Sunday, October 25, 2020

Google Classroom: 10 Things to Know & Do

Yesterday was busy! I presented - virtually - at the TCCA Conference with my Google Innovator Coach, Dr. Desiree Alexander. It was amazing! What a great conference! Being in Ohio, this isn't a conference I've ever attended, but wow! It was great.

I presented two sessions - one about Classroom and one about Sheets. Today, I want to share my Google Classroom session. It goes right along with my intentional focus on Classroom since the beginning of the school year. My session was recorded and shared on YouTube, so feel free to watch below. The presentation slides are also linked below. Limiting myself to the "Top 10" things in Classroom wasn't easy, but I do believe if you have a strong understanding of these 10, you will be far more successful when you use Classroom.


Here are the slides for the presentation for this session. I'd love to hear your feedback!


Here is the link for the Google Classroom: Top 10 Things to Know and Do presentation. I'd love to hear comments below - or Tweet at me @kiefersj - or on Facebook - even via email sarah@techyoucando.com .

Next week, I'll be back to share my Google Sheets for the Classroom video and resource. Sheets is NOT just a spreadsheet ... there are soooo many ways you can use Sheets in the Classroom. I share a bunch of templates that are ready to go!

Sunday, October 18, 2020

Study Habits Your Students Can Do

Most of the inspiration for my blogs come from my day job as a Technology Integration Specialist. But I'm also a mom and sometimes my daughters provide me inspiration. I'm taking a break from my focus on Google Classroom, but I'll come back with more soon.

This week I will be on a soapbox. Study habits - study skills - study methods. It's something I realized a long time ago as a classroom teacher that my students didn't natively know how to do. We want to believe they can and often we assume they can. But the truth is, most students don't know how.

What spurred this soapbox? My 5th grade daughter had a vocab quiz last Friday. I somehow missed it until Thursday. When I asked if she studied, she paused and then said yes. I asked how, and she replied with my least favorite response ... she said she looked at the words on her paper. Only this time, her paper was digital, so that means she stared at her computer screen. Aaaarrrggghhhh!!!! Go ahead, ask me how she did ... 😞.

Here's the deal - my daughter is a good kid. She can do well at school, but it takes effort. She doesn't mind studying, but she's not always interested IN studying. We have found methods that work for her and work really well. BUT - she has to work at it. She has to put forth energy. And she needs the push to do it. (Can I also interject that she adores her teachers?) She did ... or least she felt like she did. She's in 5th grade ... she should know, right? And as the "mean mom", I expect her to make her own study material. I will help her, but she has to do the work.

Soooooo .... what works? What are my chosen tools for this? Well - I have a couple. But it really depends on WHAT she is studying. That's the key. There isn't one perfect tool for studying. There isn't one perfect way TO study. That's also the hard part. And it's different for each student.

And now, more than ever, our students need to be taught how to create their own study material. We no longer assume they will be face-to-face and we can support them in person. We HAVE to teach them how to utilize the tools available. Using tech is ONE method. It isn't the ONLY method. Some students do better with pencil and paper. But when we provide the material to study from/with, they can create what works best. We as teachers need to help our students figure out what IS that method, or methodS. 

And that's the thing ... we have to teach them. Below are two super easy, super flexible, and super impactful tools that you can get going with to help your students (or your own children). 

Two of my favorite tools to help students study are Flippity.net & Quizlet.

Flippity is my favorite tool. All of the options are built from a Google Sheet. This means that all you do is make a copy of the template and customize it for your needs. This means NO account creation ... NO worries about how to log in at school or at home. The final product is a website that can be shared, posted in Classroom or another LMS, emailed home to parents, accessed on a computer, tablet, or even phone. And, it's free. Yep! Flippity has numerous templates you can use; below I highlight 3 that work really well as study tools. MAKE sure you check out all the rest!

