Thursday, August 16, 2018

Google Classroom Updates You Can Do

The long awaited updates have officially been released for Google Classroom!

I have been curating helpful guides to best serve you ↬ we all learn so differently! My biggest take away is these changes gives Classroom a LOT more ... function, capability, & organization. It will take a bit of getting used to, but overall, I think they are great updates! 

Think about how you learn best and pick from the following - they all provide the same general info. 

Prefer to READ About the Updates?

Google's Classroom Help page ↬ Back to School 2018 FAQ

Eric Curts blog ↬ 9 Updates for Google Classroom (and 3 more to come) ↬ this is an EXCELLENT resource!

Susan Herder slidedeck ↬ Intro to Google Classroom

The Electric Educator blog ↬ Get Ready for the NEW Google Classroom

Prefer to WATCH About the Updates?

Google for Education [multiple short videos] ↬ Welcome to your first day of Classroom

Google for Education YouTube Channel  ↬ EDU in 90 (videos less than 90 seconds)

The Electric Educator's video [roughly 12 minutes] ↬ New 2018 Google Classroom Updates (detailed overview)

Holly Sisk's video [just under 4 minutes] ↬ New Changes to Google Classroom 2018

Kimberly Mattina ↬ Classroom YouTube Playlist

Want to LEARN More?

Google for Education ↬ Teacher Center [This provides a place to learn about Classroom & more!]

Sign up for future updates  Click here

If you already set up your Classroom & don't have these updates, you will have to be patient and wait for Classroom to allow the updates to pull through to your class.

Remember: We as educators want and encourage our students to learn new things ... we should (and can) too!

Monday, July 30, 2018

#PodPeeks: Talking Social Studies

I just HAVE to share this podcast with you!!! I had featured it on my final 8 #PodPeeks in July but I hadn't had the time to really dig deep into this one. That was until my daughter started conditioning for soccer and I had an hour to walk & listen & learn. Wow!!!! This is a GOOD one!

There are 2 episodes that I'm excited to share today - but don't limit yourself to these. Subscribe and listen to them all!

Episode 17: Got Rhythm (show notes)

I love history. I love the story it tells - I know it's not always a happy story, but it's a never-ending story. I also love music. There is so much music out there and it, too, tells a story. And to bring the two together??? WOW! Listening to this episode, I kept thinking about how cool it would be to be a student in any of these 4 teachers classes! The focus isn't just on having music to play with your units, but having conversations around & with the lyrics & feelings of the music. Highlighting music from a historical time period can really add to a students understanding of the time period and culture.

Here are a few highlights to tempt you to tune in - all the links are in the show notes:

  • Billboard's List of 20 Best Protest Songs of 2017
    • IDEA ↬ take a list of ANY year, don't tell your students, & see if they can figure out what year/what the big ideas were from that year
  • National Jukebox: Historical Recordings from the Library of Congress (I had NO idea this existed!!!)
    • contains over 10,000 historical recordings made by the Victor Talking Machine Company between 1901 and 1925!
  • Google Arts & Culture ↬ an amazing find for SOOOO many reasons, but when you search for "music", you will find links to museums, stories, and more directly related to music!
  • Sounds Around the World ↬ a website built as a "collaborative learning game"
  • ↬ a FREE web-based curriculum, aligned to standards, and built FOR teachers. (Thank you, Steven Van Zandt!) 
At the end, each of the 4 podcasters share at least 10 songs they use in their classroom! 

Episode 19: Do You Want to Play a Game? Gamification in Social Studies (show notes)

Amy & Chris interview Amy Garlitz (@meems852) about her adventures in incorporating gaming in her classroom. This is an area I'm super interested in and I believe gaming in the classroom can provide the needed "oomph" many teachers are looking for in order to make the learning more meaningful. 

[Contrary to most thoughts, I believe adding gaming can be SUPER simple and exciting!]

Here are some highlights to peek your interest:
  • do a little at a time - playing games is a GREAT 1st step into this world
    • examples ↬ Kahoot, Quizlet, review games
  • want a "hook" to entice your students? Amy recommends playing a "theme song" every day you will be do a gaming activity. (She uses the Pirates of the Caribbean)
  • EASY game to start class ↬ "Roll the Dice"
    • Roll die. The total is the number of words students can use to answer a question you have for them. Can be done individually or in teams. The team/person with the "best" answer - using that # of words - wins! Points or awards can be awarded.
  • Track the points - chances are, you already DO some form of "games" in your class ... use a spreadsheet to track the points & you've added in an easy layer of gaming!
    • Michael Matera (@mrmatera) has a TON of resources you can purchase LINK to get your class ready to do full on gaming; he also has a FANTASTIC book "eXPlore Like a Pirate" - highly recommend! ๐Ÿ‘
    • Amy recommends the "Mystery Box" idea, too! This element quickly and immediately will ramp up your gaming ... 
  • "Most Boring Worksheet" game ↬ this one made me ๐Ÿ˜‚ as I was listening! Amy took a boring old worksheet, cut up the questions & placed them around the room, paired her students up, then sent them on relay races around the room to retrieve & answer the questions. The questions had to be returned each time and a bell rung ... the group who answered them correctly, the quickest, wins! She added in a timer (hello, class period!) and music to enhance the "mood"! ๐Ÿ‘Super easy entry into gaming - you know you have worksheets that can be used for this purpose!
  • Jamestown activity ↬ again, I laugh as I listen to this activity! Give the students glue, playdoh, and popsicle sticks to build the Jamestown fort. As students are building, Amy would walk around and literally blow down some forts just as the weather was a key factor in the initial building of Jamestown!
Finally, the key piece Amy shared, not only her activities and how to, but the REFLECTION piece on why she did what she did. Think of the students who had their fort blown down ... with time restraints and weather, the settlers in Jamestown would live/die based on their construction of proper shelter. Collaboration and reflection is a BIG part in gaming in any classroom.

