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Reading Rockets – Launching Students into Better Readers!

Reading Rockets provides online reading resources for teachers, parents, librarians, and other school professionals.  This site is sponsored by PBS.   The homepage of this site provides links for all types of users to find information about teaching students how to read.  This includes a FAQs section that features a new reading-related question every day, links to blogs on best practices in teaching reading and top literature picks for kids.  There is also general information including book lists, reading strategies, and research-based guides.  I particularly liked the Video and Podcasts section which included informational videos about various hot-topics in reading education such as how to get students engaged in reading in this digital era.  There were also video interviews with some of the most popular authors today.

rockets

For Parents Page

The For Parents Page provides specific information about reading strategies that parents can implement with their children.  There are ideas for working with younger children who are learning to begin to read along with school-aged children who can read together with family or friends at home.  There are great links and ideas provided for seasonal reading like winter fun reading or how to help improve reading over the summer.  Another section on this page provides parents with tips on how to communicate with the teacher about reading and academic progress in the classroom.  There are also gift ideas for books to buy children of various ages, reading levels, and interests.  One of the most useful sections on this page provided information for parents to determine weak areas and help their struggling reader.  One of these links is a great television show to encourage these struggling readers from ages 7-12 through music, animation, and fun kid-related concepts on PBS also called Reading Rockets.

Teachers Page

The For Teachers Page offers reading strategies and lessons for the classroom.  Some of the information is the same for both teachers and parents including information on how to help struggling readers, access to the Reading Rockets blogs on children’s literature and best practices on reading.  It also has the flip-side of information about how teachers can communicate and build meaningful relationships with parents.

One of the differences in the teacher page is that there is information about professional development opportunities that can be used to further your educational reading knowledge.  Much of this information is presented through webcasts on various reading topics like tutoring programs, ELLs, summer reading, teaching writing, and students with disabilities.  One of the video professional development links is available online and is also aired on PBS called Launching Young Reader.  This series is hosted by famous actors and actresses and covers top authors, illustrators, and books for children along with reading strategies and family activities to encourage reading based on the latest research.

One of the most useful pages under the teacher’s page is the classroom strategies page.  They provide an annotated list of all of the reading strategies broken down into the main reading categories.  You can quickly see when the skill should be used before, during, or after reading.  When you select the strand you are teaching about, it provides you with an explanation of what the skill is, examples of how you can incorporate it into your classroom, books that you can use to teach this skill, differentiated instruction options, and the research data that backs the strategy.  I would recommend this page to all teachers no matter what subject or grade level they teach now.

This is a great website to learn about reading instruction and how you can implement strategies to help children both at school and at home to become lifelong lovers of reading.

Article By Laura Ketcham

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Activities for Martin Luther King Jr. Day

Martin Luther King Jr. Day is on Monday, January 17th.  Every year we celebrate his birthday on the 3rd Monday in January.  It is a federal holiday and the majority of schools will be closed.  However, there are many language arts and historical classroom connections to remember the accomplishments of his life and work through a variety of activities and lessons.  This can transition to various activities that will lead into Black History Month or the Civil Rights Movement discussions.

mlk jr

Middle & High School Activities

Beyond teaching about the historical significance of MLK’s accomplishments, lessons could also include information about the about the history and reluctance to observe the holiday.  MLK Day was signed into law in 1983 by President Reagan.  However, 2000 was the first year that all states celebrated Martin Luther King Jr. Day as a federal holiday.  Some states, especially in the south, combine this day with other celebrations like Robert E Lee’s birthday or a general Human Rights Day. Mr. King is one of the only men whose life is celebrated through a federal holiday that never held a political office.

There are a lot of great resources available on the History Channel website about Mr. King, the Civil Rights Movement, and Black History Month.   There are articles, videos, photos, links and other classroom materials that can be utilized to build lessons and activities for the classroom.

