GSuite, Science

Observation vs. Inference: A learning adventure

Over spring break, I have been doing a lot of relaxing AND a lot of fun work. For me, creating and planning is fun, so I don’t always mind it when I’m on a break. That being said, I constantly check in with myself to see if this is something I want to be doing or I feel like I should be doing. As soon as this fun work feels like a burden, then I stop and find something different to do–it is a break, after all! Lots of making observations and inferences on the personal level.

I designed this lesson while sitting on my patio furniture (I bought myself new cushions, a little physical distancing gift to myself), enjoying the fresh air and sunshine. Throughout spring break, I’ve been thinking about what types of skill-building activities I can do with my students when we begin distance learning. In the past, I haven’t done a great job of teaching observations and inferences, so I decided to dig in and create a better lesson I can use with my students in the coming weeks. As I was creating this lesson, I had both in-person and distance learning in mind.

5E Lesson Model

The 5E lesson model is frequently used in science classes, and has application for all content areas. Lessons are broken down into five phases: Engage, Explore, Explain, Elaborate, and Evaluate. A 5E lesson could take a single class period or span a couple days or weeks. You can read more about the 5E model of instruction here.

For this particular lesson, I chose to use Google Slides because it makes each distinct lesson phase its own slide. I have found this helps to keep my students focused when the activities are chunked into smaller pieces. Here’s a 5E Slides template I created. Or, if you prefer Google Docs, there are some amazing 5E Hyperdocs templates here.

Observations vs. Inferences Lesson

First, check out the Observation vs. Inference lesson. If you like it, click “use template” in the top right corner. If you don’t like it, click “use template,” make changes, then share it back to me. I always appreciate the feedback!

For distance learning: I plan to send out these Slides to my students on Monday, check in with them mid-week, and have everything completed by Friday. Students can choose to complete one slide per day, or do it all in one sitting. Either way, the focus is on building skills rather than new knowledge.

For in-person learning: I predict this lesson will take an entire 100 minute block, and potentially need to extend into another period. I would also see the value of including a peer-review cycle using Google Forms and/or TAG feedback. However, I will not have the opportunity to try this live with my students until next school year! Sad face.

When you try this with your students, let me know how it goes! Leave a comment or send me an email 🙂

 

 

Classroom Strategies, GSuite, Technology

Stay-at-Home Mad Libs!

My goal for my blog over the next few weeks is to share out as many resources that will keep education light, fun, and easy on everyone involved. Mad Libs is one of my favorite classroom activities. It’s a goofy review activity that sneaks in parts of speech skill-building too.

Therefore, I’ve created some super fun Stay-at-Home Mad LibsBefore you continue reading, stop and play the Mad Libs 🙂

These will surely be informative and give you a good laugh! Shoutout to the CDC for the content (no spoilers on the info, link is provided with your Mad Libs).

How to set this up for your students:

  1. Make a copy of the Stay-at-Home Mad Libs Form to use with your students
  2. Create your Sheet and install the Formule add-on.
  3. Open Formule (watch this video for Formule help) copy and paste this text into Formule at the “build/preview templates” section.
  4. Test out your form!
  5. Send it out to your students using a link shortener, Google Classroom, or other messaging platform.

If you want to customize this activity with your students, here are the complete Mad Libs instructions. For additional Google Forms help, start here.

These Mad Libs can be played asynchronously or synchronously. It’s a perfect lighthearted just-for-fun activity or a good review of part of speech. If your students are already using Flipgrid, have them record themselves reading their Mad Libs to each other!

Let me know how it goes in the comments!

And, if anyone translates this into another language, please send it my way and I’ll link it in the post!

GSuite, Technology

Getting Started with Google Forms

My most popular blog post is my Daily Check-in with Google Forms post, which includes a force-copy template of my daily check-in Form. Since then, I have received multiple emails asking questions about my Form, including: how to customize it, how to analyze the results, and how to share it with students. I realized there’s a need for a Google Forms basics post. For each of the skills below, I created screencasts

How to create a Google Form

Getting started with Google Forms can seem a little overwhelming. Don’t worry! After a few minutes of practice, you’ll find it much easier to navigate. Here’s a video walkthrough for getting started with Google Forms and how to change the theme and preview your Form.

