Branches of Power – Building humble issues into towering laws
Branches of Power is one of eight interactive modules available from Sunnylands Civics Games. In this module students take on roles in each of the three branches of the United States government: Congressional, Executive, and Judicial. Students float among the three branches as they follow an issue from its beginnings in a public forum to local governments, then to Congress and all the way to the desk of the President.
If this is their first time visiting the site, after reading through the directions have students start by going through the tutorial. This will pre-configure the players and allow them to focus more on the government processes themselves. There are many variables, values, and interest groups that students will need to consider at each step in the legislative process. Once students have a feel for the game, have them move to the main game module where they get to configure their own players within each government branch. Students will need to, for example, select what values their legislator will fight for and what issues will make up their Executive branch’s agenda. Winning occurs when students successfully turn all ten issues into laws, represented by towers on the game board.
This site requires Flash.
- If you don’t have access to a 1-to-1 environment for students to run their own governments, then project the site onto a whiteboard and divide them up into three groups (the three branches) and have them make decisions by consensus.
- After a game session is finished, have students reflect on the choices they made and places where they could have taken a different path.
Provided thanks to the non-profit group Internet Archive, the Television Archive contains over 909,000 video clips from news agencies in the United States and Great Britain. Search the database based on keyword and/or filter your results by number of views, title, date archived, or creator. Use the topic cloud down the right-side of the page to look up video clips from specific news agencies such as the BBC News, Mad Money, Frontline, Teen Kids News and more.
Once you make a selection, a film strip-like interface will load breaking down the video clip into 1-minute segments. Each segment will start out playing in a smaller window but can be expanded to play full screen. Many of the video clips also support closed captioning. Video segments can be shared via social media or embedded onto your website.
This YouTube channel contains 100 different videos based on classical pieces of music and set to an animated graphical display. Different shapes and colors come alive as the music plays, and no two videos are alike! Musical pieces from famous composers like Bach, Chopin, Tchaikovsky, and others can be found here.
- Use this site to help calm the mind as students transition from one activity to another.
- Have students listen to a musical piece first and reflect on what they “see” before showing them what Music Animation Machine came up with.
Play the hit memory game Simon from your computer! Simon uses four colored tiles and corresponding sounds to create a pattern that you need to repeat. For each successful pattern you repeat, Simon will add one additional step at the end. Points are awarded for each successful pattern repeat. There’s nothing more to it than that. This site requires Flash.
- Pair Simon with an interactive whiteboard to get the entire class involved.
- If you have multiple student devices, divide your class into teams and have them compete against one another.
- Add another level of difficulty by muting the device to remove the audio cues. If you really want to make things challenging, hide the display while Simon plays the next pattern so that students have to rely exclusively on the button sound effects.
From the website readwritethink.com, the Trading Card Creator is a great interactive tool for students to use to add some excitement to a research project. There are seven different card topics to choose from including people, places, and events – both real and fictional. Which card topic they choose will determine the card layout. As students click on each section, the application displays bubbles with helpful tips for students as to what types of information could be entered. Once complete, students may save their trading card or print it out.
- The Trading Card Creator is available both as a web-based application and an iOS app for the iPad, so if you don’t have enough of the same type of technology for your whole class then you could mix and match. Please note that the projects are not necessarily transferrable between computer and iPad though. There is no login required for the web-based version, and students can save their projects as a .rwt file if they need to finish their card at a later date. The iPad app requires students to create a username in order to save projects and keep them separate, but no passwords are used. Finished projects can be transferred the the iPad’s camera role.
- If you scroll down past the app entry window on their website then you can access lists of lessons plans (organized by grade level) that use this interactive tool as well as related classroom and professional development resources.
Thanks to FreeTech4Teachers for tweeting about this very cool resource.
Provided by the website Scholastic.com, Character Scrapbook is an online tool for students to document information they have on a character from a book that they are currently engaged in reading. First, students provide the book title and the name of the character they wish to profile. On the next page of the scrapbook students use the interactive tools to construct a visual portrait of their character, assigning features such as hair, eyes, nose, mouth, and clothes as well as modify the skin tone. Once the portrait is complete, the scrapbook has six pages within which students can provide additional biographical information on their character:
- ten things I know about the character,
- ten words that describe the character,
- ten details about his/her appearance,
- ten facts about his/her personality,
- ten challenges he/she faced,
- ten accomplishments he/she achieved.
Students can type right into the book and can flip through the pages as they work, deciding under which page a particular fact or observation would best be listed. When complete, the scrapbook pages can be printed like a screenshot.
