I am sure you have heard of breakout rooms and Google’s Breakout EDU program. One way that you can build a breakout activity is by using digital tools to create a digital environment for your students to work in. Digital breakouts are a great way to engage students and get them showing what they know, and the best part is that there are no physical locks to be reset or clues to be rehidden. There are many different ways to create your breakouts. And there are a wide variety of online tools that will make your breakout awesome. Sometimes all of these options can feel a little overwhelming. With that in mind, I created a simple guide to help as you build your digital breakout. Feel free to use this, but I would be even happier if you shared it with your students and let them build their own digital breakouts! Get your own copy here.
When students are practicing their oral fluency, a key component of that practice is for students to hear themselves reading aloud. Try using Screencastify and Google Classroom to create opportunities for students to record themselves reading, allowing them to hear their own oral fluency.
The idea behind this is that you give students a passage to practice their fluency. The students then use Screencastify to record themselves reading the passage. After finishing the recording, they listen to it and decide if their oral reading was fluid and with expression. If it isn’t, they can practice some more and create another recording. Once they are happy with their recording, they turn it in to the teacher via Google Classroom. Turning in a video created in Screencastify is super easy since the video lives right in the student’s Google Drive. The teacher now has a sample of the student’s reading fluency, and if he or she continues with this assignment over time, they will create a record of student growth and progress.
Creating this activity is relatively easy:
- Find or create short reading passages in a digital format. Good places to find already created passages are Newsela, ReadTheory, Epic!, your local library, and if you live in Ohio, Infohio. I really like the idea of creating your own using content you are reading in class or short poems from some of our favorite children’s authors.
- Create an assignment in Google Classroom. Remember, you can individually assign to students or assign to small groups of students. There is no reason that all students should be practicing their fluency on the same piece. Differentiation is key!
- Students then access the fluency assignment in Google Classroom, open the attached piece and practice reading it. When they feel ready, they will open Screencastify from their Chrome browsers and record themselves reading aloud.
- Once students have finished their recording, they can rename the video. They will need to change the privacy settings on the recording so that you can view it once they have turned it in via Google Classroom.
- To change the privacy settings for the video, all students need to do is click on the share icon, make sure “Google Drive” is selected and click “Get Link.” This will change the video permissions to “anyone with the link can view.”
- The final step is for the student to turn the video in via Google Classroom. To do this, they simply open the assignment, click on the “Add or Create” button on the top right and use the Drive icon to pull the video directly from their Google Drive.
- Now that the student has turned their video in to you, you can watch the student videos directly from the assignment view in Classroom. Don’t forget that these turned in assignments also live in the “Classroom” folder in your Drive. You can access them at any time and use them to share with other teachers, administrators or parents. What an excellent way to progress monitor!
- If you do not have content in a digital format, don’t worry! You can still do this activity. Students can read directly from a book at school they will just need to record using the webcam camera from Screencastify instead of the desktop or browser camera.
Screencastify is a wonderful extension for both teachers and students. There are so many awesome things you can use Screencastify for. If you don’t already have it on your Chrome browser, sign up for an account download it today!
Take that boring old selfie and make it something special with Remove.BG. With this site, you can upload any person focused image and it quickly and automatically removes the background for you. No lasso tool. No snipping scissors. Just upload and go. It then provides you with a new png image that you can download and use in whatever way your heart desires.
See what I mean:
The classroom uses for this are endless! Your students can use this tool to really immerse themselves in their learning, amIright?
To create this awesomeness, once I used Remove.bg to get rid of the background, I created the new image in Google Drawings and then downloaded it as an image so that I could splatter it all over the internet.
If you are a visual learner and want to see how it is done, here is a video showing how to remove the background from the original image and then create the new image using Google Draw.
And here is a quick video showing you how to download the Google Drawing as an image that you can then use in other locations like Slides or the interwebs.
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.
Students interact with content by working through one of three types of activities;
- 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.
- 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!
- 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!