Start by going to your Google Drive > New > More > Google Forms. Then, play around with the question types. Remember to add in a question for “name” (unless you want anonymous results). When you’re done, preview your form (eyeball icon, top right corner) before sending it out to your students.

Sharing your Form with students

There are two ways I share Forms with my students. I either use a link shortener (bitly is my favorite; make a free account and you can customize your link ending) or share the Form on Google Classroom. When I post on Google Classroom as an assignment, the “turned in” count updates once students submit the Form. I’ve created a screencast to show you how to send out a Google Form with a link shortener and Google Classroom.

Analyzing the results in Google Sheets

After you create your Form and share it with students, it’s time to think about analyzing the data. Google Forms (purple icon) sends submission data to a Google Sheet (green icon). The great thing about Sheets is that it immediately updates with new submissions. And, if you edit or add questions to your Form, your Sheet will automatically update too.

This screencast gives you an overview on how to look at your Forms data in Sheets.

Other ways to use Google Forms in your classroom

I’ve blogged about Google Forms quite a few times. Here are some more ideas for using Google Forms in your classroom. All of the posts include templates! Please remember, if you’re going to share out these ideas beyond your classroom (e.g. at a staff meeting, at a conference, or on your blog), please point back to my blog.

Google Forms is a very versatile and fun tool!

Questions? Other ideas? Please share them in the comments below!

Classroom Strategies, GSuite

School Closure Check-in with Google Forms

School closure is stressful! This first week at home, I switch between worrying about my students and all of the what-if’s, and relaxing and enjoying time at home. My brain can’t figure out if I’m working or on break. I’ve been doing a little bit of both.

One thing I miss is feeling connected to my students. I’m following district guidelines and not assigning work; however, I have created some optional science home exploring resources for my students, if they want something fun and academic to work on. But, it’s just not the same!

By far my most popular blog post is Daily Check-in With Google Forms (October 2017). This post is consistently reshared; multiple people have told me how using this check-in routine has been a big classroom boost. When I was running a workshop in New York (I’m in California) in March 2018, a participant was customizing my daily check-in Form template at the beginning of my session. When I asked them where they got it, they said they learned about it in their last session. How cool is that? A presenter across the country found my blog and shared this resource! I tell you this because I strongly believe in the free sharing of educational resources that make our classrooms better.

There are so many different ways that teachers are checking-in with their students. Some are using district messaging platforms, Google Classroom, Flipgrid, or live Zoom video chats. There’s no right or wrong way to connect with your students (please first check with your district’s guidelines)–it’s important that they know we care through all this uncertainty.

School Closure Check-in

I created a school closure check-in (make a copy), loosely based off my daily check-in Form. I posted it on Google Classroom for my students to fill out. Even if students choose not to fill it out, they will still get the Google Classroom notification on their iPad, and they will know I’m thinking about them. I chose Forms because it is a familiar platform and routine for my students.

Additionally, my friend Ashley Prevo created her own quarantine check- in Form (make a copy). She regularly uses the daily check-in Form in her class, too. Ashley says, “I am currently teaching three sections of PE as well as ASB at the middle school level. I wish there were a better way to say this, but we are living in unprecedented times and, maybe now more than ever, our students need to be reminded that we care.” I love the questions Ashley asks her students, especially “name one thing you have done for yourself this week” and “name one thing you have done for someone else this week.”

Family Check-in

I know this time is stressful for families too! I created a family check-in Form (make a copy) to check in with my students’ families too. I sent out this Form through our gradebook’s messaging tool. In my message to families, I also included information about free student meals during the closure and over spring break. A couple parents thanked me for checking in and asked for regular updates with regards to district decisions.

