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Travel Our Solar System With This Interactive Infographic


Space Race is an animated infographic that takes users on a scrolling adventure that begins on Earth and ends at the edge of the solar system, some 21 billion kilometers away. Comprehending the enormity of our solar system is difficult, but Space Race certainly helps put it in perspective.

Space Race

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Cut Down Grading Time with This 3-Step Homework Hack


homework hackStudents never appreciate working hard on a homework assignment, only to have it go ungraded for days, sometimes even weeks. It’s easy to get behind, but with this 3-step homework hack, you’ll be able to cut down on your grading time and get back to what you do best—teach.

Step 1                                             
A student collects the homework and, on a separate class roster page, marks a check next to the student’s name for an assignment handed in.

Step 2
The papers then go to another student who checks to see that the entire assignment was done. If so, he or she places a second checkmark on the roster. At this point, only papers with two checkmarks are on the roster. All others are incomplete assignments.

Step 3
The third check may be added in a number of ways: If the answers are either right or wrong, a key given to another student might allow that student to correct the papers. Or, papers may be redistributed to the class at large, with no one having his or her own paper, and corrected as part of the lesson.

Now that it’s time to record the grades, you have an easy way to assess each effort. If you substitute the checkmark for numbers 0-3 in your marking book, it will make averaging out a homework grade relatively easy.

This homework hack comes from the April issue of Think Teachers.

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Booktrack Classroom Creates an Immersive Reading Experience


BooktrackOver the weekend, we came across Booktrack, a free web application that syncs digital books to audio, resulting in an immersive reading experience.

Students can choose from books or essays in the Booktrack library or write their own story and add an accompanying soundtrack by choosing from over 20,000 professional-quality audio files.

booktrack classroom

Here’s how it works: Say, for example that you choose to read Romeo and Juliet. As you read, you’ll notice a descending marker in the right-hand margin of the page. This marker moves down the page as you read so that your reading speed accompanies the soundtrack. If the marker moves too fast, use the plus and minus icons at the bottom of the page to increase or decrease the speed.

Using Booktrack Classroom
Booktrack can be used in a variety of ways to engage with students. Here are just a few examples:

  • Narrative Writing – Students add music and audio to their original stories.
  • Informative and Explanatory Writing – Students compose essays and articles selecting suitable audio to accompany their text.
  • Literature Study – Students gain insight and increased understanding of the text by creating their own soundtracks for novels, stories, and plays they are reading in class.
  • Read-Alouds – Teacher and student led read-alouds are enhanced through the addition of sound and music to the chapter or act being presented.

In addition to this, Booktrack has assembled a variety of free lesson plans for students at the elementary, middle and high school levels, covering a variety of subjects and learning outcomes. All lesson plans have been created by professional teachers and conform to CORE standards and best practice.

Guide to Reading Comprehension

Teach Beginning Readers Genre With This Free, Interactive Map


One of the best ways to help beginning readers discover books they’ll love is by teaching them about genre. Thanks to the folks over at Book Country, your students can learn all about different genres—mystery, fantasy, romance, science fiction, thriller, and other subgenres—by clicking their way around an interactive map.

The map covers over 60 categories and also connects users to popular books in each genre. Click here or on the image below to try it out.

beginning readers

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The Best of the Week: Volume 4


Best of the WeekThere’s never enough time to blog and reblog all of the interesting resources we find during the week, so we decided to start a Best of the Week List where we share all of the education-related blogs, articles, apps and resources we come across every week.

Classroom Management/ Student Engagement
The Difference Between Praise and Feedback
More Than Half of Students 'Engaged' in School, Says Poll

Reading and Language Arts
74 Books to Read if You Love the Hunger Games
Planet E-Book: 80+ free classics for download

22 Interactive Lessons to Bring Earth Day to Life
Reactions: a YouTube channel that uncovers the chemistry in everyday life
Astronomy Picture of the Day Archive
Universe Sandbox: an interactive space simulator
Bright Idea: Creating a School-Wide Recycle Center
A virtual tour of Space Shuttle Discovery

History and Social Studies
Unlikely simultaneous historical events
Watch as 1000 years of European borders change (timelapse map)
10 Bold Battlefield Deceptions That Actually Worked
Eye-Opening Photos Juxtapose Images of Present-Day and WWI-Era Europe
American Officer Writes a Letter to His Son on Hitler's Personal Stationery

Random Links
Before you judge others or claim any absolute truth consider that…
39 Test Answers That Are 100% Wrong But Totally Genius At The Same Time
Does the Universe Have a Purpose?
Is It a Mistake to Try to Teach Financial Literacy in High School?

36 Brain Breaks for Students

5 Ways to Help Struggling Readers


struggling readers

Use the Web to find texts they want to read

In the past, finding books that piqued our struggling readers’ interest was challenging, but with the help of websites like Bookwink, Whichbook, Shelfari, Your Next Read and BookLamp.org, finding good books has never been easier. Use these sites, and show your students how to use them, too.  

Pair struggling readers with younger readers

Even when we give our students their choice of reading materials, many struggling readers continue to choose books that are too difficult for them. When you think about it, this makes a lot of sense. Most sixth grade students don’t want to be caught with the Magic Tree House books when their friends are reading the Divergent series.

Pairing these students with younger readers is a simple solution to this. The “indignities” associated with “babyish” books are no longer an issue when we pair our struggling readers with younger readers and have them read aloud to them.

