Sunday, September 15, 2019

Google Calendar (part 1) You Can Do

Google Calendar was probably the first Google App I was introduced to. At the time, I was firmly holding on to my paper agenda and was NOT looking to let it go. I clearly remember one meeting, where my principal, Chris, said he would be putting events onto the school Google Calendar. I remember feeling unsettled ... but not for long! 

Today I'm focusing on the Calendar App ↬ there's too much to share in one article, so I'll be back next week with more.

We know dates and times change. And when I realized how incredible it was that one person could enter ... and adjust ... dates/times for school functions and I didn't have to lift a finger??? ðŸ’¥WOW💥

Google Calendar has become a complete necessity for me. I do not go a day without consulting my calendar, creating events, looking up/adjusting an event, being reminded of an event via a notification, and so much more.

Why Use ... Google Calendar

Before we get into "how to" and specifics, how about a little "why"? We live in a world where we juggle so many different "hats" and having a tool that can help us stay organized is a blessing. Google Calendar is accessible on computers and mobile and it syncs so if you make changes in one place, it is reflected in other places. Calendars can be shared with others. They can either just view the calendar or you can allow them to manage it, too. The power of this comes into play when you are comfortable with Calendars.

How To ... Find Google Calendar

Let's start with the basics ↬ go to ... each Google account comes with a calendar. You will notice 2 sections: "My Calendars" and "Other Calendars". 

"My Calendars" is where you find the calendars YOU create & can manage. 

"Other Calendars" is where you find calendars you have been given viewing access or that you've subscribed to.

How To ... Create a Google Calendar

Now that you are on the Google Calendar website (sorry - I've not seen a way to create a calendar via my phone), creating a new Calendar is SUPER easy! Next to "Other Calendars", click the plus sign, then choose "Create New Calendar". Give it a name, description, timezone, and ... bam! Done!

How To ... Subscribe to a Google Calendar

How Do I Use ... Google Calendar

It might also help if I provide some of the ways I use Google Calendar. I HEAVILY use Google Calendar. But I didn't start off that way. I started off simply using the shared calendar from my principal. I think I even just used it to write down the dates into my own planner ... until I got tired of crossing out & rewriting them!

Fast-forward, I use Calendar for work, school, my family, and pretty much anything else that has dates 😄. You might think I go over board ... it's ok. It works for me. That's all that matters. That it works for YOU. (I even have my calendar set up on my watch so I can see my calendar & receive reminders.)

Even more ...

I have it on both my personal and school calendars, I have them attached to my phone and I also have it syncing to my watch.

Google Calendar Wakelet collection
Now you might think, how can there possibly be more??? Well, there is and I can't hope to get it all in one blog. I've started using Wakelet to collect resources and I created one for Google Calendar. Check it out for help tips and other hacks for calendar. The link is below the image on the left. I'll keep adding to this as I find more ... so feel free to come back and check for more.

Next week, I'll be back with some other things you can do with Calendar.

Calendar CAN work for you! But don't worry, while I love Calendar and don't go a day without using it, I still have a small paper one, because there are times where I need to jot things down, track things, or keep paper notes handy. You have to find what works for you.

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

Sunday, September 8, 2019

Lunch Box Notes You Can Do

This week, I have a "quick win". My mom was good at tucking notes into my lunch randomly. I've tried to be good at this for my girls, but I don't do it often enough. One reason is I usually think to do this in the morning - and that's not the ideal time to whip up something. 

After putting some thought into it, I came up with a Google Slide deck with 24 pre-made notes. (And no, they don't have to just be for lunchboxes!) I left some blank so you can handwrite your own. I also included some instructions if you are wanting to make your own! I'll be printing these out and using them for my own daughters for sure! I might even tuck them in colleagues mailboxes, too!

Here is the link to the template ↬ Little Notes ... Big Impact 
(I used the URL hack for you to be able to preview the notes. Please click the "Use Template" in the upper right corner to make yourself a copy & customize to fit you.)

