Friday, July 2, 2010

Big Universe

"Instill the love of reading, writing, and learning."

I think that statement pretty much sums up what I think education should do for students. Those were my goals as a classroom teacher, and finding that statement as the heading on a website made me like the site before really even looking at it!
Big Universe is a place to "read, share, and create books online" that uses the above statement on its homepage. I have enjoyed reading and sharing some ideas from there on twitter (@biguniverse). Since I enjoy many of the ideas they tweet, I decided to go look at their site. There is information there for parents and educators, as well as an informative video. The reading teacher in me started thinking of some ideas, but then I wondered about the quality of the stories. so I decided to try them out. My 4 year old daughter crawled up in my lap while I was looking at the computer(21 inch widescreen monitor), so I thought I would read some stories with her. We started off looking at the FREE member-created books. My little one enjoyed naming the animals in the The Wild ABC's by Reaghen West. She wanted to read more. I started thinking about how reading and even creating alphabet books like that could be used as a great project at school for younger students learning the alphabet but also a project for older students to see what they had learned at the end of a unit.
My little girl did not want to stop, so we looked for more. This time we looked at one of the Premium Publisher Books (not free, but there is a free trial): What Really Happened to Humpty? My little one loved all the characters that she recognized, and I liked the more complicated mystery story line that would interest older elementary school students. The illustrations for this story looked nice. I liked the way you could "turn the pages" with the click of a mouse to make it even more like a book. I kept thinking how nice it would be to use a story like that on an Interactive White Board. The teacher could "write" on the story to emphasize and teach certain skills. Students could circle the parts of the story/pictures that helped them predict what would happen next. The story would be large enough for all to see.
I let my little one choose one more story. She wanted a pirate story, so I decided to try out the search box (keyword, category, reading level, age, subject, genre). When I typed in pirate, there were three choices. She chose The Pirates? The Princess (those are her two favorite things right now). This was another Premium Publisher Book, but this one had a read aloud option with it. My daughter and I were both impressed with the read aloud since the characters had different voices, there were some songs, and the words in the story changed color as they were read aloud.
Both the parent and the teacher in me really like this site, the quality of the stories, and all the other things it has to offer involving both reading and creation of the stories (there's over 7,000 images available). Even though I am a big fan of FREE things, I could see myself paying for this.

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