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School Weather Safety

April has definitely lived up to the first part of its mantra “in like a lion.”  This month, parts of the United States have been ravaged by tornadoes, flooding, and fires which have destroyed homes, schools, and even entire towns.  Teachers and students need to be aware of the safety precautions and measures in order to stay safe during these natural and man-made disasters.

hurricane

Schools always have safety plans in case of these events directly correlating to the area of the country that you reside.  However, a unique lesson about learning about weather and disasters is to go above and beyond just teaching the students about staying safe.   A unique lesson idea would be to explore the ideas in more depth so that the students have a deeper understanding of the events.  Since this topic is close to their actual experiences in real life, they will take away the learning from the lesson and be able to apply it if and when needed throughout their lives.

This is especially important for students with special needs.   Some students may not be mobile nor have the independent skills needed to move into a safe area during a weather or disaster threat.  A plan should be in place to help student reach safety including other adults and students to assist those students in need.  If the students are educated on what to expect this will help the students to not panic during a real emergency.

Websites for Lesson Ideas about Fire, Flood, and Tornado Safety

Sparky the Fire Dog is a great resource for younger children to learn about fire safety in homes and schools.  On this website, there are interactive activities for students and lesson plans for teachers.   There are printables for a home fire safety checklist and an escape route grid that students can create.

To learn about wildfires, using the resources provided by Smokey the Bear are great to make connections with students.  This website has resources for all ages of students.  Older students can learn about the science of wildfires and how to fight wildfires while younger students can learn about being smart outdoors.

FEMA’s website for learning about disasters provides informative facts about the disasters along with interactive activities.  There are sections on wildfires, floods, and tornados.  Each section provides a written explanation appropriate for kids about the disasters, what they can do to prepare in case of the disaster, along with pictures of kids in the aftermath of the disasters that are not too graphic, but provide the students with the understanding of the impact of such an event.

Weather Wiz Kids is another website that provides fun and interactive information about weather related events.  This website is written by a meteorologist directly for kids and teachers. This website has experiments and activities to learn about the weather events along with safety information and weather related information on what causes the events.  There are many informative pictures that help making learning the subject visual and engaging.  Lesson plans are provided for teachers to make the connections between the information on the websites and activities and assessments students can complete to show their knowledge of the subject matter.

For older kids, Discovery Channel’s “Storm Chasers” would be an engaging resource for students to learn about tornados.  The show is a high energy show that gets close up images of the tornado chasers, tornados, and the devastation that they can leave behind.  Students can watch clips of the episodes, play the educational games, take online quizzes about the episodes, or follow their weather tracking site based on the various episodes.

All of these lesson ideas will help to prepare students in the event of a disaster along with teaching core-curriculum science content.

Article By Laura Ketcham

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Interactive Websites for Teaching Health & Hygiene

February is Dental Health Month for Kids.  This is a great tie in to educate students about both dental and physical hygiene along with other health related lessons.  An engaging way to teach these subjects is with interactive technology.  All types of students, including students with special needs, can benefit from lessons on health and hygiene.

hygiene

The ADA Classroom Resources & Ideas Website

The American Dental Association has a section of their website devoted to kids and teachers.  Teachers can find many resources about educating kids about dental health care.  This includes presentations, games, lesson plans, and hands-on activities.  The presentations include in-depth questions that you can ask the students in a discussion about dental health along with the appropriate answers for targeted grade levels.  The games section for kids includes online interactive games and videos about visiting the dentist and tooth care.  The “To Tell the Tooth” game was quite fun and I can see students really getting involved in this activity.

Interactive Lesson on Nutrition via BrainPOP

BrainPOP is a popular website that many teachers like to use for interactive and fun lessons.  Some of the resources on this website are available for free.  One of the interactive activities available for free on BrainPOP right now is about Nutrition and the Food Pyramid.

First, the students watch the video on Nutrition hosted by Moby, the funny BrainPOP robot character that is the star of all of their movies. Each movie has several components that go along with it including an interactive quiz, Q & A section, FYI section, and various activities.

After watching the video, the students can take the online quiz.  The interactive activity for this lesson is to have students classify foods into the food pyramid.  This would be a great activity to use on an interactive white board where students can come up to the front of the class to fill in the answers.  There is also a graphic organizer for students to write and analyze the food they ate from the day before along with a vocabulary worksheet.  The Q & A section provides a list of common questions that students may have based on the topic of nutrition.  The FYI section provides a more in depth explanation about how the Food Pyramid was established and updated.  Students, especially visually learners, will find the activities and lessons based on BrainPOP engaging and fun.

SuperScrub & Bubbles:  Grime Fighters

SuperScrub and Bubbles are cartoon characters that help to teach students about the importance of hand washing.  Teachers can download the cartoon booklet to read with students.  There are lesson plans, activities, and experiments to help students to learn how and when to wash their hands.