I've also added it to "Templates for Teachers" website I maintain with a colleague of mine, Beth. We have shared out over 60 templates made with Google Apps that you are free to take and make your own. There are ones for teacher use as well as ones ready-to-use with students.

* * * BONUS * * *
2 weeks ago, I shared out the idea to include your students in creating the header for your Google Classrooms. Here is ANOTHER idea you can include your students in. This is great "real estate" for your students to express their creativity and learning. Since there are so many different devices out there - this would work for iPads and laptops as well - I'd recommend Googling your specific device's screen size to find the correct resolution. Then create a Google Drawing of that custom size.

I Googled the screen size for our chromebooks.

In the "File" menu, select "Page setup" then "Custom" and change the unit to pixels. Type in the screen size you found.

Once you have this "template," share it out through Google Classroom. You could design a challenge around a current learning topic or just allow students to demonstrate their creativity. [At the beginning of the year, this could be a great getting to know you activity!]

To insert it as the background, they just need to download it as a JPEG or PNG file. Do a double-finger tap on their current wallpaper, and "Set Wallpaper". Go to the downloads file and choose the downloaded image. You can do this as often as you'd like! 

Good luck! If you have your students create backgrounds, I'd love to see them! You can tag me on Twitter (@kiefersj), comment below, or even email me I enjoy seeing what students create!

Sunday, August 25, 2019

Classroom Header Template You Can Do with activity idea

If you are a GSuite school, you should have access to Google Classroom. Classroom is an incredible platform for teachers to manage the "ebb & flow" of a digital classroom. It is clean, simple, and easy. 

The top of each Classroom has a graphic, automatically assigned upon creation. This header is a great way to help both you and your students visually associate this Classroom with their time in your room.

You are always welcome to leave it as is, but you may choose to create your own header. This can be an exciting way to share your creativity and better indicate the content you cover. [Likewise, if you are using Classroom for a club or activity other than an academic content, you can customize it to fit your group perfectly.]

Many teachers will go ahead and create their header at the beginning of the year and leave it. 

But ... here's something to think about ... 

Why not let your students create the header?

Use this to start the year and work together to create a header the students have input on and create a header they own. During this activity, you can informally assess your students on various levels. You'll see their tech skills, encourage creativity and collaboration, begin building your classroom community, and see how your students interact with each other. Providing guidelines versus allowing a free-form creation can serve different purposes, too. If you will be creating multiple classes, guidelines can provide a bit of that structure to create graphics that clearly separate one class from another. Giving students free reign over the graphic allows creativity flow freely.

And the best part? . . . . . this doesn't have to be a "one and done" activity! What if you repeated this each quarter or semester or unit? What if your students saw their work each time they logged into Classroom. Imagine the pride your students will feel when they see their work! And better yet, surprise them when the unit or quarter rolls over!

You might be saying at this point, ok, ok, all fine and good, but HOW do I do this? It's pretty simple. I created a template you are welcome to use. Keep in mind, the header in Classroom IS responsive. This means that the header will automatically resize based on the device it is being displayed on and some of your design might not display fully. Don't get super involved in having too many things on your header - another reason why this is a great activity for even the littlest of students.

Here is the TEMPLATE for you, along with some tips and specific information on the "how to". When you click the link, it will show a blank white rectangle ... don't worry! Clicking the "Use Template" in the upper right corner will make you your own copy and allow you to see the tips and instructions I've included.

If you'd like to have your students create a header, now that you have your own copy, share it to your Classroom using the "make a copy for each student" option (or groups of students), and let them go to town! As with all my templates, feel free to adjust any of the info I've included on the Drawing - just don't adjust the size of the Drawing. This will give you the best base to start with.

Good luck! If you have your students create headers, please let me know! I'd love to see them! You can tag me on Twitter (@kiefersj), comment below, or even email me . I enjoy seeing what students create! 

Looking for additional info about Google Classroom?