One lesson on the subject could include learning about both Martin Luther King Jr. and President Kennedy, who were both influential leaders of the 60’s.  The lesson could then focus on how their assassinations effected both that era along with our society today.  This could be held as a class discussion or a research assignment where students create a presentation or paper on the topic.

Elementary Activities

There is a wide variety of ways to teach about the history of MLK beyond coloring pages and worksheets.  One engaging activity is to have students create a written and illustrated timeline of the important events in MLKs life.  You can show your students the example online and then they can research and create their own timeline as a class.  A tie in for history and language arts would be to include the “I Have a Dream” speech into a lesson.   The students could listen to the speech then discuss the speech as a class, and then have them write up their own speeches of their dreams to share with their peers.  Students of all ages can watch the “I Have a Dream” speech on many of the video sharing websites like YouTube and TeacherTube.

For younger students there are many excellent picture books on the topic of Martin Luther King, the Civil Rights Movement, Black History Month, and equality.  There is a great lesson plan that ties in the reading of Happy Birthday, Martin Luther King with equality, dreams and hopes, and art.

Other Activities

  1. “I Have a Dream” Cloze activity
  2. Lesson on Equality
  3. Mapping Martin Luther King
  4. Identifying Heroes

 

Article By Laura Ketcham

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Low-Tech Classroom Aids for Special Needs Students

Making adaptations for special needs students in your classroom does not always have to be high-tech.  In a blog post from last year, I shared several low-tech options for teachers to use in their classroom to make the curriculum more accessible.  There are many other low-tech tools besides special pencils and grips, post-its, and highlighters.  This post will focus on a few more pocketbook-friendly tools that you can use with your special needs students that can be found at your local craft and office supply stores.

classroom

Soothing & Calming Tools

The school day can be a stressful time both academically and socially for all students and even more so for some students with special needs.  Offering students opportunities for soothing and calming experiences can help them to control or manage their stress and emotions.  Providing students with soothing sensory items that can be taped or stapled under their desk can be a creative solution.  At a craft store, you can purchase different items like feathers, felt, Velcro, or foam.  These different tactile feelings provide an outlet for students to calm emotions and refocus on classroom tasks.

Students with cerebral palsy or some students with autism may have difficultly controlling saliva.  Providing a sweat band they can wear on their wrist can help them to wipe their mouth area.  This can help the student to feel more confident about interacting with other students in the classroom and provide them with one less thing to worry about.

Accessibility Tools

One tool that I use a lot in my computer classroom is book rests.  This helps the students to lean the textbook up while completing their computer-based assignments.  This can also be very helpful in the regular classroom.  I’ve purchased actual book rests from the local office supply store, but you could also use frame holders that can be bought at the craft store for perhaps a lower price.  This provides a physical prop for their books to help raise them up where it may be either a better position for the student to read or more accessible for them to turn the page.

Even in my 7th grade classroom, some students are not tall enough to reach the floor when sitting in the chair.  Especially when teaching about computer ergonomics and keyboarding, I provide them with a FREE resource to help them be more comfortable when sitting – a phone book!  They can use this as their foot rest and helps them to be more comfortable in the chairs during class and helps them to focus on the academic lesson.

Academic Tools

Academically, there may need to be physical accommodations employed in order for students to be most successful.  Some low-tech strategies can be easy solutions for simple accommodations.  One example is if a student is struggling to keep their paper on their desk because of limited use of their hands or arms, you can use magnets or tape to hold down the papers on the desk.

During reading assignments (both silent or group), if a student has a hard time following along on which line they are one, they can use a clear colored ruler to use as a guide.  After each line the student would move the ruler down as they continue reading.

For math assignments, large key calculators may be more appropriate than the small scientific kind.  You can find these types of calculators almost anywhere including office supply stores or even the grocery store.

Students who have difficulty gripping art supplies can benefit from supplies that are larger in size and easier to grip.  Craft stores sell larger crayons, which are typically used for toddlers and pre-k students, however they work great with older students with difficulty gripping.  Thinking beyond just crayons, paint brushes, paint tubes, scissors, and glue all come in larger sizes and can be found at the craft store as well.