- Unfortunately, the scrapbook is not designed to be printed as an actual book, but is still a great artifact to include in a portfolio.
- Some characteristics may fit comfortably on more than one page. As a result I found it challenging at times to come up with ten entries for each page, forcing me to think deeper about my character and flush out additional and more specific descriptive words.
- Each page does not require all ten entries to be filled. Also note that each entry is programmed to allow for up to two lines of text comfortably.
Thanks goes to FreeTech4Teachers.com for sharing this find.
Provided by the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, the Molecularium is a digital theme park dedicated to the exploration of atoms, elements, molecules, and their interesting and diverse properties. Once you enter the Hall of Atoms and Molecules, click on the center dome to view the current molecule on display. Click on the atomic symbol on the wall above to watch a video with your host Mel the computer and his friends Hydro and Oxy as they introduce you to the park. Underneath there are four images on the wall, each leading to a different area of the park that contain videos, interactive experiments, and other activities to explore. To the far left is the entrance to the theater where you can watch episodes of “Molecules to the Max!” To the far right is the entrance to the arcade, where there are five arcade-like games to choose from including Ion Storm, Electronz, Mission to Bond, and more!
- This site is huge, with a wealth of information and activities to choose from. It would be easy to break this site up into multiple exploratory activities and spread them throughout a unit of study.
- The site has a sign up feature if students want to be able to save their progress and create their own Atom Face. Sign-up is free and does not require an email address.
Edutopia – Games to teach financial literacy
April is financial literacy month, and the website Edutopia has put together three interactive websites that combine financial savvy and fun games for students to practice and improve upon their financial knowledge. Check out the article for descriptions on each of the three sites selected. Here are my thoughts on the sites:
This site is based on the idea of running/managing a night club for vampires. The game asks students to manage both club income and expenses. And, to add a little realism the site also adds some hefty debt into your financial portfolio right from the get-go in the form of student loans and credit card debt, both of which have high interest rates. What I like best is that the game can be played with or without a login (creating an account will let students save their place and keep track of their progress).
From the Council for Economic Education, this site is geared toward middle school level students, and is designed more as a follow-up activity where students put their knowledge and skills to use. While not as interactive as Bite Club, this site does challenge students to have a mastery of financial terms and problem-solving skills. The site provides tutorial videos to help students orient themselves to the game. An account is required in order to play.
Thanks to a partnership between Visa and the NFL, this site uses financial literacy questions to advance the game. Students choose their teams, their age bracket which will determine the level of difficulty, and how long their game play will be. At each turn students have a preset list of plays to choose from, then must answer a multiple choice question before the play is carried out. A correct answer will result in a play completion; an incorrect answer will result in an incomplete or worse, possible interception. There is no login required to play, but students will need to be patient with some of the animation as the site sees a lot of activity.
U.S. Electoral Compass – How do political priorities change from state to state?
Hosted by the The Guardian News and designed by the social media monitoring experts Brandwatch, this interactive ‘compass’ displays the percentages with which Twitter and online news sites were talking about certain issues in the weeks and months leading up to the 2012 Presidential election in the United States. To activate the compass, choose a state from the list on the left-hand side of the page, then select a date between July 2nd and November 12th from the timeline along the bottom. This will then activate the electoral compass and display data on 30 different policy topics and issues. Change the compass results by selecting another date on the timeline and/or by choosing a different state.
The compass separates the results by political party; results in red represent conversations that included candidate Mitt Romney, results in blue represent those that mentioned Barack Obama. Along the right-hand side of the compass you will find the list of policy topics ranked by importance in that state, as well as some basic biographical information on that state.
- This site has a lot of potential for several compare-&-contrast activities over time and by state.
- Start a discussion with students about the role of social media in our electoral process and where they and/or their parents went to consume information about the election.
- Since the site doesn’t tell us from which news organizations they pulled their data from, ask students to evaluate the credibility of these results.
Thanks goes to FreeTech4Teachers.com for sharing this find.
From www.army.mil, this site provides a brief overview of the Civil War battle at Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. The site uses photographs, audio narration, sound effects, and an animated map depicting troop movements to tell the story. Included in the narration are brief biographies of both military leaders as well as the experiences of common folk during the battle. Use the links at the bottom of the interface to access additional information on weaponry, battle statistics, and an epilogue to these events.
- Use this site to introduce this event in the Civil War timeline, asking students to pick out people and events to conduct further studies of in the future.
- While this is only a brief overview of the battle, this site could be a helpful tool for students who are absent from class and need to keep up as the unit progresses.