Camp Wonderopolis

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My sixth grade students know that I am absolutely in love with the website Wonderopolis.org.  There are so many interesting wonders in this world including, “What does the fox really say?” and “Can a human outrun a cheetah?”  On occasion, I would simply book the iPad cart, distribute this trifold brochure, and tell my kiddos to learn something new!  The feedback was pretty positive as many children appreciate the ability to choose their own learning path.

That has lead me to use Wonderopolis at home too.  Now, E and D are still little young (now 6 and 3), but when a scary storm rolled through the area this spring, we grabbed the computer to find out, “Why does it thunder?”  I was excited to see a new button pop up on the home page letting me know that I could preregister for Camp Wonderopolis, a FREE program designed to keep kids learning and discovering during the summer.  Without hesitation, I enrolled E.

Here is some information from the FAQ pdf:

Camp Wonderoplis is a fun, engaging way to keep kids learning over the summer months. The content has been developed to improve reading comprehension of informational text, build background knowledge in different areas of science, and improve vocabulary and literacy skills.

…Camp Wonderopolis has been created so individuals, families, and programs can customize the Camp experience to suit their individual needs. There are 42 individual scientific lessons that can be explored at your own pace, on your own schedule.

Camp Wonderopolis is built for learners of ALL ages, but it is especially targeted at grades 2 – 8. Campers under the age of 13 will need to have their registration verified with the email address of a parent or guardian.

Basically, there are six tracks:  Observatory, Zoo, Amusement Park, Woods, Dig Site, and Laboratory.  There is one overall video and “maker” lesson for each track and a series of mini-lessons for additional exploration.  Completing lessons earn the user Wonder Cards.  Completed Wonder Cards will earn rewards online, although I have no idea what they look like.  Each quest/lesson should take 10-15 minutes to complete.  Again, E is a little young, and we struggle with getting quiet time.  But the framework is outstanding, and as a parent and educator, I absolutely love the opportunity for my kids to explore science in a fun way.

Registration is open until July 28, 2014.  After July 28, all camp content will be available on the wonderopolis.org/camp.

WonderLogo-Math

ABC for Little Space Explorer

abc for space

 

 

 

Age Scale:  2+

Device: iPhone, iPod, and iPad

Quick Line:  The Universe in an Alphabet

What Educators Need to Know:

Every kid has his or her “thing”.  For my oldest, it was trains.  For my youngest, it is animals.  Many of us moms knows the depths to which we are willing to indulge those “things”.  (We have to watch Thomas AGAIN??)  Lucky for us, the App Store never lets us down.  With a quick swipe of the finger, we can easily satisfy our children with their “things”, and we don’t have to feel guilty because they are usually educational!

Take for example, the ABC Flashcard apps by Common Extract.  So far, there is ABC for the Little Scientist and the newly created ABC for the Little Space Explorer.  Now, space is far from a hot topic in my house.  But I realized as I shopped for new bedding for little D’s room, it must be a pretty popular theme.  Each letter is accompanied by its sound, vocabulary word, and quick activity.  Now, the vocabulary is certainly more challenging than the standard for the average toddler, but it is spot-on for the enthusiast.  And if they learn the sounds that the letters make?  Even better!

If I could revise this app, I would do two things.  One, I would reduce the price.  $1.99 is a bit high for an ABC app.  Two, my very wise babysitter pointed out that the advanced vocabulary was not actually defined.  Yes, this would be above the typical toddler/preschooler’s head, but at minimum, it would be helpful for parents!  Also, it could widen the audience to children in primary grades.  I know I would be more willing to download and use an app that provided content with the alphabet exposure.  Plus, content-specific vocabulary is a Common Core buzz topic!

In this very competitive market, it is nice to see developers branch out and pay attention to the interests of children.  Because, as we all know, despite our best efforts, sometimes there’s just no way to discourage some of our kids “things”.

Price:  $1.99

Kids’ Vocabulary MindSnacks

Age Scale: 7-12

Device: iPhone, iPod, iPad

Quick Line: A Satisfying Vocabulary Meal

What Educators Need to Know:

What’s on the menu in my classroom? New words! In an effort to switch from memorization to internalization, I rewrote my recipe for growing a vocabulary. Gone are the bland flash cards. I’ve introduced color to our vocabulary plates with Kids’ Vocabulary MindSnacks!

Each patron at the MindSnacks diner has access to a unique meal with lots of flavor. For the lighter appetite, MindSnacks will provide one lesson free of charge. It includes a single list of related words on which to nibble. Sample the word, hand-drawn picture, part of speech, and simple definition.. Hear it pronounced and see it used in a sample sentence. Best of all, expand your palate by reading its origin, word parts, and homophones, when available. To aid in the digestion process, nosh on the nine fabulously creative and engaging challenges! You’ll learn to use, spell, pronounce, and visualize the list of words easily and without heartburn! Concerned that your Snacks might be bad for your health? Don’t be. MindSnacks are based on the Common Core Standards, so you are sure to grow healthy and strong!