Flippity.net Flashcards: suggested use vocabulary words or study guides

Key features:
  • front/back traditional look
  • can be spoken for accessibility and additional support
  • images can be also be used
  • color can be changed for the card and/or the text
  • hyperlinks can be included
  • videos can be included
  • multiple ways to practice ➔ flashcards, list, matching, practice
  • generate printables

Flippity.net Spelling Words: suggested use ➔ study spelling words. This tool will all you to create a customized list for each of your students OR make one website to use long-term and add to each week. 

Key features: 
  • words will be spoken for students
  • sentences can be - but don't have to be - added for context
  • multiple ways to practice ➔ list (listen to words); practice spelling words; quiz (independent testing); more - additional "games"

Flippity.net Matching Game: use this to help students match 2 items; for young learners to teach words or match capital to lower case letters; for older students to learn vocab words, work on memory skills, learn foreign languages; pretty much anything you can think of!

Key features:
  • words spoken
  • match image to word
  • timer is an option
  • cards can be numbered

*** BONUS *** Flippity is built on Google Sheets. This coming Saturday I will be presenting at the TCCA virtual conference. My second session is 100% about using Google Sheets in the Classroom. It's a FREE conference and I will be sharing templates for many Google Sheets activities. I hope to see you there! You can register for the conference at this website https://www.tccaconference.com/. My first session is Google Classroom Top 10 Tips. You are welcome to join one or both ;). 


Quizlet is a website where you can create sets of study material. Each set of material you create allows students to customize how they choose to learn, review, and practice the information. If they are old enough (over 13), students can also have their own accounts and generate their own study material. If they are under 13, I highly recommend YOU create the material and share it with students. They do NOT have to have an account to practice.  

Quizlet is a tool I discovered a good many years ago and it quickly became a regular study tool for my students. I began using it with my own daughter when she entered 3rd grade. It was incredibly helpful for my students and my daughter. I know it will be beneficial to yours, too!

I loved it because I would make the set of material to study/review and I KNEW my students were studying accurate information. There were plenty of options for them to choose the method that works - a practice test, games, flashcards, and a couple more. I had a handful of students who enjoyed using what I pushed out to write out study material on their own. (Again, I then KNEW they were studying the accurate information.) One girl would regularly make her own flashcards by simply copying what I pushed out ... and it worked really well - FOR HER. Many of my students would play the game pieces but so many more of my students would generate practice test after practice test. I even had some who would use the printable option to print out flashcards or practice tests and do them on paper. I encouraged any/all of these methods. The only one I wouldn't accept as "true" studying was if they told me they went through the flashcards. I would put them up on my projector and showed them why ... all they had to do is click through in about 5 seconds. This is NOT studying! They had to show actual effort.

Now, the first year was tough as I built the study sets, but after that, I had my study sets ready to go at the beginning of every chapter and all I had to do was share the links. I could adjust easily and know that the information was accurate.

And just like Flippity, Quizlet is accessible on a computer, tablet, or smartphone. It's fantastic!

Now ... these both are great independent tools but there is something to be said about doing some review/studying IN the classroom, too. For that, I've collected resources in a Wakelet. Check out my Gamification Wakelet Collection. There are a bunch in there for you to check out & use!

Wrapping up, I'd love to hear from you! Do you have a comment? Leave it below. Want to connect on Twitter? Please do - @kiefersj . Have a specific comment or request for help? Please email me: sarah@techyoucando.com.



Sunday, October 11, 2020

Feedback in Google Classroom You Can Do - and you REALLY should!

Back in May, I shared how to work through the decision making process of how to best set up your Classroom ... in July, I shared a decision making framework to help decide how many classrooms to have ... and for the past 5 weeks, I've focused on smaller pieces of Google Classroom. This week, I want to focus on feedback in Classroom. Any and all of these can be found by choosing the "Google Classroom" label on the far right. 