More Websites to Check Out

1.       Tips for Teaching Handwashing to Young Children

2.       Hand washing Activities for Kindergarteners

3.       Games for teaching Kids about Personal Hygiene

Article By Laura Ketcham

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AbleData – Resource for Assistive Technology for Students

AbleData is a website that provides data for users to find information about a very wide variety of assistive technology.  AbleData is sponsored by the National Institute on Disability and Rehabilitation Research (NIDRR), which is part of the US Department of Education.

abledata

The Products Page

The Products page is the heart of this site.  Users can search for assistive technology resources that can help students based on a particular need.  This site provides 20 broad categories like daily living, walking, communication, or mobility.  After selecting a major category, sub categories appear with various assistive technology options.  The options are links to learn more information about the assistive technology.  For example, let’s say you have a student who is having difficulty moving around the room.  You can select mobility as the main category and then see a variety of options like carts, manual wheel chairs, scooters, powered wheel chairs, sport wheel chairs, and accessories.  When you select a link, there will be a brief synopsis of the assistive technology device, the approximate cost, and vendors for the specific product.  This information can then be used to make suggestions to the IEP team, administrators, or even the parents.

The Products page also has a classified section where users can post either re-sales of assistive technology or want ads for needed assistive technology.  All of the process is screened through AbleData.

The Resources Page

The Resources page includes information such as information centers, conferences and companies that can help users to learn more about assistive technology.   This information can provide teachers with a wealth of resources for various disabilities, services, technology, professional development, and other resources.  You could use this page to find out information about the largest Assistive Technology Conference (ATIA) that is being held this week in Orlando.

The Library Page

The library contains three sections:  publications, literature and news.  The Publications page includes fact sheets and consumer guides about the various products that they provide information for on their products page.  This page also contains links with recent articles written from the National Institute for Rehabilitation Engineering.  The Literature page includes a search box and list to find recent articles, books, and publications about assistive technology.  I found this information very useful to learn more about the current trends of assistive technology.  The News You Can Use page is very similar to a blog about assistive technology.  Posts are made every few weeks including links to various resources, surveys, conferences, or other hot topics about disabilities and assistive technology.

My AbleData Account

If you create a free AbleData account, you are able to save the assistive technology devices that you would need to access again either to share with school staff members or parents, or for your future review.

AbleData is a great resource for all individuals who are involved in working with individuals with disabilities.  It can help to provide you with the most current assistive technology trends and application information.

Article By Laura Ketcham

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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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Holiday Lesson Plans for Students

December is a wondrous time of year.  The seasons are changing, there is a nip in the air, and the excitement of winter break is around the corner.  December is also a great month to include a variety of fun and engaging lessons around the themes of winter and the holidays.  These lessons tie right into standards-based lessons that can integrate the core curriculum in a creative way.  Here are some great websites to find holiday lesson plans and activity ideas.

holidays

HotChalk Lesson Plans Pages – Christmas, Hanukkah, and Kwanza

HotChalk Christmas & Holiday Lesson Plans Page has links to many online lesson plans and resources that tie in core-curriculum classes with holiday themed lessons.  The top of the page includes information about the history of the holiday.  Below there are links to craft ideas and lessons that involve language arts, math, science, PE, art, music, reading, and computers.  The Christmas page not only included Christmas lesson ideas, but also winter themed activities.  All of the lessons have grade ranges for which levels they would be appropriate.  This is great for teachers to use and find “at-a-glance lessons” that tie into what they are already teaching.  However, many of the lessons can be adapted for different grade levels or level abilities.  Most of the lessons on this page also include either modifications or extensions for special needs and gifted students.

Under the additional resources section, this site lists various items like holiday themed worksheets, SMART Board templates, coloring pages, and other multi-media tools.  I enjoyed the “Build-your-own Snow Man” activity that I found through the Christmas SMART Board Resources link.  This site allows students to come up to the board and move various styles of outfit pieces to make their own snow man.  This would be a great way to introduce a lesson on diversity or culture in a fun way.  I also liked the lesson where students had to write a story about the best Christmas they ever had to try and make “the Grinch” change his mind about Christmas.

The Hanukkah Lesson Plans Page is set up in a very similar way. The top of the page includes a history of the holiday and then lesson plan ideas follow.  This page is not as extensive, but can provide a spring board for including lessons on this December holiday.  One of the best resources from this page was the link to Torah Tots.  This is a page that includes Hanukah lessons, but also provides lessons and activities to learn about all of the Jewish Holidays and religious practices with a fun twist and at a level that younger students can understand.   This is a page that students could even explore during their computer center time or during computer lab times.

