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Remote Learning A-Z

Remote Learning A-Z

26 tips for remote teaching
For 26 days, we will be bringing you tips, tricks, and freebies for remote teaching! Here is the list so far:

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Remote Learning A-Z: Z is for Zoom

Remote Learning A-Z: Z is for Zoom

In a matter of months, the pandemic has made Zoom one of our primary means of communication for work, school, and even happy hours. I mean, you know it’s getting real when even Hogwarts is using it for remote learning.

In preparation for this post I conducted a research-validated, longitudinal study on the effects of Zoom from the student perspective. (More accurately, I sent a mass email to all my friends and begged them to respond). In this email, I asked kids what their teacher does on Zoom that they like, do not like, and wish for or would change.

Not surprisingly, the student opinions were illuminating! Also as expected, the feedback about Zoom varied with grade level. Here are some common threads:

Games and Routines Win

From TK to High School, students appreciated a predictable daily routine. From our intern’s post about remote learning, even college students feel this way.

Daily activities like a morning warm-up, Calendar, and games are big hits with students. One first grader specifically called out games like Simon Says, Mystery Kid, and Charades as her favorite thing.

TAKEAWAY

Think about ways to set daily or weekly routines, and infuse a little fun into some of your regular activities. Check out our Yay! post for ideas on little ways to celebrate with kids remotely, and How are you doing? post for ideas on checking in with students.

More Breaks and More Snacks!

Even students are feeling the fatigue from too much onscreen time. Many students appreciated when teachers notice the wiggles setting in and give students a quick break.

In all student surveys I’ve given and reviewed over the years, it really all just comes down to snacks. As educators we have to just accept it: snacks are paramount. All of our young learners would like more time to eat their snacks and their lunch.

TAKEAWAY

Being online all the time is exhausting. Work in brief breaks off screen, as well as breaks to stretch, breathe, and jump around together. Try some of these stretches from Web MD. (And you’ll never hear me arguing about time for snacks.)

To Mute or Not to Mute?

Most students did not like the tyrannical power of the teacher to mute and unmute.

While the teacher in me defaults to saying: “Those are the breaks,” it does give us educators a little food for thought. In a traditional classroom, students talk to each other all the time. They ask questions, turn and talk, discuss, and make comments. In a Zoom environment, the chatter is far more distracting than in a classroom, leaving students without those little moments to dialogue with their peers.

TAKEAWAY

Class management over Zoom is different from face-to-face instruction. Consider the systems and expectations you have in place to maintain mutual respect and still allow for discussion and sharing of ideas. Talk with your students about problems and brainstorm solutions together.

Zoom Cameras: On or Off?

For younger students (who primarily always have their cameras on) this didn’t come up. With older students, the camera preference varied, though some preferred when everyone’s camera is on.

Video conferencing does hinder our ability to read the physical and social cues we used to in a classroom. When cameras are on, at least we get more information about student wellness and attentiveness than a name on a black screen.

On the other hand, read our intern’s opinion on this. She reminds us there are many legitimate reasons students may not want to be on camera, and that we should be respectful of that.

TAKEAWAY

For secondary students, consider a compromise to hard and fast camera rules. Even better, discuss this issue with students and come up with a solution together.

Breakout Rooms are a Bummer

The biggest complaint from secondary students was their overwhelming dislike of the Zoom breakout rooms, which were repeatedly described as “awkward,” “horrible,” and “unproductive.”

Many students reported sitting in silence in these rooms for the first few minutes before resorting to hastily dividing up the work, turning off cameras, and then hoping everyone did their part.

Argh…this is the exact opposite of what we want from groupwork!

As educators, it makes perfect sense to use breakouts for small group instruction and collaboration activities. However, student feedback makes it clear our classroom structures don’t always translate well to remote learning. Today, students haven’t established the connections they would have formed in a traditional classroom. In addition, teachers are unable to circulate as before during collaborative time to observe, facilitate, and redirect.

