Posted in Google Classroom

New Semester, New Google Classroom!

You, my friend, are a Google Classroom rockstar! You have embraced your Classroom and use it to share all of your awesomeness with your darling cherubs. But with all that use, your Google Classroom has probably become a very busy place with a lot of content that your students probably don’t really need to access on the regular. If that is the case, it is time to embrace the new semester with a new Classroom.

Now, before you say to yourself, “Self, I will just go into my current class and delete previous assignments to clean things up!” make sure you understand that deleting assignments is very, very bad because once deleted, there is no way to recover an assignment. This means that if you want to reuse that assignment in another class or during another school year, it is gone. FOREVER.

forever

Plus, deleting the assignment also removes any comments, feedback or grades that you might have shared with students. And while this might not be an issue, you never know when you might need to access that kind of stuff. Sometimes, parents can be parents and they have questions about assignments that were turned in months ago. Not like I am speaking from personal experience or anything. Did I ever mention I have a 13-year-old with organizational issues? By creating a new Classroom, you are giving your students a fresh start on the second semester of school. It is a simple thing to do and I promise, your students will appreciate it!

Steps to a New You…er Classroom:

First, return all student work. Student content will always remain with the student in their individual Classroom folder (found in their Google Drive), but only if you return it to them. To see what still needs to be returned to your students, check your “To-Do” list.

If you see assignments where content has been turned in but hasn’t been marked as “Returned” you are going to need to get busy!

Turned In But Not Returned
You can easily see if you have returned content to your students from this view.

Returning work to students only requires a few clicks of the mouse.

Second, archive that class!

Third, create your new class and then add (reuse) any content from your archived class that you want your students to continue to access. This might be your syllabus, links to resources, or ongoing assignments.

Fourth, share your new code with your students.

And that, my friends, is the fastest way to start second semester with a clean slate, easy to navigate Classroom, and grant peace on Earth to all.

 

Posted in Cool Tools

Deck.Toys – The Lesson Packaging Tool that You Didn’t Even Know You Needed!

Are you a hyperdoc creating, lesson packaging maniac? Or, are you just looking for a way to create engaging lessons where your students have the opportunity to explore a topic in a variety of ways? If either of these descriptions fit you, then look no further than Deck.Toys.

Deck.Toys is an edtech tool that allows you to teach and engage students by taking your usual lesson materials and turn them into guided activities that let your students show you what they know as they work at their own pace. Here are some amazing examples of Deck.Toys made by other teachers. Click on the image to see the live deck. 

Map Skills   Long Walk to Water

Equations   DDay

Clue Mystery   Ecosystem

Students interact with content by working through one of three types of activities;

  1. Slides App: Presentation materials like images, videos, links, sites, or PDFs that you can create question/answer activities using text (280 characters or less), draw (sketch out a response), placemaker (students put a marker on an image) or a quick poll. 
    Slide App
    Not only do you have four response types, you also have a variety of tools to personalize the learning.
  2. Study Set App: give your student fun challenges to show they know the content. There are 18 different challenge activities for you to pick from!
    18 tiles showing the different types of activities Deck Toys offers
    If you can’t find something here to engage your students, I don’t know what to tell you!
  3.  Signpost  – This is how you get your students started. Signposts allow you to add notes, directions, or just some plain old anticipation for what is to come! Signpost

Creating Your Own Deck is a Snap!

There are a lot of Decks already available that you can edit to your specifications, but you can easily create your own. You begin with a blank canvas where you add a background of your choosing. If you want to create something quickly and easily, go for a default background. Or you can make your background soar by using the different images and clip art provided by Deck.Toys. If you like to personalize or use your own content, you can always upload your own images.

Once you have created your background, get to work by inserting activities and then dragging them into the order of your lesson and connecting the activities together with pathways for students to follow. Already have content created in Google Slides or a video? Cool! You can add those to your deck when you select the “Slides Activity” option. Not only can you add your Slides or video, you can also add images and other media. Once you have your content in place, you can choose from the four different response types. DT - Responses

If you want to go beyond the content you have already created, there are the 18 study set activities to pick from. You provide the terminology and definitions or images, select one of the activities, and shazaam, your students are able to engage with the content in new and challenging ways. 

