Friday, October 14, 2016

Poetry Çat: The Fun and Awesome Poetic Devices Review Game

Most students love video games and hate poetry. Isn't there someway to combine the two? There is now! Introducing Poetry Cat, the poetic devices review game.

Poetry Cat is free on computers or tablets. It features 50 levels and 500 questions. It covers 10 poetic devices, and the game play is fun, compelling, and addictive. Students play a cartoon cat on a quest to collect yarn balls. They will face off against dogs, birds, and other obstacles. When they make a mistake, they will be challenged by a line of poetry. If they correctly answer the question, they can continue playing. If they are wrong, they will die and have to start the level again. These dynamics provide students with a powerful incentive to learn reading skills. Playing Poetry Cat will help your student to better analyze and discuss poetry. Not to mention raising the test scores: this game is like Trojan Horse test prep. You're going to love it. They're going to love it. It's a game that everyone wins.

You can play Poetry Cat for free on the web, but it is also available on iPads from the iTunes App Store. If your students have access to iPads, you can download and install Poetry Cat for free. You can also support Ereading Worksheets by purchasing the ad-free version for $2.99.

Now, I know that not everyone has access to technology. Trust me. I've been there. So I've also taken some of the content from the game and made printable worksheets. Specifically, I made 4 hyperbole and understatement worksheets. Perhaps ironicall, I then made these hyperbole and understatement worksheets into online activities. I also made 4 simile and metaphor worksheets. These worksheets are available as online activities. And I'd like to add a couple of more poetic devices worksheets or tests in the months to come.

I hope that you get the chance to check out Poetry Cat. I think that it's going to help a lot of students. You can help me by spreading the word about this game to others. I appreciate all of your links, likes, shares, and comments.

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Short Stories with Questions | Now Available at Ereading Worksheets

Usually around this time of the year, I start running out of stories in our reading textbook. This year I decided to do something about that.

First I collected 20 outstanding short stories.
Then I created 10 multiple-choice and long response questions for each.
Then I made these activities available as print-outs and Ereading Worksheets (interactive online activities).

The result is an awesome page full of short stories with questions.

I tried to pick stories that have ironic endings, interesting twists, and clever plots. Some of these stories contain mature themes and events. (I marked those texts, but be sure to read and approve each story before you assign.) But mostly these are just powerful stories that have stood the test of time.

Wait. Here's my favorite part:

I remade and revamped the format that I use for the Ereading Worksheets. I won't bore you with technical pedantry, as much as I would like to do that. Rather, I will bullet point some of the improvements that I made. Now, Internet connected students can do the following with these free online activities:

  • Read the text and take the test in the same tab
    (no more switching tabs).

  • Justify and support answers with text after each question . (You can also turn off the long response questions if you want.)

  • Complete these activities on desktops, tablets, and phones with improved visibility. (The old ones were hard to do on a phone.)

  • Popup vocabulary definitions just by hovering or clicking on the vocabulary words. I hand coded each term, including only the relevant definitions. That way students can better focus on reading stories rather than decoding dictionary entries.

  • Print, Save, and/or Email results as a PDF file... and now post quiz results to Facebook. Students get instant feedback. Teachers get automatic grading. Everybody wins. (Students may only share their letter grade on Facebook. Facebook integration is optional, not required for use.)

  • Enjoy improved accessibility. The old format rendered the text as images. This made them scale to different displays in a uniform way. But this approach has many horrible effects. The worst of which concerns accessibility. Students using screen readers and assistive technology couldn't complete the activities. Now the text is actually rendered as text. "Yay" for accessibility!
I could prattle on about this but I've already wasted enough words.
You should just check one out for yourself
.

I highly recommend using the online versions of these activities in your class. But tech isn't for everyone and some people have limited access to tech. So, these activities are available in the classic formats as well. (.rtf files for editing and making changes and .pdf files for true print layout.) I made special efforts to format each text so that it would use as little paper as possible. I was able to get most of these stories on 2-sides. Some required 3. A few required 4. And one story, which moved me to tears, took 6 sides, but I had to include it. (It was "A Piece of Steak" by Jack London if you were wondering.) By optimizing for paper use, I couldn't define all the words that I wanted in every text. But I felt that keeping the sheet count low was the most important consideration for teachers.

Please remember that these are newly created resources. Kindly report any errors that you find in these or other activities to mortonteaches@gmail.com. Or just reply to this email. I spend a lot of time producing content and less time proofreading than I should. Your help in perfecting the posted material is much appreciated.

