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 Libs! Before 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).
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!
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.”
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!
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:
What science topics do you want to learn about? (Free response question)
Where do you want to learn? (Poll: Instagram or Google Classroom)
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.
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.
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?
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.
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!
Whenever we finish a task early, my students beg me, “Let’s play Kahoot!” They don’t care if it’s content-related or just for fun, they’re super competitive. Whenever we play, the top 3 winners in each round earn a prize–the prizes are usually the trinkets (pens, pencils, sticky notes, etc.) I pick up from conference exhibit halls. Or, if there’s only a couple minutes left in class, I’ll let the winners relax outside my room until the bell rings.
Back in March 2018, I wrote a post called Student-Created Games with Quizizz. At that time, Kahoot didn’t have an option to batch upload questions. Thankfully, Kahoot now has integrated a feature to upload a spreadsheet of questions too. My students like Quizizz when working on an early finisher assignment or stations rotation game, and prefer Kahoot when we’re playing with the whole class.
Using student created Kahoot games in class
Kahoot is a perfect platform for final exam review. To prepare for our upcoming final exams, I’ll assign different students topics, and have them write final exam questions. We’ll play their crowdsourced Kahoot in class. Inevitably, at least one student whines at how hard it is to write a question, a correct answer, and three convincing incorrect answers. Yep, welcome to teacher life!
6. Create a new Kahoot game. Upload the spreadsheet.
7. Play and have fun!
I created a video walkthrough to show you through the process. Having them template makes the whole process very quick!
Thank you Debra and Cesar for contributing trivia questions to the example set!
My students love the opportunity to create their own Kahoot games, and are thrilled when their questions are up on the screen. Student-created Kahoots are such a fun opportunity to get everyone involved in the learning!
I first learned about Fliphunts from Natasha Rachell (read her blog here!). It seemed like such a cool idea that I bookmarked it and made a mental note to try it soon. Soon came along just after spring break, and I couldn’t wait to jump in with my students.
A Fliphunt is a scavenger hunt using Flipgrid! Students work in teams to record videos for as many challenges as they can in the alloted time period. At the end, watch the videos and tally up each team’s points to determine a winner.
Setting up a Fliphunt
The setup was super easy — I created this Slide with three levels of challenges (one star, two star, three star) based on difficulty level. A quick Google search or scroll through #Fliphunt on Twitter will lead you to lots of examples and fun ideas. I also created a student handout they could take with them when they went outside to record and check off challenges as they go. At the bottom of the student handout is the class scorecard; I printed one per period, then recorded scores as we watched the Flipgrid videos together as a class.
I created one grid on Flipgrid for the assignment, and separate topics for each class period. This is where “duplicate topic” comes in very handy!
Running the FlipHunt in class
I used this Fliphunt as an introduction to a new unit, so each topic was something new they needed to search up and explore.
Students worked in teams of 3-4 to complete as many challenges as they could in about 30 minutes. I released them for 10 minutes to record at least one video, then had them come back in to watch what had been submitted, record scores, and quickly debrief the recording process. They went back out for the remaining 20 minutes, then came back in to watch and record final scores.
Some groups weren’t as into the Fliphunt as others, and other groups struggled with effective teamwork; breaking up the work time helped keep these groups on track. Next time, I’ll add our lab group roles as an additional teamwork scaffold. Even with all the progress we’ve made with Mastery-Based Grading, some still struggle with motivation if they know there isn’t a grade attached–we’re working on it.
On the bright side, the groups that were participating and excited made this a lot of fun for all of us! Some groups were extremely competitive and worked super hard. Many students let their personalities and sense of humor shine in the videos. It will be helpful to look back on these videos as learning tools as we learn more about the Earth.
Additionally, my teacher next-door neighbor is interested in trying a Fliphunt at some point, so we may create another one for an end of the semester review!
I’ll definitely do another Fliphunt with my class. We had a great time, and it was fun to watch students explore a new topic, navigate effective teamwork, and share their creativity with the class.
What are your tips for running Fliphunts with your students or staff?
Comment below so we can all learn from you!
Raise your hand if you use any Google Apps (search, Docs, Sheets, Slides, Forms, etc.) in your personal life?
It’s as simple as this blog post, which I drafted on Google Docs, and inserted images and links. Or the spreadsheet I created to compare and contrast different cars to organize my new car search. Even geekier, I use spreadsheets is to keep track of the books I read each year–this one is massive, complete with charts and formulas.
These digital skills, plus collaboration and communication, are essential for our students to learn to prepare them for the working world beyond our classrooms.
