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, 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?

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!

Classroom Strategies, Technology

Spark learning with a Fliphunt

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!

Fliphunt directions

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.

Students recording a video for our Fliphunt

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.

Using one iPad to research, and another to record.

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!

 

Classroom Strategies, GSuite, Technology

Getting Started with Applied Digital Skills

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.

Teaching these skills

Student working through an Applied Digital Skills lesson.

This is where Google’s Applied Digital Skills comes into play!

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.

Watch Google’s intro video to learn more!

Getting Started with Applied Digital Skills

  1. Sign up for Applied Digital Skills
  2. Create your class
  3. Click “add a lesson” and pick which lesson you’d like to use. I highly recommend “If/Then Adventure Stories” and “Organize College Information in 
    My students use both their iPads and the computers in the lab to maximize their efficiency.

    Google Sheets” for starters.

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.

College spreadsheet created by one of my students! They enjoyed coming up with their own research criteria for comparing 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!

  1. Go to g.co/applieddigitalskills
  2. Click “Sign In,” and sign in with your Google account
  3. Select “I am a student”*
  4. Enter class code T2WZYB

In this demo class, you can get a feel for how students will access their lessons, watch the videos, and begin creating their project.

*You can switch back to teacher mode by clicking on your email on the top right > join a class > I am a teacher.

Have fun!

Applied Digital Skills is a whole lot of fun! K-12 and adult learners love the self-paced engaging curriculum.

Have you tried Applied Digital Skills? What are your favorite activities and how have you customized it for your classroom? 

 

 

Classroom Strategies, Technology

Class Introductions with Flipgrid

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).

My Name is Jorge: On Both Sides of the River by Jane Medina

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.

Students recording their Flipgrid class introduction videos outside.

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.

Future Iterations

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).

GSuite, Technology

Advice for Becoming a Google Certified Educator Levels 1 & 2

It’s crazy to think I took the Google for Education Level 1 and Level 2 tests in summer 2015. 3 years ago! These tests had just been re-released after a complete overhaul; I intended to take them in late 2014, but they were taken down to get their makeover. Since they expire every 3 years, so retaking them was on my summer to do list.

My Level 1 and Level 2 Journey

When I took Level 1 and Level 2 for the first time, I spent time going through the Level 1 fundamentals training and Level 2 advanced training on the Google for Education Teacher Center. I really took my time with each unit, mainly to build confidence. Going in, I had most of the skills I needed, but I was still incredibly nervous! For each test, I took about 2.5 hours out of the 3 hours allowed.

Taking Level 1 for fun at a bar with some friends! We all passed 🙂 

I ended up taking Level 1 again in February 2017, after hosting an EdTechTeam Level 1 bootcamp at my school. A bunch of my friends were meeting to take the test, so I joined in and took it under my school email. Yes, we took it in the corner at a bar (arranged with the manager ahead of time, especially to make sure wifi was stable.)! And yes, we brought our own power strips. And yes, it was a lot of fun!

Going into the tests this summer, this biggest difference for me was confidence. Since taking Level 1 & and Level 2, I’ve gone on to become a Google for Education Certified Trainer (November 2015) and Innovator (June 2016, #COL16!!). I also facilitate bootcamps for EdTechTeam. Sure, I was a little nervous, because after all, it is a test! However, I also have lots of experience to draw on, which I used to remind myself it would all be ok! This time around it took me about 55 minutes for Level 1, and 75 minutes for Level 2. It took much less time because I knew what to expect and didn’t second-guess myself, not because my skills are that much better.

My advice for taking Level 1 and Level 2

  • Prepare with other people: I highly recommend the EdTechTeam bootcamps. Either attend one in your area, or fill this out to bring one to your school/district (you can even request me to come to you!). I wish I had this opportunity when I was preparing the first time to get a feel for the test, receive helpful advice, and build my confidence. — And no, I’m not getting paid to say this.
  • Find a happy place to take the test: I’ve taken the test solo at home in a quiet room and at a loud bar. Both times, I had minimal outside distractions. Yes, the bar was loud, but it was just background noise, not someone talking directly to me. Phone went on “do not disturb” and I closed all the other tabs.
  • Set up your space: Get something to drink, have a snack handy, use the bathroom before you begin, connect to power, stretch, etc before you sit down to take the test. Your webcam is on the entire time for security, so you don’t want
    to have to run to get something in the middle of the test.
  • Take wiggle breaks: I stand up every 30 minutes or so to wiggle around. I angle my laptop to keep my face in view, because test security. A mini dance party keeps my brain from getting too tired.
  • Smile!: Remind yourself to smile before, during, and after the test. You’re a hard worker, and these test are kinda fun! No matter what, pass or fail, remember to smile!

If you don’t pass the first time, don’t get discouraged! Make a note of the topics or tools that gave you the most difficulty, find a buddy, and work on them. Challenge yourself to use that tool at least 3 times before retaking the test.

