Sunday, February 10, 2019

Valentine's Activities You Can Do

My job has many different components - which I thoroughly enjoy - and the top two pieces to my job is when I get to work directly with teachers and when I get to work directly with students. I have been fortunate enough to be working with one group students regularly for 2 years now. 

Most of the time, I've got a targeted lesson to tie into something they are working on in class or something their teacher has asked we work on ... but I surprised them Friday with a Valentine's Day themed selection of activities.

These students know Google Slides. They have been working with Slides since 2nd grade, so that's nothing new. However, I published this slidedeck to the web, so they got to see it in a different light. (At first they didn't even recognize it as Slides.) I used the Jourdain presentation template from Slides Carnival and they "oohed & aahed" over it. Since it's "choice activities", I explained they had 6 different activities to choose from and they were free to switch at any time. Then I stepped back and let them explore.
💖 Valentine's themed hangman game using's template

💖 Chrome Music Lab to create music

💖 Make your own Valentine's Magnetic poetry in Google Drawing (thanks, Eric Curts!)

💖 Valentine's Day Breakout using's template

💖 Valentine's word search - 2 levels - in Google Slides

💖 create your own Word Cloud with

These kinds of activities are fun, holiday themed tech activities and I try to provide a variety of activities to allow students to explore things they may not otherwise get to see. To my surprise, this group focused on 2 activities - the Music Lab and the Breakout! There was some good music happening and a group of students worked together to "breakout". When the classroom teacher saw how many were drawn to the Music Lab, she went across the hall and grabbed the music teacher to join us for a few minutes and I learned who Kandinsky was!

With Valentine's Day this week, feel free to use this with your kiddos, too! Feel free to share the link with them and step back to see where their creativity takes them.

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

Sunday, February 3, 2019

Reading Around the World You Can Do

For the second year in a row, I've collaborated with a 3rd grade teacher, Anne McEldowney, to bring a little fun to her reading class. Last year, it was an Olympic themed reading game where students earned badges upon completion of various reading activities. Her goal was focused on their written responses. Her students would happily read, as long as she'd let them. However, the responses about their reading were coming up short. We focused on improving this skill through a variety of activities - some Anne already had in place; others were brand new - and the students earned badges. Ultimately, these badges earned them bronze, silver, and gold medals.

THIS year, Anne has a different group of students who need a different focus. Anne came to me saying these students need encouragement TO read and to increase the length of time they read. She also wanted to incorporate an "around the world" theme. [Geography + reading = 💖!] 

We had a few conversations, threw some ideas around, back-and-forth, up-and-down, and from this was born "Mrs. McEldowney's Reading Around the World"! The ultimate goal is to read around the world in 9 weeks.

To do this, we are bringing together several pieces, and housing it in a Google site. The basic idea is a time goal for each continent, starting in Antarctica and ending in North America. To track their progress, a Progress Tracker was created for each continent with a custom goal. Various reading activities have also been added for each continent and a passport is used to record the students' responses.

the "homepage"
The home page of the site has an embedded Google Map of the world. Each student added a pin to represent themself and then customized their "pin" by choosing their color and an icon of their choice. This allows them to see themself along their reading journey. As they progress, Mrs. Mac will move them from continent to continent. [I added a pin to each continent so they knew the order of their journey from one continent to the next.] It is very exciting to watch as the students move from one continent to the next!

The 1st Continent on the Journey

Each continent has its own page, displaying the Progress Tracker for that continent. Each day, Mrs. McEldowney checks the students' reading logs and credits them with their time. The Progress Tracker is a Google Sheet, published to the web, that is coded to show a progress bar for the corresponding continent. The best part of this tracker is Flippity has this all set up with a template you can, too, can grab and use! 

Once a student reaches the goal for that particular continent, their pin is moved and tomorrow's reading time is credited to the next "stop". 

This style of gamification is low-key, yet is yielding some pretty exciting results! Being able to share this 'journey' with the students as well as their parents is thrilling. Students have a very visible record of their reading. 

This is a fairly low-tech way to add a little "game" to your class ... the Google site is very simple, one page per continent. provides the template for the Progress Tracker. [I entered the students names, assigned them a color by going red-orange-yellow-green-blue-purple-gray-black and then repeat] After I had the first tracker done for Antarctica, I duplicated it for the remaining 6 continents. Anne customized the goal for each continent, and I embedded them on the right sheet. Finally, I found an image to customize the header for each continent and voila! It's definitely something you can add to your classroom.

Have a question or comment or would you like some help getting your reading around the world up & running? Feel free to comment below or on Twitter @kiefersj, or email me (

Monday, January 28, 2019

Grading Forms in Classroom You Can Do

Recently, I've been working with a teacher on setting up self-grading quizzes with Google Forms. A key component is the teacher said it was crucial that he can get the results back to the students. This will then allow them to go over it as a class and each student could see their own work.

A little background - Forms is my 1st Google love. Once I learned how to create a quiz in Forms, grade it with Flubaroo (an awesome add-on), and email results to my students' parents, I was hooked! (my students didn't have access to school email) That was about 6 years ago ... and WOW! Has Forms come a L O N G way!


Forms is fairly intuitive and simple. Setting up a Google Form to be a Quiz is also simple. To set it up to be Quiz that grades itself, reports results to the teacher AND is returned to the student is a bit more of a workflow. Not awful, but definitely something we had to work through since I'd never personally done this with students. Because of this, I created a Google Slidedeck to help with the workflow. Each slide has written instructions on the left and a short video that gives a visual match to the instructions. (We were able to do some of it retroactively, so don't worry if you want to try it out and have already given the quiz.) The Slidedeck is at the end of this entry.

Let's start with a little pedagogy ... not every subject should have ALL quizzes done digitally. Not all quizzes have to be 100% digital. Not all Forms have to be quizzes. Please use Forms as a tool when it fits the purpose of the lesson/activity. For example, the teacher I've been working with wants to use this in his math class. Not all math questions lend themselves to be auto-graded. We decided which of his daily review questions should be digital and which should still be done on paper. This also allows for space for his students to show their work, vital to seeing if the student has master the topic. The digital part of the quiz will greatly reduce his grading time.

What about the student side? This teacher is a 4th grade teacher. It is worth noting that while his students have been using chromebooks in the classroom for more than 2 years, they haven't done too many classroom assessments on them. State assessments, yes, but not classroom ones. Using Google Classroom isn't new to them either, but taking a quiz in Classroom then receiving it back to view IS new. He walked them through the process and said they did great. Students are quick to learn as long as they have a leader.

Final thoughts . . . Forms is the perfect tool for assessments, but don't let this be a limit. Have a worksheet? Create it in Forms. Add in a video or two for students to view as they work through it. Want to work in a little intervention? Use the "Go To Section Based on Answer ..." option with multiple choice - this allows the student to be directed to a questions based on what they selected.

Ready to get started? I hope so. I hope this workflow helps you. Please refer to it as often as you like. If you get stuck or have a question, please reach out to me in the comments below or on Twitter @kiefersj or even via email, .

Click through below OR open in a larger window? Click here ↬  

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.

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.)