Find creative ways to create independent reading time

If you timed it out, we bet you’d be surprised by how much of the day is squandered on interruptions—you know, special deliveries, messages, forgotten lunches, notes, or quick questions from other teachers. Train your students to always have a book out on their desk. When an interruption occurs—and they will occur—students should immediately begin reading.

Here’s another idea: When students finish their work early, skip the extra dittos and busy work; instead, allow them to read silently until their peers are all finished.

Take Phonics instruction beyond “sounding it out”
Encountering big words can be daunting for the struggling reader. Relying solely on teaching readers to “sound out” letters can prevent growth and lead to frustration, especially when encountering words with many syllables or words that don’t follow the standard rules. Teach readers to break words down into chunks – called “chunking” or “reading by analogy.”

Handle struggling readers with care

We have best intentions when we say, “Stop and reread this sentence,” or “Can you read a little bit faster?” but we should really avoid this type of coaching. To learn how to handle your struggling readers with care, check out a video by Amy Mascott called, “What Not to Say to Emerging Readers.”




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An Inspirational Quote for Educators


Whenever I come across an inspirational or thought-provoking quote, I always add it to an ongoing list I've been keeping over the past couple of years. Here's one that I came across this morning. I'm always looking to expand my list, so please feel free to share some of your own!

quotes for educators

140 Interactive Maps for History and Social Studies Teachers


social studies teachersI love interactive maps and this morning, Stumble Upon took me to what may be the holy grail of free interactive maps!

My Reading Mapped gives users the opportunity to digitally experience history through over 140 Google Map formatted documentaries on history and science. 

Forty maps in the collection are linked to free eBooks that allow users to read more about explorers and their expeditions. Each location plot is cited with a quote, page reference, web link and/or other source. 

Maps have been categorized by the following:

If you’re looking for more interactive maps, check out one of our recent blogs posts, “5 of the Best Interactive Maps for Social Studies Teachers.”



Social Media Strategies for Teachers

9 Ways Students Can Develop a Growth Mindset


Last week, Larry Ferlazzo reblogged a photograph of a growth-mindset chart he came across on Twitter. I liked so much that I decided to reformat it into a printable version. To save, simply right click on the image and "save as."

Growth Mindset

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5 Ways Students Can Celebrate Earth Day


earth dayOn April 22, communities across the world will celebrate Earth Day. Students can seize this opportunity to raise awareness and educate their parents and friends about the importance of caring not only for the planet, but their local community as well. Here are some high-impact ideas for students to make a difference this Earth Day:

Plant a tree
Leaves trap and filter pollutants; they also provide cooling shade in hot urban environments. Here’s another fun fact: An acre of mature trees can potentially absorb the CO2 produced when you drive your car 26,000 miles!

Do you know a neighborhood in need of trees? If you live in the Detroit area like we do, you can help “green” your community by applying for The Greening of Detroit’s Community Tree Planting Program. If you live in another part of the country, visit sites like Arbor Day Now, Trees for the Future, or ForestNation for more information about planting a tree.  

Promote environmental responsibility through your student organization
Your student groups may not yet be environmentally conscious, but we’ve got a simple way to change that:

Encourage your student organizations to hold a tree kit fundraiser! Selling tree planting kits raises awareness, supports environmental efforts at home and around the globe, and raises money for school organizations at the same time. For every tree kit planted, another tree is planted elsewhere. This is made possible through a partnership between The Earth Day Network and ForestNation.

Buy in bulk—or better yet, skip the packaging altogether
Instead of purchasing individual packages, try to buy in bulk. Better yet, support a local organic garden and buy food without packaging. Purchasing fresh food not only decreases packaging, it keeps you healthy and reduces waste. Urban farms reduce carbon emissions by reducing the number of miles food must travel to make it to a grocery store thereby decreasing fuel consumption in the shipping process.

Take part in community spring clean-up efforts
This one is easy, free, and requires little equipment beyond a good pair of gloves. Snow is melting, revealing our long winter’s dirty secrets - trash. It’s everywhere. Go pick it up, even if it’s not yours. Check your community newspaper to find clean-up initiatives in your area.

Take care of your local wildlife
Birds are perfectly capable of building their own nests, so why should we build homes for them? It’s unfortunate, but as a result of deforestation and human development, animals are increasingly losing their homes. Helping birds find a new home is easier than you might think. All you need are a few supplies, most of which you’ll probably have lying around the house. Below you’ll find instructions for building your own birdhouse.

What you’ll need

  • One empty half-gallon cardboard milk carton
  • Scissors
  • Approximately two feet of wire—light enough to bend, strong enough to hold the weight of the birdhouse
  • Two nails and a hammer
  • Dried grass
  • Waterproof packing tape

What you’ll do

  • First, completely open up the top of the carton and wash it with soap
  • Take the scissors and cut a hole about the size of a doorknob in one side of the milk carton, a few inches below the top folds. This is the “door.”
  • On the other side of the carton, make two holes—one above the other with a nail. The top hole should be about 1/3 of the way down from the top. The bottom hole should be 1/3 of the way up from the bottom
  • Now put the wire through the top nail hole, along the inside of the carton and out the bottom hole
  • Make a bed for the birds by putting dried grass inside
  • Close the top of the carton and seal it with tape
  • Find a pole or tree outside that’s not surrounded by other trees, poles, or buildings
  • Bang the nails in with the hammer, about a foot apart, one above the other
  • Hang the birdhouse on the nails by wrapping one end of the wire around one nail, and the other end around the other nail. Make sure it’s good and tight so the carton will stay up!

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Photo credit: NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center / Foter / Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 2.0 Generic (CC BY-NC 2.0)

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