Websites for Classroom Use

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Websites can certainly have a place within your classroom programme, however; it is important to research them carefully and make sure they are going to be relevant and reinforce your intended learning outcomes. While it is great if they are fun and motivating, not all sites are created equal. These are some of my favourites because they have that potential or academic factor that makes them a useful classroom tool.

One thing I often get my class to do, after we have had "sandpit time" with a new website, is to sit down and review the website. What did we like about it? What didn't we like? Do we think it is suitable for our age group? How did it/could it help us with our learning? How might this tool be used in our classroom? My kids are really good at thinking critically about these sites and they are totally honest about it too - if they don't like something they say so!

Clicking on any of the pictures on this page will take you directly to the website.
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Multiflyer

Multiflyer

This is a really useful tool for using as part of your Maths programme. Designed to help children learn and practise their basic facts, it has both practice tasks and a time limited test. One of the features I really like about it is that at the end of the the test session children can print out a report that shows how many they completed and the percentage they got correct for each multiplication fact. The children can practise with the programme at any time, however; if you save the test part for just once per month (or what ever time frame you decide) you can use the print outs as a form of ongoing assessment and track the progress of your students.
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Writing Fun

Writing Fun

This has examples and writing frameworks for all the main writing genre. There are text organisers, tips and hints, starters and idea prompts to get the kids thinking. The children can even type into a writing frame online and then print out their finished story. They also have several exemplars for each genre - fantastic for analysing with your class and identifying the key features. I have used it for drafting and paired writing.
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BookPals Storyline Online

Storyline Online

On this site there are a variety of popular children's books read by well known actors and actresses. They read from the book just like a classroom "Reading To" session. The illustrations from the book are shown to support the text as it is read. The books are always introduced with a pre - reading question or thought to activate prior knowledge, and to help children make connections and predictions. You can choose to have the text showing as the book is read or for the children to simply listen and enjoy. After the book has been read there are links to comprehension questions and follow up tasks relating to the text.
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Into The Book

Into the Book

The teacher's section has lesson plans and background information. There are small movie clips of children from the "Into the Book" classroom modelling each reading strategy. The children can explore each of the reading strategies with examples and activities to help them to understand what it is all about. My class loves this site. I was a bit worried that my Year 5s would be too sophisticated for it, but they think it's wonderful.
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Dance Mat Typing

Dance Mat Typing

This is just one of the many sites created by the BBC. It's well worth checking out some of their other links as well KS1 seems to equates to about Year 1 - 3 and KS2 to Year 4 - 6. Dance Mat Typing is one of the best typing tutor programmes I have come across. It is levelled for difficulty and the kids find it highly motivating. Keyboard skills are important to develop if you want the children to be using the computer a lot. I know from talking to some of the children in my class over the years that not being able to type fast is as off putting and unmotivating as not being able to write easily or well. This is particularly important to consider in the case of your reluctant writers - there is no point modifying their programme by having them draft straight onto the computer if the process of typing is as daunting as the process of writing.
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Lookybook

Lookybook

This is a great site for discovering some of the fabulous picture books available around the world. If you become a member you can build your own virtual bookshelf of favourite books. As I'm lucky enough to have a projector in my classroom I have used some of these books to read to or with the whole class. We have even used some of the non fiction texts to practise our research skills. Not all of the books available in Lookybook are suitable for this as some of them have very small text. Having said that, it does give you a chance to look through a book before you decide to order it from the National Library or even buy it (Borders is great for tracking down these books & when the exchange rate is good Amazon is not too bad). If you become a member (free) you can even get the code to embed books into your blogs & wikis.
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Samorost 2

Samorost 2

Samorost 2 was introduced to me at ULearn 07. Version one is not to bad either, although there is a bug smoking a pipe that could be a bit dodgy (although to my mind not a lot different from the caterpillar on the mushroom in Alice in Wonderland). I have used Samorost 2 with my class as a means of promoting creative writing and problem solving. We usually work through it as a class and have used it to write fictional recounts, practise describing settings, generate descriptive adjectives and so on.
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The Artist's Toolkit

The Artist's Toolkit

This site gives you background information about various art techniques in an interactive format. There are simple tasks to reinforce each concept and the children can even create their own art works online.
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Math Playground

Math Playground

This site has a range of excellent Maths resources for use with your class. I have even used some of the word problems with a Year 3 Maths extension group. Well worth taking the time to explore. My suggestion would be to select a particular task or puzzle for a groups independent activity. I usually set up my class School Zone page with a direct link to a specific activity I wish them to focus on. You could use the Maths Videos as a discussion starter for a warm up or group activity.

While we're on the topic, don't forget about the Digital Learning Objects. These are available for most curriculum areas. The NZ Maths website on TKI has created a special matrix here for locating appropriate Maths learning objects to meet your needs. If your school hasn't done so already, you'll need to get your principal to apply for a school user name and password - details can be found here.
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International Children's Library

International Children's Digital Library

This was a recent find of mine and one I thought could be quite useful from a Social Studies perspective as well as English. On this site are various books and stories, many of which originally came from other countries and that were written in languages other than English. The books on this site have been translated into several languages and could even be useful for ESOL children as they have the original language still on the book along with the translation.
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Study Skills

Study Skills

This site comes from Learning and Teaching Scotland and has some carefully scaffolded tasks and activities to help children develop research skills. I've used these with my class as a whole class or teaching group activity. You could leave it for the children to explore independently, but I personally feel they get the most benefit from exploring it with their teacher alongside as it's quite a lot to get your head around. Once children are familiar with the different research skills then it can become a fantastic resource for independent use. The different study skills are levelled so that you can locate the most useful and appropriate resources for your class.