Tuesday, July 17, 2012


Here are some good sources for students who want to learn about U.S. Presidents.

(Of course students can use Wikipedia, which often has good articles. Why not stop there? (1) Some Wikipedia articles are written in a style that is hard for some students to read. (2) Some teachers don't want students to cite Wikipedia. (3) Wikipedia articles are unsigned. (4) Wikipedia articles don't give you access to all the great documents and images available in some of the sites listed here.)

Whitehouse.gov is the official site for the current administration. It has short biographies of the presidents here.

The site lists its source:
The Presidential biographies on WhiteHouse.gov are from “The Presidents of the United States of America,” by Michael Beschloss and Hugh Sidey. Copyright 2009 by the White House Historical Association.

screen shot of Presidential Timeline homepage

The Presidential Timeline of the Twentieth Century gives you easy access to digitized material (documents, audio, video) from the 13 Presidential Libraries that are part of the National Archives. It includes: Herbert Hoover, Franklin D. Roosevelt, Harry S. Truman, Dwight D. Eisenhower, John F. Kennedy, Lyndon B. Johnson, Richard Nixon, Gerald R. Ford, Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan, George H. W. Bush, William Jefferson Clinton, and George W. Bush.

In addition to the timeline, there are "exhibits" on special topics for most of the presidents—for example, President Truman's decision to use the atomic bomb (1945) and the desegregation of the armed forces (1948-1954).

You can learn more about the Presidential Libraries and find links to them on the National Archives site. This search page lets you search the Presidential Libraries' websites.

Many of the Presidential Libraries' websites have special pages for students. For instance, the Kennedy Library has For Students, the Johnson Library has LBJ for Kids!, and the Eisenhower Library has Student Resources. You can often find these pages under Education.

Some of the "kids" pages will be useful for younger students. Some are written at a high school level.

American Presidency Project homepage

The American Presidency Project at UC Santa Barbara pulls together thousands of documents into one searchable database. You can find speeches, papers, party platforms, and more.

Do you like data? This site also gives you data comparing presidents on number of major speeches made, approval ratings, budget information, and more.

If you want to go directly to the audio and video materials, click on media.

The Library of Congress site, America's Story from America's Library (designed for young people), includes U.S. Presidents. It includes 14 presidents.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Anagram Fun

An anagram is a word or phrase that's formed by rearranging the letters of another word or phrase. For example, the letters that make up "A decimal point" can be turned into the anagram "I’m a dot in place."
Definition from vocabulary.com.

(Compare vocabulary.com with dictionary.com. Which one has lots of ads? Which one is easier to read?)

More from vocabulary.com:

People mainly make anagrams just for fun, but sometimes they’re used as pseudonyms or codes. For example, the French writer Francois Rabelais published his controversial first book under Alcofribas Nasier, an anagram of his name. The most entertaining anagrams are the ones where the rearranged letters make some sort of comment on the original. "Dormitory" turns into the anagram "dirty room," and "snooze alarms" can be rearranged into "Alas! No more Zs."
People who are good at seeing anagrams are often terrific Scrabble players, because they can look at a tray of seven letters and see new words that those letters can make.

I just came across a site where a programmer made a mock instant messaging app. You exchange comments with Sternest Meanings, who turns everything you say into an anagram.

Here's an example:

sternest: Ahoy mate!
webuser: Hi there, Sternest Meaning!
sternest: I'm the sneering threatens.
webuser: Hey, I'm going to the tutoring center tonight.
sternest: Unremote eighty-eight contorting. To thing.
webuser: Are you coming?
sternest: Gooey cranium.
webuser: What are you reading?
sternest: Graduate on haywire.
webuser: See ya later!
sternest: Steely area.

Give it a try. Can you see how the program makes new words from the ones you wrote?

By the way, "Sternest Meaning" is an anagram of a two-word phrase. Can you figure it out?

Monday, July 9, 2012

Career Info for Young Students

Paws in Jobland is an interactive website that helps elementary school students explore different jobs. It has information about over a hundred jobs. In Jobland, they're grouped by location. For instance, a building site has an archtitect, a bricklayer, a drafter, an electrician, and more. Jobfinder helps students find jobs to look at by asking them a series of questions ("Do you like math?" "Do you like acting?").  You'll never guess how the jobs are arranged in the ABC Search section of the site.

You can run it with or without sound. Without sound, there's more reading, of course.

(Adults will notice that the voices in Jobland have a Canadian accent. The program was originally developed in Denmark, then adapted for England, then adapted for North America—and the North Americans were Canadian. The parent site is by XAP, a company that offers licensed career materials for students, educators, and adults. XAP does business in the US and Canada.)

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Geography Resources and Games

Table of Contents:
  • United States
  • World
  • Geography Concepts and Geography Generally

Here are some resources for learning about states:

 Explore the States (part of America's Story, from the Library of Congress).

Kids.gov logo

Kids.gov links to states' websites. These links take you to pages with general information, often aimed at young people—for instance,

Go West graphic

Go West Across America with Lewis and Clark (interactive site from National Geographic)

MapStats for Kids (from FedStats, the statistics site with data from lots of federal agencies). Games show you how to represent data (like number of farms or average income) on maps. They can help you practice finding states on the map, and they're also good practice at working with numbers.

screen shot of atlas puzzle

National Geographic Atlas Puzzles. Choose a map, then see it turned into jigsaw pieces and put it back together.