Have tips for Level 1 and Level 2 first-timers? Leave a comment with your best advice!

 

Classroom Strategies, Technology

Creating a Class Learning Journey with Slides

Each May, our science department hosts Science Night. It has been a lot of fun to involve our school, local high schools, and community in science! Many students bring their families, and participate in labs and activities together. Additionally, we invite local museums and science organizations to set up interactive displays. I love science night!

Science Night in my classroom. Students, teachers, and families are checking out the displays and learning from student presenters. 

Since most of the work we do is digital, there isn’t a ton of student work to physically display. Instead, we display interactive labs. To show off student work, I have them each create a slide in a collaborative deck to showcase their work. Then, this is projected as a slideshow all night.

This is a perfect way to have students reflect on their learning or on a particular assignment. Each student claims a slide, adds in a piece of work they are proud of, and reflects on it.

Here is a template you can try with your class! Duplicate the portfolio slide x # of kids in your class.

A few tips for getting started:

  • This is a perfect time to talk about digital citizenship, especially not intentionally editing someone else’s slide. No matter the age level, everyone needs this reminder.
  • Encourage students to get all the content on their slide first, before decorating. Otherwise, a student may spend 2 hours finding the perfect font for their name.
  • Do a virtual gallery walk! Play some music, and have students scroll through the slides. When the music stops, they add in a comment (try using TAG feedback!) where they stopped.

If you have a school or class open house or display night, play these reflection slides in the background. On Slides: File > Publish to the web > pick your settings, including “restart slideshow after the last slide” > publish > paste the link in the address bar. 

MVA Science Night 2017-2018
One student’s slide from our collaborative science night slide deck!

Try using this same idea for an introduction slide deck for all your students! Replace the work section with a selfie, and answer a few basic questions, such as what are your hobbies?

Out of the classroom? I’ve seen schools/districts with a tv in the front office. Have each teacher create a spotlight slide to sprinkle between announcements and important information.

PS. When you iterate on this and make it better, I’d love to see your example! Add it in the comments below, or share it with me and I’ll link it in this post.

Classroom Strategies, GSuite, Technology

Connecting with MyMaps

Google MyMaps is one of my favorite Googley gems! And, it doesn’t always get the attention it deserves. It’s easy to use, can be accessed from any mobile device, and it’s versatile for a variety of academic and fun uses.

If you’re brand new to MyMaps, here’s a quick intro video.

Start with a purpose:

What are you hoping to share? What do you want your students to get out of this experience?

My purpose here is to show off how awesome MyMaps are, and how collaborative maps can add authentic student engagement into your classroom.

Before we dive into classroom ideas, let’s play! I invite you to add your name & a favorite place to this map. There’s also a layer to add in your university. Use the description to share a bit about why you love this place. Remember to customize your pin!

MyMaps in the Classroom:

MyMaps pair really nicely with HyperDocs and the 5E lesson model, and can fit in at any point in a lesson sequence.

I’m lucky my friend Austin Houp shared out a collaborative MyMap with me last year, all about natural disasters. It was perfect timing, as my students were working on natural disasters projects in science! My students, along with students from all over the world, added in projects on different natural disasters. They loved clicking through the pins and seeing the information, pictures, and links to external projects created other students! And, knowing they were sharing with the world, they took extra care in their work.

Collaborative natural disasters map, created by Austin Houp

Additionally, my AVID students have plotted their college projects on a MyMap, making it easy to share resources with peers, other classes, and potentially other AVID classes at other schools.

Since my oldest students at my current school are juniors (class of 2019), I’ve made a MyMap to track where they head off to college in a year. It’ll be awesome to keep adding to this map throughout the years. They want to keep in contact with me because my class food rule is “no eating or drinking (other than water) until you have a college degree!” — and, I promise if they come back after they’ve graduated, I’ll buy them lunch and we’ll eat together in my room.

The more advanced tools on MyMaps, such as drawing lines and polygons, is perfect for practicing perimeter and area, calculating distances, or reinforcing measurements.

MyMaps for Fun:

MyMaps is great for personal use, especially planning trips, marking places I’ve been, and sharing favorite spots. I use a MyMap to track which states I’ve been to in the US–I still have a long way to go (16/50 as of May 2018), but it’s fun to change the pin color and switch it to the “Where I’ve Been” layer.

Mari’s States of Adventure map

In summer of 2018, my friend Nick will be visiting San Diego for a few days, and we have a MyMap of San Diego places to visit.

My Next Steps:

Next year, one of my goals is to connect with at least one other classroom to collaborate on a map project! Anyone want to join me? Specifically middle school science or any level of AVID.

What are your favorite ways to use MyMaps for fun and in your classroom? Leave a comment below, I’d love more ideas!