Students Explore Poetry Through Hyperlinks

I was trying to find a new way to make poetry more engaging last month. As I searched for intersections between poetry and technology, I found the genre of poetry that, along with innovative web comics, inspired this experiment. I created a website with a couple poems peppered with hyperlinks. The links point to clues both informative and intriguing. My hope was make exploring a poem more of an adventure than a chore. It seemed to be successful. My students were able to articulate the concepts and themes of the poems. The discussion was more informed and, therefore, more interesting.

“My Maps” from Google (an actual example)

I figured after being so gushy about the My Maps option from Google I ought to make a good example. So here is a good start on a territorial acquisition map of the United States of America. I did it free hand based on a number of different maps I found on wikipedia and a few other places- so it’s not perfect and it still needs some work but I think it shows what you can do with little effort. Yes, I promise the writing will improve :). The map took about 45 minutes or so to make. Most of that time was spent looking at various maps. I also increased my speed after I figured out I could move points in polygons after I finished rather than having to start all over. I also made a quick screencast covering the basics of the My Maps tools.

Onomatopoeia- A Hook

The following post is my attempt to clarify how I go about conceiving and constructing lessons. If you’d just like the source files and could care less how I think (which I imagine is the majority), they are linked at the bottom of the page. This is how I ended up with this fairly interesting introduction to onomatopoeia. Yesterday, I found a tutorial on how to make cartoon style lettering for comics using Photoshop at It looked like fun and I figured since Jim was going to be hitting poetry pretty soon, and I had some time during Spring Break to try things, I’d give it a shot. I think I found it using StumbleUpon which is a great site that lets you find some really odd things and that in turn tends to inspire me to make some interesting lesson. I try to keep the question “Can I use this to teach something?” in the back of my head at all times. The first thing I did was brainstorm all the onomatopoeia words I could think of. The main one that kept coming to mind was crash and that led to the association with crash course- finally! an excuse to use the crash sound in a presentation. With that title, “A Crash Course in Onomatopoeia” in mind […]

Rollercoasters, Personal Pies and Data

U.S. Housing Prices The first example is an animated roller coaster ride of US home costs adjusted for inflation. It’s a pretty dramatic and entertaining way to look at the data (link from Digg). It makes a graph “real” in a way that I’ve never really seen before. Personal Pies Personal Pies (great title) is even better because it allows your students a lot of flexibility in the product they create and the data couldn’t be any more relevant to them. He’s created pie charts for his life- everything from portion of life with beard to number of states he’s visited (there is one non-school safe “pie” so be warned). This is a perfect project for students dealing with pie charts and percentages. (from Anil Dash) I think these examples are important because they prove that data (or anything else for that matter) doesn’t have to be boring or presented in boring ways. I try to think about two things when creating project/presentation or anything else- Is this going to fun and original? Is this personally relevant to my students? I guess both those really focus on engagement. It always amazes me how little attention the difference between engagement and silent acquiescence gets.

Google Lit Trips

Google Earth Lit Trips Novels plotted out in Google Earth with supplementary information and photos. Unbelievably cool. They’ve got a few to choose from with preview screenshots of what you’ll be getting. They have Grapes of Wrath, Candide and Night as well as a number of others. It looks like it’ll be growing too as it’s part of the Google Certified Teacher Program (which I’d kill to do, well at least maim). Kevin Jarnett was lucky and skilled enough to be chosen and has some good posts about his experience. Now I just want to see kids making these. link via Will Richardson


A Book Review of a Different Color

Probably been done before but I’m trying to make book reviews/reports a little more exciting. We started with the Byrd Book Review blog and simple audio reviews but my goal is to up the entertainment value for listeners and creators. We still haven’t publicized the site with our students but it’s getting pretty decent organic exposure so far. I made a sample review of The Hobbit through the eyes of Gollum using bits and pieces of audio from the movie and BBC radio play. This gives a nice way to review the book and focus on both point of view and the idea of voice in writing. If you’d like to hear it . . . [audio: reviews it.mp3]

Comma Rules and Keynote

We teach 12 comma rules each spring in preparation for our state writing test. In previous years, I have worked off of overheads. My students laughed at me as I repeatedly blinded myself while standing in front of the screen. This year, I decided to save my eyes and put a series of Keynote (PowerPoint) presentations together. My goal was to make the lessons easier for visual learners to grasp. I used consistant color schemes and movement on the screen to show the students methods that helped them break apart a sentence. The truth is, grammar is very technical. There is no beauty of word choice or personal expression in placing commas. Grammar is the math, the logic, side of writing. This makes teaching grammar–well–boring (no offence to math teachers out there). Below you will find links to my first effort at making the grammar lessons more engaging than an overhead and my hand. I started making the Keynotes at Rule 4 and worked my way through the lessons before returning to Rules 1-3. It’s interesting to see how the presentations evolve as I became more comfortable with the software. I ended up exporting the presentations as enhanced Quicktime videos that are clickable. I linked these to my homework blog so students could review the lessons if they were having […]


Welcome EdTech 2007 Participants

Welcome participants of Community Idea Stations’ EdTech Conference. If your looking for blogging resources connected with our presentation “Bob on Blogs,” you will find it here. Feel free to look around and comment while you’re visiting, and make sure you subscribe to or bookmark the blog. We update it several times a week.

The Outsiders Vocabulary Blog

I know how tedious vocabulary can be–I’m an English teacher. I have a list of 60ish vocabulary words for the novel The Outsiders (Do it for Johnny!). In previous years I have handed out the list, sorted by chapter, and asked the students to define them. I would put a selection of words on the test to ensure the kids did the work, and hoped that the words would stick. I’ll be honest with you, we would be lucky if they remembered a third of those words. I wasn’t happy about this. This year, I decided the vocabulary needed to have more value. I asked Tom to talk through it with me, and we came up with The Outsiders Vocabulary Blog. The students had access to create posts–as opposed to simply commenting on my posts. They drew one word out of a hat and completed a word study on it. The posts were sorted by chapter and part of speech. The result is a comprehensive vocabulary database for the students, and another vocabulary tool for teachers. Two classes worked together to create this glossary. They began to see the benefit of collaborating. By breaking the list down, they were able to get more out of the work. Along the way the students received mini lessons in citing sources, scanning a […]

Audio Book Reviews

Way, way back in May of 2005 I had the following idea- Audio book reviews- This is something Steve Dembo of Teach42 and I discussed. I’d like to see short podcast book reviews attached to the school library database and in RSS feeds. How cool would it be to look up a book and be able to listen to the reviews of other students. Having a RSS feed for various types of literature would also be good. This would seem to encourage both more reading by listeners and more reading by those wanting to make podcast reviews. That idea is (at least partially) coming to fruition now. Mainly because our librarians and another teacher I work with frequently came up with it on their own and got me motivated. It’s odd how circular somethings are. We’ve started a Byrd Books blog with audio, video or text reviews of book submitted by students. The posts and thus the books are also rateable by other readers through a neat ajaxy star system. I’m going to work on creating dynamic pages and feeds based on book type and reviewer so you can subscribe to just the book type you like or to the reviewer of your choice. I also need to install a tagging plugin. I’ve been really happy with the flash player […]