The Kwanzaa Lesson Plans Page currently only has resources that help teachers to teach about the variety of holidays that are celebrated around the world during December.  These lessons would be great to teach the ideas of compare and contrast along with using graphic organizers.  The lesson on their page includes using various stories from the different cultures and taking the students on a ‘journey’ through the different cultures and holidays.  I felt the Kwanzaa children’s page on the Kwanzaaland Website was a good starting point in teaching about Kwanzaa.  This page includes a brief history of the holiday, coloring pages and other worksheets for students to learn about the Kwanzaa.

This website is a great starting point to find great teacher-made lessons along with online resources for holiday lessons and activities for the classroom.   The site had many annotated links of the top websites that I would typically use when searching online for holiday themed ideas.  Below are more resources for you to check out while planning your holiday themed lessons.

More Sites to Check Out

Article by Laura Ketcham

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Holiday Learning Gifts

New Tech & Learning Toys

November is typically a great month with new technology and educational toys coming out for the holiday season.  This year is no exception.  Most of the top tech toys that I have seen in the stores this fall are also educational.  These gift ideas are both great for parents to give their children this holiday season along with ideas for teachers to add to their holiday classroom wish list.

toys

Interactive Gaming Tech

Microsoft released an add-on component to the Xbox called Kinect.  Kinect allows the user to interface with the system using voice and body movements rather than having to use a controller.  There are specific games that use this new technology that encourages the player to interact with the system and other players around them.  This is similar to the controller system that the Wii uses, but is touted as being more responsive.

Paper Jamz is a great new (inexpensive) musical and technology toy.  The paper guitar and drums have a touch-technology imbedded into the paper instrument.  When the child strums or select chords, the instrument will play with the sound being heard through the paper amplifier.  There are three different ways to play including a Perfect Play, Rhythm Mode, and Free Style Mode.  Perfect Play allows you to play along with one of the three pre-programmed songs even if you don’t know the song.  Rhythm Mode plays the accompaniment of the song while the child plays the lead guitar and Free Style Mode allows you to play any chords or notes on the guitar.  There are different styles of guitars to buy, and each guitar has different song pre-loaded onto it.  There is also a headphone jack which would be great for students who may be playing their Paper Jamz in a classroom setting.  This would be a great musical toy to have for indoor recess or in an elementary music class as a free-choice activity.

Reading & Tech

The Vtech V-reader is an e-book reader for pre-school children or struggling readers.  The e-book device loads various stories either from a book cartridge or from connecting the V-reader to a computer and downloading books.   Each ‘book’ contains stories, a story dictionary, and reading games.  As the student reads the story, words are read aloud and highlighted.  The stories contain picture animations and sounds that make the story interactive.  If the student selects a word on the screen it can provide a definition and learning questions.  If a student touches a picture on the screen various animations and interactive elements can be explored.  This is a great new learning toy to encourage young readers.

Another similar reading toy that I saw ‘in action’ this weekend when I went to a gathering is the Leapster Explorer.  The Leapster Explorer is a handheld video gaming device with an educational twist.  Games and activities can be loaded via store purchases, or Leaplet apps that are downloaded through the computer.  This system can run various educational games, e-books, videos, flash cards, and life skills games.  All of the learning games are based on National Standards and cover subject areas like reading, math, geography, and science.  What I found very interesting is when the kids had difficulty with one of the activities, he would ask the other kids for help.  A device that you would typically think of as a one-to-one computing device actually encouraged the interaction amongst the children including learning the various educational concepts in the games.  As a parent or a teacher, the data derived from the games on the Leapester can be viewed online to monitor your child’s or student’s progress.  This would be a great tool to help students when they struggle or to encourage enrichment of certain subjects that students are interested in gaining more knowledge.  Again – another great new tech tool to encourage young learners to be actively engaged in their learning.

STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering & Math) Toys

Lego Mindstorms are robotics kits for kids ages 10 and up.  The kit includes materials and directions to create 4 different robots and 6 different building challenges.  The robots are then programmed using the computer and the NXT technology.  Kids can then take the challenge to the next level by using the pieces to create and program their own robot.  In a classroom setting this would be great to use in a science, math, or technology class.  Students could work together to have a robot build-off or even use it as a spring board to get involved in competitive robot competitions.

K’nex is a popular building toy, similar to Lego’s.  They have come out with new kits for the holiday season including cars, animals, and amusement park attractions.  This is a great educational toy to have in the classroom as connections can be made to science, math and technology.  K’nex even has an educator website with lesson plans, connections with kits and standards, and various products that would be great to use in the classroom setting.  Using K’nex as a learning toy can also include helping students to build gross and fine motor skills.

All of these great learning toys are available now and would be great additions to classroom instruction and learning!

Article by Laura Ketcham

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