I can’t imagine teaching without small groups, but I recognize the struggle for our students is real. So consider some of these takeaways to make breakout rooms more effective and less painful:

TAKEAWAYS

  • Kids need explicit instruction: presenting the assignment and sending kids off in groups doesn’t always work over Zoom. Students need modeling and guidance on your expectations for working in a remote group. Consider collecting feedback from your own students and defining these norms together. This article from Forbes is about ground rules for remote business teams, but still has a lot of applicable advice.
  • Roles might make things less awkward: I’ve never been a big fan of group roles jobs like Timekeeper and Notetaker. However, in the Zoom environment, I’m reconsidering. Until students are more comfortable, it may also help to provide them with a defined structure: task, time frame, deliverable, facilitator. For teens, where everything is a profound embarrassment, having set parameters can dissipate some of the awkwardness.
  • Consider group size: One student commented he felt breakout rooms work better when only two students are together. Until students feel more comfortable, perhaps rotating partners won’t be quite as awkward or intimidating. You might even consider some collaboration activities solely focused on connecting with others. See our post on Interviews for more ideas.
  • Timing is important: Several students mentioned breakout rooms lasted far too long, reporting the longer they went on, the more counterproductive they became. Overall, it seems smaller chunks of breakout time are better.
  • It always comes down to the design: I believe I’ve now said this in four separate posts: In a true collaborative task, the task itself cannot be completed without the thinking and work of everyone on the team. Make sure your activities require group thinking, discussion, and analysis and not merely proximity. Tasks that students can slice into four equal parts and never interact are not collaboration. (And if that hasn’t convinced you, additional rants on collaboration are available for you here.)

Ask Your Students about Zoom

If you got this far, you might have discovered a common theme running through this post. If you’re thinking about making changes to your Zoom world, think about making them with your students. I highly suggest posing these three questions to your own class and problem solving the results together!

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Remote Learning A-Z: Y is for Yay!

Remote Learning A-Z: Y is for Yay!

Some of us are reaching the two month mark of remote learning. In my world, the fatigue is definitely setting in: for students, teachers, and parents. So first of all, Yay us! We got here! That means it’s definitely time to find ways to give yourself a break and have some remote fun with your students. In this post, we’ll explore ways to infuse a little balance into your life and your classroom.

Give Yourself a Break (You Deserve It!)

Teachers

These days every teacher I know, whether they are new to teaching or have decades of experience under their belts, is exhausted. Reinventing lessons, learning new programs, and trying to keep students engaged every single day takes a staggering amount of time and energy. And that’s assuming the WiFi will be working!

Just remember, you can’t be as effective of a teacher when you’re stressed and exhausted. Read this article from ACSA that explains what happens to your brain when you’re stressed. Here are some tips for infusing a little perspective into your daily life.

Tips for Teachers

  • Temper expectations: this means for everyone, including yourself! You don’t need to answer emails and texts minutes after they are received. And while there certainly are emergencies through the course of teaching, most communications can wait a day. Set an auto-reply on your email that lets families and others know you’ve received the email and you will return with a reply within a certain time period.
  • Take time for yourself: You need boundaries! Working from home makes it all too easy to work constantly. But remember, just because you can log in all the time, does not mean you have to. Set a timer on your phone for regular reminders to get up, take a walk, sit outside, or do anything that doesn’t involve a screen. And remember, it will all be there when you get back, but even ten minutes can change your stress level and outlook.
  • Stop comparing yourself to others: Yes, that first grade teacher next door whose classroom looked like a magazine probably has the equivalent remote classroom up on Pinterest. Who cares? Most of us teachers are also Type As, (guilty) but remember, no one ever pins the unflattering stuff. Pretty is great, but solid teaching and attention to students’ social emotional well being is far better.
  • Ask for and accept help: We need to lean on each other more than ever these days. It’s perfectly acceptable to throw up a hand and ask someone to help. And, don’t forget to accept help when people are offering. Most people don’t ask unless they want to support. Team up with your families and work together to get through.

Parents

Yup, having school at home is hard. Education is my career and it’s still hard.

Parents, you also can’t be as effective when you’re stressed and exhausted. Guess what? The tips for teachers above apply to you too!

Teach Thought has a great post on the basics of remote learning at home, but chances are you’ve already done many of these things. Here are some additional tips for surviving the next leg of this journey with your children.

