Classroom Strategies, GSuite

Analyzing Teamwork with Google Forms

A few weeks ago, I blogged about Saving Sam, one of my favorite teamwork challenges. It’s one of the activities my kids talk about all year! And, it’s how we begin our discussion to build our teamwork foundation for the year.

Saving Sam in 7th grade science

In addition to the labs and activities in our science class, I also use Breakout Edu to have students interact with content and practice their teamwork skills. I have even had my classes create student-created Breakout Edu game.

So, how do we continue these conversations surrounding teamwork throughout the year?

Teamwork observations with Google Forms

I love having students observe their peers and evaluate how effectively they are working as a team. Early in the year, before we work in teams, we create our Teamwork T-Charts. This helps us develop common language around our teamwork conversations.

Then, I take my students’ T-chart responses, and put them into this form (make a copy). We use this form throughout the year for teamwork peer, group, and self evaluations.

Screen Shot 2018-08-29 at 5.27.56 AM.png
Teamwork Evaluation Google Form

Students evaluate themselves and their teamwork in different ways. Sometimes it’s through a fishbowl observation (see below), or I’ll set a timer and everyone must freeze and evaluate. Always, at the end of a lab or teamwork challenge, we reflect.

Fishbowl observations

Talking about and reflecting on teamwork is great, although sometimes it’s hard to recognize the nuances of how we work together. When we really want to dig in and analyze how we work in teams, I use a fishbowl observation. This can easily be done as a whole class, or in multiple smaller groups. And, not only is it great for kids, it is also excellent for adult learners and professional development.

Adult learners playing a Breakout Edu Digital game, fishbowl observation style

Typically, I use a 1:1 ratio, where half are working on a teamwork challenge, and half are observing. At the end of the challenge, students switch roles, and we begin a second challenge. Shorter challenges work best–I aim for short, 5 minute challenges. There are only so many boxes the observers can check, and after they’ve spent a few minutes observing, they may get distracted.

Always end with a debrief

As with any teamwork activity, it is essential to build in reflection at the end. No matter what, this is the most important part! It can be a quick exit ticket, or a more active walk and talk.

Try using these debrief cards as part of a walk and talk (make enough cards for size of class + 5), partner or group discussions, or as quickwrite prompts.

Teamwork is a growing and evolving process, and it’s essential for us to honor and cultivate this journey with our students!

 

 

Classroom Strategies, GSuite

Daily Exit Tickets with Google Forms

Around my school, I have a reputation as the techy one. My friends look at me, and know I’m about to say something like, “we need to make a Google Doc!”

Somehow, within this reputation, there is a misconception that I already know everything, and I have nothing left to learn as a teacher. I walk into some colleagues’ classrooms for an informal observation, and they nicely wonder why I’m there and how I could possibly learn something.

will do
Observing other teachers is essential to my own growth!

I am grateful to work on a campus where informal observations and walking into others’ classrooms is welcomed and encouraged. I am always seeking to be a better teacher, and I have so much to learn! Each year, I set goals and growth areas, and constantly reflect on how I’m doing.

Over the last several years, I watched my teacher neighbor effectively use exit tickets at the end of every class period as he dismisses his class. I love how he signaled the end of class, was able to check in with each students, and had a quick formative assessment for each lesson. When I told him I appreciate his use of exit tickets and I was going to start using them in my classroom, he looked at me like I’m crazy for learning something new from him.

So, I’ve taken his exit ticket procedures and merged it with my favorite tech tool: Google Forms!

I already use Forms for our daily check-in and warm-up–so now our class periods are book-ended with Google Forms.

Using Exit Tickets

Exit Ticket Slide

With about 5 minutes left in class, I project this Slide and have my students reflect on their learning for the day by filling out the daily exit ticket (make a copy). As my students are silently filling out their exit ticket, I also reflect on how I felt they day went, and what changes I will make for the next class.

Not only is this a way for students to reflect on what they learned, but also it’s instant feedback for me on how the lesson went, including many social-emotional factors, such as “today in class, I felt treated kindly by my teacher.”

Reflecting on the Data

I watch my students’ data come in on the response sheet to see if there are any students I need to check-in with after class. I have had students mark “disagree” to “I felt treated kindly by my teacher,” and it forces me to immediately reflect on our interactions in class that day, and how I handled a situation in class.

Screen Shot 2018-08-18 at 8.41.53 AM
Daily Exit Ticket data, using Conditional Formatting to show Agree in green, and Disagree in red.

In the response sheet, I inserted a row below the questions to calculate the percentage of agree with each statement. [Formula: =(countif(I3:I, “Agree”))/counta(I3:I), then Format > Number > Percent]. I also use Conditional Formatting to fill “Agree” cells green and “Disagree” cells red.