There are so many great ideas out there. Remember, you know what your students need the most!

How are you checking in with your students? If you have a resource or idea, please share it in the comments!

 

Classroom Strategies, Science, Technology

Digital Learning Resources for Middle School Science

On Friday, we received the official announcement that our school district will be closed as a preventative measure to reduce the spread of COVID-19. Our district is considering the closure as a weeklong extension of spring break with the intention of returning to school on Monday, April 6th. Teachers are not expected to provide work for students for the week of March 16-20. If the closure extends beyond spring break, the district will reevaluate this plan and possibly incorporate distance learning.

I am not requiring my students to complete any home learning activities because I realize that there is an equity issue with internet access; not all of my students have WiFi at home, even though they all have a school-issued iPad. However, I do know that I have some inquisitive students who have access and who would enjoy some guided home exploration. Additionally, some of my students are responsible for their younger siblings and are interested in easy science activities to keep their siblings engaged next week.

I polled my students via our classroom Instagram account and asked them the following questions:

  1. What science topics do you want to learn about? (Free response question)
  2. Where do you want to learn? (Poll: Instagram or Google Classroom)
  3. Do you have younger siblings who you need to watch next week? If so, do you want fun/easy science for preschool and elementary kids too? (Poll: Yes or No)

As of writing this post, 65 students and parents have viewed my Instagram story. Of the students who responded to the questions, 22 of 28 students preferred learning on Instagram and 11 of 20 wanted resources for younger siblings and friends.

Home Learning in Science

Since the only students who would see these polls are students who follow our classroom Instagram account, I decided to create a Google Classroom titled “Science Home Exploring” and I messaged the join code to students through our online gradebook. I explained to all students and families that this learning is optional and ungraded. Moreover, I shared the join code and message with the rest of my science department, in case they were interested in sharing it with their students.

Science Resources

Over the next week, I will be sharing fun science resources, games, videos, and easy experiments with my students each day on both Instagram and Google Classroom. For planning purposes, I am adding ideas to this collaborative resources Google Doc; anyone is welcome to contribute their personal favorites. Not only will these resources be helpful for the next several months, but also these websites will be great in the future for early-finisher activities.

Additionally, I created a duplicate Google Classroom (join code: nbq3rjt; make sure to join with a personal Google account) for other teachers and administrators to see how I am facilitating this optional online learning. Each time I post on my class’s Google Classroom, I will share an identical assignment with this class. Plus, I have included a section for teacher resources and discussion.

Furthermore, I created five days’ worth of digital science exploration resources on Google Slides. I recognize that most of the resources here require a device and internet access; with libraries and local businesses closing, it may be increasingly difficult for some students to engage with these activities.

Additional Resources

Finally, many other educators have created resources to support distance and home learning. For example, Google for Education has curated resources for distance learning. Additionally, this Amazing Educational Resources website lists every educational company offering free resources or subscriptions during school closures. There is also an Amazing Educational Resources Facebook group that is a very active discussion place for sharing and requesting ideas.

No matter what happens in the coming weeks and months, we will all do our best to support our students with our resources and knowledge. How are you facilitating learning while your school is closed?

EdD

Earning a Degree with Time Management and Self-Care

I recently tweeted, “Those who are working on a masters/doctorate while working full-time: what are your best time management and self care tips? I’m writing a blog post and I’d love to include more ideas” and received an overwhelming response. (Here’s the original tweet, there are lots of amazing tips. Thank you to everyone who responded!)

In May 2019, I started my EdD in Educational Technology at Boise State University. From the beginning, we were advised that we would need to dedicate sufficient time to our studies and to think about how we would prioritize our lives for the next several years. Completing a masters or doctorate degree while working full-time requires a temporary shift in priorities. Carla Jefferson emphasizes that we must “look at [our] already full plate and prioritize. Determine what’s important to you so that you can focus on giving your program the best effort”

Aubrey Yeh, one of my closest friends and a constant source of encouragement and accountability, wisely says, “Realize you can’t give 100% to teaching, grad school, & the rest of life. It’s okay to say no to some things, to not try every new thing that you want in your classroom, or to decide that paper is ‘good enough.’”

