaking/listening activities. This site even includes some math skills. Explore...more
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Find extensive assistance for older ELL/ESL students with reading, writing, word forms, sentences, and speaking/listening activities. This site even includes some math skills. Explore the videos, activities, exercises, quizzes, and games to improve English. In addition to practice activities and interactives, the site contains tips and other help for tutors who work with students desiring to improve basic verbal and math skills. Although the site is aimed at adult survival skills, the basic learning required would be beneficial for most ELL/ESL students. At the time of this review, all content appeared appropriate for secondary students. However, always preview before you share - since activities were designed for adult learners. The site is created in the UK so spellings will vary from American English.

tag(s): capitalization (19), grammar (215), parts of speech (68), punctuation (43), reading strategies (46), sentences (51), spelling (169), verbs (41), writing (363)

In the Classroom

Bookmark (or save in your favorites) on your classroom computers for ESL/ELL students to use when they are working on their own. Pair up ESL students and native speakers, having the better English speakers follow the tutor guidelines. Learning Support teachers will find many activities suitable for middle and high school students to reinforce grammar and writing skills. Share this tool on your class website for ESL families to explore and learn together and for ALL students to use for extra practice.
 This resource requires Adobe Flash.

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Kitten Hop Dolch Word Practice - Arcademics

Grades
K to 2
4 Favorites 0  Comments
 
Test your Dolch sight word reading speed with this interactive! You can play in a public game with unknown competitors or a private game. To start, select your own kitten ...more
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Test your Dolch sight word reading speed with this interactive! You can play in a public game with unknown competitors or a private game. To start, select your own kitten color. The site allows competitors on up to 4 computers to play at the same time. You will hear a word from the Dolch sight word reading list. Click on it as quickly as possible. Your kitten will jump to the correct ball of yarn. The faster you respond, the quicker your kitten jumps from ball to ball. This interactive measures each player's reading speed as well as pits them against the other players whose kittens appear on the board. This site is helpful for any beginning readers including ELL/ESL students and learning support students.

tag(s): preK (284), sight words (37)

In the Classroom

Even if your students have been reading basic sight words for a while, this site offers practice in speed and fluency. You could create a learning center out of this site and have four different students competing on laptops. If you only have one computer and an interactive whiteboard, set up a learning station! Students can work in groups of two or individually to see their speed. If you choose to have students work in partners, be sure to partner each child with a student of similar reading level, so one student isn't providing all of the answers. This is a great simple site to provide for summer practice of sight words.
 This resource requires Adobe Flash.

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Learn English - Goodwill Community Foundation

Grades
4 to 12
6 Favorites 0  Comments
  
Check out the GCFLearnFree Reading program. Click on the flag from the country that speaks your native language to learn English using that language. A link for teachers provides detailed...more
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Check out the GCFLearnFree Reading program. Click on the flag from the country that speaks your native language to learn English using that language. A link for teachers provides detailed information about the four different offerings for each word category. Or click on the link Learn in Simple English to go to a wide variety of activities designed to assist English learning for ESL/ELL students. This part of the site is in English and could be useful for non-ESL students as well. Activities include a Word Explorer for learning vocabulary, a Text Explorer to complete readings that include words of that category, a Video Dictionary where you can see words illustrated in a video, and an activity for review and use of new words. It is easy to navigate the site using icons, so weak readers can find their way. The videos reside on YouTube. If your district blocks YouTube, the videos may not be viewable. You could always view them at home and bring them to class "on a stick" to share. Use a tool such as Freemake Video Converter, reviewed here, to download the videos from YouTube. Since this site was created in the UK, you will notice some spelling differences from American English.

tag(s): reading comprehension (115), vocabulary development (125)

In the Classroom

Use these activities with ESL/ELL students or learning support students to reinforce vocabulary visually and with sounds. Speech and Language teachers can use the Word Explorer to illustrate many words with video, sound, and spoken/written sentences. Share the many interactives and/or video clips on your interactive whiteboard, projector, or in a learning center. World language teachers might want to use the word explorer as a model for students to create their own vocabulary reinforcement activities created on video or even using a simple slideshow tool such as PowerPoint, or another presentation tool from the Edge. This is an excellent site to share on your class website so students (and families) can check it out at home.
 This resource requires Adobe Flash.

