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-faring 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!


Wednesday, April 1, 2020

Pythagorean Theorem Spiral of Theodorus

Pythagorean theorem is maybe my all time favorite thing for students to learn! It is also close to my heart from growing up on a construction site with my daddy. Pythagorean theorem was the thing that made me want to teach math and want to teach it in real ways. This is because my daddy would argue all day about how he did NOT use this fancy formula to calculate the pitch of the roof on the house he was building. Even though he would measure and use Pythagorean triples, he would never concede! I also love Pythagorean theorem because of the scandalous stories there are about Pythagoras! I love celebrity gossip and Pythagoras provides us with that. 

I like this math art because it helps students visualize a segment length with the square root of two. This is one of the first times students use irrational numbers so I want them to see the amazement in them. I have students use notecards that I have pre-cut to a one inch square for a template. I have them measure the bottom and side to be sure it is one inch. Then I have them measure the diagonal and get as close as they can to an estimate. Then we work it using the Pythagorean theorem to show how precise we can get. 

Students then use the notecard template to draw only half of the square, two adjacent sides of the square, creating a right angle in the lower left side of their big paper. Next, they create a triangle from the half and label all the sides with their lengths. 

Now the fun begins! Add a new right-angled, one-inch leg to the base of the hypotenuse of the first right triangle then add the new hypotenuse and label. Calculate the length of the new hypotenuse using the Pythagorean theorem then measure and change to decimal form. Is it close?!

Continue to add on one inch legs at right angles {this is super important} to your last hypotenuse and label all the new triangle's sides using the Pythagorean theorem. This is where the template square comes in handy!

Once you have the wheel, students can decide what it will become! Have them rotate it and think big about what it reminds them of. As you can see, some students put a LOT of detail into their design and others transformed their wheel into other shapes. 

Create a huge display of their wheels because they will be so super proud of their art! Get creative and peak their curiosity about Theodorus!
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