Tips for Time Management

Work is like a gas, it fits into the space we give it. I’ve found that planning ahead allows me flexibility for planned or spontaneous adventures.

My Passion Planner with color-coded assignment due dates

The general consensus from those that responded to my initial tweet is that it is essential to plan ahead to maximize time. I use a Passion Planner to track my personal schedule and EdD work. At the beginning of the semester, I sat down with my planner, the course syllabi, Flair pens, and stickers, and added all of my assignment due dates into my calendar. For larger assignments, I added checkpoint due dates to keep myself on track.

The incredible Knikole Taylor says “My advice is to do something every single day. Some days [it’s]… scheduling reading and assignments on my calendar. Other days, I’m reading, writing, or researching. I work to touch something each day.” Whether you work every day or schedule days off, remember to be intentional about how and where you spend your time.

Tips for Self-Care

I’m grateful self-care has been a huge topic lately. It’s like being on an airplane and hearing the flight attendants say to “put on your mask before assisting others.” If we’re panicking, we’re not much use to the people around us.

I love what Samantha Bahna says: “Make time for ‘you’ as if it were an assignment. It becomes easy to push yourself to the side when juggling tasks. Remembering that you are important and those tasks cannot get done with a solid ‘you’ foundation built to tackle them is key. Don’t cancel on yourself!”

Ollie makes sure I get my daily walks!

What hobbies and activities help you relax? Are there any activities do the opposite? In my first meeting with my EdD advisor, Dr. Hsu, his main goal for me is to not work so hard that I forget to take care of myself. He (jokingly) required me to include what my dog and I have been up to in our biweekly learning log posts. Ollie reminds me to take short walks at least twice a day and take breaks to play! Jon Spike recommends the Calm to help with stress relief and mindfulness.

Cooking and reading are two other activities that I enjoy and take my mind off of school and work. I have also done some freezer meal prep for healthy weekday meals, especially after longer days at work. The task that stresses me out the most is cleaning; one of the best gifts I gave myself was hiring monthly cleaners!

Related to both time management and self-cafe, scheduling enough time to sleep is essential. For me, sleep is a non-negotiable: I need eight hours of sleep each night and about an hour before bed to wind down and read.

Here is some more crowdsourced advice from my Professional Learning Network (PLN).

What are your non-negotiables to balancing work, school, and life? What are your favorite time management and self-care tips?

 

Reflections

2019 In Review

As I’ve done for the past four years, I have written my year in review (past year’s posts: 2018, 2017, 2016, 2015). Overall, 2019 was a really great year! Even though there have been a few very difficult moments, I’ve tried to focus on the little and big positives. Not to go too deep into this, but this is not a case of toxic positivity (you know, the “good vibes only” t-shirt type life)–really, it’s about cultivating gratitude each day, recognizing that life isn’t perfect, and finding the beauty and growth opportunities in those more difficult moments.

Where I was (December 2018)

  • In December 2018, I was feeling hopeful that 2019 would provide me new opportunities and a fresh start. I was recovering from ending a 10 year relationship, and surrounding myself with people who were encouraging and hopeful. I wasn’t in a bad place, just reflective and looking forward to moving on.
  • Professionally, I was enjoying my work, although a little stressed over a few big changes, including the elimination of my Blended Learning Specialist (technology resource) period due to budget issues.