There are many low-tech cost-effective tools that you can use in your classroom to help students to be socially and academically successful.  Do you have any favorites that you use in your classroom?

Article By Laura Ketcham

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How Pets Help Individuals with Special Needs

Pets can help students with special needs in so many different ways.  They can be used in therapy to help calm students or to provide a non-threatening communication aide.  Animals can also be used for physical therapy to help strengthen muscles.  The animal most associated with helping children with special needs is the dog; however horses and dolphins are also regularly used in therapy and assistance.

horse

Leader Dogs for the Blind

I grew up in a town that has an organization called Leader Dogs for the Blind.  This group trains dogs and provides them to individuals with visual impairments to help them lead a more independent and mobile life.   This is the only program in the United States to train individuals who are deaf and blind to work with a guide dog.

Volunteers raise the dogs through their first year on socialization and obedience.  After the dog has been trained, the individual receiving the dog goes through a month long program where they learn how to interact and work with the dog, including teaching the dog sign language.  The program is free to the recipient of the dog.  Their website has additional information along with inspirational stories and videos of individuals working with the guide dogs.

Leader Dogs for the Blind also has a program for students to get involved with their organization.  There are materials on their website with lesson plans for teachers about vision and leader dogs.  This could be a great organization for students to get involved with and help raise money for this great organization.

Dolphin Human Therapy

There are two organizations that employ the use of animals to assist students with special needs in the area where I currently live:  Dolphin Human Therapy and Horses for the Handicapped.  Dolphin Human Therapy, based out of Miami, is an organization that helps individuals with special needs through swimming with dolphins.   After one or two weeks of interaction the dolphin’s, students showed gains in speech, language, motor , and behavior skills.  Families and teachers are closely involved during the process.  The dolphin therapy was a successful motivator for the students.  Dolphin Human Therapy does not currently run therapy programs in Miami, but now helps other organizations to build similar programs based on their research findings.

Horses and the Handicapped

Horses and the Handicapped is another South Florida based program where students with special needs can ride horses.  The horses help to provide a connection for the students and gains have been made including physical, mental, and emotional aspects.  The program has grown tremendously over the past 20 years and now runs a summer program for students with special needs along with serving over 130 riders.  Their facilities include a covered arena and technology equipment to help riders on and off the horses.  Many local high school students volunteer their time to help this program.  Riders have also been involved in the local and State Special Olympic Equestrian matches.

There are also many other organization around the country that train various animals to help individuals with special needs.  Check out local organizations near you to volunteer or to gain more information for your students and their parents!

Article By Laura Ketcham

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Assistive Technology for Students in Music Class

When I remember my high school days, my fondest memories are that of being part of the band program.  I participated in the marching band, the percussion ensemble, and the symphony band. I even continued on to join the marching band at the University of Miami.  Being part of such great groups made me feel a sense of belonging and increased my overall responsibility as a student.  Music is a universal language where all students are able to connect, including students with special needs.  Some people may think that students with special needs are unable to participate because their disabilities may inhibit them from playing an instrument. However there are many low-tech and high-tech assistive technology tools to aid them in playing an instrument.

band

Adaptions for Reading Music

Students who have low vision may only need the sheet music to be enlarged in order for them to read the notes that they should be playing.  This is a very easy accommodation for the teacher to implement, by just using the photocopier enlarge option.  Some sheet music even comes already printed in larger font.  The music can also be translated into braille for students who are blind.

High-Tech & Low-Tech Assistive Technology Tools

For students who have difficulty either holding an instrument or reaching all of the keys, there are many tech tools to help out.  Clamps, toggle-keys, joysticks, and switches, can all be added to an adapted woodwind or brass instrument.  There is a great article about a boy named Lukas who participates in his high school band, playing the euphonium, through the use of a joystick that pushes the buttons on the instrument.  Woodwind instruments can be adapted with a toggle key for students who only have the ability to move one hand.  There is a very inspiring video of David Naab playing the saxophone with the use of a toggle-key.

