Friday, February 26, 2010

World Maths Day

World Maths Day is next Wednesday,March 3, and it's not too late for you and your home school children to join the fun! Visit the World Maths Day web site to enter the competition:
  • Students play at home and at school against other students around the world in live games of mental arithmetic. Each game lasts for 60 seconds and students can play up to 500 games, earning points for each correct answer. The students who answer the most questions appear in the Hall of Fame. Students cannot select their level but will move up as they progress (quoted from the web site).
Registration is free and only takes few minutes. The competition last for 48 hours, the amount of time that it is March 3 somewhere in the world. You can even play with your iphone or itouch! All participants will receive a certificate and winners receive prizes. Last year 452,681,681 questions were answered correctly by 1,952,879 students from 204 countries! Hurry, registration ends March 1!

Monday, February 22, 2010

Rich Curriculum Resource from the Annenberg Foundation

Annenberg Media, created by the same people who work in partnership with public television to produce high-quality educational programming, have free online curriculum for high school, college, and adult learning. Teacher education courses are available for curriculum topics in grades k-8. Go to to take a look.

Curriculum is available for the Arts, Foreign Languages (Spanish and French), Literature and Language Arts, Science, Mathematics, Social Studies and History.Most courses includes free video streaming which can be used on its own, with purchased printed materials (textbooks, etc), or in conjunction with another curriculum. Courses which do not include video streaming (and those that do) have DVDs or Videos available for purchase. Teacher guides and continuing education courses for educators are also available.

I viewed the introduction to Algebra, the first of 26 half-hour algebra lessons, which explained the importance and relevance of algebra. The video was high quality, kept my interest, and I actually learned something. I also viewed the first Spanish lesson of Destinos, An Introduction to High School and College Level Spanish. The 52 half-hour video lessons use a telenovela to immerse "students in everyday situations with native speakers and introduces the cultures, accents, and dialects of Mexico, Spain, Argentina, and Puerto Rico" (quoted from the web site).
Lessons include speaking, listening and comprehension skills.

The material for grades k-8 are aimed at helping teachers to better understand student learning, facilitate classroom activities, and increase the understanding of curriculum concepts. The videos are not meant to be viewed by the students, but parents may be able to use portions of some to illustrate important concepts or ideas.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Creating Comics

Those of you who enjoy graphic novels and comics might enjoy making your own comics. Kids especially will enjoy these online applications for comic creation which, believe it or not, have educational value. Creating online comics can increase their information literacy and media literacy, enable them to participate in an online community, foster creativity, and provide a fun way to demonstrate learning. Just think about it. They could use a comic to summarize a book plot, illustrate and explain a scientific concept, summarize an historic event, or create their own story. Creating a comic requires planning, sequential thinking, artistic ability, and a sense of humor.

The following are some of my favorite comic making applications. Most are free; I think one of them has a 14 day free trial and then charges $1 per student for 30 days. ReadWriteThink's Comic Creator is straight-forward and easy to use, and provides backgrounds. Results can be printed. MakeBeliefsComix is free, can be written in Spanish and some other languages, and has information for teachers and home schoolers. Pixton has the 14 day free trial, and of the sites I'm previewing here, has the most creative flexibility. I used Bitstrips to make the comic below after registering for a free account.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Soomo and Too Late to Apologize

This satirical video Too Late to Apologize:A Declaration was created by the guys at Soomo publishing, the creators of online educational resources for high school and college. Lessons are created by college professors and include primary sources, videos, interviews, and assessments (multiple choice and short answer), all available online! I took a test drive of their Americans Governing course with my 12 year-old daughter who urged me to make an account immediately so she could start using it!

Unfortunately, I was unable to create an account because I am not a professor affiliated with a college. I called Soomo's corporate office and shared my frustration that I was unable to use this fine resource as a home schooler. The representative I spoke to assured me that there was a way for home schoolers to use it-- A home school association in Pennsylvania is using it. She took my name and number, and promised me that me area sales rep would call me. I sure hope so, because I would definitely like to use their materials!

Soomo also has web resources for: International Relations, Comparative Governments,
and is developing classes for writing, political science, Spanish, biology, business, and history.