Also, if you hadn't noticed. I made a pretty cool online parts of speech app and released it in February. Students can use this app in any modern web browser or download it on the iTunes App Store. It's free. It's awesome. Not a whole lot of people are using it currently. It's one of the better kept secrets on the site.

Lastly, I want to thank everyone for sharing my content with others. It means a lot to me. Thank you for "liking" my Facebook page. Thank you for linking to my site. And thank you for telling teachers, parents, and students about ereadingworksheets.com. You're referrals inspire me and allow me to do more with the site.

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Now You Can Find Reading Worksheets By Grade Level

Ereadingworksheets.com has been online since 2010. I originally developed this site with a focus on reading skills. This made it easy for people to find things like "figurative language worksheets." Then my site started growing. I began reaching more people than I ever imagined. Suddenly, people began asking me things like, "What grade level are these worksheets for?" While that seems like a fair question, I was not equipped to answer it. I generally responded by telling people that I used them with my 7th and 8th grade students, but they could edit the files and use them with any grade level. That's not a very good solution for time-strapped teachers teetering on the edge.
So I started working on the grade level thing. The first thing that came to my mind was the Lexile measurement or score. Perhaps it was because people were asking me, "What Lexile level is this text?" Or maybe because we used these Lexile measurements in CPS. As a teacher, you can find the Lexile levels of your texts using their site. But I want to use these measurements as an internet publisher. And to publish these scores legally, I need to an agreement with the Lexile people. I contacted them to see how I could get these measurements on my texts. They requested a fee of $18 per worksheet. I think that price is fair. If I were running a company with venture capital, I would have taken them up on it. I am not, however. So, being cash strapped, I started looking for an open-source alternative. Low and behold: Readability-score.com. This awesome guy Dave Child put together a free program using public readability algorithms, like the Flesch-Kincaid readability test.
Using Dave's program, I was able to get pretty reliable readability scores for my texts for free. In all honesty, Dave's program is better than a Lexile score, because anyone can understand it. If I say a text is written at a 7th grade reading level, teachers and parents can make sense of this. If I say that this text has a Lexile score of 2,236 or whatever, who could make sense of that? Only an experienced teacher, or someone who is good with charts and graphs and happens to have the Lexile score matrix with them, but I digress.
After learning the readability scores of my own texts, I had some hilarious reflections. "Oh, that's why my 7th grade students hated this activity. It was written at an 11th grade reading level. My bad." Clearly, it is essential to know the readability levels of the texts that you are giving to students. Now that I knew the readability scores of my texts, it was a natural step to organize them by this score. So, I spent the first four months of this year, scanning all of the texts that I could and putting the results into a database. Using the power of relational databases, I can now display my worksheets by grade level. As I create new worksheets and activities, I can just drop them in the database and BOOM! The pages get better.
So here they are:

In the near future, I will create pages where you can browse worksheets by Common Core State Standards. In the more distant future, I would like to add my language arts and writing resources into similar databases. Please let me know if this is a good use of my time or if I should be developing some other aspect of the site. I appreciate your comments and insights.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

How Can I Help a Struggling Reader / Writer Who Only Writes Single Word Responses?

Today, a visitor to my website asked me the following question:
Hello Mr. Morton:

Your website is wonderful, however, I'm looking for materials to teach my 5th grader at home the CORE fundamentals of reading. He has a hard time putting his thoughts on paper. Therefore, he gives one word answers when the question is looking for details. Do you have any information that can assist me in this area?
Thanks a bunch
I responded in the following way.
Hello:

It's hard for me to give you good advice
without being more familiar with your child's
specific needs and all of the factors that might
be affecting his behavior, so take what I'm saying
with a grain of salt.

I will try to give you some insight from my distant position, however.

1. Students generally write one word answers because they are hurrying to complete the assignment. They don't care about their grades or the value of the activity. They only know that they get in trouble if they don't complete the assignments. So they learn pretty quickly that if they slop some stuff on the paper as fast as they can, and then they can get back to gaming or browsing the internet or chatting with friends or whatever.   

I don't know if it's possible to drill in appreciation for learning. I don't think it is.

You can, however, increase the requirements of the activity. You do this by being more specific and clear with your expectations.

Here are some simple ways to do that.

1. No matter what he is reading, have him provide a summary. A summary cannot be one word. It should capture all main points of the text. Catching him on this will require that you read the text too, but you seem like an involved parent, so that shouldn't be too hard.  If he can effectively summarize a text, he had comprehended it. Then he can discuss it with you. 

