Top 10 Websites For 1:1 Schools

Top 10 Websites to Use in the 1:1 Classroom

I'd like to share with you 10 helpful websites for the secondary teacher when using laptops or utilizing a computer lab. My school district adopted the 1:1 laptop initiative four years ago, purchasing Apple MacBook Pros for all students in 6th - 12th grades. So while I am no expert on technology in the classroom, I have used all of these websites in class with my students. I know there are numerous sites out there just as good or maybe even better, but I wanted to share those which I have had success with my high school students.

Free Rice in the Classroom1. Free Rice: Why do I like this website? You can read about using it here and ways to incorporate it into your classroom here. The short version: it helps students build their vocabulary, exposing them to new words and repeating them several times. And the time they are spending "playing" the game is all toward a good cause: feeding the hungry. When students finish early but we don't have enough time to start a new activity, they can either read silently or play Free Rice.

2. Turn It In: We realized pretty quickly when we started going paperless for most writing assignments that our students were too tempted to take short cuts by copying and pasting even simple assignments such as journal entries, poems, literature responses, and essays. It took hours to grade assignments because I had to copy & paste their responses in to Google and free plagiarism checkers. We decided to subscribe this year to Turn It In and it has definitely cut back on the amount of copying. Just knowing the assignment will have to be submitted there first is a deterrent. (It also saves their writing samples, so any student who turns theirs in with similar content will be flagged--including a sibling years later.)
 ALTERNATIVES:    If your district cannot afford a subscription, there are some alternatives, though not as good. Try PaperRater or Grammarly. PaperRater won't check for authenticity, but it's not bad for catching errors. Grammarly will ask for a subscription for detailed results, but it will tell you if there is questionable text first. A good originality checker is Small SEO Tools; it's target audience may not be education, but it still serves the purpose.

Using Socrative in Class
3. Socrative: Socrative is a fast, fun way to engage students and check overall understanding. Plus, the kids love it. There's very little set-up (teachers have to create an account ahead of time then provide students with the url). I used this for review games (no need to type anything in, just read your questions and students type their answers in). I projected their answers so they could see how everyone else answered. It's a great listening activity because if they miss the question, their answer won't appear first; that was a key motivator for many of the boys in my classes. You can use this at the end of the class period to check understanding, though it's a site to use sparingly or the novelty will probably wear off.

Using Today's Meet to Engage All Learners4. Today's Meet: This is essentially a chat room, so you are probably wondering why I would encourage this during class. First, let me tell you about my students. I have two classes of sophomores who are really great kids, but as soon as I stop speaking, they begin talking. If I am showing a video clip or one of their classmates is speaking, they see that as an invitation to start a discussion with their neighbor. Instead of constantly shushing them, stopping the video, or interrupting their classmate to scold them, I decided to look at why they were talking. They obviously weren't engaged in the activity. I first thought we could use Twitter during these activities using a class hashtag. But some students didn't want to open new accounts and/or did not want to share their personal accounts with the class.  So I looked for alternatives (iChat, Google Chrome, and other built-in chat features were disabled from their laptops for excessive student abuse). I found Today's Meet and thought it would be perfect: no account registration, the chat is deleted after a set period of time but can be recorded if needed, and I just have to give students the chat room name. Yes, we had some students abuse it by creating several user names and posting childish responses, but for the most part, it was very engaging. I used it while we watched a video, posting discussion questions for response and allowing them to ask questions during the clip. I've also used it while students listened to podcasts so they could express their thoughts without interrupting the audio.

5. Blogger: Writing is an activity that, when practiced often, builds not only better writers, but better thinkers. Writing for a blog can be difficult. Challenging. Even scary sometimes. So of course I want my students to try it! Setting up a class blog or individual blogs is very easy with Blogger. (Read more about our class blogs here.) I use it for journal entries and this year had my students post their short stories on their blog. Their classmates gave them anonymous feedback via Google Drive forms (only people logged in to our district can submit the form, so if you visit the site you'll see their stories, then a locked form). Slowly, their writing starts to improve as they realize they have a global audience.
Creating a Class Blog for Writing

6. Project Gutenberg: Over 42,000 free online books, including many classic literature pieces. If your class is reading Tom Sawyer or Jane Eyre, your students can download the free ebook on the site rather than use a paper copy. Here's the top 100 most popular downloads.

7. LibriVox: While Project Gutenberg provides the print copy, LibriVox provides the audio versions of books, stories, and poems. Your students can even record themselves reading literature to donate to the website. I have many students who love listening to the works we read (and many works--especially poems--are meant to be read aloud), so it's wonderful to direct them here so they can listen anytime. The recordings can be downloaded, too, so if they do not have internet access at home, they'll still have the recording. A search for Shakespeare turns up over 100 files, with some links leading to even more.

Using Quizlet in the Classroom8. Quizlet: Free Rice is great for building vocabulary of random words, but Quizlet lets you create the word lists for online games, flash cards, and study lists. You can import your word lists or just type them in. Create lists for each chapter of a unit or for an entire novel. Your students will be able to go to your list to retrieve the words and definitions and utilize the built-in games for reviewing.

