I taught elementary school for several years, and I spent some time teaching ESL for grades PK through 12. I now homeschool my daughter.
I teach: General Education, ESL
To ages: 3 to 18
When I read stories out loud to the class, I often choose books that are more difficult than what they would read on their own. The students raise their hands or write down words that they aren't familiar with. We go back to the sentence or paragraph and try to find the meaning using context clues, and then we check our answers with Dictionary.com. It is quick and easy to use, which means that we get the answers we need so that we can get back to the story. When students are reading individually or when we are practicing spelling, I encourage them to use a regular dictionary, but I believe that Dictionary.com is an excellent way to expand their vocabulary.
I used Thesaurus.com frequently, both personally and as a teacher. When my ESL students learned new vocabulary, we would turn to the site to boost their language skills. I would frequently give them a "good, better, best" quiz to assist them in choosing the most appropriate word for a sentence. I also used Thesaurus.com when I taught third grade writing. The students would write sentences, paragraphs or stories. We would then go to a hard-copy thesaurus or to Thesaurus.com to make their stories come alive with more descriptive terms.
We have used Skype in the classroom so that students can connect with other classrooms. We will visit with students and teachers in other cities and states so that the children can compare schools and communities. I also had the students work individually as they interviewed someone, and they wrote a report after they were finished. We have also used Skype to chat with someone in the administration building if we have a quick question.
I have used several programs to build websites, and Dreamweaver is one of the easiest to use. While it does take some time learn how to build an advanced page, you can create a simple website in a short amount of time. I do have books and training videos available for me if I need to do something that is more complicated. It also helps if you have experience with other Adobe programs because the interface is very similar. As others have stated, it can be a disadvantage that the program must be on the computer that you are using at the time. I will occasionally need to post time-sensitive updates to the class site and am unable to do so because of where I am located.
When I taught Kindergarten, I would often pull up Starfall for children to use in the computer center. It helped them with letter recognition and phonics to improve their reading skills. I also used it when I taught other elementary grade levels to help students who were struggling with reading. Its colorful layout and engaging activities encouraged students to keep working rather than giving up or becoming frustrated. I currently use Starfall to help my own daughter as she is starting to learn about letters and their sounds.
I have used Dropbox to share various files with coworkers, including lesson plans, images and essays. If one of us created a game or worksheet for our class, we could easily store the file on Dropbox so that the other grade level teachers would have access to it. We also used this program for group projects that involved students from multiple classrooms, such as interviews, polls and graphs. Dropbox is easy to use and can be a great resource for teachers who want to share their ideas.
I enjoy using Google Earth in the classroom. We live in a very remote location, so it is a handy tool for allowing students to see what the rest of the world looks like. We look up cities and towns that we read about in our social studies lessons. When a new student comes in, we pull up his former town to compare it with his new home. I have also used Google Earth to give students a better understanding of maps and roadways.
I have used Facebook for personal reasons, but I have not used it with students. However, our administration does have a Facebook page to keep the community up-to-date with important announcements. It is closely monitored so that inappropriate content is not posted. I would not use Facebook in the classroom except to gain more information about authors or other important figures. In most cases, I think Facebook is better left at home.
Although I have had an account for a while, I just recently became a fan of Pinterest. I initially didn't understand the site's purpose, but then a friend showed me just how useful it can be. I have since learned how to sort through and find activities, games, lessons and decorations for my classroom. I also use Pinterest for crafts and recipes. It is a great way to share ideas with other teachers and parents.
Microsoft Word is by far the program that I use the most. I turn to Microsoft Word multiple times each day to draft notes, worksheets, lesson plans, activities and more. The program is so easy to use that I was able to allow my Kindergarten students to use it during Center Time. They can make small books, cards and stories in a matter of minutes with very little help. I have also used Microsoft Word to assemble classroom books from the sentences and stories that the students have typed.
I have used Twitter to stay connected with the school community. I can keep track of important dates, information, and news by following our school's Twitter account. Twitter also makes it easy for me to follow other teachers and educational institutions so that I can stay on top of the most current trends in teaching. I have also used it to connect to other classrooms so that my students know what school is like in other cities, states and countries.
PowerPoint is one of my favorite tools to use in the classroom. It is an effective program for introducing new content, because I can provide visuals and notes in a way that keeps the students engaged. I have also made games to help students review information that they have learned. Some of our group projects have included using PowerPoint to create slideshows to teach the rest of the class about certain topics. My students love PowerPoint, and they look forward to both viewing and creating presentations.
Our administrators have also used PowerPoint effectively for demonstrations and presentations. Their use of the program during meetings and staff development makes it easy for me to take notes without missing vital information.
I have used Audacity several times to create my own audio samples. I used it to record myself reading books for students that wanted to follow along, and I also used it to cut samples for music memory competitions. I let a few advanced students in my older classes use Audacity to create commercials for a writing assignment. Audacity also allowed me to easily add sounds to my website and to edit sound files for a PowerPoint presentation.
I have used Finale for several years, and each version keeps getting better. I used it for elementary music to create lessons and exercises. Our high school directors have also allowed students to use the program to practice music theory and composition. The ability to extract parts is my favorite feature, and it makes it extremely easy to print music for the entire ensemble. However, I wish that MIDI input allowed for instant transposition for different instruments.
I have used Google Docs for both professional and personal projects. While it is handy for sharing documents with other users, Google Docs requires a bit of patience and practice. However, I enjoy using Google Docs when we use it to share worksheets, lesson plans and agendas with other teachers. We have also used it to help students track their progress in collaborative projects so that team members are kept up to date while being able to add and monitor changes.
Discovery Education is one of my favorite resources. I have used it in various subjects, including history, science, health and language arts, and my students always get excited when they see that I am pulling up the website. There are videos and lessons for all grade levels, and the site makes it easy to find exactly what you need. You can also pause the video to discuss what the students are learning or to elaborate on something they have seen.