Additional Tips for Parents

  • See Above: Temper expectations, take time for yourself, stop comparing yourself to others, and ask for help! Those tips are important for parents also!
  • Check in a Lot: Make it a point to check in often with yourself and with your children. No one can learn (or teach) when there are other, more pressing emotions at play. Give yourself permission to take a break when needed.
  • Focus on the Essentials: No one believes parents will be able to replace traditional classroom instruction. So don’t try! A constant home-child battle doesn’t serve anyone in the long run. Ask your child’s teacher what the essential outcomes are for the unit, and focus on those things only.
  • Communicate (with empathy): Definitely ask your child’s teacher for guidance, and share what you are comfortable with about your home situation. Try to remember teachers aren’t mind readers; they need to know if there is something at home that could be affecting your child’s learning. If the homework took two hours and three tantrums last night, share that with your child’s teacher and ask for support.
  • Give Constructive Feedback: Teachers are operating under a schedule set by state and district guidelines. Remember these guidelines were set with the best intentions and NOT with full understanding of what remote teaching should look like, since no one really knew how it would look. Give solution-focused feedback where you can, and bear in mind there isn’t a playbook for this kind of instruction. All educators everywhere are doing the very best they know how. See more in our post on Working Together!
  • Have a Little (un) Remote Fun: Unlike our classroom teachers, you and your child can have offscreen fun together. Dance it out, play a game, take a walk, go on a 5 minute scavenger hunt in the house. Find ways to infuse tiny fun breaks during the day.

Have Some Remote Fun with Students

A former student of mine (from 2000! Please don’t do the math) recently contacted me on Facebook. She wanted to tell me how she still remembers making origami cranes in class. She also mentioned a cultural exchange trip she took to Japan, and how she was able to explain the reason for all the cranes at the Nagasaki museum. And while she didn’t remember the title of the book we read with that activity (Sadako and the Thousand Paper Cranes) but she vividly remembered the experience.

We all got into teaching because we love lesson planning and grading. Not. We got into teaching because of moments like that, where we connect and make an impression on our students. Every teacher I know misses those little wins, moments, and sparks that ultimately keep us going.

Remote Fun

Celebrating, connecting, and having a little fun with your students goes a long way to diffuse frustration and fatigue.

If you haven’t already, here are some remote fun and celebration ideas to infuse yin your classroom daily or weekly.

Remote Fun and Celebration Ideas

  • Questions of the Day: Remember there’s a lot less student-to-student connection happening these days. Start the day with a silly question to help students get to know one another, and you! Older students can also interview each other. See our post on Interviews for more tips.
  • Appreciate each other: When things are so busy, it’s hard to remember to say thank you. Make time for class appreciations, and create a virtual appreciation board (see our post on Jamboard) so students can see them.
  • Dance it out: A teacher I know used to have “Dance Party” breaks during class. When students were squirrely, she would stop everything and put on a song for a minute or two so they could get the wiggles out. In remote classrooms, boy do we need that still!
  • Play games: Simple games like Simon Says, I Spy, or Twenty Questions are great for little learners. For older students, try Mad Libs, scavenger hunts, charades, and popular games like Taboo, Scrabble, or Scattergories. You can also try your hand at making some online games, or check out ours.
  • Infuse art and music: We all know art and music stimulate important parts of the brain. Unfortunately, these subject can be left aside during remote learning. Doodle with Mo Willems, make your own instruments and play them, or try some of these art activities.
  • Have Spirit Days: Every Friday, have a different themed day: Superheroes, Crazy Hair, Pajama Day, Rainbow Day, Sports Day, etc.
  • Eat together: Have lunch with a few students once a week to get to know each other in a more relaxed, non-classroom environment.

As trying as these times are, I remain so impressed with how hard educators, parents, and students are working to make the best of this situation with positivity and grace. When it’s all over, I believe that’s what our children will remember about their time in remote learning.

So please, take a break and congratulate yourself for making it this far! You deserve it!

Remote Learning A-Z: X is for eXams

Remote Learning A-Z: X is for eXams

Remote learning has turned the traditional structure for exams on its ear. It used to be far easier to walk around the room and ensure everyone was on task and had phones put away. In this new era, all of that has gone out the window. Yet the need to assess hasn’t gone anywhere. How can we still get the student data we need in a remote classroom?

The Soapbox

I just can’t talk about exams and assessment without a little preaching. But since I’ve done a lot of that already (see our previous posts on Assessments and Quizzes), I’ll only gently remind you of a few key points:

Assessment…

  • is meant to give teachers actionable feedback. If you don’t act on the data you get, it’s far less useful.
  • should provide students with multiple ways to demonstrate mastery.
  • can and should take on many forms: anecdotal data collected each day, formative assessment to check understanding along the way, and summative assessment to show what you know.
  • should be rigorous and incorporate real-world application: The easiest test to give (and take) is the multiple choice exam, and sometimes its what does the trick. Just remember even in a remote world, “When in Doubt, Choose C” tests don’t always give a true picture of student understanding.

Make it UnGoogleAble

(I’m sure that’s not a word, but I’ve been told that when you’re a writer you get to make up words). Long before remote teaching began, the need for teachers to rethink how we ask questions has been critical.