Students who are deaf or hearing impaired can also be involved in the band.  Many students who have hearing disabilities do not have trouble playing the instrument or reading music, but have difficulty following along with the group because of the difficulty hearing.  Cochlear implants and hearing aids have helped these students learn to play music instruments.  There are computer programs where students follow the music with the vibrations and variations on the screen, which will then help them to play along with an ensemble.

Other Musical Options

Students with more severe disabilities can still be involved in the band through percussion instruments.  Students can be given instruments like bells, bongos, or a tambourine and given visual cues as to when to strike the instrument.  This means that the student would still be involved, but not necessarily have to be able to learn how to read the music notes on the staff.  However, to ensure interest is high, students should not be given the same instrument day after day and should experience a variety of percussion instruments.

Another cool “old-tech” – “high-tech” musical instrument option for individuals with disabilities is called the Hotz Box.  The Hotz Box is a musical keyboard that is connected through the computer.  There is a video including an introduction by Mick Fleetwood and a performance by a special needs adult who had never played the instrument before.  This instrument can be learned in the matter of minutes and can be integrated into a rock band and used for expressing oneself through music.

Article By Laura Ketcham

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“Top” of 2010 – Resources for Students

Many websites this week are reflecting upon the past year including top movies, events, and people.  From an educational standpoint, there are also many top ten lists that can help to inspire your creative lesson planning.  Some examples would include top websites for students or education, top educational apps for the classroom, or even top blog posts on MangoMon for 2010.

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Top Websites of 2010

Time Magazine has a tradition of making “top” lists at the end of the year.  On their website this year, they have a top 50 list of websites.  Many of these websites can be great additions for classroom use including Sesame Street, National Geographic, and Read Print.

PC Magazine’s “top” list of websites includes both classic websites, websites that have been around, and undiscovered websites, which are websites that were new in 2010.  They also include information about the trends of web surfing for the year, which would be a great addition for teaching in a computer course.  The easy to navigate top 10’s make finding educational connections easy.  When I reviewed the “Classics:  Apps” section I found that over ½ of the websites I have used in teaching this past year.

To find a day-to-day list of the most popular websites, you have to check out www.mostpopularwebsites.net.  This site follows the page hits on a daily basis to rank the top websites.

Top Apps of 2010

PC Magazine also has a list of the free Top Apps for 2010.  They have this section broken down by device including all of the top smart phones.  Many of the apps included for the iPhone/iPad on the list have education connections including iBooks, Bing, Dragon Dictation, DropBox,  Evernote, Google Earth, and Skype.

IEAR, a website based for the review of educational apps, has their top list of apps for 2010. Their list includes the virtual frog dissection, NASA, and many that were mentioned above.  This site has a  handy feature is that it includes a brief explanation of the app along with the curriculum connection.

Top Blog Posts on MangoMon

This past year, the top blog posts for MangoMon have been about the incorporation of the iPad in the special education classroom.  Any blog post that mentioned the iPad, iPhone, or related apps was always a big hit with the readers.  Tech tools for the special education classroom were also very popular with readers whether it was low-tech or high-tech.  For easy searching all of the top viewed posts, a tool can be found on your left-hand side of the browser page.

Incorporation of Top 10’s in the Classroom

With students coming back from break, an easy transition lesson would be to incorporate the concepts of top 10’swhile reflecting upon the past year and looking toward the future.  There are so many different ideas of what the top ten’s lists could be about and sharing them with the class would be a great kickoff to the New Year.  This idea could also incorporated into history by comparing their top 10’s to previous year’s top 10’s or even start off a lesson on past generations.

