Teacher Tap


STAR Ideas: Simple, Technology Application Resource Ideas

How can I use technology applications in simple, yet powerful ways?

The only software I have on my computer is Microsoft Office, how can I use this in my classroom?

How can I create simple, motivating activities that will engage my students in learning?

Photo libraries such as CalPhotos, the NOAA Photo Library and American Memories Collection Finder provide wonderful resources for student projects. A photograph can generate enthusiasm, motivate reluctant learners, and provide alternative perspectives on a topic.

The following page contains ideas for getting started with simple activities you can do using the software you already have in your building such as Microsoft Office and Inspiration. Many of the activities below contain links to photos that can be helpful in developing activities.

Explore the Student Materials at ReadWriteThink for interactive tools young people can use in creating projects.

Also examine the DK Clip Art collection for simple, attractive images.

Repurpose a Website

Repurposing refers to using a resource in a way it was not originally intended. For example, you might use a science website to discuss a social issue. Or, use the photographs from a history site as part of a writing activity. Or, you might use the visuals from a website for a vocabulary assignment. Apply the information (i.e., text, graphics, video, audio) from a website for a new purpose.

When you repurpose a website, be sure to get permission if you plan to share it online. If you just plan to use it in your classroom, you should still cite the resources you used.


Our Community. Use photographs from local government websites for an "our community" virtual field trip. For example, go to City of Quincy or Virtual Quincy, IL. Also use maps from Yahoo Maps, MapQuest, or Google Maps and Google Earth (must download software) (Grades K-3)

Our Government. Use photographs from the federal goverment to create a question game about our goverment. Use KidZone Illinois, Kid Gov (Grades K-6) or USAGov (Grades 7-12) to locate specific agencies and resources. Who are these people? Why are they important? What are these symbols? Why are the important? (Grade K-8)

Birdhouses. Repurpose ideas from the Birdhouse Project. For example, ask students to read the events from a specific birdhouse cam project. Then, sequence the photos from another birdhouse in PowerPoint or Word and ask students to write narration. Other ideas can be found at Journey North such as bald eagle, caribou, hummingbirds, manatee, robin, whooping crane, gray whale, and Monarchs. Go to the CIESE Real-Time Data or Escrapbooking: Data site for other ideas. (Grades K-8)

WWII Primary Sources. Repurpose posters, photographs, and historical documents from the WWII Project at the National Archives. Find project ideas at the Digital Classroom at NARA. Also consider other time periods in US history. (Grades 5-9)

Author Exploration. Locate an author or illustrator using the Teacher Tap: Author and Illustrator Resources page. Repurpose photographs from various sites to provide a brief biography of the author. (all ages)

Science in Our World. Use SciNetPhoto website to explore since over that past thirty years. Topics including energy, medicine, technoloyg, portraits, and features. Ask students to start with questions they have about the photo. Then write a paper based on the photo. (Grades 5-9)


Springboard Activities

Using photos you've taken or gathered from the web, create a short (4-5) slide PowerPoint springboard activity as a motivating introduction to a new unit.


A PowerPoint slide show that...


Create a Digital Storytelling

Digital storytelling is a great way approach to writing. Students enjoy writing based on visuals. Provide students with photographs or let them take their own with a digital camera. Then, ask students to record their voice narrating the story.

Use the Story Map and lessons from ReadWriteThink.


Pick a Pet. Provide students with photos of pet. Ask them to create a name for their pet and write about the day they found a new home. Do a Google images search for an animal name, or go to Pics4Learning animals, or use FPnet.