This prevents him from just cherry picking the answers. Many students use this shortcut to prevent themselves from doing reading. They learned that they don't have to read the texts, they can just skim for the answers. Often times they will get a 70% or so of these answers correct, so it is a method that works for the student who is solely working to avoid punishment. 

That method actually sucks though. They don't learn anything and it is a bad habit. 

By having him to summarize every text, and making him revise his summaries if they are lacking, you are requiring him to develop a closer relationship to the text. Maybe you can try some of these activities to get him started.

2. One of the big pushes in the Common Core is for students to support their answers with text. Truly, this has always been an important skill for upper level English courses, but the Core has slid this skill down the ladder so that younger students learn to do it. I think that this is fantastic. Using text to support your arguments is one of the most important things that you can learn in an English, reading, or language arts class. So how do you do it? 

After he had provided a summary of the text, ask him to answer the following question: "What can readers learn from this text?" Require that he states his position clearly in the first sentence. Then have him find a quote from the text that supports his argument. Then have him explain what this quote shows. This will help him get on the road to writing better responses. 

It may take a while. His first responses definitely won't be as good as his last, but that's a good thing. That's what growth is. 

Again, there is no silver bullet to solve this problem, but hopefully some of these techniques help you to push him more effectively.

Best wishes,



Morton
I have published this exchange in the hopes that it might help others.

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Learn English Grammar by Playing a Video Game

I've noticed that if there is one thing that my students like to do, it's play video games. As far as they are concerned, computers are little more than game boxes. Of course, I'd prefer that they'd do more meaningful activities when given access to laptops, but they tend to despise the coaching programs to which our school subscribes.

Seeing an opportunity to do some good, I taught myself to make video games, and I started fleshing out some concepts. While having students test my work, I realized that students are willing to jump through complex hoops to play games. While most of my students are not interested the distant goals of college prep or even test prep, they are concerned with the immediate goals of succeeding in whatever game that they are playing. Therefore, I built ereadinggames.com with this notion in mind: provide fun gaming experiences with genuine educational reinforcement. My first game, Orpheus the Lyrical, provides excellent figurative language review, but is much less ambitious than my most recent work:

Super Grammar Ninja: in this game students play through five challenging worlds, learning special moves and acquiring power-ups, and all the while reviewing parts of speech and sentence structure concepts. The game play is somewhere between Mega Man and The Adventures of Link, and the subject matter is ideal for Explore, Plan, and ACT test prep. I could see this game being of tremendous benefit to foreign language learners as well. Anyway, I've dumped my heart and soul into this game for the last nine months or so, and I hope that you or your students will have as much fun playing this game as I did making it. Check it out: ereadinggames.com/super-grammar-ninja

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Holy Onomatopoeia Examples!

Boom! Here is a list of 101 onomatopoeia examples used in complete sentences. Feelings of excitement will whoosh over you. You will be blown away by the booms and bangs. You may just tinkle your britches. Well, at least you'll find a lot of examples of onomatopoeia. Anyway, check out some of these fine examples:
  1. The two-year old crashed into the cabinet.
  2. The cabinet opened with a distinct creak.
  3. Dissatisfied with her work, Beth crinkled up the paper and threw it in the trash.
  4. The swamp frogs croaked in unison.
  5. The teacher heard the distinct crunch of ruffled potato chips.
  6. Jacob could not sleep with the steady drip-drop of water coming from the sink.
  7. The root beer fizzed over the top of the mug.
  8. The flag flapped in wind.
  9. Did you forget to flush the toilet?
  10. Daryl gargled the mouthwash.
  11. The wounded soldier groaned.
Kaboom! If your head is ringing with excitement, check out the full list.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

2012 United States Election Results Map Activity and Worksheet

Students are often required to read and interpret charts and graphs on standardized tests; therefore, it is important that you offer your students some practice using this skill. In the following activity, students will look at a large table of data. The table consists of the following columns: state names, the number of electoral votes, and the percentage of votes going to either Barack Obama or Mitt Romney. Along with this table is a map of all fifty states (they'll have to pencil in D.C. themselves). Students are to complete each of the following tasks:

  1. Write the name of each state
  2. Write how many electorates each state currently has
  3. Color each state one color if Romney won and a different color if Obama won
Students might have some problems with those tiny little colonies on the East coast, as most map makers do, but by drawing lines and creatively allotting space, they should be able to complete the activity. Check it out: 2012 Election Results by State Map Worksheet and Activity The activity is also available in RTF format, if you'd like to edit it yourself, on this page: reading comprehension worksheets.