Saturday, June 16, 2012

Bringing the World into Our Classroom

I love, love, love using current events in the classroom, even though I know I didn't do them justice last year.  I love to hear my kids talking about things that are happening in the world, and I love when they say, "I saw on the news that..."  Of course, I'm always saying, "I saw on the news that...," so they're picking up the habit from me, but they are VOLUNTARILY watching the news!

Last year, my co-teacher stumbled upon a fantastic news site for kids-- Youngzine.

You can sign up as a teacher, then create easily create accounts for your students. Then, you can select articles for students to view and create an assignment.  I did these on Fun Fridays last year, and my kids loved it!  There are several categories to choose from, and I would switch it up from week to week.  Some of the favorites were the article about the Toy Fair, one about bats, and one about the Titanic.  All of the articles have a video to go along with it, but most of them are Youtube videos, and Youtube is blocked at my school.  To circumvent this problem, I would download the video through Zamzar ahead of time and then either show it to the whole class or post it on the school's server page for students to view on their own.  The videos are great and add a lot to the article.

For the assignment, I used non-fiction questions or statements, like (say we're working on the Toy Fair article) "What new toy would you most like to have and why?" or "How will these new toys effect today's kids?" or "Would you rather play with these new tech toys or simple toys?" or "Who created..." I would usually throw in 3-4 "right there" questions (answers can be found right in the article) and then some questions that would actually make the kids think.

Each student would post their responses, and then, the fun part-- students can comment on each other's posts!  And the great thing is that all of these comments are public, so no private messages!  We spent several days on blogging etiquette- how to reply to someone, how to state a different opinion, replying with at least a complete sentence.  I had one or two problems with people posting silly comments, so I put those people on probation for a week.  If they posted silly comments again, they would only be allowed to handwrite comments for the rest of the quarter.  Mean, I know!  Like I said, though I only had a few problems with this and I nipped them right in the bud.

Youngzine also has games for kids.  I think there are now teacher controls, so you can turn on and off the access to the games.  This is a nice feature, because I had some darlings rush through the work to get to the games...

Anyway, I love Youngzine and my kids love Youngzine.  It's super easy to use and opens up a lot of interesting discussions!

Another cool site I found today is called DOGO News.

I haven't played around too much on DOGO News, but I think it's really cool.  Much like Youngzine, there are kid-friendly articles that are interesting!  I do like that Youngzine features political and world issues, not just human interest stories, though, I like all of the categories available on DOGO.  

Just like with Youngzine, you can create a teacher account and then student accounts, and you can create lesson plans for various articles you select. You can also turn off the comments, so if you don't want your kids posting to the world, you can control that.  Great feature!  

That big yellow box on the right-hand site takes you to my favorite features-- book and movie reviews by kids and for kids.  You, as the teacher, can even create a bookshelf with books you recommend for your kids.  I think my kids would love writing book and movie reviews!  

Another neat feature is the Maps tab.  This shows you where in the world an news story happened.  Love that you can bring in more geography with this!

The Sites tab takes you to a huge list of websites just for kids.  There are lots of great ones that I've bookmarked to look at later!  

This site has videos with the articles, too, but their also mostly on Youtube.  Boo.

I downloaded some great worksheets from TeachersPayTeachers that go along with any article!  My plans for next year are to include Current Events as a daily station.  I'd pick one article each week and do something like this: (keep in mind that our stations are about 18 minutes each!)

Read the article and take notes on your note sheet.

Re-read the article and complete a Who, What, When, Where, Why, and How? sheet.  

Review the article and complete an Article Analysis or Article Speculation page.

Review the article and complete a 10 Facts, Article Vocabulary, or You Made the News sheet.  

Choose a different article on this site and compare and contrast it with this one.  You can create a T-Chart, a Venn Diagram, or a Compare & Contrast sheet.

I'd like to add additional "fun" activities for this, I just have to think of something. 

Many of my teacher friends have recommended that I use CNN Student News, but I just don't love it like I do Youngzine!  

Monday, June 4, 2012

Pinterest on Parade

I've been spending some time on Pinterest, and have found tons and tons of amazing ideas!  There's everything you could ever need- writing anchor charts, classroom management tips, math centers, science experiments-- if you teach it, it's on there!

Here are some of the boards I've created:

Feel free to follow one, or all, of these boards.  I'm constantly adding new finds, so they'll change frequently!