Predictable Books. Read a predictable book like Brown Bear, Brown Bear. Adapt the format of the book to PowerPoint. Include photographs to get the story started. Student simply add the words. (Grades K-3)

Q&A Story. Tell a story through a series of questions and answers. Use your digital camera to take photographs, then insert them in PowerPoint slides. For example, a screen may show the outside of the door and ask readers what's inside. Then, the next screen shows what's inside. The next page may show a drawer. The following screen shows what's in the draw. Students add the text and audio narration. (Grades K-3)

A Trip to the Zoo. Use photos from the San Diego Zoo to create your own virtual field trip. Use the Pics4Learning photos. Or invent your own zoo and use Pics4Learning animals. (Grades K-5)

A Trip to Outerspace. Use photos from NASA to create your own virtual field trip to outerspace. Focus on a particular time period such as shuttle history, aspect of space such as careers, or location such as the moon. Use GRIN, JSC Digital Collection, NASA Multimedia gallery, NSSDC Photo Gallery, or NASA Planetary Photojournal.

A Trip to the ... Create a story or virtual field trip by providing a set of visuals for writing. Use for simple trips to a farm, zoo, or store. Or, use this idea for a trip to a particular habitat such as wetlands, desert, mountains, river, or beach. Use theFreefoto photos for farm activities, UFWS for wildlife photos, NASA for space photos, and NOAA for weather and ocean photos. Use the Teacher Tap: Digital and Virtual Field Trips for ideas. Use Pics4Learning farms and barns. (All Grades)

A Day in the Life of... Start with a series of photos from a particular community worker such as a police officer, fire fighter, baker, or farmer. (Grades 2-3)

Tell Fantasy Stories... Start with photos of fantasy setting such as FreeFoto bridges or castles.

The Day of the Disaster... Start with a series of photos from a natural disaster. Ask students to tell a story that includes science information as well as information about the social impact of a disaster. Check out the Pics4Learning Natural Disaster photos. Get photos from Freefoto including 911 emergency, floods, nature, weather. (Grades 3-9).

Colonial Life. Start with a series of photos from different occupations in a historical time period such as Colonial days. Use photos and information from Colonial Williamsburg. (Grades 2-3)

Historical Fiction. Use the photographs from a historical photo website such as the Library of Congress American Memories or Presidential Libraries to provide visual resources for writing. (Grades 3-8)


Electronic Postcards

Electronic postcards are lots of fun. You may be able to find an electronic postcard website that fits your needs from the Teacher Tap: Electronic Postcards in the Classroom page. Another option is to use a Word document, single PowerPoint slide, or KidPix picture and make your own postcards.

Use the Postcard Creator and Lessons from ReadWriteThink.


Historical Postcards. Start with a historical photograph in Word. Ask students to use the photograph like a postcard and write a letter. Use the American Memories Collection Finder to locate a good photo. Or go directly to the Photos and Prints or the Panoramic Photos section. Use Pics4Learning History for photos. (all ages)

Postcard Storytelling. Start with a photograph of a location. Ask student to use the photograph like a postcard and write a letter. For example, pick a photo of a lighthouse (Freefoto). (all ages).

National Geographic Postcard. Use the National Geographic Photography page. Ask students to select a photograph for use on a postcard that represents a particular social studies or science concept.

Multimedia Vocabulary

Use audio, video, photographs, and other resources to increase vocabulary and facilitate content area reading. For example, you might introduce a new set of words related to a particular topic.


Money Words. Provide pictures of money and a photograph of a situation or object. Ask students to write a sentence or story about the photograph that includes the money. For example, "I bought an apple for sixty cents." (Grades K-2)

Opposites. Provide pictures of opposites such as in/out, up/down, quiet/loud, inside/outside. Ask students to match the pictures and put them in groups in Kidspiration. Then, students can create their own narration. (Grades K-1)

Career Words. Create a visual glossary of community workers or careers. Use Kids.gov: Careers and Freefoto business for ideas. Or, try Google images. Record a sentence that includes the proper name of the job such as veterinarian or accountant. (Grades 2-8)

Visual Spelling Words. Use Excel to create a spreadsheet of vocabulary words, definitions, and matching photographs. Use the National Resources Conservation Photo Gallery for ideas. Use the Pics4Learning oceans page. Try the Natural Science, Travel, Industry (wind power, pollution, construction) and Places/Sights of Earth photographs. (All ages)

Speaking Science. Pronunciation is a common problem in science. There are many words that students are able to use in their writing, but they have a hard time pronouncing. Create links to dictionary website vocabulary words that read words aloud. For example, go to Dictionary.com to see and hear the word "amphibian". Locate lots of health and science photographs at the Public Health Image Library. (All grades)

Visual Dictionary. Use Google to create a visual dictionary of words that students can categorize. Or, ask students to add a word, definition, example, sentence, and visual.