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.
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.
Recently, I read the article “Best Read Alouds on YouTube” from the website We are Teachers. This 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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
This space now becomes an interactive math problem.
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!
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.
Using Flashcard Factory is a simple as 1, 2, 3:
One: Create your study set/vocabulary list in Flashcard Factory
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.
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!
UPDATE: I believe that this tool is no longer available. When I attempt to visit the link for the add-on, I get a 404 error. Perhaps they have discontinued this add-on due to the roll-out by Google of the new option to add audio to Slides. Regardless, AudioPlayer for Slides no longer seems to be working.
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!
AudioPlayer 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).
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!
This summer, I attended a conference and Joe Sanfelippo, the author of Hacking Leadership and The Power of Branding, was a keynote speaker. He passionately spoke with us about the idea that educators need to share what is happening in our classrooms with our families and the community at large. Joe wants us to build relationships while we flatten the walls of our school and broadcast student voices. A major point he hit on is that we need to share our stories to build relationships with our families because if we don’t show them what we are doing in our classrooms all day, families create their own truths. By using tools like Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram, we can reach our families and give them a peek into what is happening in our classrooms every day.
I love his ideas and his passion, but I know that some teachers are hesitant to begin this journey because they feel that they don’t have time to be snapping pics and crafting posts for the interwebs to view. They are more focused on the teaching and learning that is going on in their classrooms and not necessarily on sharing all of the wonderful things that are happening within their walls.
Would you be excited if I told you that there is a tool out there that allows you to inspire learning, engage your students, create amazing activities, give students opportunities to explain their thinking and share their voices, and communicate with parents all while saving teacher time? Well, there is a tool and that tool is called Seesaw!
Seesaw is considered to be a digital portfolio and while it is definitely a place where students can collect and reflect on their learning, it is so much more than a digital portfolio. Seesaw gives students powerful creative tools to capture their learning but it doesn’t stop there. Once students have added materials to their online journal, those learning moments are then shared with their teachers and even more importantly, their families! Families can view their child’s work in the Seesaw app right from their phone, tablet or computer. And since families are already connected, the teacher can send out daily updates, announcements, cute pics of students at work, videos of happenings in the classroom and weekly newsletters.
As a communication tool, Seesaw gives students an audience for their work. It gives families a window into what’s going on every day in their child’s classroom. It, as Joe Sanfelippo suggests we do, flattens the walls of your school and broadcast student voices. Teachers can quickly and easily share all of the amazing things that happen every day in their classroom with just a few clicks of a button.
As a teaching and learning tool, Seesaw excels! The teacher can create activities for students to engage with. These activities can be varied, but the point of them is that it is an opportunity for students to “show what they know.” Seesaw gives students creation tools like a camera to create a video or still images, and drawing tools and text features so that they can explain a concept, write and reflect, capture an experiment or share their newfound knowledge.
When you see Seesaw in action, you will know that it is going to be the tool that will be a game changer for you. I found this awesome video from fellow user, Suzanne Awrtey, that shows some quick ideas about using Seesaw with primary age children. If you don’t want to watch the entire video, check out clips at 2:44, 3:12, 4:10, 4:43 and 5:49.
It might seem overwhelming for a teacher new to Seesaw to come up with activities for their students, but fear not for Seesaw now has a library with activities that are already created by fellow teachers. Browse through and select activities that match your grade level and subject, hit the “Share” button, and you are in business! Just look at some of the amazing activities I found!
Once you begin using Seesaw in your classroom, you will find that Seesaw makes the paperwork beast easier to manage since you won’t be lugging papers back and forth every night. Instead, you can see and hear what your students are thinking and create new opportunities for learning based on their responses. The best part is that Seesaw works on all devices! It works in an environment where every student has a device just as well as in a room where you only have 1 or five devices. Students can still use Seesaw as part of a center activity or as a journal activity. You don’t have to be 1:1 to be able to implement Seesaw in your classroom.