At first glance, Classroom is a means to share and collect digital work. Very true. And a much needed component to our current classrooms. But let's not stop there. Any time we talk about work in a classroom, a teachers brain also thinks about grading. Grading isn't solely about percentages or letter grades. We need to push beyond this. We need to give our students feedback. You can do this in Classroom and do it well.

This can be easier than you think. IF you know what to do and how to do it. First of all, you have to understand the item types in Classroom. I've written a very detailed explanation of Google Classroom Item Types that can be helpful. Next, you need to understand the difference in HOW to provide this feedback. Finally, you must understand that students need explicit instructions on looking for AND acting on feedback.

*** I'd like to take a minute and highlight a very simple - yet highly effective - method to encourage, support, and teach your students to read and act on the feedback that you provide. I heard about it awhile back from the Cult of Pedagogy podcast by Jennifer Gonzalez. I've linked the article, "Delaying the Grade" written by Kristy Louden for the podcast here and in the slides below. I'd definitely put it in the "Jedi mindtrick" category! And it's incredibly simple ...... provide feedback withOUT a grade! Pause for a minute. Grades have a very final feel to them. Feedback is meant to support and encourage revision. Work can't be both final and on-going at the same time. So don't confuse your students with a grade until it's truly finished. ***

Feedback can be done in several ways in Classroom. Below is a slidedeck that shares how to do this with Assignments, Quiz assignments, and Questions. I've devoted one slide to each. Let's explore them today.


Be sure to check out my Wakelet Collection focused on Google Classroom. It's a growing collection of tips, tricks, & resources.

And as always - do you have a comment? I'd love to read & respond to it below. You can also email me at sarah@techyoucando.com or Tweet at me. You can find me on Twitter @kiefersj.


Sunday, October 4, 2020

Parents and Google Classroom You Can Do

Many times, as teachers, we focus on our content, schedules, the students in front of us, and all the ups and downs of teaching. How often do you stop and remember to include parents in that list? There was a part of my career where I didn't. That wasn't a stellar decision. Parents are part of education and we cannot ignore this fact.

I'm a mom, too. I have 3 daughters. As my oldest entered each new grade, it seemed that teachers communicated less - both in content and frequency. I struggled with this. She didn't come home and tell me all about her day. School happened at school; home was home. I didn't know how to help ... and she needed help. It was exhausting trying to chase down what was for homework and when tests and quizzes were and what to study. Because of this, I decided it was far easier for ME to communicate to all of my students (& their parents) than having them feeling this same frustration. It took me less than 5 minutes - after all, I was the one assigning the work! I wanted their time to be spent DOING rather than figuring out what to do. I also wanted to empower the parents to be able to have conversations with their student.

When I realized this and actively worked to include parents more in the happenings of my class, I loved the results. For one, I received far more "thank you" emails than "I didn't know" emails. Conferences were less stressful - communication was already a constant and parents weren't surprised. I also realized that my students - 7th & 8th graders - truly needed this extra support. It's not that they weren't being held responsible, it was that I was giving the parents the tools TO hold the student responsible at home because the parent knew what was expected.

Now, more than ever, communication between home and school is important. I see that from both sides - professionally and personally. I see teachers everywhere working to create the best out of whatever situation they are in. And this is hard. Teaching is hard. But we CAN do it.

Because of this, I've been focusing recently on sharing out small chunks about Google Classroom. Today, I want to focus on this audience in connection with Google Classroom: parents. Whether you are in a remote situation, a hybrid situation, or even face-to-face, parents are there with their students. We have to keep this in mind and keep them as part of our planning and thinking with Classroom.

Google Classroom can be a very effective way to build a partnership with parents. The best way is through Guardian Emails. This is an easy, built in way to give parents the information needed to support their student. This is helpful in face-to-face situations where sometimes homework can be a mystery but also during hybrid and remote times, when digital communication is the best we have. Classroom is also great for situations that change over time. It can be a consistent platform for parents to rely on information about their students' schoolwork.

