Classroom Strategies, Technology

Daily Check-ins with Microsoft Forms

It is well-documented that I am a huge Google Forms fan and user! I have published numerous blog posts on how I use Google Forms in my classroom. Recently, I was asked to present an social-emotional learning (SEL) session–using only Microsoft tools. Therefore, I had to re-create my daily check-in Google Form using Microsoft Forms.

I will admit, I am overcoming an irrational and unfair bias of Microsoft tools. I get frustrated that it does not feel as easily collaborative as the Google tools. But, as I have used some of the tools, I have been pleasantly surprised with a few tools, especially Microsoft Teams. There, it’s in writing: I love using Teams for communication! In all honesty, I am determined to keep an open mind when it comes to creating with Microsoft tools. So far, so good!

Let’s try it!! Before you continue, fill out the Form here!

For those of you new in the Microsoft world, you will be happy to know that Microsoft Forms is very similar to Google Forms. I was pleasantly surprised and relieved that the workflow felt very similar.

Why do I use a daily check-in Form?

A daily check-in Form is an essential component of my classroom. It provides a much-needed routine for both my students and myself. This has been a routine that carried over to online learning–the first five minutes of class are dedicated to our warm-up. While my students are completing their warm-up, I am taking attendance and making sure everything is ready for class. The responses double as a way to verify attendance, in case I make an attendance mistake and need to correct it later.

Additionally, I am able to provide students with an opportunity to let me know how they are doing. The SEL questions are essential for addressing students’ needs. My students share all kinds of things in the “anything else I need to know” question. Responses range from silly things to academic questions to more serious life events; in most cases, I address these individually and privately with the student.

SEL Check-in Questions on our Daily Warm-up

What do the daily logistics look like?

I use the same Form every single day. In the response spreadsheet, I hide the previous day’s rows (click on the first row, shift + click on the last row you want to hide, right click, hide rows) so I can easily access the current responses.

Lately, we have been using our first two questions as content-related questions and our third question as some sort of silly question. We’re a huge fan of “would you rather” or “what is your favorite” questions. For example, “would you rather eat pancakes or waffles?” It is a fun way to carry the getting to know you activities throughout the school year.

Ready to try it? Here is a Template!

(Using Google tools? Here is the Google Form post & template!)

I am excited to hear how you use the daily check-in with your learners!

Classroom Strategies, Technology

Promoting Student Response Sharing in Pear Deck

I absolutely love Pear Deck! I have been using it in my classroom for years, and consistently find it as an excellent way to make students’ learning ap-pear-ent.

One awesome thing during distance teaching has been working with student teachers. I know that supporting student teachers while also teaching 100% online comes with a whole set of challenges (the topic of a future blog post), but it has been a great experience for all of us.

My amazing student teacher, Ms. Cortez, and I noticed many of our 8th grade students were hesitant to share or participate out loud and in the chat, but actively participated in the Pear Deck questions. We wanted to figure out a way for students to volunteer to share their work, without adding additional stress or complications. We created a system where kids would draw a green 🙂 or a red 😦 on the top right corner of their Pear Deck response based on their willingness to have their answer shared with the class (see image below).

Example Pear Deck slide with student sharing 🙂 or 😦 option

Students took to this system quickly! When we use Pear Deck in class, we review the responses in the teacher dashboard (we are lucky to have the premium version at school), then star the responses with a smiley face to only show those responses. Students have the option to unmute to share their response, elaborate or claim the response in chat, or allow us to anonymously review their response with the class.

Starred responses on the Pear Deck teacher dashboard

We only do this for some responses, mostly drawing questions. For text questions, we do this same system by asking students to start their response with a green or red emoji. Other times, we do not give students an option and show all of the responses.

Here is a template (or see this example on Slides and Pear Deck) to help you get started! We hope it helps encourage your students to share their work with the class.

What are some ways you get your students to actively participate on Pear Deck?

Classroom Strategies, Technology

Handfuls of Thanks!

