Tag Archives: technology

Top 10 Educational iPhone/iPad Apps for Your Kids

by Steven Burrell

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The day you came home with your newest iPhone or iPad, you felt like you had won the smartphone lottery. With built in GPS, camera and e-mail, not to mention the endless applications, you thought you had just bought yourself the best present in the whole wide world. Until your kids got ahold of it.

That’s when you realized that you had actually bought your children the best present in the whole wide world, whether you liked it or not.

Instead of letting your kids play hours of Angry Birds, put a few of these educational apps on your iPhone/iPad. Then you can sit back and relax while your children monopolize your favorite gadget. After all, they’re learning something.

1. Simplex Spelling HD is a great app for the spelling test challenged grade school students. It has more than 260 words that have been specially selected because they are the most frequently used in children’s literature. It’s a great way to help your children read better and learn new vocabulary without feeling like school.

2. Boggle is an old classic that you might already have on your phone for yourself. The newest incarnation has three-minute games of basic Boggle, but a whole slew of variations to keep things interesting. You might just find yourself vying with your kid for top scores.

3. Geocoachingis perfect for the Indiana Jones wannabe. The game takes its players on an exciting treasure hunt looking for hidden treasures, called

Geocoaching App

“geocaches,” by leaving clues and utilizing the iPhone’s built-in GPS It’s the safest way to send your adventurer on a wild expedition.

4. Monkey Preschool Lunchbox is perfect for the preschooler set. Using an animated, cuddly little monkey, it captures their attention. Once they’re under the monkey’s trance, they will learn colors, letters and numbers. It has written directions, but playing will also come very naturally to those who don’t know how to read yet.

5. WeetWoo is basically YouTube with a filter. Parents can curate their own children friendly video libraries, weeding out anything inappropriate. There are a lot of educational videos suited for all interests. Nursery Rhymes is good for the toddlers and Mythbusters is perfect for a science lover.

6. Math Ocean is an engaging way for kids to learn skills including addition, subtraction, matching, sorting, and patterns. You can also add fun themes like holidays!

7. Clever Tales makes reading fun. It uses beautiful images and great stories.

8. PUZZINGO is a top puzzle game. It will teach your kids animal names, letters, numbers, and more. And they’ll learn quickly, thanks to PUZZINGO’s reward system which encourages learning with prizes.

9. Cash Cow is a great app for first graders that uses a fun puzzle game to teach math.

10. PlayART is a unique artistic application that adults can play too. It incorporates the work of Van Gogh, Klee, Rousseau, Monet and Cezanne, and is suited for a wide span of ages, beyond the 5-13 range it was designed for.

There you have it: 10 apps that make your phone the best invention since sliced bread…for whoever happens to be monopolizing it.

About the author: Steven Burrell researches and reviews cognitive ability tests that help students measure their growth. His favorite thing in the world is spending rainy days indoors with his family.



Filed under Critical Thinking, Summer Learning, technology

Eight Superior Author Sites

by Elizabeth Cossick, M. Ed.

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Introduce your students to the masterminds behind their favorite stories. Since (sadly) not all author sites are created equal, here are our faves that are especially interactive, clever and click-worthy. Bookmark these on your computer or print them out for your students to take to the computer lab. Some (Avi) even have instructions for setting up live Skype calls between your class and the author!

Mo Willems 

Shel Silverstein

Seussville (of course!)

Avi (great for 4th-8th grade readers)

Beverly Cleary

Brian Jacques (Redwall author)

Chris Van Allsburg (his site is just as artful as you’d expect)

Kevin Henkes

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Filed under Reading, technology

Pinspiration: Pinterest Finds for your Classroom

by Elizabeth Cossick, M. Ed. 

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So, you’ve heard of Pinterest, right? It’s a virtual pinboard where you can “keep” all of your online inspirations–from recipes to decorating pics to travel plans to–yup–teaching ideas. Here are our favorite Pinterest-found classroom inspirations…so read, enjoy, and pin to your heart’s content.

And, if you haven’t been formally introduced to Pinterest, yet, you’ll find a good article from USA Today on how to get started here.

Pinsirpiation: Look What We Found On Pinterest

Runde’s Room: The Queen of Measurement

This cute Pinterest pin, left, led us to discover the blog of teacher Jen Runde, who offers a wealth of creative teaching ideas. We love this idea for teaching the metric system by declaring yourself the Queen of Measurement– tiara included.

Mrs. Schmelzer’s First Grade: Sensational Space

The image from Pinterest, below, led us to the classroom of Mrs. Schmelzer, who’s always got a great idea up her sleeve. Love this idea for teaching the moon phases and other facts about the solar system.