Now, the first step is to understand parents do NOT have an intuitive idea or concept about Google Classroom. In many ways, we have to TEACH the parents about Classroom. I suggest keeping it simple. If you decide to use Guardian emails, I created a letter you are welcome to take, customize to fit your parents, and share. You can find it here: Guardian Email Parent Letter (click the "Use Template" button in the top right corner to make your own copy).

The second step is to decide how you want to use Google Classroom to communicate with parents. THIS WILL NOT TAKE THE PLACE OF YOU USING CLASSROOM FOR ACTIVITIES WITH YOUR STUDENTS. This decision allows parents a view into your digital Classroom. 

I see two possible methods for using Classroom with/for parents. One - to simply communicate homework. And two - to allow parents complete insight to the digital activities and homework for their student. Neither is right or wrong, better or worse. In the Slide deck below, I share pros/cons of each method along with some tips.


Regardless of how you decide to use Google Classroom with your parents, please let me stress a few things. This is actually a repeat of my "Final tips" Slide in the above resource:
  • Use Classroom DAILY to share - it’s the ONLY way parents will receive an email.
  • Use the scheduling feature so that the information for THAT DAY shows up - do not assume parents will remember on Thursday to go back and read what was posted on Monday.
  • Do NOT use abbreviations - it only takes a second to write it out. It can make the difference for parents. (We are stressed and we know they are too. Give them a little help here.)
  • Remember - parents canNOT click on links or expand anything out. Honestly, they don't need to. (If it’s work to be done, the student will be logging in to complete it.)
  • Add multiple guardians, BUT be sure any email you include is a person who is allowed to have access to information about this student.
  • Ask a trusted parent in your class to forward you a Guardian email. Teachers don’t automatically receive a copy. It can be helpful to see what the guardians see.
  • Keep it simple. This will help you and the parents.

I promise, including and intentionally thinking about parents and your Google Classroom is a step you will be thrilled you took.

As always, I'd love to hear from you! Comment below - email me: sarah@techyoucando.com - or tweet at me @kiefersj.

And don't forget ... I'm a avid Wakelet curator. Be sure to check out my All Things Google collections. I have one specific to Google Classroom as well.


Sunday, September 27, 2020

A Deeper Dive into Google Classroom Posting Options You Can Do

Have you looked at your Google classroom through your students eyes? If you have, you know how important it is. If not, this can be a game changer. I challenge you to. No ... I dare you to! Login as one of your students. Or, if you have access, add a fake student to your classroom and login as them … regularly. Look around. What do you see?

A deeper dive into Classroom posting
Really look to see how you’ve got your classroom organized and structured and labeled. Look AS A STUDENT. You might be shocked.  Now that school has begun again, whether you’re face-to-face or hybrid or remote, your students are looking at that classroom. They’re trying to figure out the organization. How hard is it for them? How easy would you like it to be for them?


Let's start with Topics. The best recommendation I can give you is to use weekly dates for your topics. Be super intentional about the name you gave to your topic. Let’s look at two examples:


Look at the difference for students. Spelling out September if you use "Week of ..." means that your students won’t see numbers. Using the abbreviation SEPT and the weekly dates allows for students to see the numbers in the dates for the weeks. 

TIP #1: Create all of your weekly topics at the beginning of the quarter. BUT, don’t post anything to them until you are ready. Students won’t even see it. That’s right. Go ahead and create them and as each week becomes live, so will that topic.

TIP #2: Keep the most current date on top means it’s the first thing students see. This makes it incredibly easy for them to get to this weeks activities quite easily. 

TIP #3: Put your topics in backwards order. Example: you plan to have a Classroom for 1st quarter. (and create new for 2nd - a great tip, by the way!) Use all 9 weeks as your topics, but have the last week at the top. This forces the "most current" to be at the top. Since topics don't show until something is posted, students won't even know they are there.