Where I am (January – December 2019)

  • My OneWord for 2019 was reclaim: I needed to reclaim my physical and emotional space and plant seeds for new opportunities and adventures. I redecorated my guest room and my office, bought some new furniture, traveled, went to concerts by myself, and rediscovered passions and hobbies that I had hidden away for years.
  • In February, I turned 30 and took myself to New York City. It was mostly a solo trip, although I did meet up with a few friends for meals and adventures. I felt so much joy in exploring a new city! It was a good starting place for some future solo travel.
  • In May, I started my EdD in educational technology and Boise State University. It’s 100% online, and has been great so far. I like my cohort and professors, and the workload is manageable on top of working full time.
  • The summer was filled with an incredible ISTE adventure that started with a visit to my good friends’ Jess and Sean’s house (love you both!). We took the train down to Philadelphia, and stayed at an awesome AirBnB.
  • In July I took a week at my family’s cottage in northern Wisconsin–my great-grandparents bought it in the 1940s. This was my first time having my own week (previously I’ve only ever gone with my parents) and two of my friends joined me. Per my mother’s wishes, my aunt “chaperoned” us–those of you that know me well, you know this is highly unnecessary; however, it was helpful for things like caring for the boat and such. I spent the whole week sitting on the dock, drinking coffee, reading, swimming, and enjoying being detached from the world. It was perfect!
  • Fueled by Coffee and Love: A Brew Perspective was published in July 2019. We celebrated with a release party at Project Reo Collective!
  • In September, I drove to Phoenix, Arizona for a Dave Matthews Band concert. I’ve always wanted to do a destination DMB concert, so as part of my reclaim theme this year, I did it! It was well worth the drive and heat. When I got home, I spontaneously bought a ticket to see DMB at Kaboo in Del Mar. I’m not a festival person, so this was super crazy for me!
  • November was the best adventure of the whole year: Iceland! Our friend Ingvi Ómarsson hosts conference every year for Icelandic teachers and brought a bunch of us in to speak. We saw the Northern Lights!!! Not only was the conference wonderful, but also I met some amazing new friends (love you Christine, Heather, Hildur, and Álfhildur!!). This was also the pivotal moment in my reclaim year because I realized how many opportunities and experiences I’ve put off due to fear or allowing other people to negatively influence my passions. I came home energized and antsy to push myself to do more.
  • Surprisingly, even with starting my doctorate, I finished a total of 60 books! (22 audiobooks + 18 books + 20 ebooks)

Where I’m going (January 2020 and beyond!)

  • I’m looking forward to continuing to grow as a teacher and person. I still have a lot to learn about this world so I can drive change in my school and community. Got any book recommendations?
  • This year, I want to focus on taking advantage of opportunities and figuring out solid short- and long-term goals.
Classroom Strategies, GSuite

Getting to Know You with Quizlet Live!

After the first few weeks of school, I struggle to keep the “getting to know you” activities going. In middle school, as much as I try to collect student information and spend time chatting with all of my students, it can be difficult to sustain this as we dig into content. Plus, my students are adjusting to middle school, and need a lot of energy and love guide them through this transition.

One of my favorite activities I did last year with my students was a getting to know you Quizlet Live game! When I first tried it, I had students write their name and something interesting, unique, or fun about themselves on a piece of paper. Then, I typed in all their answers into Quizlet. Luckily, I first tried it in a class of 16 students, where this was manageable. With my larger classes, I iterated and created a Google Form to more quickly collect responses.

Students playing Quizlet Live!

What is Quizlet Live?

You may be familiar with Quizlet, an online flashcard making and studying tool. They also have a game called Quizlet Live! Students join the live game with a join code, then are randomly sorted into teams of 3-4. Everyone on the team is shown the definition, and they each have a list of 2-4 unique words. Only one person has the correct answer, so they must communicate. Don’t be discouraged if teams are frustrated during the first game, it takes a couple minutes for them to get the hang of it.

Setting up the Quizlet deck

After gathering fun facts about each student via Google Forms, I copied and pasted the names and facts into Quizlet to create a new deck (watch this tutorial video)!

My students had so much fun with this, they begged to play again! We ended up making a second set of trivia, and playing another couple rounds. Plus, it’s easy to squeeze this in over multiple days. Collect trivia as an exit ticket on one day, then play Quizlet Live during the last 10 minutes of the next day. It’s fast-paced, and requires very little set-up on the teacher end (bonus!).