Applied Digital Skills a student-paced “project-based video curriculum” where students create and collaborate on real-world-applicable lessons. And, it’s FREE!
Before you turn up your nose at the word “curriculum,” it’s not strict and boxy. Instead, it provides the skills for students in short video lessons, and allows the teacher to circulate the room and assist students. Additionally, these sample projects can easily be customized to your content class.
I made a quick screencast to show you how to get started.
For each lesson, there are sample projects and a rubric too!
My students love Applied Digital skills because it gave them the freedom to create and explore, and work at their own pace. Students who finished their “Organize Information in Google Sheets” early added in additional columns and rows as they researched more universities.
Since we are 1:1 iPad, I took my students to the computer lab (you can’t freeze a row/column on the iOS app). Most either watched the videos on their iPad and created on the computer, or split screen their computer monitor to watch and work. I loved watching how each student organized their physical and digital workspace.
Try it out as a student
Join my demo class to see Applied Digital Skills from the learner perspective!
This year I’m doing something entirely crazy with my AVID class–I’m going (mostly) gradeless! It’s a bit scary, seeing as I have to report grades each six weeks. So, my solution is to have students keep a portfolio, then reflect on their progress and effort each six weeks. It’s not perfect, but we’re all in it together.
That leads me to ask, how do I get a group of squirrely and wonderful 8th graders, and teach them how to reflect on and assess their own learning?
Teach them about metacognition!
I started the school year by having my students learn about their learning through this Metacognition Hyperdoc. Huge shoutout to Hyperdocs for the rad template! I appreciate these templates; they’re a great starting point to plan our learning journey.
I guided my students through the Hyperdoc, and scaffolded quite a bit of work, especially their time management.
Learning to Think about our Thinking
During the Explore phase, I put up a timer for 15 minutes, just for exploring the linked resources. Then, I put up another timer for 5 minutes to allow them to synthesize what they learned into their own definition.
Together, we moved onto the Explain phase, and read the article Metacognition: The Gift That Keeps Giving together. Before we read, we brainstormed strategies that good readers do, then used those strategies when working. Students came up with things like: skim the text to see the structure, including headings and pictures; highlight main ideas; write notes in the margins.
When we read the article, we “talked to the text” (learn more here), as it seemed like our best strategy for practicing metacognition. It felt very natural for us to practice this as we read! I modeled the first few paragraphs, students worked in partners for a couple more paragraphs, then finished by talking to the text on their own, and sharing their notes with another partner.
Go, Learn a Thing!
Finally, we introduced their project in the Apply phase. Students committed to spend a few days learning something completely new to them, and reflecting on their learning process. I borrowed this idea from my friend, Doug Robertson, who does a lengthy Learn a Thing project with his students (scroll through his Twitter & Instagram for pics and info). Together, we created the rubric and set of criteria they would use evaluate their peers’ project.
Students had a blast finding something new to learn! A couple chose to learn magic tricks, one wanted to learn different knot types, and many chose to learn a new language. Our goal wasn’t mastery, but more to feel the feelings of trying something brand-new, and how our brains react to the excitement and challenge.
We all agreed this could be a much longer project! After our short two days, students presented their learning journey (not final result) to a group of 3 peers. Their small audience filled out a peer evaluation (read more here) after the presentation.
I’m grateful we started our school year off talking about metacognition, as it has been an anchor for many of our discussions, goals, and projects throughout the semester!
[And, we were having SO much fun with this, I didn’t get a chance to take any pictures of us in action!]
September 24-28, 2018 was an incredibly important week, and I didn’t see much in the EduTwitter world about it — it was GLSEN’s Ally Week!
According to GLSEN, “an ally is a member of a privileged group who advocates against oppression. An ally works to create social change rather than participate in oppressive actions.”
Being an ally
Part of being an ally means speaking up and standing with the oppressed group, but not speaking for them. We recognize that each individual’s experience is unique, and part of a complex web of intersecting identities (including age, race, religion, culture, region of the world/country, etc.).
As a cisgendered heterosexual individual, I have not experienced oppression based on my gender expression and sexual orientation. (Cisgendered = my biological sex and gender identity match; heterosexual = attraction to opposite gender)
How can we, as educators, be allies to our LGBTQ+ students?
Use inclusive language. Examples: “y’all” “friends” “students” (instead of “you guys” “girls” “boys”)
Confront anti-LGBTQ+ behavior, bullying, and language. For example, if a student says “that’s so gay,” respond by asking them what exactly is bothering them, and help them pick a different description word, such as “that’s so boring.”
