Sunday, December 30, 2018

Google Classroom Headers (and Bitmojis)

I recently taught a class on how to use Bitmojis in the classroom to increase student engagement and help with classroom organization and management.

One fun idea was to use them to make custom Google Classroom headers. The idea came from Alice Keeler's blog and she even provided a template for her header.

My computer settings weren't the same as hers so I had to tweak my version.

Template Link -

This got me thinking about how the headers could be changed out frequently, as something new for students to look forward to, when they opened up Google Classroom. In my head I was thinking they could be changed out weekly (38 total headers needed) if time permitted. 

Happy New Year
Template Link

Birthday Headers
Template Link

Valentines Day
Template Link

I have several other ideas, templates, and instructions linked in this presentation.

I would love to see other custom Google Classroom Header ideas! Please feel free to post a comment or tag me on Twitter at @techcoachlife.

Saturday, December 29, 2018

2019 Goals - Low Tech

I posted a Google Drawings version of this activity and realized that it might not be feasible for everyone. It would be easy to change it to a low tech project.

Have students draw out their goals using paper and pencil. They can use the "9" as either a "q" or a "g". I showed two different ways you can lay out the year in the pictures above. 

Once they have a sketched out version give students clean paper and colored pencils to do the final copy. Finished versions could easily be hung in the hallway. 

Our student HP Tablets come equipped with Microsoft Windows Ink Workspace, if you have that students could use it to digitize their sketch. We also have a Kami subscription but students could use the free version to digitally draw their goals as well. 

I used these requirements when filling out my goals sheet:

- List 2 things you would like to do (think about things that might make you a better student/person, healthier, or more organized).
- Use the 0 as an "O" and make up a goal that starts with that letter (one thing, organize, over, may need to brainstorm this one with students who might be struggling)
- Name something you would like to 1earn (school or personal...think about something you might watch on YouTube you might learn from). 
- Use the 9 as either a "g" or a"q" and set a goal that starts with either one of those letters. For a "g" you can use "get", "give", "go". For a "q" I used "quit" but I could have also used "quiet".

Wednesday, December 26, 2018

2019 Goals Template

Looking for a fun back-to-school activity to kick off the New Year? Try this digital Google Drawings goals template.

The idea is to take the numbers in 2019 and use them as both numbers AND letters to create four goals for the new year. 

Students would identify:

2 things they would like to do, try, or read
0ne thing they would like to accomplish or stop doing
something they would like to 1earn (personal or school)
and someplace they would like to 9o, get or give this coming year

You may want to have students sketch out their ideas on scratch paper before they open up the template in Google Drawings.

I had a couple of my friends try out the template and here is what they came up with:

This is great activity to introduce students to some Google Drawing tools that could be used later in the year to create content posters.

Layers of the Atmosphere Poster
Google Drawings

I made a video explaining the project in greater detail if anyone wanted to try it before introducing it to students (which I highly recommend).

I would love to see any finished projects! I can be tagged on Twitter at @techcoachlife.

Any questions? Feel free to post them in the comments section below. 

Saturday, November 24, 2018

Creative Bookmarks - Part I

This past summer I worked a reading program and I put together a week of creative bookmarks crafts for participants to complete.

My favorite were these very easy Star Wars themed ones. I ran across them randomly from a library blog (which I am sad I did not bookmark to give credit 😢).

The library site directed me to the YouTube Video for instructions and the templates. The instructional video for these bookmarks is in Portuguese but since we were following what the child was doing versus what he was saying it was fine. 

I downloaded the templates to my Google Drive so I could keep them even if the video or related site went down. Here are the links to each:

The were a lot of fun to put together. I thought they would make a good back-to-school activity, or project for a Star Wars themed school night, or to complete the week of May the 4th (as in May the 4th be with you...#scifinerd 🤣). 

I will post some of the other bookmarks in a later post. Enjoy!

Monday, November 19, 2018

ReadWorks - Article-A-Day and Book of Knowledge (FREE)

I have done a series of training's on how to utilize ReadWorks Article-A-Day and Book of Knowledge in the classroom.

I love this resource. In fact I love everything about ReadWorks! (huge FAN here)

The general gist of an Article-A-Day is that it is a short 10-12 minute routine you do in the classroom during a transition time (not as part of your ELA block) that exposes students to more ideas, vocabulary, and reading. I work with 15 Title 1 schools and I know how important it is to expose students to more of everything...we just simply don't have enough time and the Article-A-Day idea is a brilliant way to sneak in more literacy (thus more ideas).

As a teacher you would pick your dedicated classroom time for the routine. My recommendation is to be religious about it. If you don't take it seriously neither will your students. FYI - I feel the same way about notebooking in the classroom as well.