9. Google Drive (Formerly Google Docs): While I hate Google Docs as a word processor, it is a nice way for students to compile an online portfolio of their writing samples. I have my students type their essays using Mac's Pages, then they upload it to Turn It In to get feedback on grammar, usage, and whether they cited sources correctly. After they receive feedback, they revise their drafts and can resubmit to Turn It In. I also have them upload it to Google Drive. Because they all have Google Drive downloaded on their computers, it's a matter of dragging the file to their Google Drive folder. This way they have their final draft saved online in case they lose all their files on their computer. (This happens a lot because students use their desktop to save files, which doesn't sync with the server. If they didn't back it up on Google Drive or Turn It In, I usually have no sympathy for them. They've had their laptops for four years, so they should know better! ) Besides using it as an online portfolio, it is nice for students to use for collaborative assignments, creating forms and surveys like voting for Homecoming court and to poll their classmates on various issues. Here's a document that offers 37 ways to use Google Docs in the classroom; and 81 Interesting Ways to Use Google Forms in the Classroom.
Google Drive in the Classroom

10. YouTube: YouTube is a site that I both love and hate. It is definitely one of the biggest time-sucks for many of our students. They will spend hours just watching stupid videos, then complain that they had no time to get their homework done. So while I would love for YouTube to just not exist, I also find that it can be rather resourceful for educational videos. I created several playlists that I will refer to for enrichment of a topic or piece of literature. Students can subscribe to my channel herehere, or here to find videos I WANT them to watch. Why do I have three channels? One is my school account, another is my personal account (but I use it mainly for educational purposes), and the third was my first YouTube account before Google took over and made me create a new account.

Technology Links For Teachers
For additional tips and links, you can follow my 1:1 Education Technology board on Pinterest.

Not mentioned, but worth noting: having an online grading app is essential. Our district uses Skyward, which handles grades, attendance, lunch accounts, registration, and discipline records. When I create an assignment in my gradebook, I can securely upload a file they can download. (I never share on Google Docs or any other website because once you share, they are picked up by Google searches and become part of the internet where future students can easily find them.) I can also create online assignments, quizzes, and tests that are secure. The best part? It automatically grades and records them for me after students complete. Having a SECURE way to transfer assignments is definitely something a district needs to have in place before implementing a 1:1 initiative. Do not assume outside websites are secure--they aren't.

Let's Share! If you teach in a 1:1 school or are able to use a lab regularly, post your favorite websites to use in class below.
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Organizing Your Classroom Library: A Delicious Solution

Classroom Library Organization

I've been wanting to write a post for some time now about an incredible application to use for your classroom library circulation and organization: Delicious Library 2. There's so much to share about this application, I am sure I will never do it justice.

I wasn't asked to write this post or promote the product and I acquired the app like everyone can: I downloaded the free trial. But once I started using it, I was hooked; I purchased the $35 app shortly after (like...10 minutes after) downloading the free trial. I've been using it for a year and a half and still love it.

There's just one catch: it's only compatible with Macs. That works fine for me since our school is an Apple 1:1 school and all of our devices and computers at home are Macs.

Classroom Library Organization & Circulation: Delicious Library 2

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This is what I love most about it: you would think Apple designed the app themselves. It works seamlessly with all your other applications, like your contacts in Address Book, iTunes (it catalogs your music for you...automatically!), iCal, and more. 

And it uses your iSight web cam to scan in--YES, scan--your books, CDs, DVDs, or anything with a barcode on it.

Organizing Your Classroom Library

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If it can't read the barcode, you can just type in the title and it will search for the ISBN for you. It uses's enormous library of books to find the right one. And if it's not there, you can enter the information the old-fashioned way: typing it in. I've only had to do this with a few (less than 10) books that were either out-of-print or exclusive Scholastic Book Clubs books.

Organizing Your Classroom Library: Book Check-Out

Checking a book out to students is a treat, too. I have all my students in my contacts already because they email me at the beginning of the year then I set up a group in my Mail app. Their names appear automatically in the side bar. All I have to do is click on the image of the book and drag it to their name. It then assigns it to the student. Click on the student's name and you will see the book and the due date (default is one week, but you can change it by clicking on a different date). A red "late" notice will appear if the book is overdue.

You can also sync the app to work with iCal. Have your students subscribe to your iCal and they will always know when their book is due! No need for paper cards or reminders.

An added bonus that I haven't tried out yet, but plan to this summer is the sharing via the web option. You can share your collection on your website (or school's website) so students can browse your book shelves from anywhere. They'll also see if the book is available or already checked-out by someone.
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For a $35 one-time fee, Delicious Library 2 is a bargain. You don't need additional hardware to use it and you can even use it with your iPhone, iPad, or iPod.

UPDATE: They have an iPhone app (Called "Delicious Scanner") but it is only compatible with Delicious Library 3. More on that soon...

I'm not sure if this offer is still good or not, but last year the people at Delicious Monster were looking for teachers, librarians, or anyone involved in a non-profit organization for a giveaway of their hard-copy versions (the version on the site is a digital download). And there's no catch: they just want you to have it...FREE! I had already purchased the digital version, so I am not familiar with the hard-copy, but I assume it is the same. For more information, see their blog post about it (includes contact information): An Exciting Giveaway.