Post a safe space sticker and/or poster in your classroom, office, or workspace. Download yours here!
Awareness is our first step, and is always a growth process. Little things, such as making inclusive and non-gender-binary questions on forms go a long way for supporting our students!
Remember, if a student shares information with you, it’s confidential. I know I have students who are more open about one or more of their identities at school, but cannot safely tell their families outside of school.
Celebrating Ally Week at school
My school was on Fall Break for Ally Week this year, so our GSA (Gay-Straight Alliance) had our Ally Week celebration early, during our weekly lunch meeting. Thanks to the support of a GLSEN San Diego friend and recent grad of our local high school, we had some teacher resources, stickers, buttons, and ideas to plan our party. Students brought an ally friend, and my co-advisor and I brought snacks. We defined allies and how we can be upstanders at our school, then enjoyed spending time together!
The next day, with teachers we hosted a similar lunch club with snacks! After discussing how to be an ally, we went through some gender and sexual orientation vocabulary, including playing a vocab matching game from the GLSEN teacher guide. Overwhelmingly, our teachers appreciated this learning opportunity, and are already asking when we’ll host the next one!
For both groups, we used these slides to share some basics and lead our discussion.
This is one of those times where I know I’m not the expert in the room, yet I’m not going to let that hold me back from supporting my students, colleagues, and friends. Because that’s what an ally does: we advocate, support, listen, ask questions, and unconditionally love. I am constantly going back to the GLSEN Teacher Resources to make sure I’m using the correct language, and making my classroom an inclusive and safe space.
If you are a GSA advisor or work with LGBTQ+ youth, I’d love to connect via Twitter & email!
One of the biggest lessons I learned in EDS 250, one of the first education courses I took as part of my Masters/Credential program, was the value of names. Our professor, Dr. Luz Chung, read us a poem called “T-shirt” from a selection called My Name is Jorge: On Both Sides of the River. The lesson in this poem is that George finally stands up for himself, and tells his teacher that is name is Jorge (Spanish, pronounced HORhey).
That distinct moment imprinted on my heart, always reminding me just how essential it is to pronounce a student’s name correctly.
The beginning of the year can be stressful for teachers, with many new names to learn, and not all of them are familiar to us. However, each name is special to the student and their family, and deserves time and respect to say it right.
As I go slowly go through my roll on the first few days of school, I try my best to pronounce everyone’s name correctly. I’m often asking, “say it again for me, please,” because “close enough” isn’t good enough for me. Other times, I push a little and ask a student, “how does your family say it?” because that will tell me if they truly are a George or a Jorge, an Angel or an Ángel, or an Andrea or an Andrea (ahn-Dray-uh).
Class Introductions on Flipgrid
As soon as my students received their iPads, one of their first assignments was to complete a class introduction on Flipgrid. I created the class on Flipgrid, and the default first assignment is called “Introductions!” The prompt says, “Welcome to our classroom Grid! This is a space where we will learn together and share our ideas. Introduce yourself in 90 seconds or less and share something that makes you smile.” I changed our time limit to 30 seconds, and gave my students the space to record. Some stayed inside, and some went outside. Most of my students were nervous in front of the camera, but were up for the challenge.
I appreciated going through and listening to my students’ responses! Not only did this help me attach names to faces, but also it was review in how to pronounce their names. There were a few I had to rewind a couple times, just to hear them say it again.
If you work with adults as either an administrator, TOSA, librarian, etc, it would be useful to do this with our staff. I know there are a handful of teachers at my own school whose names are unintentionally mispronounced! Model Flipgrid at a staff meeting by having teachers introduce themselves and share a success, happy moment, something they’re especially proud of, or goal for the year.
In the future, I would adapt this topic to be more name-centric, such as “Introduce yourself, and tell us the story of your name.” (was it “engraved in a passing ship on the day your family came?” In the Heights reference, for my fellow musical nerds.)
And, I’d love to teach students how to appropriately respond to each other on Flipgrid. I’d love to do an “It’s nice to meet you, _____, I’m _____. [Add in a question or comment or other prompt.]” in preparation for connecting with other classes in the future.
I know I’m not perfect, and I always wonder if there are other students whose names I am not saying right, but they’ve resigned themselves to “good enough.”
PS. It’s useful to tell you that my name, Mari, is neither Mary or Marie or Madi (as in, non-Spanish-speakers trying to roll their r’s). It rhymes with “sorry” and “safari” — my best friend calls me Calamari, and she is Squidney. And, Ven-tur-eee-no (Italian).