Sunday, January 20, 2019

Class "Inspiration Quilt" You Can Do

One of the best parts of my jobs is working with students. No lie. One of the other best parts is when I collaborate with teachers. Honest. And when I do both, I'm in heaven!

Awhile back, I started a project with a group of 4th graders and I'm excited to share it! The idea is to take a quote that "speaks" to you, pop it into a Google Slide, and along with a picture of yourself, focus on one word. Then we jazz it all up with some of the lesser used features of Slides. And voila! Once printed and hung side-by-side, they have a "quilt-like" collection of their entire grade.

You can do this, too! 

I'd estimate you can do this project from start to finish in about an hour total. I gave a brief overview - see the 2 slides to the left. All my students have used Slides prior, so this wasn't new. However, most hadn't dug into the particular features of Slides we worked with.

1st Step: Create a new Slide & set it up. 
  • title the Slide --> "LastName, FirstName Goal"
  • changed the "Page Setup" to be 11.5 x 8 inches (our final product was printed)
  • deleted the initial 2 text boxes (we were starting from scratch!)
  • share the Slide with me (I would be the one to print & this gives me the ability to collect them all in 1 Slide deck that I shared with their teachers)

[These next few steps can be done in any order.]

From "Life Advice" link
"Quote" Step: In the interest of time, I had 2 places for the students to search for their quote (I also wanted to keep it school-friendly). I had students open a new tab and search for "Inspirational Quotes for kids" in Google. I'm a believer in teaching kids better ways to search and we talked about why I added the "for kids". The other site I allowed them to look was "Life Advice from 50 Beloved Characters in Kid's Entertainment". Other than reminding them to look through and find something that speaks to them, this was easy. Once they found the quote they wanted to use, they returned to their Slide, created a text box, and typed it in.

Editing/"Jazz Up" Options Students know how to adjust the font size and color, they just aren't encouraged to do it often. A good chunk also know how to change the font. However, talking about alignment - both centering text in the box horizontally & vertically - is typically new. As is showing them they are not limited to the fonts included by default. We also covered stepping back from the computer to really "see" what your size/color/font combo's look like. One student commented, "I could spend hours looking at fonts!" Me, too, buddy, me too! πŸ˜„

*** Teacher Talk ↬ I loved seeing the excitement when they saw the possibilities! We even got to cover how to find a particular font. Too often, we tell the students to NOT change fonts & colors. Giving them the opportunity TO do this every so often pays off - they know there is a time and place.

From Top 20 Quotes from movies
"Big word/phrase" Step: Once students had their quote, we talked about coming up with a word that is related. Surprisingly, this wasn't as tough as I had thought! Rather than a second text box, we inserted Word Art for this step. This gave me the opportunity to show the differences between editing text in a text box & Word Art. (I personally πŸ’–Word Art, so I wanted to share this with the students!)

Editing/"Jazz Up" Options Word Art was new for just about every student I worked with. I covered the difference between Word Art and text boxes. Then we jumped in and covered how it is similar to change the font, but when you want to change the color, you have 2 options. The fill color and the border color. When we covered the "fill color" option, I love showing them "Gradient". Then we go deeper and customize our gradients! The combinations and excitement was heart-warming! Once they were happy with fill and border color, we explored the border weight (thickness) and "border dash" (solid, dotted, or dashed outlines). I didn't have time to jump into drop shadows, reflections, etc, but some students wandered and found it themselves. πŸ’—

*** Teacher Talk ↬ I know we don't have time to let the kids go crazy with colors and fonts ... but there are times when it's great to let their imaginations run wild!

Google Camera Icon
"Photo" Step: Most students know how to insert images into Slidedecks, but not too many knew right away how to insert a photo. This is a GREAT feature to learn! (Think about portfolios ... if students can take photos of their work and add them to Docs, Slides, and more, they can digital share their non-digital work!)  

*** Teacher Talk ↬ I do my best to empower students - I give them a chance to "try" to figure it out. I don't simply walk them thru the steps. We employ some logical thinking. For this step we are INSERTING. Most will find the "Insert" tool and the rest go to the image icon on the icon toolbar. Then I give them a few seconds to find the "Camera" option.

Editing/"Jazz Up" Options Students had 2 options - bring in a photo from when they were younger, or use their current face. Taking a photo on a chromebook of a photo was a task in itself, but the students really liked it! It's also very cute to see them as toddlers. Either way, we inserted a photo and then set to editing. I showed how to crop the photo to eliminate any "extra" (and talked about how cool it is they can simply recrop their photo without any damage! I think of the number of photos I ruined with my scissors!!!). 