Top 10 List Ideas

  1. Top concepts/lessons/ideas they learned the past year in your class (or combined)
  2. Top school memories from the past year
  3. Top websites they have used for school
  4. Top apps that have used for school
  5. Top list of what will make them a successful student
  6. Top list based on goal setting
  7. Top lists of books they would like to read

 

Article By Laura Ketcham

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Back from Break: New Year’s Lesson Ideas for Students

The sign winter break is coming to a close is always the countdown to the New Year.  When students and teachers head back to school after break, they are refreshed, excited, and ready to take on new academic challenges.  Starting off the New Year on the right foot is very similar to the first day of school all over again.  Take this renewed interest to reacquaint students to classroom rules and expectations along with taking the time to share experiences of winter break.  This will help your classroom and students to be successful for the New Year.

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Writing Activities for the New Year

Creative writing and writing prompts are a great way to start of the New Year for your classes.  Getting students back into the academic mindset can be difficult, but if you tailor the assignments to include reflections of the past year or break time activities, and also looking toward the next year and their future, students can really be engaged in the writing process while gaining their academic bearings.   The Teacher’s Corner has many New Year’s writing activities along with links to other websites that have other activities and lesson ideas.  To encourage journal writing they have a link to a printables page with lined paper with a New Year’s theme.  This creative paper can encourage students to write.  Many different lessons can be based on using this paper like making a New Year’s resolution or a list of accomplishments they would like to achieve over the next year.  These can then be shared with the class.  Sharing these goals helps to make individuals accountable for reaching for their goals.

The History of New Year’s

Another great back to school activity for the New Year is for the students to learn about the history of New Year’s.  The History Channel has many videos about the history and traditions of the New Year’s celebrations.  Students could also learn about how different cultures and countries celebrate the incoming of the New Year.   Education World has a great article for teachers to get ideas about what to teach students when learning about the variety of calendars and how different cultures celebrate the New Year on different dates.  A great tie-in would be to present the materials to the students and then they would create their own calendar based on their findings and opinions.

Art & New Year’s

Of course, you can’t teach about New Year’s without incorporating at least one art related activity.  However, these activities don’t have to be meaningless add-ons or just for fun.  Tying in art activities with core curriculum concepts is easy.  For example, if you have students create their own calendar based on learning about other cultures and how and when they celebrate New Year’s, students can become artists when labeling the dates or creating the top part of a calendar.  Here is a great template to use for this activity from About.com

Students can also learn to sing “Auld Lange Syne.”  During this lesson, students can also learn about the history of the song and its importance to English speaking cultures.   Another great site to review for material is Wilstar.  This site has the history and academic connections for many of the major holidays.

For an “overall resource” Suite101 offers a page about activities for students when they return from winter break.  This site includes writing prompts, math ideas, and review games for students to get back into the academic swing. 

Article By Laura Ketcham

Picture By Pink Sherbet Photography

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Best Mobile Sites for Education

diigo it

mobile internet

This blog post was inspired by a recent experience where I had to spend a few hours at a car dealership without Wi-Fi access on my laptop.  However, I still had 3G access on my cell phone and I began surfing around the net to pass the time.  This spurred me to think about using the iPad and iPods in the classroom and what websites were the most mobile friendly.

These small computerized devices like the iPod and iPad provide great ways for students to search for information without having to use a laptop or desktop computer.  They are mobile and can be easily circulated in the classroom or shared among several classrooms.  However, the use of these devices is not limited to the downloaded apps.  They will also be used to browse the web to find research data and information for various classroom assignments.  Many of the most popular websites have adapted their traditional websites to fit this small format screen by providing the most important information in the small space by putting the most important information on the homepage, reducing the clutter, and making it easier to sign in or select links.

Here are some of the top mobile sites that would be great for your students to use in the classroom when using iPad and iPods, or similar small format devices, with Internet access.

Mobile Wikipedia

Mobile Wikipedia is a great educational online resource.  The mobile version has an article of the day, a short news section, and a place for students to search online.  This would be a great resource for students to use to find background information on a variety of projects.  It is easy to navigate, read, and quick to load.  It keeps the students interest by also including pictures, a quick-snap shot of info about the topic searches, and links for more information.  The great aspect of the mobile version it breaks down the entry into sections that you select to load based on what you want to read about.  For example, when I searched Niagara Falls, it gave me a picture, several facts, and then a basic overview.  To learn more I could select on the sections like History, Geology or Tourism.

