Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Tech Tip Tuesday: Using Google Drive for Collaborative Planning

Most teachers these days are involved in collaborative planning of some sort- whether it is collaborative grade level planning, or planning collaboratively with a co-teacher or specialist. Usually this means all the required participants must sit in a room together for an 45 minutes to an hour during a planning period, hashing it all out. If someone's out for a workshop or sick day, the  everyone else has to take up the slack.

But, why not let Google Drive revolutionize your collaborative planning? Teammates can easily input their information into a shared Google Doc, and everyone can see at a glance what everyone else is doing or planning for the week. This means mainstream classroom teachers who are departmentalized (as was 3rd, 4th and 5th at my last school) can easily plan cross-curricular connections into their lessons because they know what everyone else on the team is teaching at all times. Specialists can always come to classes prepared, because they know from the shared planning document what you will be doing. Planning a shared lesson that everyone teaches is a breeze as team members can easily add their portion of the lesson to the shared doc.

Even better, if your plans change because of an unexpected assembly, or because you found kids weren't getting it and you need to reloop instead of moving forward, then that information can be noted in the shared document, and is instantly available to all participants, so they can adjust their plans accordingly. If team members have a question about something that someone has input into the shared document, these questions can be asked, answered, and resolved via the "comments" feature. Lesson resources (videos, websites, links to activities) can be easily linked to.

For some of the teachers that I've worked with, this has transformed collaborative planning from a rushed, poorly executed activity to a truly streamlined and effective component of instructional planning. The hour spent together in a room is now a chance to explore and outline effective cross-curricular or shared lesson planning, while teachers can add their piece to the shared document later in the day from the comfort of their home. A few minutes nightly to update the document to reflect the day's accomplishments and any adjustments to the next day's plan keeps everyone up-to-date and on the same page.

Here's what some real, live teachers say about using Google to collaborate:

  • "I love collaborating with Google Drive because it is an easy way to stay immediately up-to-date, and split the workload between teachers. We can share information and stay up to date on student data and behaviors with input from several teachers on a live document. My co-teacher can go in and add modifications, or copy and add a different version of a document."- Science in the City
  • "My entire social science department uses Google Drive to share lesson plans and teaching resources. We organize them by subject and unit so they are easy to find. We also use Google Docs to write down our weekly collaboration minutes and we also have included a list of common formative assessments. This will make it easy for teachers in the future to access all the information as well as our principal."- History Chalk Talk
  • "Having a shared Google Drive allows our PLC to share resources that we might not have time to share otherwise. It also gives us a chance to share our strengths and learn from each other!"- Teaching Teens in the 21st
  • "For our PLCs, I create a google document in goggle drive and type the standards that we'll be covering the following week. Then each person on my teams goes into the document and "signs up" for a standard and brings ideas and lessons to share directly related to the SOLs."- The Teaching Oasis
  • "It would honestly change my world as at ITRT at 4 different elementary schools if I we didn't have access to the collaboration feature within Google Drive. Since I am at each school once a week, Google allows for me to plan quality lessons with my teachers so we are both on the same page about the lesson we will co-teacher together. Being able to collaborate with other ITRTs on my team is extremely helpful, especially since we don't get to see each other often."- The Techie Teacher 
  • "Through using Google Drive my co-workers and I can share lesÃ¥son plans, to do lists, student data, and pass notes during professional development .  We use this tool to share activities easily even when we are home with a sick child or out of state at a conference."- Learning Ahoy!

Are you using Google Drive as a tool for collaborative planning? How is it going? Tell me in the comments.

Saturday, January 23, 2016

5 Things Every Teacher Does on a Snow Day

Well, I don't know about the rest of you, but I live in the DC Metro area. Which means, right now, we're under a few feet of snow already, and more is coming. As in, it started snowing yesterday and won't stop until sometime tomorrow.

We also got an inch of snow on Wednesday night- two nights before a possibly historic blizzard- that brought the DC Metro area to a grinding halt and caused traffic delays into the next day. Needless to say, after that and with the impending snow, we had Thursday and Friday off too. Snow days are really a mixed blessing- sure, the unexpected time off is nice....until you have to make it up in summer!

So, with that, I decided to make a list of things that teachers do on snow days.

I thought you all might need some suggestions to occupy yourself. Since, you know....it's a "FREE DAY" and all....

1. Sleep in.
Haha just kidding! That text that told you school was canceled for a snow day came in at 4:30 AM- 30 minutes before your alarm was set to go off. Now, you're wide awake and can't go back to sleep. So much for sleeping in on a snow day! I'm sure there's papers to grade around here somewhere...

2. Relax with a nice cup of coffee or even a glass of wine.
Relax? What is this, some parallel universe? Chances are you're spilling that cup of coffee all over the papers that you still need to grade because grades are still due tomorrow when everyone is back at school. Or maybe those lesson plans that you're trying to catch up on (again, being honest- what teacher ever manages to really "get ahead"? Hahaha) have a few tell-tale and hastily wiped away drops. Either way, there may be coffee (or wine) in your cup, but there's no relaxation going on in here!

3. Catch up on housekeeping.
Are you kidding me? After shoveling all that snow? I've been up since 4:30 AM lesson planning, grading and shoveling snow. I hardly have energy to take off all my snow gear. Now you want me to clean the house? You're crazy.

4. Cook inspired and tasty dishes from pinterest.
Yeah, right. Two after-school meetings and one after-school workshop this week, and I barely had time to make it to the store for milk and bread, much less full scale shopping. My fridge consists of 1 half-full box of wine, some ketchup, a shriveled head of lettuce, a few questionable pickles and leftovers from last weekend. What gourmet pintrest treat could I possibly make? We all know it's Count Chocula and wine for lunch- especially since all your frozen lunches are in the freezer at school. The family gets milk sandwiches for dinner. Ketchup optional.