Then we explored changing the "mask" of the photo. As we explored all the shapes they could change their photo to, we talked about how some shapes might be "cool" but we have to keep in mind the purpose of our slide. We wanted to make sure faces were still visible. And finally, we changed the border color, weight, and possibly used dash/dots around the outline of the shape of the photo. 

Did you know there were so many options with editing photos???

*** Teacher Talk ↬ I typically save backgrounds for last. #1: changing the background is not new; #2: if the background they choose doesn't 'work' with their text, Word Art, &/or photo, they already know how to go about editing it; #3: by now they know the focus is on the words and their photo and they are less likely to want to hide all that good work with an obnoxious background.

"Background" Step: Most students know how to change the background to a solid color, but most do not know the difference between "inserting" a background versus adding in a shape/image and setting it to the back of the slide. This is a HUGE difference for them. Once I point out inserting an image/color to the background will automatically size to their slide, they excitedly get to work using their new-found skills with the gradient option. They might choose to head in the direction of inserting an image in the background and I show them how to search. We talk about using "plain talk" when searching ... type "polka dots" or "plaid" or "chevron" or "mountain", etc. Then, once they have these search results, they can select a color and narrow down their results to a color 'theme' and choose from there. This makes a big difference in their final results. 

*** Teacher Talk ↬ Have the students literally stand up and walk several steps away from their computer. I tell them this is the "bird's eye" view of their project. I prompt them to look for "read-ability" of colors & font & size; would this give their teacher a headache to look at?; is there too much 'empty' space that everything is miniature ... but not too much that everything is in competition? I try to prompt with questions rather than tell them what to change or how to change it. My hope is they start to "see" how each item 'plays' on the Slide. 

My final questions are these:

"Are you happy with your Slide?"
"Are you proud of your Slide?"
"So if I were to print it right now, you'd be proud to have this hang in the 4th grade hall?"

If they can answer yes to all of these, we declare it done & I print it (I also collected all of them in one Slide deck I shared with the 4th grade teachers). 

An now we have a wonderful collection of Slides ... one for each 4th grader ... hanging in the hall. 😊

Are you looking for additional ways to creatively use Slides for more than presentations? Check these out:

I also co-created a website ↬ "Templates for Teachers" with a friend & colleague, Beth Kingsley. We freely share out templates we create here. You are welcome to take what works for you & modify any of them to better suit you & your students.

Have a question or comment? Feel free to comment below or on Twitter @kiefersj, or email me (

Sunday, January 13, 2019

Your Very Own App You Can Do

This is my "baby". More than a year ago, I included the idea of making an app from Google Slides in "5 Google Slides Activities You Can Do". It is a really cool idea shared by Micah Shippee, so I took my own advice and I created an app using Google Slides.

Why? I co-coordinate the 8th grade Washington, DC trip and one of the things we strive for is efficient and effective communication. I have been using our website for this for the last handful of years. It works fine, but we were receiving many emails with questions from parents about the information I already had on our site. At the same time, I see how connected we all are to our phones, so why wasn't our website serving this purpose? Would an app would be better? Would an app be a better reference point and home for our info? These questions all led me to investigating this Slides app idea. I wanted to find a way to better manage our info so it was friendlier to our parents and student travelers and therefor freeing up time for me to focus on the trip.

Why Slides? I already knew how versatile Slides can be. I can customize the size and orientation, font and colors, as well as being able to insert images and shapes. The ability to link - outside to websites, Docs, and PDFs, as well as within the deck to other slides - is impressive.... and exactly what I needed.

Interested? I hope so. As much as I'd love to show you the exact app I created for our trip (I am extremely proud of it!), I can't because I can't share all of our info. This is a bonus of using Slides! I can share it with those who need the info, rather than putting all the info on our website for the whole world to see (or an app store where anyone can download it and I'd have to figure out how make it account based). I do still maintain our website with the basics of the trip because it is a starting point.

I did duplicate our app, taking out info I can't share. [If you are on a phone or tablet, you can really experience it as an app ... but an added bonus of it being a Slide? It works on computers!] If you'd like to preview this in its app form, click here ↬ . [I provide a template below you may make a copy of if you want a starting point for your own app. Feel free to use the pieces you like and get rid of what doesn't work for you or you don't like.]

Another bonus to using Slides is I can update the Slide as much/often as I want, and each time it is opened, it's the most updated version. With an app, you might have to wait until the person updates the app itself to be able to share the new info. 

"Title Slide"
Where to Start? I started with the traditional blank Google Slide. I changed the page setup to a customized 8.5 x 11 inches to mimic a piece of paper. (It appears to fit phone/tablet screens nicely, but this might be an area of improvement for me in the future.)

