Sunday, December 27, 2020

2020: We Did It!

2020 has been quite the year! Ups and downs, ins and outs, twists and turns. It's a relief to be able to say "I've done it! I've made it!" ... and I'll bet you feel the same. 😀I truly hope we do not experience another year like this anytime soon.

When I look back at who I was and where I was one year ago, and I think about how I was looking forward to the challenges 2020 was going to bring, I could not have ever predicted what we have all gone through. I had plans for 2020 - and then they went sideways.

I'm not going to spend today mourning what could have been. Instead, I'm going to celebrate my 10 most read blogs from the year as a recap. The pandemic played a major role in what I wrote for the majority of the year - and that's what I want to celebrate. We might all be in different spots, but there are so many similarities that bring us together.

Not surprising, many of the top read are about Google Classroom. It has become a passion of mine to share tips and resources about Classroom. And during the spring closure, I had quite the revelation: we teachers need to stop looking at Classroom (or whatever you LMS is) as teachers. We must look at it as a student and then design our Classrooms with THEM as our driving principle. That shines as a guiding principle for many of my blogs this year.

Here are the "10 Most Read Blogs of 2020" ⤸ 

#10: Google Photos e-portfolio You Can Do - Are you looking for an easy way for students to share their paper work? How about using Google Photos? This is perfect for students of ALL ages! As the teacher, create the album for each student & share it to their account. Using the comment feature, you can also provide feedback on work they upload. Best part ... it all stays connected to the students' Google accounts!

#9: Grading Forms in Classroom You Can Do - I worked closely with a 4th grade teacher to create this workflow. Grading and returning a Google Form in Classroom so students can see both their grade and any feedback you provide is not the easiest ... but it IS possible! The key is in the settings you do - and don't worry, if you don't get it right before having students complete it, you can always come back and fix it!

#8: Google Classroom Item Types You Can Do - One of the easiest things a teacher can do to better organize and use Google Classroom is to strictly stick to using the best item type for the material being posted. During the spring closure, I found a lack of understanding of what the items types are "best" for. I share an entire presentation with specifics for each item type. (Be sure to check out the final 2 slides - they are handy, ready-to-print reference sheets!) And when you post your material strategically using the best item type, your students (& their parents!) will have less confusion as to what must be done.

#7: Insert Audio (... for kids!) You Can Do - And amazing update to Google Slides is the ability to add audio! Not only can you add audio, so can your students! When I shared this out in early 2020, my focus was not just on the teacher adding audio, but I shared this geared towards showing your students how to add audio. Step-by-step directions AND a quick-print PDF makes it even easier for you to add audio. Game changer for sure! 

#6: Research Template You Can Do - Many of my blogs are inspired by my day job, but quite a few are inspired because I am also a mom. I teach in a different district than where my girls go school, so I get to see how even more teachers teach. This one was inspired by how my middle daughter was doing research for a report. In all honesty, she wasn't taught HOW to research. I realized that for the most part, we AREN'T teaching our students HOW, so I created this template that ANY teacher can take, insert their specifics, and share it to students to provide a structured approach to teaching students how to research.  

 New Quarter = New Classroom You Can Do - With our "new normal", our need to keep our digital classrooms organized is even more important. Many teachers aren't teaching students in face-to-face situations, some are in hybrid situations, and some, even though they are face-to-face, rely heavily on digital classrooms to lessen the use of paper. I STRONGLY recommend starting with a NEW classroom at the quarter/grading breaks. Use these 7 steps to help you, your students, and their parents focus on the now.

#4: A Deeper Dive into Google Classroom Posting Options You Can Do - Did you know there are many posting options in Google Classroom? And just like item types, use them strategically to "better" organize your materials and you'll reap the benefits. Topics, scheduling, and draft mode will allow you to plan ahead, organize, and have material "magically" show up just when you want or need it to. Design your Classroom through lens of your students. It will pay off. I promise.

#3: Classroom Header Template You Can Do - This is purely for fun! Google Classroom provides a somewhat random image for your header. Based on the name you give your Classroom, you might get lucky that it matches the content. However, you CAN choose your own header, or even better, create your own and then upload it for a custom look. But, this allows you to go one step further ... include your students on the design of your Classroom and give them some ownership and pride in the look of the Classroom they use just as much as you. This can be a class project!

#2: Starting Google Classroom You Can Do - How much thought have you put into setting up your Google Classroom - or other digital classroom? My second most read blog in 2020 is one where I share an 8 ideas to really put some thought into as you set up your new Classrooms. If you are an administrator, I also recommend you go through this process as it will give you insight as to your recommendations for the teachers you serve and support. Doing this process as a teaching team, or even whole building, and ultimately aligning the general structure of ALL digital Classrooms will benefit your teachers, your students, and your parents. Not having to "learn" a new structure for each teacher will lessen the frustration at home, and right now, that is super important. 