Ben's Guide to U.S. Government for Kids, Learn About Your State includes a page of basic facts about each state.
Place the State graphic
Ben's Guide to U.S. Government games includes Place the State, a great way to learn where all the states are.

USA.gov links to Travel and Tourism Sites for U.S. States and Territories

GeoNet games (from the textbook publisher, Houghton Mifflin). You can choose US or the world.

Here are some resources for world geography:

screenshot of World Factbook homepage

CIA World Factbook. The Central Intelligence Agency publishes this book (and website) every year to offer basic information about all the countries in the world. Includes:
    pictures of 4 flags
  • Maps of world regions, the world, and the United States. These are great maps to print or download!
  • Flags of the World 
  • Country comparison pages. You can get rankings of all the countries based on different statistics, such as:
    • Population. China has the world's largest population, with over 1.3 billion people. What countries are #2 and #3? What country has the fewest people?
    • Life expectancy.
    • Prevalence of HIV/AIDS.
    • Unemployment rate.
    • Per capita income.
    • Number of mobile phones.
    • How much money is spent on the military.

National Geographic Kids logo
National Geographic's Geography Games.

screen shot of atlas puzzle

National Geographic Atlas Puzzles. Choose a map, then see it turned into jigsaw pieces and put it back together.

Freerice.com subjects:
  • Identify Countries on the Map
  • World Capitals
  • World Landmarks
  • Flags of the World

GeoNet games (from the textbook publisher, Houghton Mifflin). You can choose US or the world.

Here are some sites for geography concepts and geography generally:

National Geographic GeoBee Quiz. Ten daily questions from the National Geographic Bee. 

NASA has lots of material, suitable for different ages.
  • Window to Earth uses cool pictures to illustrate basic concepts like "cape" and "glacier."
  • A series of short videos (about 1 min. each) shows features of each continent from space.
  • Lists of materials and games about earth science for grades K-8 are here. (Most of the games seem to be aimed at young students.)
  • Material about earth science for grades 9-12 and adults is here.

Friday, July 6, 2012

Freerice.com: Educational and Addictive (in a Good Way!)

Freerice.com is a game site that does good. When you play and get right answers, advertisers give to the United Nations World Food Programme (the world's largest humanitarian organization fighting hunger). You get the fun of doing well at the game, and people who need food get food.

The game is simple: you're asked a question and given four possible answers. If you guess the right one, you earn 10 grains of rice. If you guess wrong, you don't. Either way, you keep going.

The game is always challenging (but not too hard), because if you get a lot of questions right, it gives you harder questions, and if you get a lot of questions wrong, it gives you easier questions. So you always end up being at a level where you get some questions right and some questions wrong. It makes you want to try one more . . . and one more . . . and one more.

You can set up an account to keep track of how much rice you've won—and to challenge your friends!

You can choose from different subjects:


For younger students, I recommend English Vocabulary, English Grammar, and Multiplication Table.

For older students, I recommend English Vocabulary, English Grammar, Spanish (if they're taking Spanish!), and SAT.  The SAT practice questions cover both language arts and math. Great practice!

Here's a video made by some high school students who really like Free Rice!

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Kahn Academy—Videos on Math, Science, and More

The Khan Academy is a free site that has lots of great tools for helping people learn. There are thousands (yes,thousands!) of short videos on math (first grade through calculus), physics, biology, chemistry, history, business, and other topic.

Each video is about 10 minutes—long enough to explain one concept, but not so long that it goes past what you're working on to confuse you with the next topic. The videos have lots of diagrams and graphics to help you understand.

There are lots of practice exercises for math. You find out immediately whether your answer was correct. If you're not sure what's going on, you can see the problem solved, step by step.
You can set up a free account to keep track of your progress. You'll earn badges to show what you've mastered.

Teenagers: check out the SAT Math Prep. Mr. Khan works through all the math problems in The Official SAT Study Guide, writing on his computer "blackboard" as he talks. He recommends that you try to take a practice test on your own, score it, and THEN watch him solve the problems you had trouble with.

Teacher Resources (for classroom teachers) are here.

Here are sample videos:

Occupational Outlook Handbook

The Occupational Outlook Handbook has few pages a out each of hundreds of jobs. For example, the section on Registered Nurses has sections on what nurses do, their work environment, the education needed, the pay, and what the outlook for the profession is. Finally, you get a list of links for more information—professional associations, such as the American Nurses Association.

Career Bridge

Career Bridge has lots of career information, focused on Washington State.

If you don't know where to start, take the career quiz: you check off the things you like to do and some words about what you're like, and then you get scored on different types of jobs (for example, law and law enforcement or architecture and construction).

You can search for education programs using keywords about the career you're interested in. In just a couple of clicks, you can find out what schools offer programs, how much they cost, how long they take, and more. You can even find out how the programs graduates do: do they get jobs? how much money do they get?

In the Job Trends section, you can find out about earnings for different occupations and whether experts expect there to be a lot of openings in the next several years.

This page lists job programs for youth (depending on the program, middle school to age 25).