TIP #4: Students can click on the topic name to the left to further narrow their view and classwork. Yep! Have students click on the topic and all they will see JUST the activities for the selected week. Great for students of all ages - in person or remotely. (And think of their parents supporting them as well!)

TIP #5: Being intentional about giving everything a Topic allows you to NOT assign a topic to items that you want to be listed at the top - to give students quick access, or regular access to. Example, your classroom routines/expectations; a link to programs used on a regular basis; your grade program; etc. BE INTENTIONAL about this. Do not overuse it. 


Now, let's talk about posting assignments, quizzes, activities, materials, etc.  As you create your assignments, quizzes, etc, what do you DO?

Think about the "old days" ... I have several worksheets, activities, and quizzes I need to copy for the week. I head to the copier to make my copies. When I return with my stacks, am I handing them out to my students and thinking that: 

A) they won't look at them or do them until I tell them

B) they will keep them in the order I give them to them

C) they will hold on to them?

Chances are, you are laughing to yourself right now. Of course you wouldn't hand out the entire week's worth of paper copies. You'd leave them in stacks on your desk and pass them out when appropriate. 

The good news - you have options! 

OPTION #1: Go ahead and post/assign them. This gives immediate access. They show up right way. If students have access to Gmail, they will also receive an immediate notification the teacher has posted/assigned something and it will provide a link to take them to it directly. This is a great option if you are ready for your students to have access RIGHT THEN. 

But what if you don't need them to have it NOW ... what if you are planning ahead?

OPTION #2: Schedule it! I love planning ahead, when possible. When I was still in the classroom I tried to plan by the unit ... I liked knowing how long we'd spend on each topic. This allowed me to incorporate PD days, assemblies, or other interruptions. Scheduling posts (whether they are assignments, materials, or even quizzes) is a powerful tool. You schedule everything to post right when you want your students to have access. (You can even schedule down to the minute!) Students won't see it until you are ready for them to have access. Great for planners! It was also great for sub plans or days I knew I'd have to be out.

OPTION #3: Draft mode. This ability is key for those who plan ahead, but can't quite put an exact day or time on it. It works the same as scheduling - you can package your entire assignment, quiz, material, etc, just how you want, and when you are ready, take 30 seconds to open it in edit mode & voila! Assign/post!

Using these options strategically will do you many favors. Students see what they need, when they need it. Nothing more, nothing less. And by also using the topics, it helps keep students focused on the current work and build off it as the days and weeks pass.

Take a little time to digest this. Maybe call on a friend and invite them as a student to your Classroom and let them tell you what they see ... and reciprocate in their Classroom. (You can also unenroll yourself or they can do it for you.)

Bonus Tip: Have you already posted assignments, quizzes, materials, etc and after reading this want to undo that? Unfortunately, you can't. BUT, you can use the "Reuse post" option when you click on "Create" and make each one "new". It allows you to duplicate the work you've already done and use the scheduling or draft mode. Be sure to delete the posted ones so it's less confusing for both you and your students.


Cheat sheet for a deeper dive

Finally: You'll find a link to a cheat sheet to the left on topics and the 3 options I mentioned above for your assignments, materials, quizzes, etc to be posted. I truly hope it helps. Whether your students are 7 years old or 17 years old, how YOU structure and organize your Classroom will go a long way. It matters. It matters now and it will matter in future weeks and months.

Link to make your own copy.

Link to viewing.


These last few weeks, I've focused in heavily on the student and teacher side of Classroom. Have you missed out on them? I've linked them here:

Next week, I hope to share a deeper look at the parent side, partnered with ways teachers can better support parents.

And ... did you know I collect Google Classroom tips, tricks, and resources? Yep - I use Wakelet to do this. I encourage you to check out my Classroom Wakelet collection. I find goodies all over the place and I keep them together here.

Can I help? I'd be happy to help you better organize your Classroom or answer questions you have or even take a peak at your Classroom. Comment below, email me - sarah@techyoucando.com - or Tweet at me @kiefersj