If you take the time to listen, please share with others - this podcast focuses on the SS classroom, but these elements are easy to transfer into ANY classroom. And don't forget to connect on Twitter and other social media sites.

Wednesday, July 25, 2018

You Can Accept Change

In today’s world, probably the most valuable tool we can teach our students is to “LEARN, UN-LEARN, and RE-LEARN”. I read that somewhere this past year and I wish I could remember who to give credit to because it is absolutely true! We want our students to learn from failure … to have grit … to problem solve … to be self-sustaining in their learning. 


I want to you really stop for a minute and hold up the mirror. I want you to really stop and think. Are YOU doing this? Are you willing to learn, un-learn, and re-learn? Or do you grumble about it … resist it … push back … even refuse to change?

Let's focus this thought process a bit ... we profess we want our students to learn, UN-learn, and RE-learn. We want them to be comfortable with going out of their comfort zones and be willing to change … BUT how comfortable are YOU with all those things?

Think about these scenarios for a minute:
 - change in leadership? 
 - one program is replaced with a new one?
 - new staff? 
 - if you are asked to teach a different grade level or content? 

How do you respond? Do you put up barriers and excuses and fight the changes? I’ll be honest, change IS hard! There are changes I readily embrace but there are things I hate to see change. In the end, I remember I don't have to like the change but I DO realize my attitude and actions will pave the way for students and others to follow. 

I bring this up because Google Classroom is getting an update. Best estimates is it will go “live” in August. From what I’ve read from others, there might be some bumps in the road. 

The updates were announced at the ISTE Conference in Chicago in late June. (ISTE = International Society of Technology in Education) Some of these changes will be really, REALLY good! They involve adding a Classwork Stream for the organization of work … we’ve been begging for a better way to organize work (we were doing ok with the “Topic” feature, but we wanted more, right?). If your district manages your Chromebooks, you will be able to give “locked quizzes” … how awesome will it be to give a quiz and prevent the students from opening other tabs just by enabling a setting when you assign the quiz? Awesome! And there’s more.  

Coming up, I’ll jump in and show you some of the upcoming changes to Google Classroom. As of now, there’s no set date when these will go live, so keep watching. Also, right now it appears the changes might only appear in the newly created Google Classrooms. But knowing Google, they very well could push these through to previously created Google classrooms.

Remember - Google is consistently great at several things, but they are fantastic about one thing … Changing. Updating. Reinventing. Innovating.

What about YOU?

Friday, July 13, 2018

Math Games ... for EVERYONE!

Math Games!!!

Games no longer need to be left to review. Games can introduce - assess - review - personalize - and so much more. 

I fell in ๐Ÿ’™with Quizlet. I was able to make one "set" of review materials but my students do use it in a number of different ways - and not just digitally. More traditional students could create limitless "tests" (multiple choice, T/F, short answer, matching as options ... modify to your preference); students who enjoy playing games could check out the games; students who preferred paper could print out flashcards - I'd suggest they use mine to make their own - or print out tests. ANY student could try ANY option. So many different options in one little package!!!! After we used it for awhile, students started making their own! HOW powerful! I wanted my students to find what works for them and use it ... in my class and all their others. When they'd tell me how they created Quizlets for another class, my heart swelled with pride. 

I've included links to 4 digital games, but there are a TON out there. Don't be afraid to check several of them out. (Make sure you check with your district's policy prior to making accounts for students.)

One more to check out ↣ We Are Teacher released an article that is perfect for this post. The Best Online Interactive Games for Every Grade Level. I won't vouch for every game included, but it's a great place to start regardless if you teach kindergarten or high school. 

Do you have any games that others should check out? Please share!

#FBCALbook ... I'll be IN it!

I'm beyond excited to share that at the end of July, a dream of mine will come true! I will have a story published in a book!!! This book ... will be published and available for anyone to read! And I will have a tiny part in it. 


My adventure began around Christmas 2017 when a tweet on Twitter caught my eye from Mari Venturino. She had published a collection of stories from educators in July, 2017. She was preparing for volume 2, and with nothing to lose, I submitted a story idea.

I'm not going to lie or pretend otherwise, I really do not consider myself a writer. Spelling was a weak spot and I never understood diagramming sentences! Thank heavens for word processing!!!

I received word my story had been accepted to be published as part of this book with other educators. BUT ... I was still nervous and didn't share the news. (I think I was still nervous about it really happening!) Then came edits and revisions and the final editing process. Mari has set up a website to share tons of info about the book and those who are apart of it. Be sure to check it out .

I will join the ranks of 80 or so educators who've taken a piece of their own story and shared it for the world to read. I hope you'll pick up a copy, grab the beverage of your choice, and read it. It's sure to be packed with tons of great stories!!!

I'll update as far as the official publishing date. Yea!!!! 

Want to be part of volume 3? Mari is collecting info from those interested at the official website [].

Feel free to follow along on: