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Celebrating interactive scaffolds

Even with all those media-rich, glittery new resources out there, I find that I often return to some basics–a few simple, older and newer interactive tools for teaching and learning.

Here’s an eclectic list of some handy interactive stand-bys:

Primary Sources

The powerful, one-page, interactive LOC Primary Source Analysis Tool allows users to choose the format of their document, artifact, etc. from a pull-down menu and, depending on that choice, offers a series of contextual prompts for closer reading and analysis.

The National Archives’ Docs Teach offers teachers opportunities to create activities that develop historical thinking skills and get students thinking like historians. The areas include: chronological thinking, historical comprehension, historical analysis and interpretation, historical research capabilities and historical issues-analysis and decision making.  Teachers are also led through a wizard approach to customizing activities with appropriate primary sources as they shop among a library of thousands of possibilities.

National Archives’ Docs Teach

Note: The National Archives also offers a variety of more traditional worksheets for analyzing

Thesis Building

My students are fans of Tom March’s Persuasive Essay Thesis Builder.  After completing an interactive form that asks for a topic, an opinion, two strong arguments, and a counter-argument, the tool generates a reasonable even though/but really-type thesis that will need finessing.  But that’s not all.  Click on the button and the tool automatically turns the thesis into an outline.

Tom March’s Thesis Builder Tools

The University of Phoenix offers a similar tool with detailed explanations and Holly Samuels, of the Cambridge Ringe and Latin School shares a helpful evidence-driven Outline Maker.

Student Projects

ReadWriteThink Student Interactives, from the International Reading Association (IRA) and the National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE), appear independently or as parts of lessons. The engaging literacy projects  include:

Teacher Planning:

Ian Byrd’s Differentiator, based on Bloom’s Taxonomy and the work of Sandra Kaplan and David Chung, presents teachers with handy columns of thinking skills, content, resources, student products, and groupings with which they can construct relevant learning objectives.  His Respondo tool generates creative literature response questions that ask students to go beyond: “identify the conflict” or “note the setting.”

Rubrics and assessment creators

Bernajean Porter recognizes new and traditional criteria for assessing the effectiveness of digital media projects with her fabulous Digitales Scoring Guides.  Teachers choose the communication type and generate customized assessment tools from among a variety of well-described traits and elements.

Bernejean Porter’s Digitales Scoring Guides













RubiStar allows registered teachers to create, save, edit, print and share rubrics for a variety of project-based learning activities across disciplines.  Resources are offered in both English and Spanish. Teachers may also search for existing shared rubrics.  4Teachers, the group behind Rubistar, offer such additional interactive tools as:  QuizStar, PersuadeStarNoteStar, and Classroom Architect.

















Other interactive goodies:

National Library of Virtual Manipulatives shares Java applets and activities for K-12 mathematics presents an array of goodies to make life easier–timers, random name pickers, organizers, game generators and templates.

Illuminations provides online math and science manipulatives

Google World Wonders and Google Lit Trips offer a fascinating array of interactive maps

Quizlet and StudyStack allow teacher to make or use stacks from a library of interactive flashcards

Discovery Education Puzzlemaker allows teachers to create and customize crosswords, word searches, math squares and more

VocabularySpellingCity offers 25 different learning activities for spelling and vocabulary including flashcards, Hangmouse, and crosswords


Joyce Valenza About Joyce Valenza

Joyce is an Assistant Professor of Teaching at Rutgers University School of Information and Communication, a technology writer, speaker, blogger and learner. Follow her on Twitter: @joycevalenza


  1. Hi! I have found ProProfs as one of the best tools for learning and teaching purposes. It can be enjoyed by both the teachers and students and it is easy and simple to handle. It offers free online courses that can be taken by anyone and brainteasers and games that can be fun for students. Its tools are quite economical and simple that they can be handled by users of any age groups. Check here:


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