Classroom Strategies, GSuite, Technology

Create a Community Quilt Google Classroom Banner

Back to school is an exciting time! Back to school during a pandemic where we are teaching 100% online is exciting, but in a completely different way!

As we head back to school, I am trying to find as many ways to connect with my students and build community in the online space. We have already done our Getting to Know You Survey and our Video Chat Digital Citizenship lesson. I will continue to do some fun class team building games during our synchronous class meetings too.

Creating a Community Quilt

My friend Megan Rowen does an amazing getting-to-know-you activity with her students every year called the Community Quilt. Each student makes a square that represents their interests, hobbies, personality, family, and friends (see our examples here). She hangs up each square on the all–it’s an amazing collage of the students in each class. She leaves it up all year as a reminder that each person makes up a unique and important part of the whole.

As we were planning for this year, Megan mentioned she wanted to continue to do that assignment, but she wasn’t sure how to continue it for the online space. That’s where my nerd brain went to work and suggested we turn the quilt into a Google Classroom banner image. In the past, I’ve taken a class photo and uploaded that as our header image–this is a fun alternative where all students are represented! Megan agreed and I set to work making the templates and instructions.

Sample classroom quilt (With only 3 students’ work. It’s much prettier with a whole class represented.)

Here’s how it works: (watch this video)

  1. Post the Community Quilt assignment on Google Classroom so each student gets their own copy.
  2. After all quilt squares are turned in, open each assignment to slide 2, then File > Download > JPG or PNG.
  3. Open the Google Classroom banner template and upload all the quilt square images to the Google Draw. Arrange the squares within the banner and customize the welcome text.
  4. Download the completed quilt: File > Download > JPG.
  5. In Google Classroom, open the class period to the Stream. On the bottom right corner of the banner image, click “Upload Photo” and select your classroom quilt!

Not using Google Classroom? Consider having students post their quilt square to Padlet!

In our online space, any little thing we can do to make our classroom feel like a shared community space is important!

Classroom Strategies, GSuite, Technology

Getting to Know You Survey with Google Forms

I always start my school year with a student survey. In my first few years of teaching, this was a paper survey. Later, this turned into a Google Form. A couple years ago, I blogged about my getting to know you survey. (Here’s the original post.) I am constantly iterating on my class resources and activities, including this one.

Since starting to use this Google Forms survey a couple years ago, I have improved some of the questions, particularly asking students about their pronouns and name. Huge shoutout to Ace Schwarz for their phenomenal website and blog, Teaching Outside the Binary! (And thank you Ben Kovaks for sending me their way!) Based Ace’s resources, I modified the way I have asked some of my questions, specifically asking who I can use names and pronouns around.

Here is my updated getting to know you survey! I also added/changed some questions to better reflect our current remote school situation. Just for fun, fill out this one so I can get to know you!

Name question on the updated getting to know you survey!

I add names and pronouns to my printed (yeah yeah, I know, but sometimes paper is way more efficient) attendance rosters. It’s important to start using names and pronouns right away, and online is no exception. Our kids are counting on us to be their allies.

My students need to know I see them in every way possible. We will also be doing class introductions on Flipgrid; not only is this a fun beginning of the year activity, but also it is a chance for me to learn how my students pronounce their names.

What questions do you ask your students at the beginning of the school year?

 

Classroom Strategies, GSuite, Technology

Final Course Evaluation with Google Forms

One thing I really love about my classroom is that feedback is a two-way street. I try to collect formal and informal feedback from my students as often as I give them feedback. Informal feedback may be an exit ticket question or walking around and chatting with students as they are working.

At the end of each semester, I ask students for formal feedback in our course evaluation survey (make a copy of this template). Students fill this out during the final week of the semester, and I read the feedback after grades have been submitted.

Some of the questions I ask are about what they like about our class, what they wish we did more of, and how they feel as learners in our class. One of my favorite sections is where students rate their feelings toward our class. This tells me so much about the class culture of our classroom. If they’re not feeling valued and supported, then all the rest of the academics are pointless.

Rating questions on our course evaluation.

Asking students for feedback

My students know that I value their feedback and that our goal is for everyone to grow and learn together (we use Mastery Based Grading in our class!). They see it in the actions I take in class: I will ask them for feedback, then talk through changes I’ve made based on what I’ve seen work and not work.

We’re still working on making feedback specific, actionable, and kind–they have improved greatly from the beginning to the end of the year. Although, I still do get responses like “nothing” and “idk” a little more often than I’d like. We’re not perfect and we’re learning.

Evaluating multiple teachers

Since I am working with two student teachers this semester, we duplicated the Feedback on your teacher questions and separated each set into their own section on the Form. Each of us modified and added questions for areas we’d like feedback. On the class period question, we turned on the setting “Go to section based on response” (3 dots in the bottom right of the question). Need help? Here is a template already set up for 2 teachers!

How to evaluate multiple teachers based on the class period they teach. 

The feedback process is important for my growth as a teacher. I am grateful my students are willing to help me improve!

What types of feedback questions do you ask your students?

 

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, 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!

Classroom Strategies, GSuite, Technology

Student-Created Kahoot Games!

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!Student Created Kahoot Google Form

Creating a student crowdsourced Kahoot

1. Make a copy of this Google Form (view it here).

2. Have students fill out the Form.

3. Create the Sheet of responses.

4. Delete the timestamp and name columns.

5. Download the spreadsheet as an .xlsx file.

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!

GSuite

Choose Your Own Adventures with Google Forms

Technology can take us on adventures, far and wide! Where will you go?

I love working with teachers from all over the country, and helping them find meaningful ways to integrate technology into their classroom. So often, I come in for a day or a couple hours and hope something sticks. Occasionally, I’ll receive an email or tweet from someone in a workshop, sometimes months or even a year later, sharing what they tried and how it went.

Back in November, I received this happy email from Norm Peckham, an edtech trainer in Mesa, AZ: “I already had a teacher at one of my junior highs call me and he’s changed his whole lesson plan about migration in science so that his students are creating a [Choose Your Own Adventure] story in the Google Form template you created, and I’m helping him and his students out on Monday!!…” He went on to share some resources and example Forms he created as models for his teachers.

Seriously, how cool is that! It’s the kind of email that puts a smile on my face for days!

Student-created example, CYOA to USC

You’ve probably already figured out that Google Forms is my go-to tool for just about everything in my classroom. However, I haven’t talked much about student-created Forms. These Choose Your Own Adventure (CYOA) stories are a perfect way to get students comfortable with building Forms, since the template is already done.

Last fall, I had my 8th grade AVID students create Choose Your Own Adventure stories to take us on a tour of a university. This required a lot of background research to create interesting and compelling CYOA campus tours.

Here’s how we did it:

1. Students first researched the university, including history, average freshman profiles, campus features, and interesting facts.

2. Students planned out their journeys using this CYOA Google Doc. This took a little bit of explaining on my part, to help them see how the doc would eventually lead to a branching Form.

3. Finally, students made a copy of the CYOA Form to take us through their adventure.

Excellent description with 2 new options to visit next.

Once students were done, they presented their story and allowed us to choose two different adventure paths. Each student received peer feedback using, you guessed it, another Form!

Looking back, I wish I had an example to share with students before hand (I know, rookie move) so they could see the vision for the final product. Luckily, Norm created this awesome tutorial video and an example story, The Online Adventures of Mousey and Mickey. Huge shout out to Norm for allowing me to share these with y’all!!

How have you used Choose Your Own Adventure activities in your classroom? Share your best tips in the comments!