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Learn English Teens - British Council

Grades
7 to 12
1 Favorites 0  Comments
  
This teens' branch of Learn English, reviewed here, contains interactives, short stories, poems, grammar bits, and a video zone with many short videos....more
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This teens' branch of Learn English, reviewed here, contains interactives, short stories, poems, grammar bits, and a video zone with many short videos. You can also write captions for humorous photos. The vocabulary zone organizes words into various categories. The exam section gives advice on exam preparation for all types of tests including listening, speaking, and reading as well as study tips. Don't miss the free time section and a magazine with articles written by peers. A free log-in allows teens access to printed versions of the stories (with questions), the ability to make comments, enter competitions, answer polls, and even submit writings. The videos reside on YouTube. If your district blocks YouTube, the videos may not be viewable. You could always view them at home and bring them to class "on a stick" to share. Use a tool such as Freemake Video Converter, reviewed here, to download the videos from YouTube. Since this site was created in the UK, you will notice some spelling differences from American English.

tag(s): creative writing (168), grammar (215), test prep (96), video (268), vocabulary development (125)

In the Classroom

Introduce this site to your class on an interactive whiteboard or projector. Make a shortcut to this site on classroom computers and have your ELL/ESL students use it as one of your learning stations. Short stories and other interactive features of the site would work well with weaker readers and learning support students, too. Encourage your ESL/ELL students to share their writings on Learn English Teens (if allowed by school policy).
 This resource requires Adobe Flash.

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Speakit! - Google Chrome

Grades
1 to 12
2 Favorites 0  Comments
  
Speakit is an easy to install, free program that converts written text on web pages into spoken words within the Chrome web browser. At the time of this review, it ...more
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Speakit is an easy to install, free program that converts written text on web pages into spoken words within the Chrome web browser. At the time of this review, it works exclusively on Google Chrome. You can use this extension in many different languages. All you do is highlight the text, and it reads it aloud. The tool works only on website text, not documents, etc. This extension uses text to speech service and might not be accessible to those whose computers prevent download/installation of software. There are some errors in the program they are still fixing.

tag(s): listening (92), text to speech (17)

In the Classroom

Use Speakit as your teacher's helper. Be sure to test it out on classroom computers and devices before using it with students. During research or computer explorations, allow students to use this read aloud feature. Honor the students who heavily rely on hearing as their preferred form of comprehending material. In lower grades, research on computers now becomes an easier task. This extension is perfect for ESL/ELL or learning support students to help with vocabulary development, comprehension, fluency, and repetitions.

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Snappy Words-Free Visual Online Dictionary - Snappy Words.com

Grades
2 to 12
3 Favorites 0  Comments
Snappy Words visual dictionary is an easy-to-use online interactive English dictionary and thesaurus. It provides the meanings of words or phrases, generates synonyms, and draws...more
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Snappy Words visual dictionary is an easy-to-use online interactive English dictionary and thesaurus. It provides the meanings of words or phrases, generates synonyms, and draws connections to associated words. Simply type a word in the search box and click "GO." Instantly you will see a word map. An extra built in feature is the words in the visual interactive display are color coded according to parts of speech. Look up as many words as you need anytime; there is no limit on the number of searches and no registration is required. As with most online tools, teacher monitoring is strongly advised.

tag(s): maps (289), parts of speech (68), speech (92), thesaurus (24)