Header row and % Agree data from our Daily Exit Ticket.

As you can see, I’m getting my butt kicked for not challenging my class academically–we’re a month into school, and while we have been doing all the science basics, this tells me I need to build in some more engagement and meaningful work.

I am grateful for another way to reach my students, address their questions and curiosities, and receive consistent feedback on how we can make our class better.

How do you use exit tickets in your class? What kinds of questions do you ask?

 

 

Classroom Strategies

Saving Sam! — A Team Building Activity

“Great things in business are never done by one person. They’re done by a team of people.”
-Steve Jobs

Confession: I struggle to teach teamwork well.

Teamwork is one of those things that are essential for students to learn, especially in science. I could blame it on never having PD or solid instruction on how to teach teamwork, but I don’t think that’s it. I always hope someone else would teach it and my students would walk in being awesome team players. Unfortunately, that hasn’t happened yet.

In the last few years, I’ve worked on facilitating team building activities in class, and include the crucial debrief process after we’re done. Below, I share my favorite team building activity, which is great for both kids and adults!

Saving Sam

Every year, I look forward to Saving Sam! It’s a collaborative challenge activity where participants have to work together to get a gummy worm into a gummy lifesaver, only using 1 paperclip per person.

Students collaborating to Save Sam!

Here are the Slides I use with my students–it’s all set up to push out via Pear Deck! I love using Pear Deck with my students, because it keeps my students engaged. Students who wouldn’t normally speak up in class are willing to participate on the interactive slides.

Students work in groups of 4. Each group needs 1 gummy lifesaver, 1 gummy worm, a small paper or plastic cup (dixie cup size), and 4 paper clips.

Gummy worms, gummy life savers, and paper cups can be reused for each class period, paper clips get bent and need to be replaced. No, you may not eat your gummy worms and lifesavers–refer to the lab safety rules!

Teamwork discussion

Together, we start by discussing teamwork, watching short video clips, and analyzing how teamwork was used in each.

Then, students make a 3 column T chart (or is it a TT chart?), to list what good teamwork looks, sounds, and feels like. I usually have students make quick posters on 11×17 paper, though it can also be done digitally (template). It’s fun to watch students work in teams to make these, because they need teamwork to accomplish it!

Saving Sam: The story

First I need to captivate my students. As I tell the story, they’re imagining my human friend named Sam, and are quite shocked when I pull out a gummy worm. Here is my dramatic version of Sam’s story:

“Have I told y’all about my friend Sam? No? Ok, well, they are one awesome person. Sam loves spending their weekends out on the ocean in their boat. They loves hanging out with their friends, and they’re a big fan of boating safety.

“However, last weekend, they went out on their boat alone, and Sam wearing their life jacket when suddenly a large wave came up and capsized their boat! Sam hung onto the top, and their lifesaving device was trapped under their boat. They are still waiting for someone to come save them!

“This (holding up a gummy worm) is Sam. And you all need to figure out how to save Sam! (Pause for laughs and confused looks.) The thing you need to know is that Sam is highly allergic to humans, so we can’t touch them, their boat, or their lifesaver with our hands. Instead, we use these special tools (hold up a paper clip) to save them (some kids will ask how we can possibly setup the activity…they can touch to set it up!). And remember, my friend Sam has feelings, so please don’t drop them or skewer them! Good luck!”

Usually, it takes groups 5-10 minutes to Save Sam. If there is a group of 3, I’ll give one member 2 paper clips.

Remember the debrief!

After all groups have successfully saved Sam, we debrief by talking about how their teamwork looked, sounded, and felt like. Students also identify areas they want to work on. It’s an excellent reflective process, and an integral launching point for more discussions about teamwork, especially as it relates to science labs and activities.

I’m always looking for more team building activities. What are some of your favorite team building exercises?

Classroom Strategies, GSuite

Getting to Know You Survey

Back to school is always an exciting time! I love preparing my classroom for my new students, thinking about how to best meet their needs, and anticipating the fun we’re going to have. I loosely plan out what skills I want to hit, but I don’t lesson plan until I actually meet my kids!

In my first year of teaching, I had the (mis)guidance of the teacher I was taking over for. They instructed me to talk about the syllabus on the first day of school, teach lab safety on the second day, then jump right into content on the third day. Even though I planned out fun first-two-weeks activities in my credential/masters program and talked extensively about building relationships, I assumed this strong-willed teacher knew what was best. So, I did what they told me.

Boy, was I wrong. While I did end up getting to know my students eventually, the class cohesiveness wasn’t there from the start and behavior was sometimes a struggle.

