Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Students Show What They Know, Beautifully

I have to share this really wonderful tool my 3rd - 5th grade students have been using to create posters and infographics called  Canva. I just used it to create that cool image up there in less than 5 minutes! 

My students love the tons of free templates and graphical elements they can combine to create beautiful media. As a teacher, I love the cognitive challenge that comes with having to translate a message into a visual medium. Having to figure out an effective way to fit all one's talking points into a limited space really helps students nail down key ideas and show relationships between them. 

It's also been a great way for students to practice problem-solving and persistence because while Canva is not difficult to use, it is a graphic design tool, which is not something mosts kids have had to work with before. There was a fair amount of trail-and-error learning happening. 

Canva has templates for posters and infographics as well as (get ready): mindmaps, flyers, brochures, reports, book covers, magazines, 5 circle Venn diagrams, charts, letters, resumes, and , and , and. Really, there is just so much.

I also like it because you can use your Google account to sign up for Canva and then log in every time. No new username and password to remember! Here's how

Before you reach for that poster board or butcher paper, I encourage you to give Canva a try. I bet you'll find it worth the effort (minimal effort)!

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Rainbow Connections

Want a fun way to get kids at any grade level to interact with text?

Using a Google Doc and a little rainbow magic add on called Magic Rainbow Unicorns (silly name, super tool) you and your students can easily create rainbow text. The short video below shows you exactly how to do it and explains what add ons are, in case you are wondering.

How could a first grader use this?
Project a Google doc with some kind of text on it onto the whiteboard and have kids rainbowify sight words they recognize. 

How could a third grader use this?
Have students rainbowify main ideas in a paragraph. You can project a doc or give each student their own copy of a doc through Classroom or through Make a Copy

How could a fifth grader use this?
Students can rainbowify opinion statements and leave fact statements black. 

How could you use rainbow text to engage your students?

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Letting Talkers Have Their Say with Flipgrid

Picture the students you work with. Do you have any that are good talkers? I know you do because I have those kids too and I can picture them pretty clearly! These kids just seem to be able to find the right words and string them together in a way that lets them articulate exactly what they are thinking.

Do you also have some who find writing or even typing challenging? Of course you do. I wonder how much these kids don't share because they find the written word so frustrating to deal with.

I'd like to tell you about a great tool that benefits both the great talkers and the reluctant writers...

Instead of having kids demonstrate comprehension or creativity in writing, why not let them do it using a skill we know they have mastered? In short, Flipgrid lets you record a question, talking point, or instructions and lets the students record their responses.

Here's a Flipgrid that I did last year with the Kinders using an iPad. I had one iPad set up in a quietish corner of my room and the kids who wanted to tell me about their favorite book orally instead of in writing came up one-by-one to create a response. They figured out how to do it without my help. 

Here's why I think you should give Flipgrid a try:
  • Works on Chromebook, laptop, PC, iPad, iPhone, and Android devices. I use my phone to record questions pretty often. 
  • Students can record responses very easily using their Chromebooks or on an iPad
  • Students do not have to create an account to create a response. They simply go to the website and enter the topic code. 
  • Flipgrid is free. You get one grid (which is something like a virtual classroom) but you have unlimed topics, which means you can create as many questions as you like.
  • Flipgrid is very intuitive and easy to use for both teachers and students
  • Flipgrid is a lot of fun for students, who enjoy the stickers in particular
  • You can create a Flipgrid topic and get it to your students in about 5 minutes
If you want to see how easy it is to get started with Flipgrid, watch this video by Jamie Keet of Teacher's Tech.

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Dyn-O-Mite Learning!

This week I am borrowing a really fantastic post on Dynamic Learning by Kasey Bell who writes the Shake Up Learning blog. Her Dynamic Learning vs. Static Learning infographic below is handy way to quickly get the gist of what dynamic learning is and how you can put it into practice with your students. Just click on the image to dig deeper.

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Differentiate Learning in Google Classrooms

It's difficult to tailor assignments to meet the unique learning needs of each student. I teach about 400 students so I get it. I can usually figure out HOW to modify assignments. It's the creating multiple materials that is the hard part. I also don't want to call attention to the the fact that some students' work looks different from the rest of the class. Here's my secrete weapon in the differentiate discreetly game: GOOGLE CLASSROOM.
--Special Public Annoucement--

Kinder - Grade 3 teachers, before you close this window and delete the email know that your students are either already in Google Classrooms or will be by February. Grades 2 & 3 use Classroom with me now. Grade 1 will be onboard in November and Kinder will be in by February. And you can use Google Classroom on an iPad. 

--Back to our original programming--

How I quickly modify assignments using a Google product
To modify an assignment I have created on a Doc or Slide, for example, I will start with my original document then
  • Make a copy of it  
    • Click on File at top left 
    • Click on Make a copy
  • Change the title to something that makes sense 
  • Make the modifications

How to discreetly get the modified assignment into the hands of my students

  • In Classroom create or reuse and assignment/question/announcement
  • In the popup, deselect All Students and then select only the students you wish to have the assignment.

Your Stream will show all of the work you have assigned collectively so if you assigned three different versions of one particular thing, your Stream will show all three assignments. Your students, however, will only see the version assigned to them. 

The ability to quickly copy and modify documents and then assign different documents, videos, etc. to different students has been a game changer in my classes and all of us (even me!) are enjoying more success. 

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Insert Special Characters into a Google Doc

Here's a neat and relatively recent update to Google docs: Special Character Tool. No, using this tool won't make you or your students behave in a more principled and virtuous way, but it does allow you to insert many, many characters that are not found on the regular keyboard. And unlike regular images, these are always appropriately sized and will not create formatting horrors. I, of course, favor the emoji selection ✌.

Yes, I know this image is too big for the space 😉

In your document click insert then special characters and then choose your character from the various menus. That's it!

Have fun!

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Let Me Just Remind You...

Can you relate to this?

If so, you might suffer from sticky-syndrome (a.k.a. my-post-it notes-are-out-of-control condition). Sticky notes are convenient, but they're unreliable. They loose their stick after a while and disappear, or worse, they fall to the floor so a helpful student can find them, pick them up, and remark loudly, "Looks like someone needs to buy toilet paper today!" I also hate how the edges curl up after a day or so and how the writing rubs off if I use pencil.

Thankfully (and thanks to Anna Amaral for the inspiration), there's a better way to remind yourself. It's called RemindMe and it will live right on your computer. And it will be just in your face enough to get your attention, but not so much that it causes a disruption. And it's awesome!

Here's how to get it and set it up:
RemindMe is a Windows app so you get it from the Windows app store.

You can get into the Windows app store several ways, depending on your computer (see the image above):
  1. Click on the start menu. That's the window icon at the very bottom left on your computer screen. Then, get to the S section and click on Store. If you don't see a list of apps appear, click on all apps first. -or-
  2. Click on the start menu (window icon at bottom left of your screen). You might have the Store icon hanging out with all the other app icons to the right. -or-
  3. You might have the Store icon pinned to your taskbar, which is the black strip that runs along the bottom of your computer screen. 
Once in the Store, search for RemindMe. It will pop up as RemindMe for Windows. 
This is the icon

Click the blue GET button and follow the install/download instructions. Once installed, start reminding yourself!

I attempted to make a gif of a notification. The sound didn't make it, but you get the idea. 

I hope you remember to try out RemindMe!