Here in Washington, DC we’ve just had what seems like our hundredth snow storm of the school year. Many other places around the country have been experiencing extreme weather this winter as well. That made me think: what resources are available for teaching students about weather? As it happens, there are many.
General Weather Resources
WeatherWizKids is a site developed by a meteorologist to explain weather to children. The site has pages describing everything from rain to volcanoes, with straightforward explanations and helpful graphics. Kids can also play games and learn about weather-related careers.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has a really comprehensive site of resources for educators. Resources range from lesson plans to short videos and graphics to share with students, including one fascinating section dedicated to how global weather patterns affect local weather events.
WeatherBug is a service that many educators are already familiar with. Sensors and cameras are placed throughout the area--many on school buildings--and the data from these devices are used to give a comprehensive look at the weather conditions outside. The site isn’t specifically designed for children, but the layout is simple and easy to read, making it a good choice if you’re having students track weather trends.
Whether or not you’re located in an area prone to severe weather, tornadoes, lightning and other weather events are of interest to many kids. National Geographic has a collection of videos dedicated to Forces of Nature, including clips of tornadoes, hurricanes and lightning strikes. Discovery Kids has a site dedicated to Extreme Weather, with detailed information on floods, tsunamis, tornadoes and the like. Sky Diary, the website of photographer and filmmaker Chris Kridler, also has some great information about extreme weather events.
Many places across the country are experiencing it right now, but what is snow? Where does it come from? The University Corporation for Atmospheric Research has a great kids site about blizzards and snow that gives an explanation of how snow is formed and what happens when we get too much of it. Michigan State University Extension has a short list of science experiments that can be done in the snow, as does How Stuff Works. Number 3 on the How Stuff Works page seems fairly dangerous--you might want to skip that one.
And for the parents, who are nervously dreading another snow day: 10 Terrific Things You Can Do in the Snow with Kids.
This week's tech tip is a useful tool called Readability and this site is useful for anyone trying to make reading online easier. Readability creates a clean view for reading now or later on a computer, phone, or tablet device by eliminating all the ads and other clutter. The site's administrators claim their service has a simple purpose: to deliver a great reading experience.
Readability can also place articles found on the internet and save them for reading at a later time. For example, users can click the browser add-on extension and the service will ask if the clean article should be viewed now, later on or on the Kindle application. Readability is also available on iOS devices, Android OS, chrome browsers, FlipBoard, Twitter, email and many more options. Readability is a free service and is easy to get set up by linking a Facebook account to their service.
I have used Readability in my courses at school by having students set up their own free accounts, so that when they are conducting research on various topics on the web, they can get a clean and legible copy to use. Students in my Participation in Government class had to conduct research on a public policy issue and students who were working in groups, could save articles to a group account that they could look at later or use immediately to assist in completing the assignment. I have also had students use Readability when they complete their current event assignments because it makes the copy much easier to read and saves on printer ink and toner. See the video below for more information on this great application.
Recently, I came across a blog post that had me seeing glory lights and made angels sing. Truly, the strategy I read about in this post was awesome and I knew I wanted to try it with my 4th graders.
The blog was written by a wonderful teacher named Kelly, who teaches 3rd grade. She discusses how she taught her 3rd graders to leave "tracks" of their thinking and what happened next was really awesome. (You can read the blog post here.)
While my intentions were good (I really DO plan to try this strategy), it just hasn't fit into my schedule with MAP testing, IEPs and so on. Maybe I will save it for after Spring Break when I can truly push my students to the next level in those last few weeks of school.
I made a big connection to Kelly's post, however, when I sat through a PD session last week. We were watching a few short classroom clips on Teaching Channel (love that website!) and I thought about how cool it would be to be able to make notes as you were watching videos. This is so important to the Common Core as we really try to teach our students to leave those "tracks" like Kelly discussed in her post. Why shouldn't teachers do the same to help them not only comprehend but also to synthesize and really grasp whatever their professional development is about.
The good news is, at Teaching Channel, you can leave notes on the videos you are watching. It's really simple to do but also very cool. Check it out!
Have you been studying the Olympics with your students? There’s almost one week left, so don’t worry if you haven’t gotten to it yet. Here are some great resources to help get your kids in the Olympic spirit.
The Official Sites
If you’re looking for information straight from the source, there are plenty of official Olympics sites to use, and most of them are fairly kid-friendly, although they weren’t specifically designed for younger kids. For up to the minute information, check out the official Sochi Olympics site. The site is also available in French and Russian, which make it a great resource to use with foreign language classes.
Olympic.org is the official website of the Olympic movement. It’s got some of the same information as the official Sochi site, but it also has plenty of background information about the Olympic Games, plus detailed information on previous Olympics. There is a great search tool that allows you to search for Olympic medalists based on the year, event, country or the athlete’s name. Results from Sochi aren’t included yet.
For information about Olympians from the United States, check out the website of Team USA. This site has bios of American Olympians, links to the official sites of US Olympic sports teams and information about the US Paralympics.
Want to show clips from the Games? Head to NBCOlympics.com. Some content requires logging in using your cable or DirecTV account information.
One of the most amazing things about teaching about the Olympics in a wired world is that many athletes have websites that give you lots of great information about their sport and themselves. Here are a couple that your students can use to learn about their Olympic idols.
Shaun White’s site has a bio, links to news articles and videos of the Flying Tomato snowboarding. Ice dancers Meryl Davis and Charlie White have a fairly simple site with information about their skating partnership, fun facts about the skaters themselves, and a list of their awards and accomplishments. Figure skater Ashley Wagner’s site includes a huge gallery of photos from her competitions. Noelle Pikus-Pace, 2014 silver medalist in Skeleton, has an interesting collection of videos, including one about her training regimen and one that gives information on her recovery from a serious injury.
For more information about Olympic athletes, Sports Illustrated Kids has a great site set up with links to news stories and interviews.
Connections across the Curriculum
Researchers at the University of Waterloo in Canada have concluded that because of climate change, only 6 of the 19 cities that have hosted the Winter Olympics would be able to do it again by the end of this century. Use these findings as a springboard to discuss climate change and climate science.
The Greek Olympic team always leads the parade of athletes into the arena during the Opening Ceremonies, in recognition of Greece’s role as the birthplace of the Olympics. Learn more about the original Olympic Games with websites from the BBC, the Perseus Digital Library Project at Tufts University or Scholastic.
How are you teaching your students about the Olympics? Share in the comments.
This week's tech tip is a new beta website called gooru. Teachers can create and share collections of captivating internet resources with students. Gooru has many courses now available in their K-12 Community Library which allows anyone to get started right away in creating their own flipped classroom.
It is simple to get started by first creating a class page that you can add resources to by searching using the site search bar. Gooru will look for standards-aligned, interactive learning materials tied to Common Core and state standards. Once resources are found for the class, the teacher can share the content by creating collections after signing up for the free service. Once you create collections for students to work with, teachers can also create various types of questions as well, such as multiple choice, true/false, fill in the blank and open-ended. Another powerful feature of gooru is that the site makes it easy to share the collection for students to use by making the content available on Facebook, Twitter, email, private link or on gooru's main webpage.
Check out the video clip below to see the power of this great new service!