Have a heavier appetite? Upsize your meal, and be prepared to devour 25 full lessons that include 350 words. Having trouble with a particular set? Don’t worry. MindSnacks will adapt to you. The customer always comes first!

My students gobbled this app up! They ate their veggies first, and read about their words before feeding on the goodies or games. They came back to their lists for refreshers, however, so I knew that they were getting a square meal. After each quest, students could see which words needed a little more attention, and they adjusted their play accordingly. It was wonderful to see them applying their knowledge of etymology! Mission accomplished!

I highly recommend that you taste this menu. You will not leave hungry!

Price: free for first lesson ($4.99 for full version)

List for Writers – ideas for creative writing

 

Age Scale: 10-adult

Device: iPhone, iPod, and iPad

Quick Line: A List of Lists

What Educators Need to Know:

My sixth graders surprised me today. We talked about how highly successful people set goals for themselves. We discussed how goals should be SMART.

 

And I sat back and let them generate four goals for themselves for the first quarter. I could not have been more pleased! Gone were the blatantly obvious “I want to be better in Reading class” goals. These kids gave careful consideration to what they thought were reasonable, reachable goals!

Even more impressive, some recognized writing as a weakness, and they sought help to generate phrases that would reflect exactly what they wanted to improve upon. A few mentioned making their writing more interesting.  I briefly suggested a newly downloaded app called List for Writers.

Since we are speaking of lists, I thought I’d give my reasons for supporting this app in (you got it!) list form.

Reasons I like List for Writers – ideas for creative writing

  1. It is simple and neat. As the title suggests, List is full of lists, including those relating to characters, personalities, plot, setting, and words. There are no graphics or anything else to distract you.
  2. It is comprehensive. Each list contains hundreds of suggestions for words you might need in each of many categories. For example, there is a list for first names (a list for both male and female), last names, occupations, clothing, people, and even body types!  The action verb and adjective lists would be particularly useful in narrative writing. I also really like the list of seven basic plots. I don’t think I’ve ever seen them laid out so plainly!
  3. With a simple tap, most words are defined by a built-in dictionary.
  4. You can copy and save your favorites to a notepad while you continue to generate ideas and formulate your ideas.
Options I Wish List for Writers Offered:
  1. One notepad might not be enough. It would be nice to be able to work on more than one story at a time.
  2. A favorites list might come in handy.
  3. Although the lists are extensive, a thesaurus option might be an easy addition.
  4. It would be nice to be able to add your own items to lists.
This app is currently $2.99 in the App Store. Some might find the price to be a bit steep for an intermediate school budget. But it is definitely something I would consider if I were a middle or high school writing teacher. Children WANT their writing to sound more mature and professional. List for Writers is certainly a tool that would easily aid them in achieving this goal!
 
Price: $2.99
 
Download by clicking here.
 
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Front Row Vocab

Age Scale: 14 to adult

Device: iPhone, iPod, and iPad

Quick Line:  Front Row Seat to SAT Prep

What Educators Need to Know:

Getting teenagers to put the time preparing for the SAT while carrying a full academic load is a challenge.  Prep materials are often overwhelming, boring, and if not used correctly, ineffective.  Well, welcome to the age of technology!  Front Row Vocabulary takes some of the pain away.  The FREE initial download contains a set of 100 frequently used words from the SAT.  Students read a short set of words and definitions and enter quiz mode.  The quizzes are designed to test user knowledge of the definitions as well as identify a sentence in which the word would be used correctly in context.  The final level requires users to write original sentences using the words.  Each challenge incorporates a new small set of words until users know them all.  Pretty comprehensive, right?  There are a number of methods incorporated in this app that I can wholeheartedly support.  The first is the idea of spaced repetition.  Seeing the word and definition is important, but seeing it while interspersed with both new and mastered words is especially effective.  In addition, having to learn the word as it is used in context is another great technique to commit the word to long term memory.  Lastly, there’s nothing like good ole competition.  I liked the fact that I was “better” than 80% of Front Row users, but 80% still left room for improvement! The goal is to use the app for at least five minutes every day, but I found myself wanting to keep going and going!  Parents and educators often forget the difference between memorizing and learning.  I want my children to LEARN, so if I had a child preparing to take the SAT, I would skip the books and videos and head to the Front Row!

Price:  FREE (initial download; additional word packs are $9.99)

 
Front Row Vocab - Front Row Education