P.S. this process can work for ANY digital classroom, not just Google Classrooms.

#1: Google Classroom "To Do/To Review" You Can Do - Late summer always brings updates to Classroom and this year is no exception. This year's BIG update was a "To Do" (for students) and a "To Review" (for students). THIS. WAS. MAJOR. With a click on the "To Do", students can now see all of their assigned work for all classes, or just one class. This simple look is game changer! I also tucked in a view of the teacher's "To Review" where you will see ALL assignments, or assignments for a specific class. This blog also shares some overall guidance for Google Classrooms.

I hope you enjoy this final week of 2020 and that you are able to rest, relax, and enjoy. Thank you for reading and sharing my blog out. I absolutely love creating, designing, and sharing out what I do. I truly hope that it is helpful. I will continue to share in 2021. And thanks to a conversation with a colleague and friend, I have a pretty awesome one to start the year off with! As a district we will start the new year off remotely and she was struggling with setting boundaries with students in this digital world.

Please feel free to comment below ⤵ - Tweet at me @kiefersj - on Facebook Sarah Kiefer - or even email me I'd love to hear from you!

Sunday, December 20, 2020

Innovation You Can Do

Have you had an idea of something to do or try but you are stumped with how to go about moving forward? I've been there so many times and I've seen so many educators in the same boat. Today, I want to share a framework for anyone who would like to move forward with an idea but aren't really sure where or how to start.

First, a little background. I was honored to attend the Google Innovator Academy in October of 2019. The goal of the academy is to produce a project that helps others. I focused on the idea that teachers have many ideas of ways to improve education but we struggle with execution. Time, energy, and direction are the hurdles. And often, it's overwhelming to try to tackle anything more while teaching full-time.

BUT I truly believe we, teachers, hold the keys to improving education.

With that in mind, my Innovator project is a framework to help you through the process of starting with an idea, to growing and changing and enhancing the idea, to ultimately what the designer sees as a "launch". No two projects are alike or will take the same path, so the framework is meant to guide the designer, rather than dictate a specific path. Ideally, the designer will team up with someone else to work on their idea. Having someone to lean on, ask questions of, bounce ideas off of, and to support can make a huge difference. Too many ideas are sidelined because the designer becomes stuck or lost or overwhelmed.

I'm grateful to three colleagues who've utilized my framework to further an idea they've had. One of these has gone through to a launch, the other two have been put on hold due to COVID. That's another piece to this - the projects won't be lost. We decided to put them on pause and we can pick it back up when we are ready and have the appropriate time and energy to put into it.

The one project that has gone through to launch has inspired me to spiral off of it to start work on a similar project that I will also use with the framework.

I am sharing the framework with you today. I've called it "Innovation You Can Do." This framework can be used both 100% digitally OR it can be printed on paper. Of the 3 projects I've been part of, all have preferred it on paper. We wanted to jot our notes during our meetings as well as in between our meetings.

Would you like your own copy of this workbook? Here's a link to the template versionHands down, I feel the "Idea Investigation" page is the foundation. I hope if you see it having potential use for you that you DO use it. I do plan on doing a few solo projects where the "Idea Investigation" is the only piece I will use. I know this page will force me to go through the process of solidifying my idea by turning it over and thinking it through.

I'd love feedback - whether you use this framework or not. Is there something I can improve? Do you have an idea or a project you want to use it with? Feel free! Let me know if I can help or be part of it. 

Do you have a comment about this framework? Feel free to leave it below ⤵

Or Tweet at me @kiefersj 

Or connect with me on Facebook - Sarah Kiefer

So many ideas have value ... but if you don't give them the space to grow, you'll never know!

Sunday, December 13, 2020

Gmail: Accounts, Categories, & Filters You Can Do

I'm baaaaaaccckkkk! I took a much needed break the past few weeks but I'm back today to share some tips on how you can wrap up the year & head into the new year strong with better control over your inbox.

I don't know about you, but these days I feel like I have to really work to keep my email under control. Communication is massively important and email plays a large role in my ability to communicate and be communicated with. I am jealous of the people who can achieve a "zero inbox". (If I am being brutally honest, my goal - NOW - is to have less than 100 unread emails!) I truly believe there is no one right way to handle your inbox, but there are several things you can do to make it your inbox better. 

I have taken some steps over the years to help myself stay "better" organized in my emails - I have strict boundaries on the email accounts I have: one for personal, one for school, one for my Tech You Can Do items, and one that I am honestly trying to wean off of entirely. I have also become a big believer in the use of categories in Gmail and as well as filters.

Let's dive into my top 3 Gmail tips. (There might even be a bonus tucked in!) Try these tips on your inbox and I promise you won't regret it!