One note about blogs, though, should you choose to begin one: make sure you use good judgment and secure parental online photo releases for any children you feature. You never know whose Pinterest board they may end up being pinned to….

Disney FamilyFun

This adorable paper tray, below from Disney FamilyFun, caught our eye on Pinterest. Can you believe it’s just three boxes (think: cereal boxes) taped together and then wrapped with wrapping paper? What a cute idea for art papers at a writing or crafts center!

These examples hardly scratch the surface of the fabulous ideas found on Pinterest. We’ll be sharing more of our favorites from time-to-time. We thought you might appreciate some help narrowing down the really great ideas, since it’s tough to ferret through the good, the bad and the pretty on Pinterest without losing several hours of sleep.

So rest up…and happy pinning!


Filed under Activities, Art, Centers, Classroom Decor, Math, Science, technology

favorite {free} downloadable fonts

by Elizabeth Cossick, M. Ed.

Write a little comment on this post and be entered to win a $20 School Box gift card! We’ll draw a winner shortly. 

Looking for a way to spruce up your classroom reproducibles? Here are some of our favorite free downloadable fonts that would look just dandy on your next parent letter or student activity sheet (or party invitation!). Happy Holidays from A Learning Experience!


This one looks just like good ol’ Barnum and Bailey’s. Super cute!




Looks like, well, you know.


Pea Lovey Dovey

Adorable curlie-q font with a whimsical vibe.



Appropriately named, this font is elegant but not frufru.



Fun, whimsy, feminine.


Earwig Factory

Gross name. Cute font.


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Filed under Activities, Art, Classroom Decor, Holidays, Organization, Teacher Inspiration, Teaching, technology

Instilling a LOVE for Reading

by Elizabeth Cossick, M. Ed.

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Any child who says he or she does not like reading simply has not been introduced to the right book. Everyone loves stories, and reading provides infinite access to innumerable stories. Even the toughest little nut sitting in your class (or living under your roof) will learn to love and enjoy reading with some positive encouragement.

Here’s how:

1. Get caught “read” handed. Make sure that you–the adult role model–is seen reading on a regular basis. Research shows that children who grow up with parents who read magazines are more likely to reach higher levels of education than their peers with non-magazine-reading parents. Children are more likely to do as you do, not as you say.

2. Let there be light (reading). Don’t insist on a certain type or genre of reading material. For regular pleasure reading, let your children select their own materials depending on their interest and comfort level, even if it’s “lighter” than what you’d prefer. Even comic books have been shown to significantly broaden student vocabulary (Holy Toledo, Bat Man!).

3. Pay up. In addition to whatever regular allowance your child may receive, allow them also to earn a “book allowance.” So many hours of reading per week can earn money toward either a purchase of their choice– or toward a new book or magazine. You can decide the stipulations, but either way, you’re encouraging reading the same way you encourage responsibility.

4. Establish ownership. Kids buy into activities when they feel a sense of ownership and independence. To establish ownership with reading:

  • Allow your child tosubscribe to a children’s magazine of their choice. They will enjoy getting something in the mail just for them.
  • Help your child design a reading corner in her bedroom with her favorite books organized on shelves or in inexpensive bins and baskets. Add a comfy floor pillow or blanket, a poster on the wall, a favorite stuffed animal: whatever makes the space feel like her own.
  • Have your child write his name in his books–again, signifying ownership.

5. Get plugged in. Literacy and technology go hand-in-hand. You are, after all, reading this online article at the moment, aren’t you? To encourage reading online, check out some of these sites, recommended by 24/7 Moms as the 2011 Top Learning Websites for Kids:

Discovery Kids http://kids.discovery.com/

National Geographic kids.nationalgeographic.com

Funbrain www.funbrain.com

Cool Math 4 Kids http://www.coolmath4kids.com/

Learning Planet www.learningplanet.com

Kaboose Fun School www. funschool.kaboose.com

e-Learning For Kids www.e-learningforkids.org

The Kidz Page http://thekidzpage.com/learninggames/

Science Made Simple www.sciencemadesimple.com

The Story Place http://www.storyplace.org/

6. Love your library. You can explore books together, check out DVDs, interact on the computer (together :), and–even if your child doesn’t want to take home a book–you can check one out for yourself. There you go, being a good role model again.

The take-away? Reading isn’t a school-time activity; it’s a lifetime gift. By incorporating fun reading attitudes and activities into your child’s world, positive associations with literacy will be built. Even for that toughest nut.