Self-pacing and controlled access to activities is a synch with Deck.Toys since there are seven different activity lock types to choose from as described on the Deck.Toys website:

  • Text lock works well for passwords such as keyword. It accepts alphabets, symbols, and space and it is not case-sensitive.
  • Voice lock works with Chrome browsers only. The student will use their voice to read out the password to open the lock.
  • Numbers lock can be used for simple Mathematics question such as 4 + 2. The password for this lock can be in decimal number.
  • Teams lock is used so only the selected team can unlock the password. Before the lesson, provide the unique password to the respective team.
  • Direction lock is useful for orientation password. This lock can be viewed as such; ↑ means upward or north.
  • Activities lock is used to ensure the student has completed the specified number of neighboring Activities before proceeding to the next challenge. This lock can be used when you have Activities on divergent paths.
  • Treasure Key lock requires students to collect a Treasure Key with a matching Key ID to unlock the lock. This works well if you want the students to go through a certain difficult activity that was on a divergent path before unlocking the next activity.

Share Your Decks With Ease!

Once you have created your deck, sharing it with your students is a quick and easy process. All you need to do is create and name your classroom, assign your deck to the classroom, and then share the link to join your classroom with the Google Classroom option in the drop-down menu. 

Of course, like any edtech product these days, Deck.Toys is a freemium program. Any teacher can create a free account and with that free account, you have access to a limited amount of decks and classrooms. You do have full access to all of the features you need to create amazing decks, so I say get in there and start playing around! I bet that you will find this tool to be as versatile and engaging as I do.  

Posted in Cool Tools, Creating Accessibility, Student Creation

Student Created Read-Aloud Videos of Awesomeness

Recently, I read the article “Best Read Alouds on YouTube” from the website We are TeachersThis article is full of great YouTube channels where favorite picture books are read aloud by a variety of personalities.

The read-aloud portion of my day was always one of my favorites. Whether as a classroom teacher or as a media specialist, I relished the opportunity to share my reader’s voice with my students. I tried to bring the story alive and I felt an inner sense of pride when the kids would listen to the story with rapt attention. But there is always a moment in my teaching life that has stood out. One year, I was teaching language arts to a really rowdy group of 8th graders, most of whom were reading significantly below grade level. We were doing a unit on poetry, slugging through the classics, when a student asked if he could read his favorite poem aloud to the class. I was so excited that he had a favorite poem that I immediately agreed and listened in awe as he presented us with an amazing version of My Beard by Shel Silverstein.

This performance kicked off a really cool string of days where the kids searched out their favorite poems, practiced reading them aloud and then performed them for the rest of the class. Student engagement was high, but most of all, students were practicing their fluency and really digging into text so that they were able to read their favorites with voices that would entrance and capture the attention of their classmates.

I am thinking that it is time for students to share their read-aloud voices with us. Instead of listening to an adult voice, it is their turn to bring stories to life. I know that we don’t have the time in our day to have 25-30 kids read their favorite stories or passages to the class, but we can use our technology to give them the chance to record their favorite stories for their classmates. (Or their parents, or their siblings, or just you, or really, just themselves)

Students can select their favorite picture book or passage from a book and practice their fluency until they have all of the confidence of a kindergarten teacher singing the ABC song. Of course, students might need to see a few examples of awesome read-alouds, which is where you, oh amazing teacher come in. If reading aloud isn’t your thing, click on the article above and fill the brains of your students with excellent examples from one of the YouTube channels listed in the article. Once they feel like the read-aloud rockstar they are, choose one of the platforms listed below and let them get on with their bad selves. Imagine the listening library that your students will create for one another. Imagine the fluency practice they will be getting! And don’t think that this idea is just for little kids. Big kids like to read aloud too. They can choose picture books or pieces of their favorite novels. Just get them reading and sharing their voice with their peers!

Flipgrid: Create an entire grid dedicated to read-alouds. Students can choose to sit in front of their devices and show the pages of their book as they read aloud, or you can rig up a stand where the camera points at the book only and the student narrates from behind the screen. Shockingly enough, some of our students are a little camera shy. Students can then visit the read-alouds of their classmates, leave feedback, or suggest new titles for their friends to read. I bet you will find there is a lot of natural voice-over talent in your classrooms.

