Five Tech Tools

in the Language Arts Classroom

What the session is about:

I will be discussing five tools that I have found to either make my life easier or increase student interest in the subject matter. We will look at:
  1. The website NoRedInk.com as an interactive and personalized tool for teaching and monitoring grammar.
  2. How Today's Meet can create competition and buzz among your students.
  3. Great websites for writing prompts.
  4. Creating informative/persuasive digital flyers with Smore or Tackk.
  5. Getting creative with the iOS app "Font Candy".


The most important concept to remember is that it's okay to fail magnificently. Try these out -- if they don't work for 4th period, they may work for 5th. If they don't work for either, keep it in your tool belt and shrug and laugh it off with your students; they, more than us, have a "try it and see if it works" attitude.

1. NoRedInk

NoRedInk is a customizeable sentence editing tool. The best part? It's FREE!
1. You choose the category, number of sentences, and whether it goes to the whole class or an individual.
2. It gives color-coded feedback on student performance.
3. The sentences contain subjects related to student-chosen interests.

2. Today's Meet

TodaysMeet is a site that uses the "backchannel" to help students brainstorm or collaborate, even ask questions and give you feedback in real-time.
In my classroom, I use this (sometimes) when I'm showing short videos, listening to relevant music, or reading stories aloud. Just give them a directive on what you want them to keep an eye out for when posting!

After the session, you can save the transcript of your class' input.

It's kind of like Twitter (but unblocked and you don't need an account).

Assignment Example: We were studying Transcendentalism and there are 5 basic tenets - Nonconformity, nature, individuality, self-reliance, and free thought. I played a list of songs I put together on Grooveshark and as they listened, they were to quote the lyric and give the tenet. Here is a transcript of their responses.

  • Looking for songs that relate to your reading? Here is a list someone compiled.

3. Great Websites for Writing Prompts

Weebly -- A simple site for setting up attractive, yet manageable blogs for your students.
Writing Prompts Tumblr Page -- Has thought-provoking prompts for students in all genres aligned with the CCSS.
Photo Prompts Tumblr Page -- Has photographs/illustrations paired with writing prompts.
Daily Post - This page is a combo photography and writing website for bloggers. Use it to find inspiration for writing prompts.
Video writing prompts.

4. Beautiful Digital Flyers

Students can easily create informative and persuasive flyers over any topic imaginable. Robert Frost? Yep! The Great Depression? Why not! How about an informative study guide for a test? Sure!

They can embed video, photographs, and hyperlinks to outside sources along with as much information as you require and then with a click of the mouse, they can e-mail you the flyer or upload the link to Edmodo, Blackboard, Moodle, etc.

Two of my favorite options are Smore and Tackk.

  • Smore is what this flyer was created with. It requires students to sign up for an account but gives students more flexibility with content. Here is an example on Langston Hughes.

  • Tackk is very similar to Smore, but requires no logins. It limits uploads to photos only (no video files). You can link to YouTube, etc. Student examples from Imagist assignment - example 1, example 2
  • If you're looking for a similar free iOS app, Storehouse does something similar, with less flexibility for design.

5. Font Candy (iOS)

Font Candy is an app I stumbled upon last month. It is not 'overtly' English-related, but I think it opens up the possibility for students to work with quotes from the text and create an attractive image.
Assignment Example: I had students write intriguing quotes on a giant sticky note in the classroom as they found them in the novel. Then, they found the quote that most resonated with them and paired it with an image in the FontCandy app. From there, they reflected on the quote in essay format.
  • Another use? Create your own photo prompts from quotes from a story students read this week.

Android users: Overgram is the app my students used.

6. Other random fun stuff!

Fake Tweet generator.
  • Simitator.com
  • Student example from Catcher in the Rye below.
Collaborize Classroom
  • Interactive discussion board.
Lit Charts
  • Easy to digest charts on books that trace characters, themes, chapters, etc.
Edmodo
  • Content management system, like Moodle but way EASY!!!
  • PLUS - there's a fabulous group of educators who will help you out if you need ideas for lessons. For instance -- I posted this flyer and asked for input. I got over 100 views within an hour and people helping me out.
60 Second Recap
  • Really short, quirky videos explaining aspects of common novels/plays. (Also on YouTube.com)
Feedly
  • RSS feed aggregator I use to put all my students' blog posts in one place instead of having to go to each individual website.
Book Recommendation Sites
Classroom Library Management
  • BookSource Classroom Organizer is an online digital library that also has an iOS app. It allows you to scan in your books and it registers them into your digital library. Then, when a kid wants to check it out, you just scan it with your iOS device and choose their name and it records it as checked out! You can also do this through their website.
  • It also runs reports and lists the students who have your books checked out.
Head's Up iOS app
  • Developed by Ellen DeGeneres for fun gameplay, if you have lots of vocabulary words you want students to use throughout the year, you can buy a "build your own" deck for $.99 through an in-app purchase. It's super fun and makes kids think on their feet and rephrase definitions in different ways to help their classmates guess the word.
Hemingway App
  • Fun tool that analyzes your students' writing according to the "Hemingway" rules. They look for passive voice, wordiness, adverbs, and overly complex sentences.
Freerice.com
  • Vocabulary development - for a good cause!