Remembering Maya Angelou

Maya Angelou visits YCP! 2/4/13Poet and author Maya Angelou died Wednesday, May 28, in her home in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. Angelou is considered one of the finest poets of her generation. In addition, she authored several books chronicling her youth and adolescence, including I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings.

Find related web resources and lesson plans on Angelou on the ReadWriteThink calendar entry for her birthday. For excerpts from an interview with Angelou, consider sharing ‘Fresh Air’ Remembers Poet And Memoirist Maya Angelou with students.

A simple way to remember Angelou in your classroom this week is to ask students to explore some resources about the author and then use one of ReadWriteThink’s interactives or mobile apps to write about her:


[Photo: Maya Angelou visits YCP! 2/4/13 by York College ISLGP, on Flickr]

This Week on ReadWriteThink, for August 1 to 11

244.365 - September 1, 2010August is a hopping month on ReadWriteThink. With teachers getting ready to head back to the classroom, the calendar is jam-packed with resources to help make the first days full of fun learning.

You can find back-to-school booklists, icebreaker activities, and community-building resources on our back to school calendar entry. In the featured classroom activity, students share details about their lives with one another using the interactive Graphic Map and share their memories in small groups or with the whole class.

If you’re looking for STEM activities, it’s a good time to talk about computers and the prototype for the World Wide Web, which was created in August 1990. Budding astronauts can explore the first satellite picture of Earth, taken in 1959.

This week’s featured birthdays focus on President Barack Obama (August 4), French author Guy de Maupassant (August 5), science writer Seymour Simon (August 9), and writer Alex Haley (August 11). In sports history, the first woman swam the English Channel (August 6).

This week also marks the anniversary of our national museum. The Smithsonian Institution was founded August 10, 1846. Today, it has expanded to a network of 16 museums and 129 affiliate museums–including the National Zoo and the National Air and Space Museum. Celebrate by exploring an exhibit online and writing “A Day in the Life” narratives that tell about a person, animal, or object they saw in the exhibit.

In addition to those timely topics, check out these new resources for more ideas for the classroom:

[Photo: 244.365 – September 1, 2010 by meddygarnet, on Flickr]

Celebrating Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

MLK MemorialIf you’re looking for some activities to celebrate Martin Luther King, Jr. Day this month, read on! This post includes materials on the ReadWriteThink site that fit three categories:

  • Resources specifically focused on Dr. King and texts he wrote
  • Biographical activities you can use to explore Dr. King’s life and writing
  • Family activities that relate to Dr. King

The materials range from mini-lessons to complete units and cross the grade levels. So read on, and celebrate Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and his work.

Focused on Martin Luther King, Jr.

Biographical Lesson Plans

Family Activities

  • Amazing Biographies: Writing About People Who Change the World
    After reading about historical figures and other important people that have changed the world, children choose someone that they consider to be “amazing”—either someone they’ve heard about or someone they know—and create a book page that highlights this person.

  • Think Peace 
    Podcaster Emily Manning shares books that serve as a springboard to discuss how children and adults alike can use peaceful, nonviolent methods to affect change in society. This is episode 21 of Chatting About Books: Recommendations for Young Readers, a Podcast for Grades K–5.

  • Celebrate Heroes
    Encourage children to spend a little time thinking and writing about just what makes a hero and who their personal heroes might be.

  • Dr. King Bio Cubes
    Families and children can gather or summarize information about Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. with the Bio Cube interactive.

  • Create Poetry with the Word Mover App
    Use the word bank from Dr. King’s “I Have a Dream” speech and create found poetry.

If you want even more resources, check out the Martin Luther King, Jr. collection from Thinkfinity.



[Photo: MLK Memorial by alvesfamily, on Flickr]

Help Keeping Your Teaching Resolutions

Resolutions 2012Making a New Year’s Resolution is easy. Keeping it? That’s a different story altogether. Personal goals end up competing with teaching goals. The busy whirl of heading back to the classroom crowds out all those plans, and the next thing you know, it’s March and those teaching resolutions are long forgotten.

How about some help with those goals? I’ve gathered some of the best resources from ReadWriteThink and Thinkfinity to help make sure your good intentions all become accomplishments in 2013!

Whatever your goals, I hope you meet them and have a fantastic 2013.


[Photo: Resolutions 2012 by simplyla, on Flickr]

Best Educational Apps from Thinkfinity

It’s the gift-giving time of year, and if you’re giving someone an iPad, you can start getting it ready with these great apps for children, teens, and teachers.