Seesaw: Students can add their read-alouds to their journal and their stories can be shared with families and other students in the classroom. Just like with Flipgrid, students can either hold their books in front of the camera or can hide behind the camera as they turn pages and bring their stories to life.

Padlet: Padlet has a nifty tool that allows you to record a video directly into a Padlet post. You can create a shared Padlet and student can record right on the Padlet for their classmates to see. The only drawback to the Padlet is that videos can only be five minutes long. This might be a great option for those shorter, favorite passages from older readers.

Screencastify: Using the free Screencastify chrome extension, students can record their read-aloud using their Chromebook camera and microphone. Once their video is recorded, students can then put their videos into a Google Slide presentation or upload directly to a class YouTube channel. If it were me, I would create shared Slides presentations that were themed by genre. Then I would put the links to the Slides presentation in Google Classroom, students could create their videos and add them to the correct presentation. My favorite part about this is that you will have have a library of read-alouds that you can use with future classes.

I would love to hear your ideas about how you would get your students creating their own read-aloud. What tools would you use? How would you get them to interact with your new library? How will you motivate them to join in?

Posted in Cool Tools, Creating Accessibility, extensions, G-Suite for Education, Google Classroom

Math in GSuite with EquatIO and EquatIO mathspace

Math and GSuite have not always gone hand-in-hand. If you wanted to create math-rich Docs or Slides, you were pretty limited in formatting options, and many teachers wound up relying on screenshots and snipping tools to create materials for students. But, rejoice, for now there is EquatIO! The EquatIO extension allows you to add real math language to Google Docs, Slides and Forms. Equations, graphs, formulas, etc are all easy to create and use with your students.

Once you install the extension, you will have a new toolbar available in your GSuite products. With this toolbar, you can create expressions, formulas; all that crazy math stuff that I really don’t understand. 

equatio toolbar
EquatIO Toolbar – Available in Docs, Slides and Forms

Not only does EquatIO offer an easy to use equation editor that allows the teacher to either type or dictate mathematical sentences, it also has a nifty prediction tool that helps you add the correct math symbols in your work.

If you are more of a talker than a typer, try the voice input option. When you speak your problem, EquatIO will create the sentence for you. If you want to allow students to talk through their problem solving, they can continue dictating their thinking and add additional lines to their math as they work towards the solution.

EquatIO has paired with Desmos to offer an easy to use graphing tool.

Desmos Graph

Another bell and whistle EquatIO offers is the ability to handwrite your math. If you are one of the lucky ones and have access to a tablet or touchscreen, you can handwrite all of your amazing math problems. 

Handwriting

Sometimes we find the material we want to share with our students online. EquatIO offers a screenreader that not only grabs math from other digital locations and transfers it to your document, it also reads it to you! Here it is in action:

Since the free student EquatIO accounts are limited to Google Docs, I can create all of this math in a doc and then assign it via Google Classroom with the “Make a Copy” option. My students will then be able to use the same tools as they solve my problems. Well, not my personal problems, just my math problems.

EquatIO’s mathspace

Sometimes our math involves more than just numbers and letters and this is where EquatIO’s mathspace comes in. Instead of just adding equations and formulas to a Google Doc or Slide, EquatIO’s mathspace gives you a blank canvas where you can create the math (or chemistry or physics) problems of your dreams! 

When you go to equat.io, you will first land on your EquatIO dashboard. Once here, you can create a new mathspace or you can edit/work with an existing one.

shows squares with math work in them and a plus sign to make a new math canvas

The mathspace canvas is amazing! In addition to the equation editor, you have a freehand draw tool and access to a variety of shapes, symbols and clip art.

graph paper with a drawing canvas and shape tools
Different shapes and symbols available in the mathspace canvas.

This space now becomes an interactive math problem.

Advanced Problems

The teacher can create on the canvas and then share a link to the problem in Google Classroom with the “Make a Copy” option. As a user of a free account, your students will not be able to respond directly on the canvas you have shared, but they can open their own mathspace, construct their response and then turn in their work by adding a link in Classroom.

I am not a math or science teacher, but these tools really excite me. The EquatIO extension and Equat.io mathspace create endless possibilities! To get your free educator account for EquatIO, click here!