Sunday, August 18, 2019

Guardian Emails You Can Do

With the beginning of the year, a topic that is super close to my heart is communication. I can't stress to teachers enough how important it is to have clear and consistent communication. I adopted this philosophy early in my career and it definitely paid off. And being a mom to three girls in school, this is also an important topic on the home front as a parent. I love my girls, but let's be honest, they don't always come home and detail out their day like I would like. Anyway I can gain more insight to their day is very welcome!

Are you a Google Classroom user?

Perfect! You have to try out the Guardian email feature. Beyond the initial setup, there is nothing for teachers to do. And the guardians will receive an email daily or weekly, based on their preferences.


Yes, it's that easy.

Looking for a little more help? Looking to convince others to try it out? I've got you.

I've also started collecting Google Classroom ideas/tips/tricks in a Wakelet collection. I've included a link to the official Classroom help site about Guardian summaries in it, too. 
You can check it out here ↬

Have a question or comment? Feel free to comment below, reach out to me on Twitter @kiefersjor email me at .

Monday, August 12, 2019

Back to School Activities You Can Do

 It's the time of year when most schools are heading back to class! As Summer 2019 draws to a close, I'm excited to see what the 2019/2020 school year has in store. I will return to Ross in the same position - which I absolutely love! - and I'm excited to see how we grow, the new challenges we will face, the new people we will meet, and how we will work together to accomplish all that is in store for us.

As I see it, each new year presents me with the opportunity to reinvent myself, in a way. We have a whole new group of students to work with, we have new colleagues to meet, we might have new "things" in our classrooms, or we might be starting over in a completely new place. A new school year for teachers is very much like a new school year as a student. 

As we prepare to return to school, I thought I'd share a couple activities you can do with your students. AND ... they do not have to be digital!

Back-to-School Bento: I came across this tweet by @ClassroomQuips awhile back where a teacher shared about a #BookBento. I was intrigued! For starters, I had no idea what a bento was. Once I had that figured out, I fell in love with the simplicity of the photo. I knew it would make a great digital activity. When I sat down to create one, I realized I didn't want to confine you or your students based on my design. Instead, I created a Slide deck with a VERY basic example, and then a couple of slides with some teacher tips as well as how to use this beyond the first week or so of school. I also encourage you to take a look at the #BookBento hashtag on Twitter for how others are creating.

Using this for a beginning of the year activity, I'd go one of three ways:
  • All About Me Bento ↬ have the students bring in items (or do an image search) that give you info about themselves
  • Summer Vacation Bento  students can tell the story of their summer, in pictures!
  • Goals Bento  ask students to share goals they have for this school year
  • ... don't worry, I tucked in a few ideas of how you can use bentos later in the year.

Or allow your students to choose which one(s) they want to do. 

Here is a link to the example with teacher tips: Back-to-School Bento

[Pssst! You do not have to do this digitally! Allow students to draw their bento's!]

Another option ...

How about a video? A video can be a wonderful way to be introduced to your students. (I also think it can give you a baseline of information for your student. You can brainstorm as a class what they might want to include in their video. You could also incorporate writing by having them write a script for their video. 

How can this happen?
  • Have ipads? turn on the camera and move to video mode. Pair students up and make it a collaborative effort. The videos then "live" on the iPad. Your students can upload to Google Drive, or submit via Google Classroom
  • Have chromebooks? use Screencastify extension to have students record themselves. Screencastify can automatically save to Drive, so have students either share it to you or submit via Google Classroom.
  • Interested in an online method? Try out Flipgrid! The whole point to Flipgrid is to be able to share videos! Don't worry, you can protect your grids so they are not publicly accessible, an it's FREE! If you allow students to see each others videos, they can comment on them and you can incorporate discussion on appropriate commenting. 

If you have gone back -- if you are heading back this week -- or if you don't go back for a little while, just remember, the relationship you build with your students starts every day. Smile and listen. One day at a time. I'll be right there, too, next week. We can and do make a difference in the lives of our students.

Have a question or comment? Feel free to comment below, reach out to me on Twitter @kiefersjor email me at .