Answers.com

The Answers.com mobile version is a combination of a search engine for questions, encyclopedia, and language resource.  As the student is typing in the search question, questions will pop-up to fill in the results limiting the amount of typing that needs to be done.  I typed in “when is the next lu” and at that point it filled it in with “When is the next lunar eclipse?”  It then provided a short answer to the question and provided links for more information and answers to similar questions.  On the homepage of this site, there are also quick links for today’s highlights, new answers, and new questions.  Users contribute to this website and it would be a fun lesson to get your students involved by asking or answering questions!

Web on Your Cell

Web on your Cell is a portal website.  From this site, students can select one of the main categories like news tech or eBooks and then be linked to a list of mobile-ready websites that meet those categories.  It is a great one-stop website to get to the best and most frequently used mobile websites.  The low-graphics also make it easy to navigate and quick to load, great features for mobile surfing.

Math Slice

Mobile Math Slice contains a variety of educational and fun games.  They are represented by small icon links associate with the topic of the game.  The games are not only math related, other games include hangman about the state capitals, “Finding Nemo” while learning about the compass directions, memory games, and Spanish vocabulary.  Some of the games are very simplistic, but would be great for those few extra minutes before the end of school or for fun transition activities when a student finishes an assignment early.

Dropbox

Dropbox is an online storage system.  Students can upload and download the various assignments they are working on the mobile devices to this website.  This is a good remote storage device and is free for the first 2 GB.  The mobile version is very user friendly.

Ta-Da List

Ta-Da List is a simple mobile website where users can create and manage to-do lists.  Students can use to write down their homework or a list of items that need to be completed.

Other Great Mobile Websites

  1. Google – not only the search engine, but also Maps, Calendar, Docs, and Mail
  2. Discovery Channel – links to science videos, articles, and activities
  3. Dictionary.com – mobile online dictionary
  4. Ask – search engine to answer questions

Feel free to comment and write about your favorite mobile websites for education.

Article by Laura Ketcham

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Continuing to Build your PLN (Personal Learning Network)

 

PLN

Winter break is a great time to relax and unwind from the busy school year, but it is also a great time to reconnect with your PLN (Personal Learning Network.)  In an earlier post this year, I wrote about some of the most popular programs available online to help in building your PLN.  Sometimes using these various programs can become overwhelming and daunting to try to keep updated on a daily, weekly, or monthly basis.

By reconnecting with your PLN at this time of the year, you can come up with new ideas for the classroom for after winter break, gain a refreshed outlook on your students and classroom, and make adult connections that you typically do not make a day-to-day basis in the classroom.  These connections and the information you can gain from making them will help you go back with a bounce in your step after the New Year.

Ideas for Whom to Connect With

When you simply break down the concept of building a PLN, all you are really doing is networking online and finding individuals with whom you share connections or whose interests you share in common.  Finding a good group for your PLN requires time and research.  It may mean you follow their blog or Twitter feed over a few days and weeks to see if they are a good fit.  When looking for individuals to ‘follow’ or connect with, look for these following characteristics:

  • Someone who you share common interests and classroom goals
  • Someone who updates frequently with on-topic posts about their professional career and experiences
  • A variety of educational professionals including teachers, administrators, tech coordinators, and even educational reps from the top educational companies and providers
  • Someone who may open your mind, provide a different perspective, and challenge your views

Don’t forget that if you add someone to one of your PLN programs and they don’t seem to be offering useful information or information that you are interested in, it is acceptable to remove them from your listings.  Pick the individuals you are interested like a ‘top 5’ or ‘top 10’ of who you really want to follow and learn from so that you don’t feel overwhelmed.