As you are reading about Seesaw, you might be worrying about who will be able to see the work of each student. Don’t worry because privacy is a big deal with Seesaw. By default, all student accounts are private to the classroom only and you decide when it is time to begin sharing student work. When you are ready, you invite parents to be a part of your Seesaw community, and once they join, they only have the ability to see the work of their own child or any announcements that you send to the class. And unlike other tech companies, Seesaw doesn’t collect or sell student and teacher data, nor do they claim ownership of any material you put into Seesaw.
The takeaway from all of this is that Students are empowered when they use Seesaw. The creative tools allow for choice, collaboration, and sharing. During this process students reflect and apply critical thinking skills, and these insights are shared with important audiences.
Who is Seesaw for? Every student from PreK to grade 12. And the best part? Seesaw is free for teachers and families! The free Seesaw account allows the teacher to have up to three Seesaw classes and 100 activities in use. Of course, if you fall in love with Seesaw, there are upgraded options that give you even more of the good stuff.
To get started with Seesaw, go to seesaw.me and create a free account. Or, if you want to try out Seesaw Plus for 30 days, click on this link before you create your account. One of the awesome things about Seesaw is their PD program where you can be a self-directed learner by using their “Help” center. In fact, here is their “Get Started” guide. They also have an amazing PD in your PJs program to help you learn at your own pace.
What are you waiting for? School is starting and your students are ready to share their voices! Make Seesaw a part of your classroom this year.
Recently, I had a high school French language teacher approach me to ask for help designing an activity where students research Parisian monuments and locations of interest, report pertinent information and show pictures and location of the monuments. And of course, since this is a French class, they would need to use their French language skills as they report on all of these interesting sites.
I immediately knew what tools to share with her; Google MyMaps and Screencastify. MyMaps allows for students to collaborate on the same map, write interesting information right on the map, and add images to their points of interest. Once the students create the written and visual portion of the assignment, they can use Screencastify to record a personal tour guide narrative as they click through their points of interest.
The steps to set-up the project were relatively easy since students will be doing most of the creation. Michelle, the French teacher, created a MyMap with the satellite view that plunked the user right in the center of Paris. She copied the map four times to share with each of her classes, made the maps editable by anyone with the link and then grabbed the share link to put into an assignment in Google Classroom. Expectations for students are that they are to pick three or four points of interest in Paris to research and provide basic visitor information that would entice tourists to come to take a look.
Since multiple students are sharing the same MyMap, they can create their own layer to house their points of interest. The layer building process is very easy:
- Click on the layer name (should currently be called Untitled Layer). Students type in their names. Once someone grabs the first layer, they will need to add a new layer by clicking the “Add Layer” button and then add their name to
- Students type their place of interest or monument into the search bar at the top of MyMaps
- Once the location has been identified, they can either click the “+” button on the details dialog box or click the “Add a Marker” icon next to the hand icon on the map.
- Now they can add details by typing in the text box and add images by clicking on the camera icon. Images can be added from a Google search or pulled from a student’s Google Drive. Multiple images can be added to any point of interest on a MyMap.
- They can then use the bucket tool and select a color for all of their pins. This allows them to quickly differentiate their pins from those of other students.
Now comes the fun part! Once the students have created their 3-4 point of interest, they will act as a tour guide and share their findings by narrating (in French, of course) as they click through their map points and images. They will use Screencastify to record their work since it so easy to use and stores right in Google Drive.
The final part of the activity will have the students posting their Screencastify videos into a collaborative Google Slides presentation. Instead of having to sit and listen to presentation after presentation like they have done in the past, students will select five or six videos created by their peers, watch them and then talk about which Parisian sites they would like to visit based on what they saw in the videos.
I love this project! It allows students to choose the sites that interest them the most, gives them opportunities to create in a digital environment while they practice their language skills, and allows for peer-to-peer feedback on the final project. I can see this type of activity being used in so many different subject areas and classes. Why don’t you give it a try?