Sunday, January 6, 2019

#PodPeeks: GTT Episode 68

πŸ’₯ Happy New Year! πŸ’₯

I hope your year is off to a great start! It's hard for me to believe I've been posting for a little more than a year! I had a goal last year to post once a week. I wasn't exactly 100%, but in total, I posted 64 times ... so I'll count it as successful. 

This year, my goal is to continue once a week here, as well as a couple of short resource shares on my companion blog  "TYCD: Resources" (you can also find a link as a tab along the top). I started this companion blog because I love the way I can attach labels to each resource making them easy to filter for the reader. These aren't full blown explanations, rather short summaries that can help guide you to resources that are helpful.

Here is today's post ... I'm adding to the #PodPeeks series I shared last summer. For all posts under this label, click on the matching label on the far right side.

Podcasts are a simple way to learn "on-the-go". The Google Teacher Tribe is one of my favorites to listen to. Matt Miller & Kasey Bell's podcast is published on Monday's, so it's my typical Monday companion to and from school. They share such wonderful tips & tricks! If you don't already subscribe, you need to. You won't regret it!!!

Their Dec. 19 podcast was a little out of the norm for them but it was GOOD! I assumed Episode 68Ctrl+Shift+T and Other Class Management Tips would be full of keyboard short cuts. I was sure I'd know some, but I was equally sure there would be many that I've yet to discover. To my surprise ... it wasn't! This episode was devoted to classroom management tips for the digital classroom, thanks to a question from John Baglio. WHOA!

Classroom management in today's world is different from when I grew up ... but not so different that it's impossible. I know many teachers feel this way because of the computers, but it really is more about teachers employing strategies that work in a digital classroom. These strategies might look different than a traditional classroom. But I'd argue it goes back to good, solid pedagogy. Cheating was happening long before computers ... being off task was happening long before computers ... students working hard to avoid doing work was happening long before computers ... and so on.

I love that Matt & Kasey took the time to use their voice to share about this topic. I could sit here and give you all the details, but I really feel you need to listen to it. Hint ... it's not all about using a software monitoring program -- YES! You CAN manage a class full of devices without a monitoring program.

Link to Google Teacher Tribe website: 

Sunday, December 30, 2018

Multiplication Your Students Can Do

3rd grade seems to be the designated "master your Multiplication facts" grade. A 3rd grade teacher recently came to me with the request ... could I find some way her students could practice their facts in a different way? I immediately had wheels turning in my head. 

First ... a little background.

When my oldest was in 3rd grade, she, too, had to master her facts. It was challenging! She really did not like practicing paper flashcards. She felt so defeated because the stack for the "I don't know" always seemed to be bigger than the stack for the "I know". Yes, practice helps, but the feeling of defeat showed on her face and she fought practicing with us. At the time, we had a Kindle, so I found an app that she could try. She liked it and more importantly, would practice ... independently! Practicing digitally prevented her from actually seeing the "I don't know" pile and once we found this method, she was the second one in her class to master all the facts. (She also gained confidence and would use her paper flashcards, too.)

I don't tell you this story to show off my daughter - math has always been quite a struggle. I tell you this because what happened was we did was we found what worked FOR HER. It wasn't the method that her teacher gave her ... it wasn't the what had worked for me as a kid ... or what worked for other kids in her class ... it worked for her.

Back to today - to the 3rd grade teacher and her request. 

There are plenty of apps out there. Good ones. But we have Chromebooks that are a few years old and I wanted to ensure there wouldn't be a cost associated. I turned to one of my favorite resources ... This is not only a website but also an add-on for Google Sheets. I built flashcard sets for each number and then combined sets to make a 0-5 set a 6-12 set and finally a set for all 0-12.

Sunday, December 2, 2018

15 Days of Resources You Can Do

This share has been brewing in my brain for quite some time and it feels like the perfect time of year! The rush of the new school year has worn down, the weather is changing, and you have a good grasp on this year's students. Now is the time to stretch ... check out something new ... try something new ... To help, I've compiled 15 resources for you to review and see if any fit you and your students.  

Starting with today and for the following 14 week days, I will share a resource I've come across and some potential applications for it on my companion blog. Nothing long winded - just enough to peek your interest, or for you to pass on. I will add links to each description below the graphic for your perusal. Please share these! It might not be the best fit for you, but it might be just what your friend needs. 

Week 3:
  • Dec 17: Character Scrapbook by Scholastic [LINK]
  • Dec 18: Chrome Music Lab [LINK]