5. Read for fun.
But first, you've got to read two chapters for the PD course you're taking to renew your certification, respond to the article your principal sent you on Raising Rigor in the Classroom, and prepare your discussion points on this week's chapter for the book study your grade-level PLC is doing. Then, *maybe* you'll have time to read something for fun....oh, who are we kidding?

It's almost a relief when the snow day is over, isn't it? No matter how you've been spending your snow days, I hope you enjoy them! If you're wondering why teachers get snow days, check out this article.

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Tech Tip Tuesday: Google Classroom Tips and Tricks

As more and more schools are jumping on the GAFE bandwagon, going paperless, and moving 1:1, many of you have set up a Google Classroom and are starting to wonder how you can use this tool to effectively share digital content with your students. This week's Tech Tip Tuesday focuses on sharing the tech know-how you need to get started! Here are some of the common questions I've received.

How do I assign/share a file in Google Classroom?
I created this quick, easy video to show you how!

Sunday, January 10, 2016

Introducing: Google Drive Interactive Notebooks: D.R.I.V.E. Learning!

This is a bit of a shameless plug. I know, I know...but, I think you'll like it!

Maybe you are a teacher at a school that is going paperless or 1:1 and you know you need to figure this whole "digital classroom" thing out but you're at a loss. Maybe you just want to start using Google Drive in your classroom on occasion but don't know how. Maybe you're already savvy about Google Drive but don't have time to create the content. Whatever the case- I have just the thing for you!

My newest product line is a series of ready-made Interactive Digital Notebooks for Google Drive. The only thing you have to do to implement with students is save a copy to your drive, share to students, and that's it. The students then open in their drive, complete the activities, and share back to you for grading. It's that simple. Integrating with Google Classroom makes it even easier! Each purchase also includes a detailed QuickStart Guide with screenshots, directions and even videos showing you how to implement!

Here's a preview of what my American Revolution Interactive Digital Notebook Includes:

Why use my interactive digital notebooks?
-No lugging home a pile of notebooks to grade weekly
-Easily store finished work for later review- no more lost notebooks!
-Can be completed anywhere the student has access to their Google Drive
-Save paper! No photocopying!
-Students can work directly in the file
-Files can be printed to display final products or for students with special IEP needs
-Helps prepare students to work digitally later in school, college and the job field
-Great for ELLs!
-Engaging and easy to use!

Why this is great for ELLs:

Often, ELLs do not have access to technology at home. It is important that we provide them with opportunities to work with current apps and technology in the classroom, since they will need these skills in higher education and the job field. The nature of these activities makes it easy to differentiate for your ELLs as well!

I hope you'll hop on over to my store and check these awesome tools out! I only have five up right now, but there are more on the way!

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Tech Tip Tuesday: Read and Write for Google Chrome

Oh my goodness. It's been awhile, hasn't it? Last semester was simply a whirlwind for me. I was teaching a graduate class and had to take two to renew my certification....all in addition to my regular gig as an ESOL coach! Needless to say, something had to take back burner and it was my beloved blog. Fortunately for me, things have eased up and I can get back to sharing great tricks and tips with you!!

Before I delve into this week's tech tip, I'm excited to share that I am now a Certified Google for Education Trainer! It was a lot of hard work, but I've learned so much I can't wait to share with you....

Like this week's gem- Read&Write for Google Chrome! This tool is an extension that works only with the Google Chrome browser. It has so many cool features that can help students who struggle with reading and writing- whether they struggle with language proficiency or something else. With this tool students can:

  • Hear words or passages read aloud (documents and websites)
  • See the meanings of words with embedded text and picture dictionaries
  • Hear text translated into other languages
  • Simplify and summarize text on webpages
  • Use speech-to-text for writing support
It initially begins with a 30-day trial for the full feature version, but teachers are eligible for a FREE premium subscription after install.

Why this is great for ELLs:
This tool can be great for providing reading and writing support, especially for students at lower language proficiency levels. The translation features can allow students to stay current on course content even if they have not fully acquired the English language. When used properly, this tool can be an excellent way to differentiate in the classroom. Additionally, if used at home, this can be a great homework support.

Have you used this tool in your classroom? I'd love to hear how!

Monday, December 28, 2015

ELL Strategy: Vocabulary Explorers

This strategy focuses on helping students acquire academic language through really getting to know the word- not just the word’s meaning, but how it is used in context. This activity gives students the opportunity to learn and apply new academic vocabulary in a rich, meaningful way.

Each student will need an index card, at least 4”x 6” or larger, and a pencil. Follow the procedure below:

  1. Introduce the word in a meaningful context. All students should hear/see the same context to begin with.
  2. Write the word and definition on the board for students to copy in the upper left hand corner of the index card.
  3. Together as a group, restate or explain the word in the upper right hand corner. Students can also use their own words, depending on level of proficiency.
  4. Work together to create a visual representation- students can use the same one or create their own that makes more sense to them. This goes in the bottom left.
  5. Finally, talk about ways that the word connects to their own personal understanding or experience. Students should fill in personal connections in the lower right corner.
Front of card
 On the back, the card should be divided into threes. As students learn more about the word or the topic, they can apply and extend their knowledge by making more personal connections, creating questions about the word or questions that the word would answer, and reviewing how the word is used in context.

Back of card
Each student then has their own vocabulary card that they can keep to support and extend their understanding of the word throughout a unit. I like to punch holes in the upper right corner and give each student a large binder ring and a small binder ring. While we are studying the unit that relates to the words, they stay on the small binder ring. When it is time to move on to a new unit, old vocabulary explorer cards are moved to the larger binder ring with other words learned throughout the year.