Take a look at these Soomo and let me know what you think! I would love to be able to tell Soomo that home schoolers are interested. Better yet, if you like what you see, contact them yourselves, and let them know that home schoolers are a potential market for their products.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Graphic Novels and Mangas

Last week, I attended a Library Media Connection webinar on the "Best of the Best" Graphic Novels for 2009 with Michele Gorman. Michele is an expert on graphic novels, having published at least 3 books on using graphic novels to promote literacy. As I pointed out in an earlier post, graphic novels are a great way to engage reluctant readers, introduce the classics, and expose children who have difficulty reading to good literature. Graphic books are also tackling nonfiction topics like history, biography, and science. In the books that Michele recommends, the artwork is often exemplary. And besides, graphic novels are just fun to read!

Michele reviewed 10 books each at the elementary, middle, and high school levels. Here, I share some of her recommendations. Please keep in mind that I have not yet read any of these books, but they are all on my reading list. (I usually only endorse books I have already read, but given Michele's expertise, I feel fairly comfortable sharing her recommendations.)

"Best of the Best" for Elementary School:
  • Babymouse #11: Dragonslayer by Jennifer L. Holm and Matt Holm. Random House Books for Young Readers. Michele's comments: Incorporates Math into the plot. Focus on empowering young girls.
  • Binky the Space Cat by Ashley Spires. Kids Can Press. Michele's comments: Very funny, solid story.
  • Fairy Idol Kanon, Volume 1 by Mera Hakamada. Udon Manga. Michele's comments: Manga for kids, especially kids with older siblings who enjoy manga. Theme of empowering girls.
  • Little Mouse Gets Ready by Jeff Smith. Toon Books. Michele's comments: Little mouse gets dressed. Great for toddlers, preschoolers, and beginning readers.
  • Sticky Burr; The Prickly Peril by John Lechner. Candlewick Press. You know those sticky burrs that lurk in the grass and get stuck on your clothes? Michele's comments: Smart.

"Best of the Best" for middle school:
  • The Chronicles of Arthur: Sword of Fire and Ice by John Matthews and Mike Collins. Aladdin. Based on the King Arthur legends. Michele's comment: Great art and great story.
  • A Family Secret by Eric Heuvel, translated by Lorraine T. Miller. Farrar, Straus and Giroux. Award winning. Developed in cooperation with the Anne Frank House/Resistance Museum. Jeroen's grandmother believes her father, a Nazi sympathizer, delivered her best friend to the Nazis.
  • Gettysburg: The Grahic Novel by C.M. Butzer. Harper Collins. Nonfiction. Michele's comments: Illustrated in shades of blue and gray. Depicts the impact of the battle on the town. Gettysburg addressed told through imagery.

"Best of the Best" for high school:

Friday, February 5, 2010

The Olympics and Science

The 2010 Winter Olympics will be coming to us live from Vancouver next Friday night (February 12), and what a great opportunity for all of us to learn, regardless of our interest in sports.

Visit NBC Learn for videos and lessons related to the games. From the NBC Learn web site:

"NBC Learn interviews athletes, coaches, and scientists in this original 16-part series, and unravels the physics, biology, chemistry, and materials engineering behind the Olympic Winter Games. The Science of the Olympic Winter Games is made possible through a partnership with the National Science Foundation." (NBC Universal. 2010. NBC Learn. Retrieved February 5, 2010, from

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

The National Science Digital Library

Ever get stuck trying to explain a science concept to your 12 year-old? I do, all the time, but now I've discovered The National Science Digital Library. Funded by the National Science Foundation, the National Science Digital Library (NSDL) provides organized access to high-quality Web sites and digital resources in the fields of Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM). Advanced searches can be fine-tuned by grade level, subject, and format (e.g. audio, video, interactive, text). Resources are available for students preK through college. Professional and research collections are also available.

Why is NSDL better than google? Well, when NSDL identifies an online resource, you don't have to worry about whether the science is accurate. Also, none of the web sites are .coms, which means that you won't have to pay to use a resource. NSDL enables you to do a more targeted search, so you won't have to wade through pages and pages of irrelevant hits. And you don't have to worry about accidentally stumbling on inappropriate content.