Sunday, August 19, 2018

Google Classroom You Can Do - Part 1: Creating

Google Classroom has released some changes recently. My job is to support classroom teachers and the students they serve. This time of year, we welcome our new staff. Not all are brand new teachers, but some are brand new to Google &/or Google Classroom.

Today I want provide steps to create a Classroom as well as some things to keep in mind. This isn't only for brand new teachers, either. I've been lucky enough to attend workshops and work with numerous teachers and talk about the reasons why they have their classes set up the way they do. 

To get started, go to . If this is your VERY first time, you'll need to ensure you indicate you are a teacher. Likewise, when you have your students navigate to the same URL, make sure they select they are a student.
Photo from Google Classroom's Help page
Here is where every teacher is going to be different. You may not think too much about this initially, but here are questions you will want to ask yourself when creating classroom(s).
  • What is the age of your students?
  • How much do you plan on using Classroom?
  • How does your brain organize your daily teacher life?
I ask these because it will help you decide if you should have 1 classroom for everything ... 1 classroom for each subject/content you teacher ... 1 classroom per period ... etc. We live in a digital world, whether we like it or not. Our students need to be able to function in a digital classroom.

The younger your students, the fewer classrooms you most likely will have - Classroom probably won't be the main "vehicle" for content delivery. [It's perfectly ok if it is!] The older your students are the more likely you will use Classroom everyday - multiple times a day - to deliver content, assignments, projects, assessments, and more. 

***TIP 1*** there is NO right or wrong here ... it's all in how YOU want your Classroom to look.

***TIP 2*** you may want to have a Classroom dedicated to your resources/class materials. Think about it as a warehouse where you can collect and easily find material. You can add tons in here and use it this year (& future) when you are ready.

Once you sign in, look for the large plus sign near the top right corner. When you click on it, you have 2 options. You will want to select the "Create class" option. 

[Follow the steps - Google is awesome at walking you through.] 

When choosing a class name, think about the students you are using this with. Does the name make sense? Fill in as much or as little info on the card. 

[And don't worry - you can always adjust this later if you want!]

Click create & congratulations! You've created your 1st Classroom!!! Repeat as many times as you'd like.

***TIP 3*** your Classroom does NOT have to last ALL YEAR! One of the best tips I have gathered is you may want to start a new Classroom at major spots in the school year. Here are a few ideas:
  • Each quarter/semester ↬ helps keep students (& you!) focused on current material
  • Each new unit  keeps students focused on current material; less confusing if you have recurring assignments like vocab, review sheets, etc

You have 2 options to add students to join your Classroom. If you are able to email them, you can send them an invite or show the class code. While you may think sending an email is the "easiest", I'd encourage you to try out the code option.


  • Click the People tab.
  • Across from the Students section, click on the person with the plus sign.
  • Type in each student's email you'd like to invite. (If your district as them in as groups, you can use the group email.)
  • Repeat for each student.

  • Have students go to &, if it's their first time signing in, select the "I'm a student" option.
  • Have them click on the plus icon near the top right & select "Join class".
    • Remember this part??? It's just like you! Only they will not have the create option.
  • In YOUR Google Classroom, click on the gear wheel in the top right corner.
    • On this new screen, locate the "Class Code".
    • Click on the down triangle next to the random string of 7 letters/numbers.
    • Choose "Display" and it will show nice & large on your screen - excellent choice if you are projecting!!! Otherwise, write this code on the board for your students to type in.
    • ***TIP 4*** you can make it even BIGGER by click on the icon that looks like it's just the corners of a square.
See ... I told you it might be wise to try this out! No prep work - just display the code & go! Even your littlest learners can absolutely do this!!!

You've truly done the "hard part" in the creation process, so let's reward you with some FUN!!!

Chances are, if you used the name of a content (math, science, history, etc) in the name of your class, Classroom pre-selected a theme for your class to match this theme. However, you are NOT stuck with this! You can customize this. 

On the main page of the Classroom you want to change, choose "Select theme". It's on the lower right corner of the HEADER image. Once you do this, you can choose from the ready-to-go themes. 

CUSTOMIZE: If you'd like to, you can create your own header and upload it! Google Drawings is a great place to tackle this! Once you have it saved on your computer, use the "Upload photo" option just below "Select theme".

***TIP 5*** Here is a link to a great resource to help you out ... Brad Dale's "Add your own personal GIFs in your Google Classroom Header"

***TIP 6*** this can be slightly frustrating because it gets cropped some. Don't give up ... adjust your Drawing and you'll get it. It's VERY rewarding to see your creation each time you open your Classroom! And you can customize everything about it.

***TIP 7*** you canNOT move the name of your class in the middle of the header. Incorporate that into your design and it becomes the perfect addition! 

Do you co-teach? Do you have an intervention specialist or an instructional aide attached to your class? Give them the same access you have by adding them as a co-teacher! Follow the same steps as adding a student, only use the section for "Teachers" instead.

***TIP 8*** use this as a collaborative place to have a Classroom all the teachers in your grade/content share material & resources. You won't be locked into any of this showing in your Classroom, you can pick and choose as you wish.

If you used Classroom before, you might find yourself looking high & low for the "About" tab. Unfortunately, it has gone by the wayside. BUT ... ALL IS NOT LOST!

Eric Curts wrote a fantastic blog where he shared some work-arounds ↬ What to do About the Missing "About" Page in Google Classroom". 

I really like the idea of adding the material you want your students to have access to all year in the "Class Settings" area. Click on the gear wheel, and you will see the "+ ADD CLASS MATERIALS". You can add attachments, items from your Drive, videos, and hyperlinks.

I am certainly NOT the expert on Classroom. I use several resources to help find solutions and tips to what my teachers ask. I use a few different places regularly and I encourage you to do the same.

Google Classroom Help website ↬ FULL of easy to read tips & suggestions

Welcome to your 1st day of Classroom website ↬ a super helpful place to not only find info from Google, but also from other teachers who use Classroom.

EdTech people  Eric Curts, Alice Keeler, Matt Miller, Kasey Bell, Brad Dale, etc. I encourage you to follow them on Twitter as well as checking out their websites.

Do you have questions? Feel free to reach out to me - either here or on Twitter - I'd be happy to help!

UPCOMING ... Soon, I'll be focusing on the new Classwork tab as well as some additional pieces you are definitely going to want to use as you get more comfortable with Google Classroom!

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!