Tuesday, December 22, 2020

Canterbury Tales Spotify Playlist Using Google Slides

Leveraging social media to teach students can be a huge win in your classroom. Finding ways to bring students' worlds into the classroom not only adds high interest, it also gives you that sneak attack advantage to learning! Music says a lot and is a huge part of our lives, especially our students' lives. Having students curate a playlist could be a way for them to show concepts they have learned, their perspective on characters, or their view on a historical event.

I was visiting a senior English class that was finishing up Canterbury Tales and they were playing a review game of the characters and their traits. This sparked the idea of bringing in one of their favorite apps to gain more insight on their perspective of some of the characters.

Google Slides + Spotify led to amazing conversations about the characters from Canterbury Tales! To create the Google Slides template for them to use, I just took a screengrab of one of my playlists and used PowerPoint to take away the photos and songs from it. I used boxes and made them the color of the background to cover up and then took another screengrab of the "blank" playlist creating a template for slides. I set this image as the background so I could add the details that they would edit on top. It took less than hour to create the template and an example. Most of that time was spent coming up with songs and looking for clean versions of the video!

I shared the Spotify Google Slides template with students through Google Classroom, making sure to choose make a copy for each student. I went through my example {I love examples} showing them little tips and tricks of using the template and slides. Students are so digital but there are details they do not know, so don't assume they are completely savvy! Going through my example also showed them the expectation for their playlist.

I used the side space on the slide to put directions and what was editable for student to reference. Students had to come up with a playlist title, cover photo, and a photo for each song. I also put in a place for them to add their profile photo if they wanted! The song requirements included the name of the song and artist and the Canterbury Tales character. 

Spotify has a feature called Behind the Lyrics where you can get the story behind the song, artist stories, and fun facts about the song. I included this section in the template for students to write their rationale for choosing the song for that character. I encouraged them to be creative! It was hilarious to listen to the songs they chose and the commentary and discussion among the class during this activity!

I gave the option to add a YouTube video link to the song cover photo. Not many students took me up on this, probably because of the songs they chose! It was definitely hard to find clean versions even for my example!

This can be done a couple of different ways. You could have a gallery walk with each student pulling theirs up in present mode and let them walk around and view. You could also pull each one up on the promethean board or the presentation board you have. 

This project was a big hit! They enjoyed this Spotify-social media aspect and being creative with songs and behind the lyrics. The singing and laughter were at a high volume the day we worked on these in class. I love when there is a learning buzz in the classroom! Even though it was an independent project, many asked neighbors or shared their creative, funny song selections and rationale. 


Saturday, October 31, 2020

Sphero Golf Course

*The photos in this post were taken before COVID, before masks and before social distancing but could still be done in this crazy time we are in.

I first learned of Spheros at Space Camp. We programmed these clear spheres to go over mountains and through rivers to gain sols on Mars! It was so much fun and I knew I had to have these in my classroom! I wrote a grant and once the adorable, glowy spheres arrived I could hardly wait to play. But I had no idea what to really do with them to get the most educational value out of them. That only lasted until I went to the Sphero community and found more than I could ever imagine.

I taped off some mazes on the floor and students used their Chromebooks to connect the Spheros via bluetooth and they were able to dive into programming right away navigating the mazes. I have plans to blog about how I have used them in water as boat engines, with K'nex as race car engines, to send secret messages after reading Ender's Game, and as Roman Chariots in social studies. And yes, there is definitely more! But for now, I want to show you SPHERO MINI GOLF!

Beginning my trip down the rabbit hole to get inspiration, I saw some mini golf activities with elaborate courses made from felt with real sand hazards and real golf pins with fancy flags. Even though I am the founder of the being too extra club, I wanted to create something we could pull out and quickly use during downtime or duck days. So I created a few mini golf holes in Powerpoint, printed them on the poster maker then laminated. 

Once the mini golf course was made, I had to think about scoring and the logistics of coding the Spheros to make it to the hole. Would students get unlimited chances to code or would each try count as a "stroke?" How would they team up and rotate through the course? Would they get bored if they were waiting on the other team to complete the hole or should they take turns? 

You can see from their smiles that I was asking myself way too many questions! They LOVED the mini golf and had so much fun playing the course! 

I also created a score card for them to use. Each block of code counted as a stroke. Teams tried to go over the sand and water so we had to put in some hazard play rules! 

I based the par on how many blocks of code it took to get to the hole. So one block of code was one stroke. Some of my golfers argued that my par numbers were not "on par!" I had a lot of no way we can get this in 2 strokes or 4 strokes! But they did and it was so fun to watch! Sphero Mini Golf was a huge hit! I am linking my course below and I hope you will use it with your students or as inspiration for your own course!