For K-2 students you pick your grade and topic and simply pull up the articles on the board. You are given six short articles within the topic and you use one each day (one article isn't read or you can do two in one day). After you read the article out loud to the younger students ask them to tell you two or three things they learned. You write it down on chart paper (see picture above). I added tabs to the side so we can start building our Book of Knowledge to see how far we have come during the year. Once we have done Monday-Friday we pick a different article set the next week and repeat the routine for the entire school year.

I had a friend make the chart paper cover for me. I figured if it looked cute teachers might be inclined to try it out. A few teachers took pictures of it so I am hoping to see them in classes (maybe after the holidays).

There are several options for grades 3-5 (possibly 2nd grade...but remember this activity is supposed to be quick..done in 10-12 minutes):

- You can put the article up on the board (or print them out...but think of the trees), students read it and then write two or three things in their own Book of Knowledge (half a composition notebook or it could be loose leaf paper inside a 3 prong folder...anything will work).
or Amazon Link

- If you are 1:1 on computers you can have students join your ReadWorks class and assign them the article set for the week and they can write in the digital Book of Knowledge provided. Students can view their building digital "Book of Knowledge" under their account and teachers can monitor what students have written in their account.

I would probably start grades 3-5 out with chart paper until they got the routine down and then move them to a digital platform.

I'm hoping this post inspires teachers to try it out. To find out more visit the Article-A-Day page in ReadWorks or check out one of their pre-recorded webinars on Vimeo.

Thursday, October 18, 2018

ReadWorks Annotating Feature (Free Resource)

I just discovered that ReadWorks has a highlighting and annotating feature. Game. Changer! I have always loved ReadWorks and this was the one thing I really felt it was missing.

ReadWorks, a free literacy resource for teachers and students, has REALLY stepped up its game.

A third grade teacher asked me to introduce it to her students, which is how I stumbled across it. There are four highlighting colors and an annotating feature. To keep students organized with the colors I used the first letter of each color to come up with a guide/anchor chart for students.

Since they are new to annotating text I thought having them pick two of the four colors was an easy way to start them learning how to annotate. They can do more for extra credit.

I put together a sample of what you might see when students are finished (there is a blue annotation but I couldn't fit it on the screen).

If you have different ideas that might work for the colors let me know!

Sunday, August 12, 2018

Scratch Off Stickers (in the classroom)

This summer I learned that Amazon sells these awesome scratch off stickers. I posted it in our district's EdTech Group and a teacher showed me how she is planning to use them at the beginning of the year to sort students into houses (see last picture).  

With back-to-school mandatory technology training happening next week I thought I would try it out with some some random "give-a-ways" to keep participants engaged. I kept it simple and had three things listed - candy, prize bag (dollar store items), and a hug (that was more for my amusement and to add an element of danger..think of it as scratch off Russian Roulette...I am allowing a fist bump substitute for my non-hugging teachers) 

I made the cards in Publisher using a business card template that I modified. I liked the template because it had guide lines for cutting. You could use any program to make them though. I printed them on card stock and used my paper trimmer to cut them down. 

While I limited my prizes to three things a teacher doing this with a class might want to explore some cheaper prize options. I found this list of free or inexpensive reward ideas online that would make good scratch off prizes. 

You can make your own scratch off cards (here is a YouTube tutorial). I am crafty but I tend to be lazy so paying $6.99 for 100 stickers seemed like a better option for me. :)

If you wind up making some I would love to hear what you put as prizes and how it went with your students!

Friday, July 13, 2018

Book Snaps - How to Video with Google Drawings

Yesterday I wrote about using Book Snaps to have students engage with text in a creative and engaging way. Today I made a 2.5 minute video on how to create the "Snap Chat" like effect using Google Drawings as part of the Classy Videos course I am taking with Tony Vincent (the assignment was to create a narrated video and I chose Snaps as my topic). 

Beaufort County (SC) is a GAFE district so we predominately use Google for everything. It makes sense that any teacher in our district wanting to try out Book Snaps would use a Google application 
for it, hence the video. 

Google Drawings is not available as an app for the iPad but there are plenty of apps that can be used to make a Snap for those in primarily iOS districts. My two favorites for students would be PicCollage and SeeSaw (both are free apps). 

I am excited about introducing Books Snaps to our district and I am hoping to see some fun Snaps come out of our classrooms this year!

Thursday, July 12, 2018

Book Snaps

Trending in ELA are 'Book Snaps'. It is play on Snap Chat filters where you use a book page with text, clip art, emojis, and Bitmojis to convey something about the book. 