 

Posted in G-Suite for Education, Google Classroom, Google Drawings, Google Slides

Create Sorting Activities with Google Drawings or Slides

Having students sort materials to show their mastery of a concept is not new to education. As a heavy user of Words Their Way, I used word sorts in my classroom each week. I am being honest when I say I came to loathe the day we started our new sorts. My main pain points were having the students use class time to cut their sorts out and the number of words that would go missing from each sort when a piece of paper fluttered to the ground or when a student lost the entire bag or envelope that contained their sort. Sort activities were not my favorite! I finally had the brilliant idea to use GSuite tools to attack these sorting activities and make them more manageable for students (and me, of course!) By digitizing sorts and assigning them through Google Classroom, I cut out the biggest pain points and made life easier for everybody.

Using a Google tool to create a digital sort is a lot easier than you might think. The two tools that work best for this type of activity are Drawings or Slides. Drawings will function more like a one-and-done type of sort whereas Slides will allow you to create multiple activities housed within the same Slide presentation.

The idea is simple. Use the white space (or canvas) in the middle of your screen to create sort topics and use the gray space around the slide or drawing to place items for sorting. These items can be text boxes or images.

Here are some examples of sorts that I have created:

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To create the sorts, follow these simple directions: (I like to create within a folder in my Drive so that I always know where my items are)

  1. Go to your Google Drive and navigate to the folder where you want your sort to be housed.
  2. Click New, mouse over More and select Google Drawings (or Slides)
  3. Give it a name!
  4. Click “Insert” and select “Table” from the drop-down.
  5. Create a table by mousing over the squares until you have the columns you want for your sort.
  6. Click and drag the corners of the table until it covers the entire white space in my Drawing.
  7. Using the traditional formatting tools, I can then add titles to each box of my sort.
  8. Click on the text box icon in the menu and draw a text box in the gray space
  9. Change your font style and size to what you want and type in your first word.
  10. Copy the text box (ctrl c on the keyboard) and then paste it (ctrl v) the number of times equal to the number of text boxes that you need.
  11. Separate out the text boxes you have created by dragging them around into the gray space around your drawing.
  12. Change the text to the words you need for your sort.
  13. When you are finished, assign the sort through Google Classroom with the “Make a Copy” for each student option.

If you are more of a visual learner, here is a video that shows how this is done.

This particular sort that I created is a word sort, but you could easily make it a concept sort by putting images instead of text boxes in the gray space around your drawing. You can also create this same activity with Slides, you just have a little less gray space to work with. The nice thing about creating with Slides is that you can have multiple sorts all housed within the same file.

Here are some helpful tips:

  • Insert a table for your background if you are using columns. That way, kids won’t accidentally click and drag individual lines out of the way. They can always use ctrl z if they accidentally move the entire table.
  • If you have a more complicated background that is not just going to be using columns, create the background using Drawings. Then, publish it to the web and then insert it as a picture. Here is a video.  
  • Create one template and then duplicate it/copy it/reuse it often
  • Copy and paste will be your best friend.

Happy sorting!

Posted in Cool Tools, Student Creation

Take The Boring Out Of Flashcards With Pear Deck’s Flashcard Factory

Flashcards are a tried and true educational tool that have a place in just about every classroom. From vocabulary words to math theorems to important places, flashcards have been used by students in just about every grade level.

Sometimes, students get together to drill each other on flashcards, but for the most part, the creation of flashcards is a very solitary experience. But now we can make the creation of flashcards a more collaborative activity for students by using Pear Deck’s Flashcard Factory.

two rectangles - the one on the left is for Pear Deck. The one on the right is for Pear Deck Vocabulary
Login to http://www.peardeck.com and select “Flashcard Factory.”

Using Flashcard Factory is a simple as 1, 2, 3:

One: Create your study set/vocabulary list in Flashcard Factory

Flashcard with the word "Cellular" and a highlighted definition from the dictionary
Write your own definitions or select a definition from Merriam Webster

TWO: Initiate the live activity with your students by clicking on the red “Play Flashcard Factory” button. Students will be paired up and separated into two groups; day shift and night shift. If you are unhappy with the groupings, you can use the shuffle button to remix the students. Once students have gone to sit with their partners, you can launch the factory and student pairs will draw images and write sentences that define the terms.