Tuesday, September 29, 2020

Characterization in Your Writing with Storyboard That

One of our electives is Creative Writing and it is amazing to see each student's unique writing voice. The teacher is phenomenal but she wanted to add some technology to the students' writing. As a math teacher twirled into an instructional coach, writing is not my one of my top skills! But this teacher makes the coaching easy and tech is one of my top skills! She is the best at developing students' writing skills and fostering their untapped passion for narratives and stories. 

In this class, students learn about setting, characterization, and different types of conflict and plot through narratives and stories. To help them with creating character driven stories, they first had to learn about characterization. This was what she wanted my help with and I found the perfect EdTech for it! STORYBOARD THAT! This is an online storyboard creator students can use to create amazing visuals and for digital storytelling. For this characterization lesson, we used Storyboard That as a comic strip type activity.

I showed them examples of direct and indirect characterization. The project was to create an illustrated guide of either the classroom, our school, or their family. Characterization had to be used through telling about the character's personality, physical traits, or flaws. They also needed to include indirect characterization by using speech bubbles, actions, reactions from other characters, and appearance.

Storyboard That gives SOOOO many options to customize the strip with scenes and characters. Students are able to do a strip of three scenes on the free version. As you can see below, the free version had more than enough options to keep them creating and engaged! 

They would have worked on these forever if we had let them! Students worked hard to illustrate and really tell the story of the characters through the details in their strips. This also gave us so many opportunities to  conference with students to be sure their characterization skills were solid while they were working.

Once all the illustrated guides were ready, they screen grabbed their strip and put it on a shared Google slide deck. You can download these, but we found they looked better with with a screen grab. They had fun looking through everyone's guides! We also printed them out and hung them because they just turned out so great!

Students also write about pirates and jungles and do a detective unit, zombie unit, and fractured fairy tales. Can't you just hear the buzz in the classroom? This is not your quiet, librarian shushing you writing classroom! It is writing filled with technology that makes it come alive. Check out the narrative prep with the Personal Narrative in Your Head we did using a green screen on our heads. You may also enjoy the podcast students created that is a collection of short mystery stories including sound effects. You can listen to Ms. Grant's Middle School Mysteries here.

Most students, at the end of the class, when asked if they knew they could write will say no! Some are outstanding and they didn't even know they could write. This class has sparked a love for writing!


Saturday, August 22, 2020

Digital Teacher Tool Box Using Google Sites

I don't know about yours, but my google drive and files are not ready for company to come over! I can't even hide things in closets folders to make it look tidy! With all the digital things in our teacher lives, sometimes it is hard to find the things we need on the reg. So I wanted to create a digital hub or binder or clipboard, if you will, to be able to easily access those things. 

A teacher website just for YOU with all the digital things you use like daily slides, checklists, lesson plans, communication logs. All the things that have gone digital but go missing in your drive! The tutorial linked at the end of the post will walk you through some ideas of what to include. If you have not created a google site before, please go HERE for a step-by-step to make your first one! I will link all the things at the end of the post! Let me walk you through the things I linked to give you ideas of what you could put on your site.

So many of us are using daily or weekly agendas and bitmoji classrooms and your teacher site is a great place to link these. You could create the whole year in one slide deck and just hide the ones you don't need. 

If you have gone digital with your lesson plans, your teacher site is a great place to link those. Lesson planning in google sheets is another great use for Sheets. You can keep adding tabs for each week and you could also have a monthly view. Using a digital planner means you can have it anywhere, on any device.

CHECKBOXES! All the heart eyes for checkboxes in Google Sheets! And just look at that color! This is how you make grading more fun! Sheets are a great tool to use for checklists such as attendance, grades, activities completed, standards mastered and anything else you need super cute checkboxes for!

Add freeze frames, directional text, and images to personalize and make the sheets work for you! I wish I had learned of freeze frames long before I counted, stopped, and then forgot what the column or row was I was even counting! You can adjust the freeze on rows and columns so that your names and titles always show when you scroll through the data.

Student check-ins are so very important in creating a community of learners. You learn about your students and can intervene when they have needs all from this one little form! Add some flair to it with your bitmoji or gif of yourself! With this link on your teacher site, you are able to check responses really quickly.

I saved my FAVE for last! Let's talk parent communication logs and how to keep up with all the calls, emails, texts, reminds, notes we write. So for this form you will link to your fillable version by "sending" it and using that link. You want to be able to fill the form out yourself, not edit, so that the responses you enter are recorded. 

By setting up the form for the communication log in a way that captures everything you need, your documentation is done for you! You can organize and filter your data however you want. But it is timestamped with all the data there JUST by completing your form each time you make contact! So great, right?! I am currently thinking of other forms I need to make that will collect data and make my logs for me!