If you look up ‘student book snaps’ on Google images you will get a better idea. I posted two above I made using Pic Collage on my iPad but I could have made these using PowerPoint, Publisher, or Google Drawings. I’ve seen examples of younger students making these with the SeeSaw app as well. 

Here is a good overview article if anyone is interested -

I like the creative element to them. I've seen a lot of teachers on Twitter (search #booksnaps) use them for book studies they are in but I really feel they have a lot of potential on the student side. If you have used them with students please feel free to post in the comments. I would love to hear how it went!

Sunday, June 3, 2018

Summer Reading Deal - Epic

As a parent you can subscribe to Epic (an online digital library for children ages 12 and under) for three months for $3 total...that is an insanely great price for access to a ton of digital books for children over the summer. 

There are a lot of great resources within Epic from ebooks, audiobooks, videos, and read-to-me stories.

You can cancel after the three months (but don't forget to do that or you will be charged the normal monthly fee - $8 I believe).

Classroom teachers can sign up for a free account but that is limited to use in the classroom only (not at home).

If you are interested you have to sign up by June 12th to get the deal.

Monday, April 30, 2018

ReadWorks - Three (outstanding!) Updated Features

ReadWorks, a free reading comprehension program, has created a new eBook feature which I love! I ran across it while I was modeling how to incorporate ReadWorks into reading centers.

Basically ReadWorks has taken some of their articles and converted them to illustrated eBooks with human voice audio (and some text highlighting).

The result is a more engaging differentiated experience for students. Everything is the same you still love about can assign the article to students, they can opt for the article versus the eBook, and there are always question sets.

The problem I ran across on student tablets was how big the eBook opens up. I've emailed ReadWorks and let them know that it is a problem. 

It is not an insurmountable problem but I did have to show third graders how to change the size of their screen to accommodate a full view of the eBook. 

Once students have the book open they can press play and navigate through the book and the question set.

This is a great addition to ReadWorks. To see a full list of articles that have been converted CLICK HERE

Another great new feature is the addition of the split screen for students. Students can now, at the touch of a button, have the article on one side of the screen to reference while answering the associated questions on the other side. It is a small thing but it is so nice that students don't have to click back and forth between the article and the questions. 

Yet another great new feature that I think is a game changer is the reading strip option. Students can click on this option and get a highlighted bar that they can pull down line by line (instead of being overwhelmed by a large amount of seemingly insurmountable text). 

To find out more about ReadWorks offers click on their information page HERE

Saturday, April 28, 2018

Instagram Post Activity - Using a Windows Device

I liked the idea of having students create fake Instagram posts but really hadn't got past the "idea" phase. Last week in my Classy Graphics course with Tony Vincent he had us working with pictures and gave us free reign on the assignment. I used several of the techniques he taught us to FINALLY create a sample Instagram post that could be easily duplicated by students.

I used Google Drawings, which is an under utilized tool in our district, to create the final product. This is a great activity to showcase several "how to's" in Google Drawings. I also used Pixlr to edit a photo of myself to remove the background I was standing in front of.

I made a "how to" video as well as the simple screen shot "how to". The video is a little more in-depth for any teacher wanting to try it out first. If you wanted students to make an Instagram post you might want to make a more specific video for your students to reference back to, particularly if this is an independent assignment. I used Screen Cast-o-Matic to make my tutorial. The free version is enough for most teachers (just sign in to make an account and you can download the software...if you aren't allowed to download software to your district device you skip the download part and use the software from the site).

I used Google Images to find what I need in a separate window but you can also search for images within Google Drawings. I didn't mention it in the video but wanted to mention it here.

If you try this activity with students I would love to see any finished pictures!

Friday, April 20, 2018

"Eye" See Your Point of View Activity

I was looking for Boston Tea Party resources when I came across an  adorable picture where events of the Tea Party where drawn in a giant eye. That picture led to a blog post that led me to another blog post that led me to yet another post and I absolutely loved all the ideas!

As far as I can tell the original idea stemmed from the drawing above. Apparently someone posted it on Pinterest and noted that it could be used for a point of view activity. Instead of the clouds and sun in the eye the student would draw what a character in the story or in history might see from their perspective. Brilliant!!!!

So for the Boston Tea Party the eye would be that of a British solider or supporter of the King. What a great way to teach that there is always two sides to every story. I think I would want students to explain what they were "seeing" on the back.

In my Boston Tea Party lesson plan I would have students write a letter home on the back as if they were a British citizen, solider, or sympathizer and explain their drawing in a creative way. For example I might write:

I can't wait to try it . It could be used in a notebook as well with the eye on one side and the explanation on the other. If I get some good responses I will post them.

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Copyright Free Music (associated problems) and Podcasts

Richard Byrne recently posted about three free music sites that teachers can use to find music and sound effects for podcasts and projects. It was super helpful and I bookmarked it for future reference.

