Freerice.com – Feeding the Hungry, One Question at a Time

Teaching basic vocabulary and math skills to today’s students can be challenging at times, and remediation for students who are struggling can be overwhelming.  One extremely valuable tool available for teachers and students is Freerice.com, a non-profit website that supports the World Food Program.

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Answer a question right, and rice is donated to hungry people. It’s a win-win.

Freerice is a web-based trivia game that has two goals:

  1. Provide education to everyone for free.
  2. Help end world hunger by providing rice to hungry people for free.
Many different subjects of questions are available, most of which being leveled to accommodate any level of learner.

Many different subjects of questions are available, most of which being leveled to accommodate any level of learner.

While this charitable idea on its own is ingenious, it creates an intrinsic reward to those who participate that is very addictive – students always are wanting to answer more questions to keep donating more rice.  Additionally, teachers can create accounts for their students and have them join class groups, where goals can be set and class tallies of rice can be made to see how much rice the entire class has donated over time.

Many different subjects are available to answer questions on, including English vocabulary, basic math skills, geography skills, and foreign languages, with more subjects being added continuously.  What’s more, many of the subjects have the option to change the level of difficulty as you are answering questions, which allows you to individualize this for each student based on his/her needs.

If the content is too easy for the student, the site will gradually increase their level as they answer questions.  If the questions prove to be more challenging, it will alter the difficulty as well.  This is a godsend for teachers who instruct groups of students at varying learning levels, tailoring the activity to meet the needs of all students.

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Become a Sensai of Classroom Management with Class Dojo

Class Dojo

Use any device (now even Android compatible!) to manage classroom behavior.

Move over, Mr. Miyagi – Behavior management in the classroom just got an upgrade.  Actually, Class Dojo has been around for a while now, but a recent upgrade has made this easy-to-use app available to Android users as well as iOS.

Class Dojo is a tool that teachers can use to manage both positive and negative behaviors of their students within the classroom.  A teacher sets up his/her classes, decides what positive behaviors will be rewarded, and can begin using the program immediately in the classroom.

Wax on, wax off

Class Dojo works using a point system, where positive behavior exhibited by students is is awarded with a point.  Negative behaviors, on the other hand, result in a student losing a point.  At any given time, a student’s overall behavior breakdown can be accessed and reviewed to summarize how he/she has behaved in class in a given time frame.

When students are awarded points, the teacher can select one or more students (all of which can be done from a tablet, PC, Mac, or smart phone (Android or iOS), and what behavior is being awarded.  If the Class Dojo class screen is projected, the student(s) receiving the reward are instantly recognized in a pop-up on the screen, along with a satisfying chime to let the class know what behavior has been noticed by the teacher.  Alternatively, a teacher could review the points at increments during class, or at the end of each class to recognize students for their positive behaviors.  Additionally, Class Dojo automatically sends out reports to parents each Friday, given that you have entered email addresses for your students beforehand.

In my own experience with 5th graders, I have noticed that Class Dojo does a great job of focusing on the positive behaviors of students, even when negative behaviors are occurring at the same time.  With many reward/punishment systems, the positive and negative consequences are not connected, and many students receive more attention and recognition for doing things “wrong,” although they may be doing many more things “right.”  Class Dojo summarizes both together, and students can receive more attention for the positive decisions they make in the classroom.

Google Apps for Education – The Basics

As part of a training unit that I’ve been developing for some co-workers, I’ve put together this series of short short how-to screencasts to help even the least tech-savvy teacher breeze through Google Apps like a pro.

The first video gives an overview of how cloud-based storage works with Google Drive, walking through the basics of uploading files and sharing them with others. The following three videos demonstrates the basic functions of Google Docs, Google Presentations, and Google Forms.

Although these videos were created to show teachers how useful Google’s free web-based applications can be, anyone can benefit from these invaluable resources that Google has been so kind to offer us.

Enjoy! (and be sure to share these with others who you think would benefit from a little basic Google know-how)

Tagxedo – Word Clouds Evolved

ImageBack in the day (a few years ago, to be exact) I started using a word cloud generator (Wordle.net) to create engaging word clouds for my students in the classroom.  I thought this was the greatest thing since sliced bread, and rightfully so – a program that could take a URL or a bunch of text and present the words in a new and engaging way for readers to make connections about the main ideas and details.  After a while, I drifted away from using Wordle, but recently I have rediscovered it in a new form – Tagxedo.

Very similar in theory to Wordle’s initial undertaking, Tagxedo can be used to show the frequency of words used in passages, articles, or websites by how large the word is in the cloud that is created.  But, unlike Wordle, Tagxedo allows the users to form the clouds into custom shapes from images.  Instead of just choosing between squared and rounded edges, the arrangement of the words can send a message in the image that is created by their presence and absence in the frame.

I look forward to using Tagxedo soon in my own classroom to hep teach main idea and theme, copying and pasting text from novels or articles and applying them to images that represent the essential information that the text is trying to portray.  This could be especially useful for assisting students who have a hard time recognizing this information without prompting; they could infer these details from the form that the words take.  

Any of you who have been using Tagxedo in your classroom, I’d love to hear your ideas on how it can engage your students.