What do you use for organizing your classroom library and checking out books? Comment below to share your ideas.

Bloggers By State Link-Up

Bloggers by State: I'm an Illinois Blogger

Hey Teachers--are you a blogger from the U.S.? If so, link up with Fifth in the Middle's Blogs by State to find fellow teacher-bloggers near you.

Even though I consider Iowa my "home" state, I was born in Michigan and currently live in Illinois. One thing is certain: I'm definitely a Midwesterner! ;) How about you?

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Beware the Ides of March

Beware the Ides of March - Julius Caesar/Shakespeare
Beware the Ides of March

March 14th is often celebrated as "pi" day by my math colleagues, but March 15th is a day my fellow English and social studies teachers celebrate in honor of Julius Caesar.

Do you do anything special in your classroom on this day? I am usually teaching Shakespeare's The Tragedy of Julius Caesar with my sophomores and try to time it so we are performing Act III in class on the ides of March.

My students love to dress the part, so I have several sheets that have been donated to the classroom for students to drape over their shoulders. I also picked up plastic daggers after Halloween one year (I think they were 25¢ each on clearance). I usually take pictures while they are acting and post them in the room so the other sections can see their classmates in action.

One year I had some extra creative students who wanted to make a Roman feast for March 15th. After doing some research, they realized that most of the recipes were probably a little too difficult for them to prepare (or they didn't have enough time). But we still feasted on grapes, sparkling grape juice, cheese, olives, a roasted chicken, and of course Doritos and Chips Ahoy cookies, which were Caesar's favorites.

How do you and your students celebrate March 15th? 
Share in the comments below. For additional reading about the Ides of March, please read my posts on my other blog:
Celebrating Shakespeare...
Beware the Ides of March: Lessons Men Can Learn from Julius Caesar

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Beware the Ides of March: Classroom photos of Act III Julius Caesar
Act III of The Tragedy of Julius Caesar by William Shakespeare

Hands-On Poetry Activities

Hands-On Poetry Activities

Do you have students who struggle writing poetry? I always have several each year. A few activities that have been extremely effective with both struggling writers and those who love creating original poems have been the more "hands-on" activities.

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When your students are struggling writing, have them:
1. Write "chance" poems. They choose pre-selected words and put them into any order they wish. I have had students who hate to write come up with some amazing poems this way. The retail kits for magnetic poetry (which is practicing chance poetry) are pretty expensive. You can create your own using a digital kit, or simply cut words from newspapers and magazines (see below). I had students make these years ago and store them in plastic bags.  ONLINE ACTIVITY: They can create their poems using an online program like the one found on

Use Magazine or Newspaper Scraps for Creating Redacted Poems

2. Create a "Dada" poem. "Dada" poems stem from the Dadaism art movement of the early 20th century. The anti-establishment movement often parodied art, or perhaps "found" art in everyday objects and images. Whether you consider their works art or not, they certainly paved the way for modern movements.

One "Dada" poem your students can create is to draw words from a bag at random. As they draw them, they place the words in the poem in the same order as drawn. That's it. When they want the poem to end, they stop drawing words.

A second "Dada" poem is a "sound" poem. Your students can create a poem using only sounds and record it for the class. Most of the sound poems created during the Dada movement were nonsense, not really words at all. However, beat-box artists practice a form of this, and while it may be nonsense, it's still interesting and can be catchy. ONLINE ACTIVITY: Students can use the website Incredibox to mix different beat-box sounds.

3. Have your students create "redacted" poems. "Redacted" poems are similar to "chance" poems, except they cross-out (or redact) words on a page, rather than pick and place the words. I've seen many beautiful examples on Pinterest using book pages. However, articles from a newspaper or magazine work just as well. (See my examples below.)
Top 3 Hands-On Poetry Activities
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Students can either use markers or colors to cross-out the words they do not want to include, or use white-out/liquid paper.
Top 3 Hands-On Poetry Activities
 The samples shown here came from the following publications: Entertainment Weekly, Car and Driver, MacLife, and Helzberg Diamonds.
Top 3 Hands-On Poetry Activities

For reluctant boys, provide them with a short advertisement from one of their favorite magazines. Many of my male students like hunting/fishing, sports, and cars. When given a short grouping of words about something they like, they'll most likely enjoy it. The only problem I consistently face with them is keeping it school appropriate.

Top 3 Hands-On Poetry Activities

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Girls typically write more about love and heartbreak. I have found jewelry ads to be most effective for them because they will contain more words like "love," "sparkling," and "irresistible."

Jewelry ads work well for redacted "love" poems

All of these activities are featured in my "Poetry 9-1-1: First Aid for Writing Poetry" packet, which also contains over 40 formulas for writing original poems. You can also get the presentation Write Like Poets that has students write parody poems and many other formulas while learning more about famous poets and movements.

I recently updated it with redacted poem page activities. And if you are looking for additional poetry resources, I have over 35 poetry downloads, including many freebies. Click on the links below to check out my teacherspayteachers store.

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