Words Alive. Use short videos to promote the use of vocabulary. For example use the videos form Bee Videos or the Bee Cams and ask students to write using their vocabulary related to science and language arts. Use the Naturescapes: Video and Image Starters for other nature topics.


Concept Representation

Students need lots of examples and nonexamples for concept and rule development. Create simple projects that provide students with a variety of resources that can be used in knowledge construction.

When students only use one resource in the classroom they may miss the "big picture." For example, rather than a single illustration from a textbook, students need many examples of a concept. They should see line drawings, photographs, animations, videos, and audio narration. Different representations are useful for different learning styles. In addition, some students need more concrete examples, while others are ready for more abstract representations.


Fictional vs Real Creatures. Create a Kidspiration document that contains both cartoon versions of animals and photographs of real animals. This could also be done with fictional creatures (i.e., dragons, unicorns) vs real creatures. Use super group to categorize. (Grades K-2)

Healthy Food. Provide students with photographs of variety of a healthy and unhealthy use Use Freefoto food and drink photos, Pics4Learning food, morgueFile food, or foods photo page. Categorize the foods. List the characteristics of these foods. (Grades 3-6)

Phases of Mitosis. In Inspiration, provide students with a variety of line drawings, photographs, and animations of the different phases in mitosis. Ask students to categorize them. Then, take their favorite series, put them in the correct sequence and create notes detailing each phase. (Grades 7-9)

Science Concepts. Identify three different photos representing the same concept. Write about how the photos highlight different aspects of the concept. Use the National Resources Conservation Photo Gallery for ideas. Use the Pics4Learning science page to locate astronomy, energy, fossils, geology, medicine, or other photos.

Up-Close. Get students to examine their world up-close. Take a photograph at a distance, then take another version close-up or with a scanner. Ask students to write about what they see. For example, describe look at plants. Use the Microscopy website for close-up photos on a wide variety of topics. (Grades K-12)

Science through History. Use the Visual Archives to explore the human face of Physics. This website contains photos and stories related to famous physicists and astronomers. Use the Science Service from the Smithsonian for other photos.


Sequencing and Directions

Students have difficulty writing and following directions. Use technology to help.

Use the Timeline and lessons from ReadWriteThink.


Action. Use a digital camera to record still photos or short video from an event, demonstration, or science experiment. Or use FreeFoto's general section for ideas. Or, focus on a particular type of action such as FreeFoto's sports and recreation. Use the audio recorder in Word, Inspiration (Kidspiration), or PowerPoint to record directions for students to follow. Or, ask students to write about the visuals. (All ages)

Around Town. Ask students to sequence photographs or create a map, then record their voice providing directions or steps in the procedure. (All ages)

Maps. Start with a map at GraphicMaps.com. Draw lines on the map showing where you might go. Then write directions.


Persuasive Communication

Creating persuasive communications can be powerful teaching and learning tools. Use visuals, audio, and other media tools to bring these activities alive.

Use the Persuasion Map and lessons from ReadWriteThink.


PSAs. Watch public service announcements from Ad Council. Then, create a PowerPoint-based public service announcement using still photos and audio narration. Check out the freefoto industry page for pollution, energy, and wind power photos. Also consider topics such as trash/recycling and old junk. Conder anti-smoking photos for ads.

Historical Magazine Ads. Preselect examples of magazine ads from particular decades. Ask students to write about how the ads reflect the time period. Start at AdFlip and AdAccess.