In the Classroom

Teachers and students on all grade levels will love usingSnappy Words for all subjects. Demonstrate it on your classroom whiteboard or projector, bookmark it in your favorites, and make it directly available to students from your class webpage. Elementary students will enjoy defining their spelling words or content area vocabulary. They can categorize their words by parts of speech or create a list of synonyms. Students can then create their own word "maps" for new vocabulary words using drawing tools or online graphic organizers like bubbl.us, reviewed here. Middle school, high school and adult learners can use it as a valuable tool for vocabulary specific to a literary work or subject area, preparing for a standardized test, or while reading assigned material or a book, poem, or article of choice. Whether you are writing content for an article, a blog, a letter, or any assignment, minimize this website and play with words to avoid repetition, choose precise meanings and kick your vocabulary up a notch! Share this one on your class web page, for sure.
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Read the Words - Educational Utilities

Grades
1 to 12
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Read the Words is a site that allows students to submit almost any text material and HEAR it read aloud. The languages offered include English, Spanish, and French. You ...more
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Read the Words is a site that allows students to submit almost any text material and HEAR it read aloud. The languages offered include English, Spanish, and French. You can select the speed at which the text will be read and use a wide variety of formats including Microsoft Word, PDF, a website URL, anything copied and pasted, or from RSS feeds. Likewise, students can listen to the oral text online, download it to the desktop or MP3 players, post readings online in several forms, and even create podcasts with the selected material. Users can even modify the reading avatar's appearance by selecting from those available, both male and female. Beware: inappropriate words will not be filtered, and anything typed is pronounced.

tag(s): listening (92), podcasts (54), text to speech (17)

In the Classroom

Primary or resource reading teachers may want to use this site for students to practice reading fluency "side by side" with the online avatar. World language teachers and teachers of limited English speakers will love this website as reinforcement for language learning. Students can listen as they read. They can also practice their pronunciation and compare it with any selected avatar. Use the oral readings on an interactive whiteboard or projector (with speakers turned up) for class dictations and discussion starters. Preview the vocabulary words in any file or website by selecting the read/edit option before students listen to it. Check school policies regarding individual student accounts on web sites. Here are some tips on managing student memberships that require email. Beware - if you are having students use this site, "inappropriate" words will not be filtered, and anything typed is pronounced. So be sure students are aware of guidelines and consequences.
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LingQ - LingQ

Grades
3 to 12
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LingQ assists you with developing language fluency in any of 9 target languages including German, Spanish, French, Italian, Swedish, Japanese, and Chinese, Russian, and Portuguese....more
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LingQ assists you with developing language fluency in any of 9 target languages including German, Spanish, French, Italian, Swedish, Japanese, and Chinese, Russian, and Portuguese. It tracks hours spent on listening and reading assignments, vocabulary development, etc. An example lesson consists of listening to a text while reading through it, clicking on unknown words, seeing the definition in one's native language, saving the words in a list or as flashcards. You can also download the audio files to an MP3 player. You should have at least a beginning understanding of the language before attempting to use this site. It's desirable to be a flexible learner since the learning/teaching style is based on immersion, not translation. Students may have up to 5 active "assignments" going to stay within the free level. Any completed work can be archived to make room for more assignments. There is a charge to have your work evaluated, graded, and critiqued. There is an option to save new vocabulary words in a list and print flashcards for these words. The tool requires a fast Internet connection to download large podcast (audio) files. The podcast files can be downloaded and played on your local computer or an mp3 player.

tag(s): podcasts (54), vocabulary (325), vocabulary development (125)

In the Classroom

Establishing membership requires an email account. Check your school policies about accessing/sharing student email on school computers. If you plan to have students register individually, you may want to create your own Gmail account with up to 20 subaccounts for each group of students (by code name or number) within your classes. Here is a blog post that tells how to set up GMail subaccounts to use for any online membership service. You will want to join and explore the site before assigning students to use it so you know how to navigate.

Assign specific "lessons" for your ESL or world language students, but be aware that the free version does not permit you to monitor progress on student accounts.Therefore you will want to use this as a practice site more than a formal assessment tool. Demonstrate the navigation on your projector or interactive whiteboard before assigning students to work independently. If you have mp3 players available, you can load a listening assignment for students to "take out." Be sure to include this site on your teacher web page for students to access both in and outside of class for further practice. Refer your ESL students to this page if they are impatient to become fluent quickly.

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