For a wide array of well-priced children’s books for all ages, visit http://www.schoolbox.com/Children-s-Books.aspx

For a selection of floor cushions and loungers perfect for a reading corner (and starting at $18), check out: http://www.schoolbox.com/Search.aspx?Search=floor+cushion&CategoryID=1


Filed under Academic Success, Reading, reluctant readers, Science, technology

How to Use Twitter

by Connie Wiley, Ed.S.

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Summertime is a great time to brush up on new skills–particularly new technology. Last summer, I signed up for Twitter and have really enjoyed this social networking site throughout this past school year. I discovered that there are so many resources teachers can access from Twitter! Here’s my no-nonsense guide to using Twitter, both for yourself and for your classroom.

Signing up

It’s easy to get started. Before signing up, you will need to decide on a Twitter name and profile information to use. You can also add an uploaded picture. Think about whether or not you would like to be public or private. If you choose public, other Twitter users will be able to read your tweets and follow you. You always have the option to block a follower. By choosing private, only those who have requested to follow you will see your tweets. Now go to www.Twitter.com and click sign up. Voila! You’re officially a part of the Twitter world!

Who to Follow

You can use Twitter’s list of who to follow, or you can search by name or subject. Be sure to read their profile to see if this is someone you would enjoy following. Then click follow.

If later you decide their Tweets are not for you, then click unfollow on their profile page.

I enjoy following educational blogs such as #nytimes, #writingproject, #readingtoday, and #teachingwithsoul.

Fellow educators and media specialists include #mentortexts, #mrshureads, #peter_price, #linkstoliteracy and #kathyfs24.

Authors, illustrators and editors I follow are #thebookmaven, #donalynbooks, #judyblume, #megcabot and #deborahwiles.

There are also newsletters that have great ideas for teachers. I follow #pwkidsbookshelf, #teachingbooks, #edweekteacher, #readingrockets and #web20classroom.

Start Tweeting

Click in the box under What’s Happening? The first rule of Twitter is that you have to say what you want to say in 140 characters or less. Don’t worry, there is a counter to let you know how many characters you have used. To post click the tweet button.

Read Daily

I usually check my account twice a day. There are three useful features included at the end of each tweet. Just move your mouse over the tweet and you will see favorite, retweet, and reply. Click favorite to save in your favorites list so that you can go back and read more when you have time. Retweet will repost the tweet to all of your followers. Click reply to send a message back to the tweeter.

Why not add some fun to your professional career? Start Tweeting today!

 Connie Wiley, Ed.S., is a third-grade teacher in Gwinnett County with 28 years of experience. She holds a masters in ECE and a specialists in Educational Leadership.


Filed under Summer Learning, Teaching, technology

Online Book Review Project

by Elizabeth Cossick, M.Ed.

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Five years ago, incorporating technology into our lesson plans was  icing on the cake–a nice “extra” to add…if you had time. Today, however, we’re all realizing that technology is vital. We can’t merely give an occasional nod, anymore. Rather, in order to truly prepare our students for their technologically-ingrained futures, we need to be incorporating technology on a regular basis. Here’s a super-easy, authentic way to assign a classic book report with a modern, technical twist: do an online book review.

How it Works:

  1. Write a Summary. Read a book (or books) as a class, and after your study, have the students write a book summary. But here’s the catch: they can’t include the ending (it’s called a “spoiler” if they do). So, show them how to write a catchy beginning and a sound middle…and then end their summaries with a cliff-hanger!
  2. Gain Consent. Send home an online book review consent form, just to make sure that their parents are alright with them posting their paragraphs (anonymously, of course) on www.amazon.com. Click here for a printable consent form!
  3. Create an Account on Amazon.com. Students will need to sign in, in order to write their reviews. The easiest and safest way to do this is for you to create an account (e-mail and password) beforehand, and then prompt the students to enter your e-mail address and password when prompted to do so on http://www.amazon.com. (You can always delete the account later.)
  4. Visit the Lab. As a class, go to the computer lab or use your school’s laptops–whatever works for your classroom. Students should take their finished summaries with them.
  5. Post the Review. Here’s how to post the review on amazon.com:
  • First, search for the book title. (Ex: Frindle)
  • Then, scroll down to ‘Customer Reviews’. You will see a button on the right of the screen that says, “Create your own review.” Click that.
  • Sign in, if you are prompted to do so at this point.
  • Click the age button: Over 13 or Under 13.
  • Rate the item by clicking the stars: 1-5 (Discuss what this rating system means with your students).
  • Title review (Discuss how to write a catchy title that encompasses the review’s main idea).
  • Students type the review in the space given.
  • They add tags. The tag should be the author’s name (i.e. Andrew Clements), the genre (i.e. “mystery” or “adventure”), or a summary word (“funny”). Again, another opportunity to discuss main idea with your students.
  • When finished, click “Preview your review”.
  • Instruct students to PRINT the preview screen. This is what you can grade.
  • Hit Publish after printing. Reviews will show up within a few days. And then students can send the link to grandma across the country, showing off that they have been officially published online!