Safety and Disaster Prevention. Create a presentation on safety or disaster prevention such as bike safety. Use photos from FreeFoto's 911-Emergency page including ambulance, fire, and police. For example, start with resources from Bicycle Safety from the Illinois State Police. You can provide the still photos or give students digital cameras to make their own (i.e., natural disasters, bike safety, fireworks safety, water safety, fire safety, tornado preparation) (Grades 3-12).


Electronic Comparisons

PowerPoint is a great tool for conducting electronic comparisons. How are things similar and different? What do you like and dislike? Select a topic that would involve making a comparison. Identify the key differences or issues for discussions.

Use Venn Diagrams (2 circles) (3 circles) and lessons (2 circles) and (3 circles) from ReadWriteThink.


Creature Comparison. Create a Venn diagram or comparison chart comparing the characteristics of two creatures. For example, read the book Stellaluna then compare birds and bees. Other good topics include comparing ants and spiders, the lifecycles of bees and butterflies, or dogs and cats as pets. Use Pics4Learning animals and insect photos. Use DiscoverySchool science cartoons. Use the Jungle clipart from DK. (Grades K-3)

Seasons. Each month, take a photograph of that class standing in front of a tree outside. Compare how thing change over time. Or, get Freefoto four seasons photos. (Grades K-2)

Book or Movie. Use Kidspiration or Inspiration to create a diagram comparison a book with it's movie version. (Grades 3-12)

Erosion Comparison. Compare and contrast different types of erosion. Use the National Resources Conservation Photo Gallery for photos (choose by category).

Geography Comparisons. Make comparisons of biomes, habitats, or landforms. Use the National Resources Conservation Photo Gallery for ideas. Use Pics4Learning geography photos. (Grades 3-9).

Then and Now. Use Kidspiration, Inspiration, or PowerPoint slideshow to compare "then and now." For example, before and after a fire, before and after a volcano, or trace the history of your town. You could adapt the idea for other topics such as "young vs old", "rural vs urban", and "before and after." Use the Picturing the Century website at the National Archives for 100 years of photographs. (All ages)


Electronic Debate

PowerPoint is a great tool for conducting electronic debates. Select a controversial topic that involves two or more perspectives. Identify the key differences or issues for discussions. These become the core slides in the PowerPoint presentation or Inspiration/Kidspiration document.


Native Americans or Europeans. Read the book Sign of the Beaver or another historical fiction book that involves comparing Native American and European life during early America. Create a PowerPoint debate comparing the Native American and the Colonist ways of life. (Grades 5-9)

Energy Issues. Debate the pros and cons of different energy sources. Check out the SciNetPhotos page. For example, use the Wind Farm, Windmill photos in a wind energy e-debate. Also check out the Forces and Energy photos from DK.

News Organization Comparison. Select a single news event at Google News. Compare the reports from at least two different resources. Describe the similiaries and differences on particular aspects of the report such as numbers of casualities, people involved, and major issues. Use a chart to make comparisons. (Grades 5-9)


Electronic Posters, Brochures & Fliers

Students love to create posters, brochures, and fliers. It's often difficult time consuming to locate visuals. Start with the visuals and ask students to write the words.

Use the Printing Press creator and lessons from ReadWriteThink.


Travel Brochures. Start with location photos such as Freefoto Europe, Japan, United Kingdom, and transport photos. Also try, Pics4Learning countries photos. Get a map at GraphicMaps.com. Check out the DK Maps.

States Brochures. Start with location photos such as Pics4Learning United States and Freefoto USA. Get a map at GraphicMaps.com.

Healthy Eating Menu. Create a poster and menu showing healthy food choices. Use Pics4Learning food, Freefoto food photos.

National Park Brochures. Start with Pics4Learning National Monuments and National Parks photos. Create a brochure detailing what makes the park unique and why it makes a great vacation destination.

Other Resources

Use the following starting points to locate visuals and other materials for your projects.

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