Download Reading and Writing Apps

Word Mover App
Word Mover AppTake poetry on the road with this ReadWriteThink app. Kids and teens can create “found poetry” by choosing from word banks and existing famous works like “America the Beautiful” and Dr. Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream.” Kids can pull up a famous work or the word bank, find words that inspire them, and arrange them into an original poem!

Trading Cards App
Trading Cards AppWith this ReadWriteThink app, kids and teens can create trading cards for fictional people and places, real people and places, objects, and Events. Imagine the fun of having kids create trading cards for favorite holiday characters and places. How about making trading cards as place cards for a holiday dinner—one card for each family member! Going on a family trip? Make a card for each place you stop. The possibilities are endless!

Download Apps for Other Content Areas

For other content areas, try these apps and reviews to find tools that will encourage kids and teens to learn while exploring their new iPads:

Build an App!

If you’re working with teens, also look at The Verizon Innovative App Challenge, which provides the opportunity for middle school and high school students, working with a faculty advisor, to use their STEM knowledge, their ingenuity, and their creativity to come up with an original mobile app concept that incorporates STEM and addresses a need or problem in their school or community.

Easy Ways for Kids and Teens to Make Greeting Cards

Group work on cardsNo matter what holiday you are celebrating this month, nothing is quite as precious as a handmade card—especially when it comes from a family member or friend.

We’ve collected some easy ways that you can help the students you teach make cards in class as well as instructions that you can send home for families to use together during the Winter holidays.

The resources do not refer to any particular holiday, so they work whether students and their families want to make cards for Hanukkah, Yule, Christmas, or Kwanzaa. The materials can even be used to celebrate the first snowfall or wish someone a Happy New Year. And, of course, the same instructions work for Thank You cards too. So read on, and get ready to make some fun greeting cards!

  • Make a simple card: Make a funny or thoughtful greeting card with photos of family or friends and a poem, joke, or riddle. Find simple step-by-step instructions on how to Send a Smile! For a full lesson plan for early elementary students, check out Using Greeting Cards to Motivate Students and Enhance Literacy Skills.
  • Draw a cartoon: Use the Comic Creator to make a one-of-a-kind greeting card. Kids and teens can illustrate scenes that show how they celebrate with family and friends or create scenes that show what would happen if a dinosaur showed up to celebrate at their home.
  • Write a poem: Help a Child Write a Poem for the inside of a card, or frame it for a special piece of art. Use one of our online tools to write an Acrostic Poem, a Diamante Poem, or a Theme Poem.
  • Create a folded card: Use the Stapleless Book to make an 8-page card for a special family member or friend—and it all fits on one sheet of paper!
  • Design a postcard: Write a postcard with the Postcard Creator then print it out and illustrate the front in a variety of ways, like drawing a picture, creating a collage of images, or printing and pasting clipart in place.
  • Publish a greeting: Make a nontraditional greeting card with the Book Cover Creator. Kids and teens can imagine what a book about a Winter day with their family would be like and create front and back cover as a greeting card.
  • Compose a year-end letter: Help a child or teen write a letter to friends and family that sums up all the things they have done in 2012 with the Letter Generator.

Whatever you do, hope you have a fantastic December. Leave us a note in the comments on how you spent your time together!

—Traci Gardner


[[This entry cross-posted in the Community Hub on the Thinkfinity Community site. Photo: Group work on cards by San José Library, on Flickr]

30 Poems You Can Write for National Poetry Month

Magnetic Fridge PoetryApril is National Poetry Month, sponsored by Academy of American Poets and other poetry organizations. Last year, we posted thirty poetry activities, one for each day of the month of April—and the good news is that we’ve got an updated poem-a-day activity for you this year too!

Each day has a link to a different kind of poetry writing, either a specific poetic form, like sonnets or acrostics, or poetry focused on a particular topic, like seasonal haiku or color poems. The materials range in grade levels, but can usually be adapted for any age (even college students).

So here’s the challenge for you and students: I found a different poem for every day of the month. How many different poems can you write? And remember that even if you don’t have time in class to write a poem each day, these poetry activities will work any day of the year!