THREE: As a class, students and teachers review the created flashcards. If the flashcard is an awesome example of the definition of the term, it gets voted in. If the flashcard is weak and doesn’t pass muster, it gets left on the factory floor. Students are encouraged to discuss and debate each flashcard, building an even greater knowledge and understanding of the word.

When you have created a study set using student materials, you can then “ship” your new flashcards right to Quizlet. Quizlet then lets you share the completed study set with your students via Google Classroom so that they can study or play games with the sets when they are ready.

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To use this new and awesome tool, go to www.peardeck.com and join up/sign in and click on “Start a Vocab List.” Happy flashcarding!

Posted in Cool Tools, G-Suite for Education

EdTech Team’s AudioPlayer for Slides

I have a love/hate relationship with Google Slides. I love the collaborative nature of Slides. I love how creative I can be and how easy it is to pull materials out of my Google Drive as I create Slides. What I hate is that sometimes I miss a few of the features of PowerPoint, most notably the ability to add audio to my Slides presentation.

As of today, that is no longer an issue thanks to EdTech Team! With the release of their AudioPlayer for Slides, I can now add music or voiceovers to my Slides. AudioPlayer allows me to pull music files (mp3 and mp4) from my Drive or downloads or EdTechTeam has also included a few short music clips that I can select if I don’t have easy access to any music files. I think the most exciting feature of AudioPlayer for Slides is that I can record my own voice and narrate my Slides. Just imagine what your students could do with this!

AudioPlayerAudioPlayer for Slides is a free Google Chrome extension. Once you add it to chrome, you will need to click on the green megaphone icon to login with your Google credentials. From that point forward, you will access the extension exclusively while you are in Slides.

After you have created your Slides presentation, adding audio is as simple as a right click (or two finger touch if you are working on a Chromebook).

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Adding music is as easy as 1, 2, 3!

Recording your own voice is a snap!

I would imagine you are as excited about this new extension as I am! Get busy making the most amazing Slides presentations ever!

Credits:

 

Posted in G-Suite for Education, Google Classroom

New Materials Option in Google Classroom

Last year, I used the “About” section in Google Classroom to post links and resources that my students would need throughout the year. These were materials that were not necessarily tied to a specific assignment, but items that students might need to revisit or access randomly.

With the “About” section gone, I have had to make a quick change in how I manage this need. Fortunately, Google just released a new feature in Classroom called “Materials.” This “Materials” option will allow me to create a space in my Classwork feed where I can place these items for student access.

To create a space in my feed, I simply need to:

  1. Create a topic and call it something like “Class Resources” or “Class Materials.”
  2. Once the topic has been created, hit “Create” again and select “Materials” from the drop-down list. Add materials like Docs or Slides from my Drive or paste in a link to a website for my students.
  3. Before I post the material, I need to make sure that I select the “Class Resources” topic.
  4. Once I have created this “Materials” post, I can then go back to my Classroom feed and by clicking on the three dots to the right of the “Class Resources” topic, select “Move Up” from the menu to essentially pin this topic to the top of the feed.

And just like that, I almost have my “About” section back! Easy peasy, lemon squeezy.

Posted in Creating Accessibility, Google Classroom

Add Events to the Google Classroom Calendar

I love Google Classroom. I think it creates an easy way to manage workflow of assignments in the classroom, and if you supercharge your Google Classroom, you can create amazing learning opportunities that were previously impossible. 
 
The one thing I don’t love about Google Classroom is the calendar view located under the three bars on the left in Classroom. If you create an assignment with a due date, Classroom will helpfully create an event on the Classroom calendar. That is basically it. The teacher is unable to add any additional events to the calendar, which makes it frustrating if you want to add reminders, special events, or long range dates that are not tied to assignments.
 
But did you know that your Classroom calendar actually shows up in your regular Google calendar? And did you know that your students also have access to that calendar from their regular Google calendar? You can add any event to your Classroom by visiting your regular calendar. Once you have added the event to the calendar, it will show up on their school Google calendars. Of course, you will have to show your students where to find their Google calendar. Most students aren’t even aware that they have a calendar! I was working with freshman at the high school last week and one of the kids exclaimed, “How did I not know this was available? I would have been using it if I knew!”
 
Here is a short (2 minute) video that shows how this process works. I think getting our students to start using their calendars could cause an organizational revolution. And, brother, I am there for that!