Gratitude is a wonderful practice. I try to end my day by thinking of 3 things I am grateful for from that day. Some people like to write this down–I have used the monthly calendar pages in my Passion Planner to record my thankful thoughts. Most of the time, it’s something I think or say out loud, but don’t actually write down.

Thanksgiving is coming up and I am excited to practice gratitude with my students. Each year, we take time to be thankful by creating paper hand turkeys. Yes, we do arts and crafts for fun in middle school too!

This year is a little different since we are currently 100% remote and we do not have the whole week for Thanksgiving off. We’re trying to play fun and light activities that build community, rather than heavily focus on content.

Also, it goes without saying that this year has been very stressful. However, we all can count at least 5 things to be thankful for.

First, let’s try it:

Join me in a quick Blog Community Hand Turkey collection!

My students and I will be taking Wednesday to make digital hand turkeys! I made templates in Jamboard (view | make a copy) and Google Slides (view | make a copy). Both will work great for classes of any age, either synchronously or asynchronously.


Analog option: project the first slide for instructions and have students trace their hand and do it on paper.

Enjoy this fun gratitude activity! I am using it around Thanksgiving time, but it can easily be used or adapted for any point in the school year.

Classroom Strategies, GSuite, Technology

Collaborative Drawings in Jamboard

Jamboard is the exciting new edtech tool craze, have you tried it yet? It’s like a cross between Google Slides and Padlet. It’s a great place to have students brainstorm, collaborate, and create. The Jamboard (product) is an interactive whiteboard and Jamboard (app) is a free digital whiteboard app.

Getting Started with Jamboard

To access Jamboard, head to your Google Drive > New > More > Google Jamboard. If you don’t see it, check with your school/district educational technology department–they may have to make it available for you.

The Google Teacher Center has some great getting started tips and lesson ideas. My friends Ro and Mo (The Tech Fairies!) shared 10 Google Jamboard Activities.

I’m going to share an awesome activity that has been a huge hit in teacher professional development and with my students: collaborative drawings in Jamboard!

A collaborative sketch of a house created in Jamboard. There is a house with an apple tree on each side.
Collaborative house drawing created by one 7th grade science class

How it Works:

This fun collaborative challenge is perfect for fully online or blended classes. The premise is simple: collaborate to draw a house.

This activity is very simple to set up:

  1. Make a copy of this Jamboard (view it here)
  2. Meet your learners and have a quick conversation about digital citizenship. We reminded students to be kind and to please please please avoid the clear frame button.
  3. Post the Jamboard to your students:
    1. Change the sharing settings to “anyone with the link can edit”
    2. Or, post the Jamboard as an assignment on Google Classroom as “students can edit”
  4. Sit back and watch the fun! (about 10 minutes is perfect)
  5. Download final image: 3 dots in the top right > Save frame as image

Protip: After you’re done, change the sharing settings back to view only to prevent any unwanted edits.

Have Fun!

The best part about teaching 100% online is that students had to rely on digital collaboration skills–some students added comments in our Google Meet chat while others added in sticky notes or writing directly on the Jamboard.

A drawing of a house with an apple tree, a person saying hi from the window
Collaborative house drawing from a recent professional development for teachers in Montreal, Canada

Enjoy this super fun activity! I’d love to hear how it goes!


Science, Technology

Fulbright Distinguished Award in Teaching

I am excited to share that I have been selected for the 2020-2021 Fulbright Distinguished Award in Teaching! I will be among 22 US teachers traveling abroad to 10 different countries to complete an inquiry research project and learn from local teachers and students.

New headshot for Fulbright Distinguish Award in Teaching profile

From January – June 2021, I will live and work in The Netherlands (host city and institution still TBD). My proposed inquiry project title is “Using Technology to Build Bridges in Science Education Between School and the Community.” I am interested in how we can use technology to better facilitate science education through citizen science projects. Through this opportunity, I will visit classrooms and schools, meet with professors, participate in professional development, and explore the citizen science and science community engagement projects in The Netherlands.

Thank you to everyone who pushed me to apply, read my application, and encouraged me to step into this unknown. It is a little scary to take a semester leave of absence from teaching to travel abroad (especially during a pandemic). I am excited and ready to jump right in to learning and growth opportunities!