The one thing I did do well was a getting to know you survey (on paper). I used that information to learn about my students’ backgrounds, and incorporate their interests into some of our examples from class.

Fast forward to the present: My biggest strength and emphasis as a teacher are building relationships, and making sure each and every student feels welcome in our class. It’s not always easy, and there are plenty of ups, downs, and mistakes–and also many moments of joy!

I have transitioned my Getting to Know You Survey (make a copy!) to Google Forms. Data collection is easier–and, I don’t have to decode handwriting.

This is the perfect first assignment on the Google Classroom set-up day. Students join the class, then immediately complete their first assignment.

The questions range from simple, such as birthday and interests, to more thought-provoking, such as “when I get mad, I …” I like having a mix, and seeing how my students choose to answer. For example, when I ask “What is something you are really good at?” not only am I asking for their strengths, but also I am checking for self confidence; when a student writes “nothing,” then I know I will need to intentionally search for areas of strength to share with them.

A hidden teacher agenda item in this activity: I can see who is able to focus on an independent and silent task for 10 minutes, and who needs constant refocusing.

After my students fill out the survey in class, I go through the response spreadsheet and highlight interesting and concerning responses. I make a note to follow up with students, bring up their interests in conversation, and share commonalities.

The getting to know you survey is one of the best parts of my first few weeks of school!

What types of questions do you ask in your getting to know you survey? Please share your favorites in the comments below!

Books

Fueled by Coffee and Love: The Refill

I am so pleased to announce that Fueled by Coffee and Love: The Refill was published on Thursday, July 26, 2018! It’s been a wild ride, and I’ve learned so much in this process. This book is a true work of heart.

The journey started in February 2017, and Fueled by Coffee and Love was published in July 2017 (read more here). After publication, I heard from quite a few teachers who missed out on the first call for submissions, and that propelled me to start a volume 2.

Challenges and Successes

The biggest challenges with volume 2 was getting this project rolling. There was a lot of initial excitement for the project, however the follow-through was disappointingly slower than I anticipated. I opened the submissions in September 2017, but didn’t end up closing them until April 2018–I kept extending the deadline, hoping for more stories. Honestly, I was overly excited in getting rolling on the next book, and didn’t dedicate enough time to enjoying the success of the first publication.

With The Refill, I felt like I was a stronger leader. I understood the bigger picture of what needed to get done, and was able to better lead our authors and editors. In the editing process, I was more concise with expectations, including a formalized submissions template and more robust editing guidelines. This greatly helped when I compiled all the stories, and we (Aubrey, Marilyn, Cristy, and I) completed final edits.

We did three rounds of editing: primary editors (looked for writing conventions and story focus), secondary editors (clear focus), and me (all of the above). It helped to have many eyes on each story. Thank you editors!

My Story

Some people have asked me if I’m going to submit a story to the book. The short answer is, “I don’t know.” Deep down, I know this book IS my story. I struggle with feeling like I have something to share in the education world, with so many Big Names and Pontificators out there; when I dig deeper, I see that there are so many other teachers in the same boat who feel the same way, and I want to elevate their stories. Putting my heart and soul into this book feels like I am sharing a part of me.

Both books have been self-published through Create Space, Kindle Direct Publishing, and Smashwords. I have used Ray Charbonneau (www.y42k.com) to format the book and get it set up on the online publishing sites. That has been a huge help to me! Since it’s self-published, I know I don’t have nearly as large of a platform as other publishers, and I’m ok with that. I love our authors and I love being directly involved in every step of the process (except the parts Ray does, of course).

So much joy!

Our good friend & author Natasha Rachell with her copy of FBCAL: The Refill!

It is a huge honor create a platform for teachers to share their stories! My goal is to shine a positive light on the successes and challenges we face in education, each and every day–I can confidently say that I have achieved this goal. Anything I can to do spread their stories, I will pour my heart and soul into making it happen!

I do not keep any of the profits for myself. I donate all proceeds to classrooms and education, mainly through Donors Choose.

One of the best parts of this project has been seeing copies of the book in my friends’ hands! I’ve shared quite a few on the @FBCALbook on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook. Each time I see one posted, I do a little happy dance!

Get Involved!

  1. Buy your copy of Fueled by Coffee and Love: The Refill (and Fueled by Coffee and Love) — remember, all proceeds support classrooms!
  2. Follow & share with #FBCALbook on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook for highlights and news!
  3. Sign up to write and/or edit for future volumes by joining the interest list.
  4. Join the FBCALbook mailing list here.

Thank you all for supporting these books and my vision of sharing teachers’ stories!