To get started for your class, make a copy of this Form (view form). Since you’re just copying and pasting data, you can use this same Form for multiple classes. Just sort by class period, then copy just that class’s data.

If you’re an administrator, this would be a fun way to start the school year with your staff. Not only is it a fun getting to know you activity, but also it models a technology tool your teachers can try out in their classrooms!

Goals, Reflections

2019-2020 School Year Goals

I’m already 4 weeks into the school year, and I haven’t yet posted my 2019-2020 school year goals. I’ve been blogging a ton at my Mari’s EdD Journey blog, mainly because I was taking a blogging course, and felt like I’ve been blogged out lately. Not burned out, just a lot of effort directed to blogging for a different purpose.

That being said, I am hoping to maintain both blogs this year. I know it’s a lot, and my goal is to post weekly, and alternate blogs each week. I enjoy sharing, and I like to think I have something of value to add to both spaced (edtech/teaching in general and the EdD process).

This year, I am only teaching 7th grade science. It’s a huge difference from the last few years, where I’ve had 1 class period of technology resource plus 8th grade AVID. It’s strange to have 5 sections of 7th grade science and nothing else.

Science

One thing I am most excited about with science this year is that, since our enrollment is low (not a positive), there are only two of us teaching 7th grade science. The other teacher and I had a rocky start when he joined our team about five years ago, and since then, we’ve really worked hard to collaborate better. Now, we’ve built a solid friendship and partnership; I’m grateful to work with him!

Another thing I am looking forward to is supporting student teachers this year. I will have at least one student teacher placed with me, and I will be supporting two intern teachers (they are contracted .6 and .4 teachers of record, in lieu of student teaching) as a coach. We have a district grant that funds Residents and Resident Coaches to provide additional coaching and support to enhance the student teaching experience.

Ultimately, my goals in science are to help my students love science, help them collaborate effectively, and teach them how to write claim-evidence-reasoning (CER) paragraphs. If I can achieve that, then I’ll be happy. All of this comes with loving my kids to bits, and making sure they know how much I love spending time with them.

EdD program

As I shared previously, I started an EdD program in May (read more here). I just finished up my second summer course, and I start fall semester in a couple weeks. I know it is going to take a lot of intentionality to balance the demands of work and being in school. Luckily, I have other friends in masters and doctoral programs, so I’ll have some weekend coffee shop study buddies.

I’m excited for this new adventure. I plan to blog about my learning, research, and reflections on the program on my Mari’s EdD Journey blog.

Ultimately, I want to have fun, relax, and do great work! It seems simple, and I know it will take a lot of time and effort. My kids are worth it!

Books

Announcing Fueled by Coffee and Love: A Brew Perspective

I am so excited to share that Fueled by Coffee and Love: A Brew Perspective is published!!

Selfie with my copy of Fueled by Coffee and Love: A Brew Perspective in my classroom!

Fueled by Coffee and Love: A Brew Perspective is the third book in the Fueled by Coffee and Love series, and is available on Amazon. These books are collections of “real stories by real teachers” and feature a diverse subset of teachers, coaches, and administrators.

How did Fueled by Coffee and Love start?

As I’ve shared previously in the Fueled by Coffee and Love and Fueled by Coffee and Love: The Refill blog posts, this project started in response to the negative media attention teachers get, especially from individuals who have never worked in education. This third book was propelled by individuals who were interested in contributing their own story.

The book is self-published via Kindle Direct Publishing (Amazon). I hired Ray Charbonneau (y42k publishing services) to assemble and upload the book for finished publishing. If you’re interested in self-publishing, he’s the best!

Why Fueled by Coffee and Love?

This project aims to shine a positive light on education through the joys and challenges of everyday in classrooms and schools. Each story uniquely shares someone’s heart for their work and their kids.

All proceeds from this project are donated back to classrooms through organizations like Donors Choose. We have been able to support dozens of classrooms and projects.

How can I help?

Interested in writing for future Fueled by Coffee and Love books? Join the Interest List!