Top PLN Programs (Recap & Extension)

Twitter:  A micro-blogging program where users post short statements and quotes that can include links and pictures about a particular subject.  Look for teachers, administrators, and educational professionals that interest you through the search option.  A great way to get starting building your network is to search hashtags for topics that may interest you like #spedchat, #edtech, or #edchat and then follow users based on your results.

LinkedIn:  A social networking site for professionals.  This site is great to make connections with many individuals within and outside of education.  A suggestion would be to start off by connecting with individuals you know and then expand based on their connections.  If your contacts have a common ‘real’ person in common, they will be more likely to add you and share their experiences and knowledge.

Ning:  Individuals and groups create their own Social Networking sites.  Great to search and follow these different groups and see how they have created their own networks.  Searching on Google with your keywords of interest and then adding “Ning” will bring you to these pages of interest.  You can become a member of the group to follow the posts and links easily.

Other Social Networking Sites to Build your PLN

  1. Facebook
  2. Blogger or Edublog
  3. Classroom 2.0

Article by Laura Ketcham

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Awesome Talking Library for Students

I came across the Awesome Talking Library when I was searching for information based on previous blog posts and thought this was a great free computer resource I just had to write about!

awesome library

The Awesome Talking Library is a free downloadable software program that was created by Code-it Software Solutions.  This program is a speaking web browser.  You download the program to your computer and install it, and then run it like you would any other web browser. (Note:  In the install directions there was a note that an extra program was needed to run “The Awesome Talking Library” on a Windows XP machine – this extra download was not necessary for me to run the program.)

Talking Web Browser Feature

The most useful feature of the program is that it will read what is on the browser screen back to the student.  The student can choose to have the whole page read aloud or the student can select the text that needs to be read.  When the user selects the “Speak” option, the whole page is read and when the user selects the “Selected” option, then only the selected text is read.  The speaking can be stopped by either using the “Stop” button or the “Quit Speak” option.  Students can just surf the net and then use the speaking options to help with the reading of the pages.  This can help students who struggle to read or who may have vision impairments.  I could even see this program being used in a traditional classroom setting for all students as it would be helpful for younger students who are learning to read and pronounce words.

Awesome Library Homepage

When the program is opened, you are directed to the Awesome Library Homepage, which is a search engine for educational online resources.  On this page, users can select age and topics specific educational and fun online resources.  Search options are included for teachers, kids, teens, college students, parents, and librarians.  The Literature links for kids and teens provide online books that students can use with the program to have them read aloud.

Options

There are many different options that make this program unique and easy for students with special needs to browse the Internet. This program has larger navigation buttons at the top of the screen to move forward and back through searched web pages.  There are also other options available in the program.  Users can change the voice options with speed, pitch, type, and volume level.  They can also choose to have a character on the screen to speak the words.  This would be especially helpful to keep younger students Interested in the program as the pre-loaded options for the program include a Butter Cup (a Powder Puff Girl) and Merlin the Wizard.  Other characters can be loaded into the program as well.  The best feature of the characters is that you can choose to turn on speaking “bubbles” to actively show the student what is being read.

The browser can also be set to different modes including Adult, boy, and girl.  This changes the color of the screen along with the character options without having to make multiple options selections.

This assistive technology browser also includes standard browser options like being able to save and print web pages, allowing or denying pop ups, and the ability to add bookmarks and load bookmarks from Internet Explorer.   There are also standard forward and back buttons to navigate back and forth through pages.

The “Surfn’ Notes” option is great for students.  They can load this option and small screen loads where students can take notes while surfing online.  They can save their notes and then load them later.  These notes can also be copied and pasted into a Word Processing Program for them to use in a paper or an outline.

The “Helpster” option is the help section for the browser to help users get started.   It provides an interactive and spoken process to help a student to learn how to use the program.  It might be a good place to have students begin the program.

This is a great free program that both teachers and parents should download to help their students and children when surfing the net.

Article By Laura Ketcham

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