I hope this gives you some ideas of what you could put on your teacher site. Organizing all of the digital forms, sheets, websites, and more that we will be using during this school year will help our mental health!



Wednesday, July 29, 2020

Digital Interactive Student Notebooks

I am a huge composition notebook, scissors, Astrobright paper, and glue fan. Interactive Student Notebooks are my JAM! But it is 2020 and maybe it is time to go digital. The hubs definitely thinks so because he has told me every time he has moved me and ALL my supplies that there has to be a way to "put these on the computer!" So I did! 

It is hard to think about the scene above not happening in 2020 classrooms. Students with shared materials, in groups, with comfy seating doing math together won't be seen this year. I love the way students love their notebooks! I have shared starting notebooks with any fellow teacher that will listen!

Interactive notebooks keep everything organized, keep students engaged, are literally interactive, and I could go on and on! I even wrote a post about it here. When thinking about how to make all of this goodness DIGITAL, I knew the top priority was that it stayed INTERACTIVE. 

Enter Google Slides! I created pages in PowerPoint because I have to keep my fun fonts of course! Then added those images as a background on the slides. This will keep it from being clickable to students. Slides makes it easy to link to other slides in the presentation. It even changes the slide number for you when you add more slides. Impressive, Google! 

I used the space around the page to add in directions, videos and pieces for a drag and drop activity. You could put links to websites you want students to visit, collaborative slides and activities, anything you can think of! I do like that you can use all the color you want without worrying about printer ink! The list below are some ideas about how to make it interactive.

Collaborative Google Slides
Wheel of Names
Drag and Drop Activities
Scavenger Hunts 
Escape Rooms (Slides)
Choice Boards

I have high hopes for the DIGITAL Interactive Notebook! I created a tutorial on setting one up and how to link things with some options. You will find a link below that to grab a copy of my example. Please copy and make it your own! I would love to see what you create!



Tuesday, July 21, 2020

Create a Classroom Website Using Google Sites

We are going into an uncertain fall this year as we get ready to start back to school. Many districts have already put their plans out and some of those are to start virtual. Whether you will be virtual or in person, a classroom website is a great way to have the things students and families need all in ONE place! A classroom website can provide a familiar and safe space, like your classroom, that can be a home base for students and families that will alleviate a lot of anxiousness. Think about designing your online classroom so that it provides a single place for daily or weekly agendas, learning materials, assignments, activities, meeting links, grades, feedback, and on and on. In your teacher brains, think of the classroom website as the bins, baskets, and cubbies in your classroom!

The tutorial at the end of the post walks you through setting up and publishing your classroom website. Google Sites is super user friendly and you are able to link things straight from your Google Drive such as Slides, Forms, Documents. The great thing about adding from your drive is that changes you make to these are automatically updated in your website. Just be sure your share settings are so that anyone with the link can view! I hope the tutorial gives you some ideas of things you could include in your website. The idea is to have everything in one place so you can direct students and families to your classroom website where they will easily find all the things that make your classroom run. 

I added some super fun extras in the tutorial {hint above} to help with design and creativity! The tutorial is long so it also gives you a brain break while you are creating. You will find time markers below the tutorial in YouTube if you want to jump to the extras. The first is how to create a color palette to use in PowerPoint. Color makes ALL the difference when you are designing resources and using those cute fonts! An easy way to get a color scheme going is to use a color palette. Much like the paint chips at the home improvement store.

You can use the hex color number or the dropper in the font or shape color dropdown to get the perfect shade of pink or orange you want. The color possibilities are endless! I like to use the dropper and hover over the color I want to select it. But you can certainly use the hex color number to be more exact.

So you have cute fonts and vibrant colors in your PowerPoint presentation AND you want to have the same extravagance in Google Slides! That brings us to the second extra found in the tutorial. Until Google stops holding us back, this workaround will be your go-to. 

Create your page in PowerPoint and screengrab or group and right click to save as image. Go over to Google Slides, choose "Background" on an empty slide. Next, choose the image you created in PowerPoint either from your drive or by uploading and click "Done." This sets the image as the background and locks it in place so you can click all over it and nothing moves. You can then layer things you need including links or text boxes. This is how the Bitmoji Virtual Classrooms are created as well. You can find that tutorial here and the blog post here if you need another fun project that would also be awesome on your classroom website!

Leveraging a classroom website as a home base is a great way to provide a student-centered community. You can ensure all students have what they need to learn and be successful no matter what environment that takes place in. 


