My New Favorite: Crash Course

Every once in a while, I find a resource that just clicks. It’s informative, exciting, and relevant. The Crash Course video series, easily found for free on YouTube, is one of these resources.

These beautifully-produced videos are funny, hip, and chock-full of great facts. I will say right out of the gate, though, that they are obviously intended for high school and college students: material is covered VERY quickly, and occasionally the content leans in the direction of mature (think PG-13). If you do choose to show a video in class, be sure you have watched it all the way through first, so you aren’t surprised. However, for more advanced middle school students, or for unit review, these videos are aces.

There are six video series: World History (42 videos), Biology (40 videos), Literature (8 videos), Ecology (12 videos), and US History (2 videos so far, but growing every week), and Chemistry (just added last week!). Videos in a series follow a set format, complete with great explanatory animations. Complex ideas are explained in a way that even the most bored teen will follow.

The series I have watched most extensively, World History, does a great job of putting events in context and explaining why on earth this stuff matters. It also comments upon the nature of historical study, and the fact that history is often written by the victors. Even if you deem it too advanced for your students, I highly recommend watching for your own enjoyment and education!


Trapped! Punctuation!

This fun game from BBC Bitesize is a great way to practice punctuation. More than a simple flash game, Trapped! actually has a plot, and characters; each punctuation mark you place correctly helps to save you from the Tower. If you have a little extra time at the end of English, and want to have your students enjoy some Halloween-themed punctuation fun, give it a try. It’s appropriate for all ages, though the punctuation knowledge required is at least 2nd grade level.

Google Lit Trips

Yet another fantastic way to use Google for education! Google Lit Trips were created by teachers as a way to teach literature as a completely out-of-the-box experience. Rather than simply reading a story, students use Google Earth to go along on the journey of each character, following their geographical trail. Books for K-5, 6-8, and 9-12 are all available, though the selection is understandably small.

You can even create your own Lit Trip with your students, researching locations, finding quotes, and delving deeper into your source material. The site offers directions here.

This site, created by educators, is truly a labor of love, and a brilliant way to bring literature to life.


You Are Your Words

Wow, this is not only cool from a technology standpoint, but can impart a valuable lesson. You Are Your Words is a tool created by the American Heritage Dictionary that turns a student’s words (using a piece of writing that they have already created) into a picture of that student. By uploading a picture, the application manipulates the size, shape, and color of each word until it creates a digital image of the photo. It’s a fantastic way to exhibit student work, and helps students to remember that what they say, what they write, reflects on them.

**Special thanks to iLearn Technology for bringing this great site to my attention.**

Addendum: It has come to my attention (thanks Jen!) that the pictures you create with You Are Your Words are automatically added to their gallery, and can’t be deleted. So make sure you (and your students) are OK with having their creations available for all to see before you go playing with this.

YouTube for Schools

Though it is one of the most commonly blocked websites at schools across the country, YouTube is trying to get into the education game. A new channel on the video service website curates videos that can be used in classes, sorted by grade level and subject.

The quality of the videos varies, but there are some good resources here. The organization is also really helpful, saving you lots of time by making it easy to find videos on the topic you’re looking for. As a matter of fact, the slogan of YouTube for Schools is “Spend more time teaching, less time searching.”

Take a look at this video on magnetic breakfast cereal!

Paper Toys

Here’s a cool site for studying design, history, architecture, and any number other disciplines. PaperToys provides free, downloadable paper models of monuments, buildings, and vehicles. You can create the Sydney Opera House, the Globe Theatre, or a Mississippi Queen Riverboat with just a pair of scissors and some glue. These models would be great for enhancing lessons, and offering students the chance to build something hands’ on.

Grammaropolis Word Sort

This fun word sorting game helps review the different parts of speech. The cute Grammaropolis characters each represent a different part of speech, and you must drag words to the corresponding character. It’s a very simple game, but once you reach level three, where your options include interjections, prepositions, and pronouns, it gets pretty tricky. The Grammaropolis site has other content to review grammar, but I think the game is the most fun.