I hope you found something worthwhile. Managing your inbox is necessary, but it doesn't have to be overwhelming.

I've linked to my GMail Wakelet collection on the final slide - be sure to check it out for some other tips and ideas for your inbox.

Have any questions or comments? Be sure to leave them below ... or Tweet at me - @kiefersj ... or email me - .

Sunday, November 22, 2020

Digital Learning Journal Your STUDENTS Can Do (& a bonus!)

We went back face-to-face 5 days a week in September. It has gone far better than any of us truly thought it would. It has been an adjustment, but we've done the best we can. As to be expected, we have had students who need to do school from home, for various lengths of time. Since my buildings are elementary, not everything is best done on a computer. Sometimes paper work is the best way for students to do work. (Don't get me wrong, there are plenty of great tech uses for remote learning; but sometimes, paper is better.)

I was asked this question
, "How does a student return this work, in a timely manner?" I did some thinking ... adding an image directly into Google Classroom, while possible, isn't super easy - especially for younger students. BUT ... inserting images in Google Slides IS pretty easy! (Even for those who've not done it before.)

As a result, I designed the "Digital Learning Journal" to fill this need. There is no way I could predict how many slides everyone would need, so I designed templates on the Slides Masters. It's now as simple as adding in a new slide! And you can worry less about students deleting things you don't want them to.

To walk you through this journal, I made a video hoping it explains it better and more concisely than I could write it. (The journal is below the video.)

Like what you see in the video? Here is the Digital Learning Journal:

Would you like to make a copy for yourself? Here is a template link for the "Digital Learning Journal."

Now, here is my recommendation - make your own copy, then create an assignment in Classroom and use the make a copy in Google Classroom for each student. Don't add a topic to the assignment so it will be "pinned" at the top. This makes it SUPER easy for students to find and add work in. I suggest explaining it to all of your students ... and explain this is for when/if they do school at home. (You certainly don't have to do it this way - you could opt to ONLY assign it if/when a student needs to do work at home. Either way works - just please explain this to your students.)

Finally, I promised a "bonus", too, in the title. I added a template to my co-created site, It goes back to my intentional focus on Google Classroom. This time it's for parents. I called it "Google Classroom for Parents." It's a "1 pager" meant to help guide parents to the key pieces in Google Classroom. I hope it helps. Supporting our parents who are working with our kiddos at home is important, too. Keep it simple - they don't need to know everything - the basics are perfect!

And as always, feel free to check out my Google Classroom Wakelet collection. Lots of good tips, tricks, and resources to help you make Classroom work for you.

Or connect & follow me on social media - all of my links are in the top right corner of my blog under my picture.

*** Every Monday, I share a newsletter with a collection of Tech You Can Do resources. It is delivered right to your inbox. Interested? 
Sign up here!  ***

Sunday, November 15, 2020

Gratitude A-Z You Can Do

This week I am taking a pause from Google Classroom because November is quite possibly one of my favorite months! I'll be 100% honest - it IS my birthday month, BUT honest and truly, I love the leaves changing ... I love the fall smell in the air ... I love how some days are warm, but some have a chill ... and most of all, I love Thanksgiving. My mom does an AMAZING Thanksgiving dinner. The entire nine yards. Yum!!!

This year has been a tough year. Yes, all around T O U G H. But here we are. It's mid-November. I can smell the turkey. I can taste my mom's dinner rolls and the pumpkin pie. (I load mine with Cool whip!) Yum yum yum.

While it's been a tough year, I still know I have a lot to be grateful for. I write 6 items I am grateful for each day in my journal. My family is always number one. Our health is number two. Sometimes it's the weather, sometimes it's a co-worker who has been incredibly helpful; it has been that my husband didn't lose his job, my daughter didn't need stitches, we all got to go back to school, and so on.

The activity I'm sharing today is "Gratitude A-Z You Can Do" and has all the slides A-Z in the add a slide area, so it won't overwhelm any student. Instruct students to complete 1 slide each day, or multiple. It's a total of 26 slides. Not sure you can devote that much time to it? Have students spell out their name or "thankful" or another Thanksgiving-related word.

Interested in making your own copy? Click on this link for "Gratitude A-Z You Can Do." Now you can use your own copy to create an Assignment in Google Classroom (or your chosen LMS). I highly recommend using the "Make a copy" for each student.

In case you are looking for more, or even something additional, last year I shared the activity I created for 4th graders in my district. I called it "Thankful Thoughts You Can Do". (Feel free to click the link and explore that activity.) I've also been collecting Thanksgiving-related activities in, you guessed it, a Thanksgiving collection. I hope you and your students enjoy!

