Friday, December 21, 2007

Finding Resources at 40,000 Feet

There are many ways to keep yourself entertained on a long distance flight, and as this is the time of year that teachers are flying home to visit family, I thought I'd write about the least obvious one: the SkyMall catalog.

SkyMall, for the uninitiated, is a mail-order catalog with the most comprehensive collection of expensive, useless crap ever compiled. This is the kind of stuff you'd find in the Neimann Marcus holiday catalog, but it's published year-round and stuffed in the seat pockets of most U.S. airlines.

Despite the general silliness of the catalog, there are a few things that I thought would be excellent resources for the classroom (proving you can find inspiration anywhere):

  • The World's Largest Write-On Map Mural - If I still taught social studies, I would absolutely spring for this. It's about 9 feet high and 13 feet long, and can be written on with dry erase markers. Can you imagine having this cover a wall for you to reference instead of those traditional pulldown maps?
  • The World's Largest Crossword Puzzle - Along the same lines as the map, no matter the subject, I'd love to have this giant 7' by 7' crossword puzzle on the wall. Students could work on it throughout the year, building vocabulary and knowledge for a wide variety of topics. For $30, it seems like a bargain compared to the map above (about $130). At the very least, this item gets me thinking about making something similar myself with content area vocabulary. It would be a lot of work, but of course I wouldn't have to make something quite as big as this.
  • The Talking Educational Globe - This expensive but intriguing item would be great for your ELL students, struggling readers, or any students that would benefit from the interactivity.
  • Fuel Cell Car and Experiment Kit - There are similar kits out there for solar-powered vehicles, but this fuel cell-powered project would be an engaging way to talk about technology, energy, speed, acceleration, velocity and other related topics.
  • Light Effects Window Film - Those of you lucky (or unlucky, depending on your situation) enough to have a window in your classroom have probably thought about something like this already. These are self-clinging films that block views outside but allow in light, which should help avoid outdoor distractions.

That's about it, unless you think those ubiquitous motivational posters would be helpful in your classroom. Remember that you can buy almost all of these items elsewhere, for much cheaper prices than those advertised in SkyMall. Keep your eyes open to the possibilities out there, and please share what you find!