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.
Sunday, October 25, 2020
Sunday, October 18, 2020
- 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
- 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"
- words spoken
- match image to word
- timer is an option
- cards can be numbered
Sunday, October 11, 2020
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.
Sunday, October 4, 2020
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.
- 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.
Sunday, September 27, 2020
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?
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:
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.
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.
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:
- A Deep Dive into Google Classroom Settings You Can Do
- Google Classroom Item Types You Can Do
- Google Classroom "To Do/To Review" You Can Do
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 - email@example.com - or Tweet at me @kiefersj.
Sunday, September 20, 2020
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.
In the upcoming weeks, I plan to share about guardian summaries and better assisting parents with Classroom. Stay tuned for some deep dives!
Sunday, September 13, 2020
I am finding it more important than ever to help teachers understand and use the right "item type" in Google Classroom. While it may not seem necessary, please understand it DOES make difference. It became incredibly clear to me during the spring closure. And now, I hope to help teachers put intentional thought into the use each of the item types in Classroom.
Last week, I shared "Google Classroom "To Do/To Review" You Can Do". Using the right item type will help keep your students To Do list clear and easy to use. It will also help keep your To Review list clean and organized.
There are currently 7 item types in Classroom. It is important to put thought into the item types you select. They each have a purpose. They each have a meaning. If we use the item type that truly matches the intention we have planned for our students, it will go a long way in keeping out Classrooms organized and packed with purpose. Our students (and their families) deserve this. I also see a big payoff for teachers - the more clear our setup is, the fewer questions we will have to answer.
Another big tip I want to pass on ... be sure to specifically teach your students about the icons. Teaching them intentionally to recognize the icons will also payoff in the long run. When you understand and use the right item type, and they recognize the icons and their purpose, everyone wins.
In the presentation below, I share the purpose and when to use each item type. The final two Slides are meant to be printed and kept close at hand for when you are creating in your Google Classroom. A link for you to view & print is below the Slides.
To view this Google Slides, please click on the link "Google Classroom Item Types". You are welcome to print any/all of this. Please also share with your colleagues. If we all operate from a consistent place, everyone will be better organized.
In the upcoming weeks, I plan to share about top settings and guardian summaries in Classroom. Stay tuned for some deep dives!
Monday, September 7, 2020
Google Classroom got a few - much needed - features in August. One that has been a "game changer" is the new "To Do" & "To Review" section. This is NOT to be overlooked, especially with your students. In the spring, one of the biggest headaches for students and their parents at home was knowing what to do and when it was due.
With the "To Do" feature - and some specific teaching - students will have clear knowledge of what is due and when. Be sure to show this to your students and explain how helpful it is. It will also help YOU see Classroom how they see it. (I showed the To Do to my own 5th & 3rd grade daughters and it truly is SUPER easy to read.) The To Do list layers all classes for students.
For teachers, the "To Review" feature will provide a simple and clear way to easily see work that has been assigned and what needs to (and can be) graded. You can see all of your classes layered together OR select one class and focus in.
Below are Slides I created to help guide teachers in this new reality of face-to-face, blended, hybrid, or remote teaching and learning. I start with Google Classroom specific vocabulary and then a quick overview of each of the new pieces as well as some suggestions on organizing Classroom. Keep in mind, simplicity and clarity are your best friends.
Organize Classroom through your students eyes and you will have a very successful year! I always wanted my students to spend their time doing the work rather than figuring out what they needed to do and when it was due. On the final slide, I share some organizational strategies you can implement, too.
Sunday, August 30, 2020
I've been trying to write this for 3 weeks. As with most everything in 2020, plans changed. I should already have had 2 weeks of school under my belt by now, but my first day is this coming Thursday. My oldest daughter still has a week of summer vacation before starting high school. I should have spent the majority of this weekend at a soccer tournament. I don't think I have the right words, but I need to get this out. I know I can.
This reality has a new feeling ... I hesitate to call this "normal" ... I don't want this to BE normal. This reality has new and different challenges. I've shed tears and I know more will come. I've been angry and felt defeated. COVID-19 has rocked me. What started out as a 3 week pause, turned into a full remote learning for the entire fourth quarter. Then summer was extended as guidelines changed and precautions were outlined and new safety measures were developed.
With everything, I know I have a choice. I have a choice with my words and my actions. I may not like my choices, but they are there for me to make the best of. I'm not perfect and I won't always make the right choice.
We say the same thing to our daughters here at home. My youngest two girls started school this past week. Face-to-face, five days a week. They have to have their temperatures taken before entering school. They wear masks. They mostly sit in their desks. Specials teachers come to their rooms. They sit on dots spaced out in the cafeteria. And when we explained the "rules" for school, they smiled and accepted them. They don't like wearing masks, but they wanted to go back to school. I cried when we dropped them off ... HAPPY tears! After 5 months, they were back in school.
I don't want this to be "normal" ... but I have accepted this is what we have to do right now. And I want to face this head on and do the best I can.
I listened to one of my favorite podcasts this morning on my post-run cool down. The Innovator's Mindset by George Couros. It was 10 minutes long and he talked about giving grace to others and yourself. He said it well when he said it's easy to give others grace but often, it's tough to give it to ourselves. That is so very true! Give your students grace; give their parents grace; give your colleagues grace; give your administrators grace; and give YOURSELF grace. You can.
As this school year starts, I don't know truly what to expect. I hope I meet the challenges head on. I hope I ask for and seek help when I need it. I hope that my daughters have a good year. I hope that we all stay healthy. I hope we use this forced change to improve everything we do. I hope that we will look back on this school year and say, with confidence, we did it!
Sunday, August 2, 2020
Sunday, July 26, 2020
Sunday, July 12, 2020
Sunday, July 5, 2020
- Monday, July 6 (1-3 pm EST): Google Drive You Can Do
- Tuesday, July 7 (9 pm): I will be participating in a Twitter chat about the book "Innovate Inside the Box" by George Couros & Katie Novak.
- Thursday, July 9 (1 pm EST): I will also be presenting for GEG Louisiana, "Working Together to Support Our Students"
- Friday, July 10 (6 pm): EdChange Global Conference: I'll present "Build an App for Your Classroom"
- Saturday, July 11 (8 am): EdChange Global Conference: I'll present "Start Google Classroom on the Right Foot"
Sunday, June 28, 2020
1. This link is what it looked like prior to the recording. (If you want to "play along", make a copy of this one so you can do it authentically on your own.)
2. This link is the after version with all the changes made during the presentation. (Feel free to view/make a copy of what mine looked like afterwards.)
Sunday, June 14, 2020
Today's share is directed to you as a person, more than you as a teacher. During the school year, I focus far more on academic shares, so today is meant to help you in your life outside of school.
- purchase more?
- delete things?