Do you know of other good activities? I'd love to add them. You can leave them in the comments below ⤵ or connect with me on the socials - linked above right

Sunday, November 8, 2020

New Quarter = New Classroom You Can Do

New Quarter equals New Google Classroom
It's November. Pause and take a deep breath. We've made it this far. Whatever your situation - you've made it. You've done it. Yay! Let's celebrate! 🙌

Whew! Our 1st quarter has ended and 2nd quarter starts Monday. A new quarter means new opportunities. Adjustments. Keep what is working and adjust what needs tweaking or updating or overhauling. This is the perfect time to make improvements to your digital classrooms, too.

I've shared suggestions with my teachers and today I've formalized it a bit and I'm sharing today. I've outlined 7 easy steps to starting this quarter - and each future quarter - on a 'better' foot. 

The first Slide is a comprehensive overview of all the steps. (I've included a link to a PDF for quick & easy printing below, if interested.) Slides 2-7 provide a bit of detail and further explanation for each step. The final Slide shares links to specific Google Classroom resources that might be helpful.


Interested in printing the overview Slide? Here's a PDF link to Slide 1 for quick reference. 

Interested in seeing this presentation in a new window? Here's a link: New Quarter = New Google Classroom presentation.

Looking for additional Google Classroom support? 

Sunday, November 1, 2020

Google Sheets in the Classroom You Can Do

Last week I shared one of the presentations I did at TCCA. This week, I'm sharing the other one. Google Sheets in the Classroom is focused on using Google Sheets with students in your classroom. Sheets - at first glance - is a spreadsheet tool. And you're not wrong ... but as with so many of the Google tools, don't just use it for its initial use. Look beyond.

Google Sheets has the ability to break any activity or task into multiple parts ... use the tabs at the bottom in a similar manner to new slides in Google Slides or a new page in Google Docs. You can insert images two different ways; merge cells to make larger spots; change the font, the font size and color; fill cells with color; and so much more! I also built my entire presentation IN Sheets so that you can see quickly how versatile Sheets truly can be.

In my presentation, I share 5 activities I've created for use in classrooms. I also share one of my favorite tools - - where Steve shares numerous pre-made activities you can also do. ALL use Sheets as its creation tool. My favorites are the Flashcards, Spelling Words, Matching Game, and Timeline. Sooooo many more - I encourage you to check them and use them. But don't stop there ... encourage your STUDENTS to also use them and build their own.

The most common comment I hear when I bring up using Sheets with teacher and students is that Sheets is very intimidating and teachers are uncomfortable using it. I want to change that. I'm hoping that by sharing this presentation and activities, teachers will see Sheets as a valuable tool.

And here is my presentation, Google Sheets for the Classroom

I hope you try out at least one of the activities with your students. I do believe that Sheets is a wonderful addition to every class.

One more thing ... if you are interested in learning more & going more in depth with Google Sheets, I did a 2 hour webinar this past summer called "Intro to Google Sheets". I'd love it if you check this one out, too!

Do you have any questions? Need or want some help? I'd love to help. Please feel free to comment below ... Tweet at me @kiefersj ... find me on Facebook ... or even email me

And don't forget ... I have a Google Sheets Wakelet collection where I'm always adding to it with awesome Sheets tips, tricks, and resources.

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 .

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 & 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! 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 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" 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 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:

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 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: - 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 - - or Tweet at me @kiefersj

Sunday, September 20, 2020

A Deep Dive into Google Classroom Settings You Can Do

Google Classroom A Deep Dive into the settings.
As promised, today we are going on a deep dive into the settings you can adjust and customize in Google Classroom. These settings can go a long way in making your Classroom experience smooth and efficient. Below, I breakdown 4 main settings areas that you should be comfortable with. 

As with many things in Google, you can adjust any of these settings and "live" with them for awhile and change them again if they aren't working for you. I always recommend NOT changing a default setting - what is turned on OR off prior to you making changes - unless you are confident on what you are adjusting. Talking with other teachers who use Classroom, or reach out to me, will help you make a decision that works well.

Many of the settings are going to directly impact you, the teacher. Some settings will adjust what Classroom looks like for your students. 

In the presentation below, I share four different settings areas in Classroom. I suggest you have your Classroom open in another tab or window, or even on another device so you can make adjustments that you are comfortable with as you go through this. As I mentioned before, making a change now is not permanent. Feel free to adjust these settings as the year progresses.

Over the past 6 months or so, I've written about Google Classroom several times. If you are looking for more info or assistance with Classroom, please click on this link to all of the "Google Classroom" blogs I've written.

In the upcoming weeks, I plan to share about guardian summaries and better assisting parents with Classroom. Stay tuned for some deep dives!

Google Classroom Wakelet collection

I highly recommend checking out my Google Classroom Wakelet collection, too. I continually am curating tips, tricks, and resources to better support our use of Classroom.

Do you have questions? Comments? I'd love to hear from you in the comments below. You can also Tweet at me ... @kiefersj or email me