I will share my adventures and learning here on my blog and on Instagram.

This blog post is not an official U.S. Department of State blog. The views and information presented are the Fulbright DA Participant’s own and do not represent the Fulbright Distinguished Awards in Teaching Semester Research Program, the U.S. Department of State, or IREX.

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?


Classroom Strategies, Technology

Showcase Student Work on Your Digital Fridge

I miss my kids. A lot. One thing I miss a ton is their creativity.

Whenever we have a less-structured minute in class, such as when some students finish an assignment early, many students choose to draw. They love the Sketchbook iPad app. Over the course of the year, I’ve seen many students improve their drawing skills. And, if allowing them to draw in class means they’re more likely to bring their iPad charged to school every day, then I’m all for it!

The best thing ever is when students gift me one of their drawings to hang up in my room! Their art immediately goes up on the wall or on a cabinet. If it’s a digital drawing, then I’ll email (with a pretty please) one of two staff members who have access to the color printer and ask them to print out the drawing.

A while back, I saw someone post a picture of an area in their classroom that they called the classroom “fridge.” (I can’t remember who you are! If someone finds the source, please send them or the post my way so I can give credit!) I love this idea, and it’s been on my list of things to do for over a year. Now I will have to wait until we can physically go back to schools–I already have the perfect place picked out.

On our weekly check-in Form, some of my students have mentioned cool art projects they are working on. I wanted to provide a digital outlet for my students to share their artwork with our class. So, I created a Digital Fridge using Padlet! The linked example is filled with contributions from teacher friends–feel free to contribute something!

Digital Fridge: Teacher Edition

In my Digital Fridge, I required all posts to be approved (Settings > Require Approval). This allows me to make sure a student does not misuse our Padlet. Plus, submitting a post for approval means students know I am looking at their artwork and hanging it up by clicking approve. So far, I have approved every post that contains an attached picture (I had a couple where the student must have started, then forgotten to upload anything), including one of a stick figure. One incredibly quiet student has posted multiple drawings; it’s incredible to see them so willing to share online!

If you want to use this idea, simply click the “remake” button on the top right corner. Then, share the link with your students through your online platform (Google Classroom, class website, email, or other LMS). Don’t have a Padlet account yet? Use this referral link and we both get a free extra Padlet!

What cool submissions have you received on your Digital Fridge? Share in the comments below!


Classroom Strategies, Technology

Digital Citizenship for Class Video Chats

With the shift to online learning, students and teachers are learning an entirely new skillset. Classroom norms and expectations are changing.

On a recent video chat with some of my students, one student asked “do we have to get dressed for school?” Much to their enjoyment, I explained the beauty of the Video Chat Mullet: business on the top, party on the bottom. And, if they do not want us to see their kitty cat jammy bottoms, they can always turn off their video!

Even though we were laughing and joking, I also wanted my students to know that there are real expectations for when we interact for school, both synchronously and asynchronously. At the beginning of the year in science, we spend a lot of time building community and practicing teamwork through activities like Saving Sam and our paper airplane lab. We also begin to reflect on the teamwork process.

The transition to online learning has forced me to consider how I will set expectations and norms together. I wanted to keep the expectations simple, concise, and clear. Finally, I settled on these community expectations:

Additionally, I created a mini Digital Citizenship for Distance Learning lesson using one of my favorite tools: Pear Deck! This lesson briefly defines digital citizenship (according to Common Sense Media), introduces the norms, and asks students to digitally “sign” that they agree to our community video chat norms. You can view this self-paced lesson on Pear Deck (or make a copy of the Slides and customize it for yourself). I also created a short quiz (make a copy) for the end of the lesson.

My students are completing this lesson asynchronously; I am posting the link to the student paced Pear Deck on Google Classroom. We will have optional weekly video chats for each class period; and, I will offer additional drop-in office hours (really, called “Ollie Hours” because my dog, Ollie, is my co-teacher) in the afternoons.

How are you teaching and modeling digital citizenship for your students during video chats?