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Filed under comprehension, grammar, Reading, technology, Writing

Anatomy of a Creative Novel Study

by Kristin Woolums, M.Ed.

A creative study based on From the Mixed-Up files of Mrs. Basil E. Franweiler

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From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler by E. L. Konigsburg is a Newbery Award-winning novel about two children who run away to the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City. The story combines adventure and comedy, and each year, my 5th graders eagerly tell me how much they love it!

Originally published in 1968, one might think that it wouldn’t appeal to today’s youth, but here’s how I foster a love of a novel that’s over 40 years old:

A Virtual Field Trip

Early in the story, the lead characters, Claudia and Jamie, run away to the Metropolitan Museum of Art, I take my students to the computer lab for a virtual field trip to see the sights that Claudia and Jamie would have seen (www.metmuseum.org). The website allows students to see priceless pieces of art that they perhaps would never get to see, so I allow them to browse through the many pieces shown online. Click here for a printable sheet about the virtual tour.

The students supply a few details about their favorite pieces, including a rough sketch, which they record on a note-taking guide (click here to print it). We discuss the proper way to react to art and that there are many pieces that showcase the human body in tastefully, yet unclothed, ways (just a head’s up!).

A Great Debate

There are several ethical decisions that Claudia and Jamie encounter throughout the story:

o Stealing money from the museum’s fountain so they could eat

o Sneaking around and lying so they wouldn’t get caught living in the museum

o Worrying their parents by running away

Each student chooses whether they thought the action was justified or not, and in a traditional debate setting, we civilly discuss the matter at hand. This makes for some very teachable moments, and the students love this!

A Creative Culmination

To end the study, the students participate in a creative “summary-by-chapter” book report. A post describing all of the details about this creative project, including a rubric, is coming next on A Learning Experience. The best part is that this idea can be adapted to any novel!

This wonderful and timeless adventure about two children running away to the Metropolitan Museum of Art is chock full of adventure, comedy, and a sense of family as Claudia and Jamie learn to survive in the real world. My students enjoy the novel, and I hope Ms. Konigsburg is happy that I’ve taken her exciting novel to the next level by interjecting classroom reading with a virtual field trip, a debate, and a creative book report project!

Kristin’s Chapter-by-Summary book report idea (including a rubric) is coming next on A Learning Experience!

Kristin M. Woolums, M. Ed., teaches fifth grade at a private school in Atlanta and works at The School Box at Southlake during the summer months.


Filed under Assessments, comprehension, Field Trips, Reading, reading aloud, reluctant readers, technology, Uncategorized

Four AWESOME Classroom Web Sites!

student and teacher at computerDo you have a favorite online resource? Share it below in a comment. One comment will be selected to win a School Box gift card!

Cyberspace is flooded with sites geared toward education. Here are a few of our favorites– all of which are chock full of great resources you can share with your students and easily implement into your lesson plans. Inspiration made easy!

1. puzzlemaker.discoveryeducation.com: Make your own printable word searches, crossword puzzles and more using the vocabulary words from your current lesson plans. The site also includes a lesson plan gallery for K-12, organized by subject and topic.

2. www.FactMonster.com. This is a fun reference site filled with facts galore! The site is well organized, and topics span current events, sports, money, math, science, homework help, biographies of notable people (including a section focused on famous women) and a slide show of presidential “first kids.” There’s also a “reference desk” complete with an online atlas (both world and U.S.), encyclopedia, dictionary, and almanac. A one-stop-shop for kid-friendly research!

3. kids.nationalgeographic.com. Learn about places and animals around the world through photos, games, stories and activities. Cool stuff abounds on this site, which is sure to become a favorite with your students.

4. www.eduplace.com/tales. Welcome to Wacky Web Tales- an online version of Mad Libs, where students can hone their parts of speech while making up silly nonsense stories. Hilarity guaranteed.

Do you have another favorite online resource? Share it below in a comment. One comment will be selected to win a School Box gift card!


Filed under Academic Success, Games, Teaching