Thursday, April 30, 2009

Generate Your Own Crossword Puzzles

During Language Arts this week, we created our own crossword puzzles. Not only are crossword puzzles a great way to support new vocabuary, they are also a welcomed change of pace from the typical styles of writing I require my students to write, such as essays, narratives, and journal entries. One of my students showed me a website he likes to use to make his own crossword puzzles. I checked it out, and found it to be a valuable, free (free is good) resource.

Click here for a sample puzzle I generated for my students.

The Crossword puzzle maker is used to make simple crossword puzzles. It turns out that good crossword puzzles of the type found in newspapers are fairly hard to generate, and require a pool of lots of words, not all of which are used. This program puts all of the words you specify into a simple crossword puzzle. Use the "Printable HTML" button to get a clean page, in either HTML or PDF, that you can use your browser's print button to print. This page won't have buttons or ads, just your puzzle. The PDF format allows the web site to know how large a printer page is, and the fonts are scaled to fill the page.

The puzzle that is generated will remain on this server for about two months. If you want to ensure that you have a copy of the generated puzzle, make sure you save a copy. For puzzles with more than about 15 words, this takes longer. As the number of words increases, the wait increases exponentially. However, if you want a puzzle that is larger than what fits with this form, go to the Large Puzzle page.

If you want to make a permanent collection for yourself, you can use your browser's "Save As..." function to save the puzzle on your computer, and then later load that puzzle by browsing to your file by using the "Browse" button at the bottom of the page where you make puzzles. One of my favorite features is the fact that you can solve the puzzle online, which adds a level of interactivity and spontaneity.

You can perform the following actions on your puzzles:

  • See your puzzles. You get an index of all of the puzzles you have created, so you can find an old puzzle (as long as it isn't older than two months).
  • Delete a puzzle. Be careful...When you delete puzzles, they are gone forever. There are no "Are you sure?" or "undelete" options.
  • List a puzzle for public view.
  • Unlist a puzzle from public view.
  • Edit an existing puzzle. This lets you create a new puzzle based upon one of your existing puzzles so that you can create variations, or fix spelling errors.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Visit a SMART Showcase school and win!

If you visit a SMART Showcase school between May 15th and June 15th, you’ll get to see SMART products in action and have the opportunity to win a full classroom solution!

SMART Board 600i interactive whiteboard system
SMART Document Camera
SMART Response
One full day of onsite training
Information session with a SMART education consultant
Media release written by SMART’s public relations team
Coverage in a SMART publication
Visit for more details!

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Gizmos Support Science & Math Standards

In my quest to explain to my daughter how to calculate slope, I found a very good explanation online. Not only did it do a great job explaining the concept, there was even an online quiz which gave instant feedback. ExploreLearning offers a catalog of over 450 modular, interactive simulations in math and science for teachers and students in grades 3-12. They call these simulations Gizmos. Gizmos are fun, easy to use, and flexible enough to support many different teaching styles and contexts. Gizmos are designed as supplemental curriculum materials that support state and national curriculum standards; in addition, Gizmos help teachers bring research-proven instructional strategies to the classroom.
I intend to use this in my own classroom a lot in the next 30 days. Why for just 30 days? Because that's how long my free trial will last. I don't think our school is in the financial position to drop about $700 for a one year subscription to ExploreLearning's website; though from my initial exposure, it appears to be well worth it.

The graphics, explanations, and movies are just what some students need to truly understand complex concepts. My first demonstration will be the Gizmo on Plate Tectonics. Move the Earth's crust at various locations to observe the effects of the motion of the tectonic plates, including volcanic eruptions. Information about each of the major types of plate collisions is shown, along with their typical locations on Earth.