Using Blogs and Wikis in the Classroom – Ideas Needed!

I’m in a workshop about using blogs and wikis in the classroom at the moment and just heard a great way to use a blog in the classroom.  One of our 6th grade science teachers set up a blog where a zoologist (his fiancée) posted short articles about various animals or topics relating to zoology and his students would read the posts and comment.  He talked about how excited the students were to see if the zoologist had responded to their comments.  Some students even read, commented and corrected each others’ comments.  What a great idea to connect with someone in the field!

My 7th and 8th grade students are getting ready to start emailing penpals in France with ePals.  The teacher and I have been trying to think of a common project the students can do.  Perhaps we will start a blog or a wiki to collaborate with each other.  If anyone out there has done this type of a project with email penpals, I would love to hear about it.

I ran across this link on my resources page and there are some great ideas there!  Enjoy!

Pinterest – Get inspired!

I am just loving Pinterest for getting French teaching ideas at the moment too.  If you are an educator and haven’t started using Pinterest – PLEASE do yourself a favor and join Pinterest!  Start searching for the subject you teach and start following some people who have ideas that line up with yours.  You will be amazed at what will happen.  It takes Personal Learning Community to a whole new level.  It’s also very addicting.  You have to be invited to join Pinterest so if you need someone to give you an invite, feel free to contact me and I will beglad to do so.  Surfing on Pinterest tonight, I found the video below and Go Animate! and some other cute ideas like this printable Eiffel Tower.

New loot for my classroom

After going to a foreign language teacher gathering this week, I was inspired to go out and look for bargains that would encourage students to speak more French in my classroom or for items that would just make learning more fun.  I realized after reflecting on my 1st quarter that I only played two games with my students?  What?  What the heck was I thinking?  I seriously need to loosen up and start having fun with these kids or I really will teach myself out of a job for next year.

So, I went to the Dollar Tree and instead of just buying supplies for my classroom, I browsed through the toy section and found these darts.  They have a sticky end and will stick to any smooth surface.  I immediately thought: WHITEBOARD!!  I can easily snag an image of a dartboard and project it from my LCD projector onto the whiteboard.  With students divided into teams, I can ask them a question and the first person to get it right will have the chance to throw a dart and earn points for their team.  This could work with any topic and they were only $1.00!  I bought two packs just in case they get destroyed (which there is an enormous possibility for in a middle school classroom).

I also found these cute little cones.  I immediately thought about games – like use them to mark the starting line for where the kids will dash to do something or maybe do a ring toss.  These have praise words on them as well and are made out of a durable rubbery plastic so you could put them on a student’s desk as a way to quickly praise them for doing something awesome.

I don’t have a photo of the two flyswatters I bought but I’m sure you can easily imagine the solid, plastic kind that are sort of floppy.  A colleague in Social Studies introduced me to the idea of putting words or ideas on flashcards on the wall and letting two students use the flyswatters to slap the card with the word you describe.  OH MY!  What a simple idea and why hadn’t I heard this before?  I borrowed her flyswatters on a whim the other day and the kids loved it!  I put the in two teams since her swatters were two different colors (red and blue teams) and I had two sets of the same vocabulary – one small and one larger sized.  I bought magnetic clips at Wal-Mart sometime ago so I clipped all the cards to the whiteboard and scrambled them all up.  I gave the students 2 points if they slapped the smaller cards and 1 point if they slapped the larger card.  I called out the words in English and they slapped the French word that meant the same thing.  I did tell them to hold the swatter on the word and they only got one slap so they had to make a good choice.  They boys loved the fact that they got to slap something period and of course they loved the race aspect and being competitive.  The girls liked it to but at this age they can handle almost everything.  I seem to keep trying to find things to please the boys and get them engaged.  They flyswatters I found at Harris Teeter in their clearance buggies.

In the same buggies I also found some “Guess Who?” games for half price.  These are the ones with two trays and there are many faces of different people (all races) in slots.  The students draw an identity from a deck of cards then they each ask yes/no questions to discover the identity of the other person.  Since I’m getting ready to teach describing people I thought this would be a great way to get the kids speaking a little French.   They only had 3 sets though so I will have to turn this into a station activity.

So bargain hunting paid off for me this week and I will definitely keep my eyes open in the future for more cheap little things like this to breathe some more life into my classroom.  I am now avidly scanning Pinterest for teaching ideas (instead of just recipes).  Teachers, please share your ideas!

Word Clouds

I have been playing around with word cloud generators this week. My students have made a list of 10 things they are thankful for and then found the French equivalents. They made their own word art today in class. Tomorrow we’re going to the computer lab to generate some art on the computer that can be published to our class web page.

I have found that word art generators are hard to come by. I ran into Wordle and Tagxedo along the way.  Wordle seems to be very popular but I find the options to be a bit limited.  Tagxedo has a lot more options and allows you to create some really great looking shapes with words.  For private users, you could even create some of this art and buy it on t-shirts etc.

Here is what I am thankful for:


FLANC Ideas 2011

Ok, maybe almost having bronchial pneumonia was a good thing for me this weekend.  I have gone nuts catching up on blogs I love to follow, found some new blogs to follow, and writing up my own posts.  I have missed my personal learning community or professional learning network or whatever it is you want to call it!

I went to the FLANC conference a few weeks ago and got lots of great ideas.  I whipped out my handy little bag full of goodies today and found some things I’d like to post here that may help some other folks.

  • PowerPoint and Motivation in the Classroom – This session had some great ideas on how juice up PowerPoint for your classroom.  One neat idea in particular was how to embed a Flash timer in your PowerPoint.  This might come in really handy for me as I like to put all my warm-ups on PowerPoint.  The kids need something to get them moving as they like to chatter and then before I know it, I’ve lost class time due to so many taking so long to do a short warm-up.  You will need to scroll down a bit to find the presentation she did at FLANC on 10/14/2011.
  • Blog it! How to Implement and Use Communicative Blogging in the FL Classroom – Awesome session from a school where the foreign language department has every student set up with a Google account.  The students then use blogs as digital portfolios so they can publish their work.
  • What’s Cooking in World Languages? – Interesting presentation on how to cook simple foods in class and combine that activity with teaching grammar along the way.  They had an interesting take on using the culture and interest in the food to make grammar (teaching imperative etc.) more palatable for students (no pun intended).
  • Teachers as Advertisers – I didn’t go to this session but another teacher passed the presenter’s link to me.  She has some neat ideas here about teachers being advertisers and teaching foreign language from that point of view.
I have one more that I would like to share but am waiting for a link to the materials.  Enjoy!