Sun Mon Tue Wed Thu Fri Sat
1: Acrostic Poems 2: Seasonal Haiku  3: Nonsense Poems 4: Catalog Poems 5: Shape Poems 6: STEM Poems 7: Bio- Poems
8: Riddle Poems 9: Nursery Rhymes 10: Color Poems 11: Two- Voice Poetry 12: Headline Poems 13: Diamante Poems 14: Rebus Poems
15: Parody Poems 16: One-Sentence Poems 17: Name Poems 18: Magnetic Poetry 19: Letter Poems 20: Bilingual, Spoken-Word Poetry 21: 5Ws Poems
22: Free Verse 23: Alphabet Poems 24: Concrete Poems 25: Found Poems & Parallel Poems 26: Cinquain Poems 27: Limericks 28: Traditional Sonnets
29: Astronomy Poetry 30: Sports Poetry          


Cross-posted to the NCTE Community Group and the Reading and Language Arts Group on the Thinkfinity Community.


[Photo: Magnetic Fridge Poetry by Minimalist Photography, on Flickr]

Ten Winter Activities with ReadWriteThink Interactives

Chinstrap Penguin with snow in its mouthThe last days of 2011 are counting down, and it’s likely that your days in the classroom for 2011 are even fewer! As you’re planning for the last days of the calendar year, consider using ReadWriteThink interactives for one of these fun, winter activities:

  1. Choose an animal you think about during the winter (like penguins, polar bears, or snowshoe rabbit), and explore its habits and life cycle with the Animal Inquiry interactive.
  2. Use the Resume Generator to create a resume for a character from a favorite story or song. What would Scrooge list on his resume?
  3. Compose Shape Poems with the bus for the last day of school. Students can talk about all the things they hope to do during the winter break—after they ride home on the school bus for the last time in 2011.
  4. Have students map significant personal events they remember from previous winter holidays with the Graphic Map.
  5. Write a class alphabet book of activities to try during the winter holidays with the Alphabet Organizer.
  6. Ask students to think of a favorite event that happens during the winter break, and compose Acrostic Poems about it.
  7. Create Character Trading Cards for characters from winter-themed or holiday-themed books or songs. Imagine a trading card for the Baby New Year!
  8. Reflect on all that has happened since the start of the school year in a class newspaper, created with the ReadWriteThink Printing Press.
  9. Explore school days and winter vacation in a Diamante Poem that unites the two opposing topics.
  10. Use the Profile Publisher to mock up social networking profiles, yearbook profiles, or newspaper or magazine profiles for characters from winter-themed or holiday-themed books or songs. What would Frosty the Snowman list on his Facebook profile?


This list also posted in the Reading & Language Arts Group in the Thinkfinity Community.

How do you define “teacher quality”?

First grade reading - small group breakoutToday I’ve read two articles that make me curious about the way “teacher quality” is being defined and measured these days.

First, I read a New York Times article about a school in Tennessee where the principal is so busy with paperwork and unnecessary observations that he’s lost touch with many of the things happening in the school. The title of the article neatly summarizes their feeling for the way that Race to the Top has led to a redefinition of “teacher quality” at their school: In Tennessee, Following the Rules for Evaluations Off a Cliff.

Then, I read Six Questions for Better Professional Development on the Edutopia Deeper Learning Blog Carnival, and wondered about how different the assumptions about “teacher quality” were compared to those in the Times article. The author talks about quality teaching (and professional development) as collaborative, organic, and reflective. It involves “cultivating a healthy professional community,” and that school in Tennessee seems to be on a track where they are able to do anything BUT support professional growth and “teacher quality.”

Maybe it can be partially attributed to the language that’s used, but the Edutopia blog seems to posit “teacher quality” as something that you nurture and encourage while the the Times article seems to describe a scenario where “teacher quality” is something you have to badger people into developing or revealing.

I understand the desire and need for ways to measure “teacher quality.” I’m just not sure of the right way to go about it. How do you think “teacher quality” should be defined? I’d love to hear some real teachers talking about the issue.

Cross-posted as a Discussion Question in the Verizon Thinkfinity 101 Community on the Thinkfinity Community site.

Activities for Interactive Whiteboards

Patrick at 2Touch IWBInteractive whiteboard redefine hands-on activity in the classroom, as students manipulate information on a giant digital display. They also bring teachers a new challenge: what activities can you use to make the most of this new technology?

Teachers on the Thinkfinity Community have been busy collecting answers. Theresa Gibbon suggests trying ReadWriteThink’s interactive Word Mover for “I Have a Dream” and Word Mover for Holes and asking students to rearrange the words on the whiteboard as a class experience. Find dozens of additional ideas on the Thinkfinity Community discussion board.

This post is the introduction from “August 10 to 16 on ReadWriteThink.” Read the rest of the post in the Thinkfinity Community site.