He didn't mention Free Play Music, which is my "go to" music site so I would add that to any list you have going. I worked with students making Lion King trailers and in this site I was able to type in "African" and found some fun royalty music that worked with the trailers students were making.

Here is MY problem. I don't know what music to choose! I get overwhelmed with too many choices which is why I appreciate it when people cite their music in the video credits (Richard Byrne goes over that in his post). One teacher (art) who does that well is Tricia Fuglestad. I follow her for her outstanding use of green screen videos. She has a Vimeo channel and she gave credit to Kevin McCloud in one video where I liked the music. This took me on a fun internet search where I came across another free music site which features music by Kevin McCloud...the search also took me to YouTube where I could listen to Kevin McCloud's "best of" video to get ideas of some of his music I might want to use. 

Some of my go to music that I use for projects include:

- Daily Beetle by Kevin McCloud
- Building Blocks in Free Play Music
- The Story in Free Play Music (for an intro to a morning news show)

Our district has a subscription to Discovery Education and I generally use that for sound effects if needed. If they don't have something I need then I download it from another site.

One thing I want to try with students is making a podcast (with music and sound effects). I ran across a graphic organizer in a course I am taking online for a debatable podcast that would make a short podcast but might be easy for my first time out. It is definitely on my list to try before the school year is over.

Do you have any "go to" royalty free music please add it to the comments (so I can grow my list). Thank you!

Saturday, April 14, 2018

Google Classroom and Emojis

I am taking an online course called Classy Graphics with Tony Vincent. This is the first time I have taken an online course for fun. I heard about the course by following Tony Vincent on Twitter. When he tweeted about the course I didn't allow myself to think about it and just jumped in.  It is a six week course and cost $100. I am only in my first week, as of this writing, but I have already learned so much and my hesitation over spending $100 of my own money is a thing of the past! The class is worth it...I am looking at it as in depth instruction on how to practically use the Google Drawings tool. Professionally it will help me with future questions and training ideas and personally it might help motivate me to start making pretty things to share with teachers.

Probably my biggest takeaway this week in the course is Tony's use of bullets in Google Classroom. I had read his post about it awhile ago but didn't really think anything of it until I saw it in action and now I am OBSESSED. It really does make assignments more fun. The screen shot below is me putting it in action in my sample class I use for training purposes.

It is super easy. Per Tony I used to find the emojis I want and then I simple copy and paste it in the text of the assignment and topic. The emojis are limited so you do have to use your imagination, or at least different keywords, to find something you want.

Why use emojis? I think this graphic from Tony's website sums it up nicely.

I definitely want to try some of the other ideas mentioned in his blog post like using it in my Google Drive to identify folders. I also like the idea of emoji story generating. Definitely start with adding emojis into Google Classroom first. Once you see how easy it is it might motivate you to try adding emojis elsewhere.

Monday, April 9, 2018

Flow Chart Notes - Graphic Organizer

Flow Chart Notes are a fun way to take notes particularly in a Social Studies class where many of events are told as a story.

I read about Flow Chart Notes here and decided to make a graphic organizer to support the format in my Classy Graphics Class with Tony Vincent. (our first assignment was to make a graphic organizer in Google Drawings using the align and distribution features). CLICK HERE for a copy of this graphic organizer. It was made in Google Drawings so you can go to "file" and "make a copy" to have your own editable version. To download it as a PDF simply click "file", "download as", and then "pdf".


I liked how it turned out and I decided to download it as a PDF and use Kami to fill it out as a test run (see first picture). Kami and DocHub are free add ons to Google Classroom that allow students to write or draw on a PDF on a tablet (not an iPad). I could have printed it out and filled it in with pencil but we are trying to go paperless in many of our schools. In my opinion Kami is the better of the two (easier to use). Our district bought a license for it recently so that is our go to. The free version is adequate for this particular graphic organizer.

I used the California Gold Rush as my "event". If I was doing this as a teacher I would probably teach the lesson the first day with all the bells and whistles (videos). Then I might assign them the Duckster's article on the Gold Rush to read and highlight the nine main parts, once that was done I would have them fill out the graphic organizer (text first) and then draw pictures to go with it (to read the article and fill out the graphic organizer I would give it two day of class time based on a 45-50 minute class).

If I wanted something similar in a Social Studies notebook I had to modify the graphic organizer so there was eight panels instead of nine (which changed the flow of the arrows - see below). You could print it out (and cut down the middle with each side being glued in the notebook) or just have students draw the eight panels (which would use less paper). CLICK HERE for a copy of this graphic organizer.

If you use this with students I would love to hear about it in the comments below!