Link to Google Classroom, Canvas, or other LMS
Bitmoji Virtual Classrooms
Classroom Library
Daily/Weekly Agenda
Learning Materials and Websites
House System
Virtual Meet the Teacher
Communication such as Remind, Email, Social Media, or School Website
Resources and Videos





Tuesday, May 5, 2020

Bitmoji Virtual Classroom

Bitmoji anything and I am all in! I have used bitmojis for all the things in my classroom over the years - lesson slides, interactive notebook pages, stickers and basically anywhere I can add them for fun! So when I saw them being added to "virtual google classrooms" and how super fun these classrooms looked, I had to join in!

During this pandemic, I know you have spent countless hours creating digital lessons or even LEARNING how to use technology! Spending all day on Zoom calls, answering student questions and making sure they have everything they need. I know this is not the same as having them in your classrooms and that's why I made this tutorial. You can recreate a little piece of your classroom for your Google Classroom headers and slides. You could even save it as an image and use for your Zoom background. And it could be a fun little escape to play!

In the photo above, that is actually a YouTube video on the "board" that is clickable and links to the video I want to show. The posters are screenshots of the actual posters I have hanging in my room. These little touches would make it seem like your classroom for your students. You could create a virtual classroom for your headers or you could create different scenes in slides for your digital assignments. I'm thinking digital room transformation!

I created a video tutorial that walks you through creating your own and I hope it is helpful! You could also do this in PowerPoint and then screenshot and add as a background on Google slides and use as image for header in Classroom. 

I hope this brings you a little joy and is a fun break from all you are doing for your students during this crazy ending to our school year. 

Feel free to use my examples to get your started:


Wednesday, April 29, 2020

Space Farming with Tomatosphere Space Seeds

I am so excited to share about this amazing organization and the exciting opportunity they provide for students! First the Seed Foundation's program, Tomatosphere, brings the excitement to your classroom with packets of tomato seeds. The program sends you two packets of seeds. One packet contains space-farming seeds that went to the International Space Station and the other packet was Earth-bound, the "control seeds." Through the Tomatosphere program, students experiment and learn about conducting a scientific experiment by looking at the germination rates of the two groups of seeds. 

After you read all about the Tomatosphere program, sign up! They will send the seeds to you with suggestions about how to plant them. You choose Fall or Spring. Some things I would consider are the holiday breaks, weather in you area and what you will do with them once they germinate. The packets come with approximately 30 seeds in each so I knew how many to plan for. I purchased these Jiffy Tomato Starter Greenhouses from Home Depot. Each kit came with 36 peat pellets so it was perfect. 

I began the lesson with this presentation. It is a huge file because of the video clips! I included clean clips from the movie The Martian so students could get the space farming concept. The discussion centered on how we will get 2 to 3 years' worth of food to Mars and why it is more practical to grow their own there. We wondered how outer space would affect the seeds and plants.

Tomatosphere relies on a "blind test" so I explained that we would not know which of the two packets are "space seeds" and which are the Earth-bound seeds until after we submit our data. Our wondering then continued and we recorded some initial predictions on this data sheet in our interactive notebooks like which packets were the "space seeds." These questions came from the website that had a lot of activities and ideas. I condensed them to work for us. Finally, we talked about what germination is, what it looks like and what qualifies it for the Tomatosphere program. I gave them a call to action to make a contribution to assisting space exploration by taking this investigation of the germination rate and growth of the plant seriously with their data.  

Now the fun part! Follow the directions for the peat pellets to get them soaked in water and ready to plant the seeds. Each student was able to plant 1 seed from each packet. There is a video on the website (included in the presentation) that shows how to plant them. You have to really push the seeds down into the peat pellet to be sure it is covered with dirt. 

Wait! The Tomatosphere Program suggests planting on a Wednesday or Thursday so they have the weekend to hopefully germinate, making the wait less torture for students the teacher! 

Once you have germination, start counting! The Tomatosphere program wants to know how many germinated and how many did not. Their requirement for germination is two leaves. You can find all kinds of resources here that will help you. Some of the things they don't suggest I couldn't help like fluorescent light and growing in the window sill. Ours still grew!

Once the germination is over, you submit your data on a quick form found on the website and through a link they send you. We had this poster up in the classroom to keep up with our numbers. Students checked the seeds daily and entered their data and observations in their notebooks. They were excited to find out which ones were the "space seeds!" We had a lot of students choose "M" because Mars and that wound up being the ones that went! 

I love being a curriculum coach and I especially love how my teachers open their classrooms up to me and are always up for anything crazy I want to try! Thank you to my 7th grade science teacher, Ms. Asbill! Follow her "teachergram" over on Instagram @science_is_my_jam. She has so many great ideas you will want to steal!

Here are all the files linked in the post!

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