When we have so much information available to us in seconds, the need for students to answer purely fact-based, “Googleable” information loses its importance in favor of questions that promote critical thinking, analysis, comparison, and synthesis of multiple sources. This places the emphasis on the application and understanding of information, and less on rote memorization.

Creating Better Questions

Instead of: What year was the March on Washington? Ask: What effect did the March on Washington have on the nation?

Instead of: Who are the main characters in The Phantom Tollbooth? Ask: Compare Milo and Tock’s friendship to Opal and Winn-Dixie‘s.

See this useful PDF from the Ohio Department of Ed for DOK 3 and 4 Question stems.

Another Perk

The other benefit of these type of exams is what I like to call Turkey-proofing. Sometimes kids can be turkeys. In a remote environment, it’s too easy to screenshot your exam in Period 1 and pass it along to your turkey pal in Period 3. The unGoogleable question not only forces critical thinking, but puts the focus on true understanding rather than hurriedly looking up quickly-forgotten facts. For more turkey-proofing strategies, see our post on Quizzes.

Remote Assessment Ideas

Here are some alternatives to the traditional exam format. While they might take more time to grade, you’ll end up with a deeper understanding of what students truly know and can apply.

Bonus: these work in a remote or a traditional classroom!

Little Tweaks

Exam Series: A series of quizzes or lower stakes exams over a longer period of time gives you the ability to adjust teaching along the way. It also helps students who may suffer from test anxiety.

Open Book/Open Notes: If make unGoogleable questions, suddenly open book/note tests take on a different feel. This builds important skills in identifying important information, synthesizing information, and analysis.

Bigger Tweaks (with Bigger Results)

Turn the Tables: Have students create the test questions and provide the answers. You’ll be surprised at what they can come up with!

Annotated Bibliography: Ask students to compile a list of multiple sources on a topic and provide a summary of each viewpoint. This supports students to compare, evaluate bias and perspectives, and seek multiple perspectives.

Wrong Answers: Give students the “wrong” answer, one with a mistake or flaw. Have them identify the errors and fix them, as well as explain why they are incorrect.

Peer Review: Peer feedback can be a far greater motivator than feedback from old people like us. Provide rubrics for students and have them assess each other and provide constructive feedback. This is also a great opportunity to support a positive, solutions-focused mindset!

Game Creation: Anything you can gamify is instantly more engaging. Task students to create a game version of the subject you are studying.

Ways to Utilize Digital Tools

e-Portfolio: have students compile their learning for the unit (or all throughout the year in an e-Portfolio.) Include work samples and images, and a reflection on their learning. Most Learning Management Systems already have this feature built in. If you don’t have an LMS in your district, Google Sites is a clean and easy alternative.

Discussion Board: ask thought-provoking questions via your LMS and require students to respond to peer contributions with evidence. Put students on two (or more) sides of an argument, but don’t tell them their side until you open the discussion. This will force students to research all sides of an issue and provide evidence to support their claims.

Presentations: The best way to demonstrate learning is to teach it to someone else. See our post on presentations and on creative ways to use video for tips and ideas.

Hope this is helpful as you design (and redesign) your exams! Leave us a comment and let us know how it goes!

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Remote Learning A-Z: W is for Working Together

Remote Learning A-Z: W is for Working Together

Working together is even more important than it used to be. We have been on this Fall Remote Learning adventure for almost two months. With a teacher spouse and a distance learning son, I’ve seen it from all perspectives. I am continually impressed with the effort and perseverance of all Derek’s teachers. I am also appreciative of the kindness and support my husband is receiving from the families of his students.

Is the Honeymoon Ending?

My son’s teachers are trying so hard to provide engaging content. Even so, I’m seeing the fatigue of remote learning set in with my son. Every teacher I know is finding their groove, yet also feeling the strain of continually revamping even the simplest activities. Parents with kids of all ages are finding some of the initial Honeymoon feelings have worn off.

As a school and as a nation, we are all in this together. So let’s figure out ways to help each other make the best of it! below are tips for working together remotely.

Assume Positive Intent

This is a generally sound mindset in most any situation. I think we’re all a bit on edge today. Even so, it’s important to remember we don’t know all situations, and everyone is doing the very best job they can.

Take a look at the post from our intern, Emeline Tu. Among other things, she does an excellent job in reminding all of us to approach this situation with empathy.

Communicate

As a former school administrator, one lesson I learned was that even if you think you’ve communicated often and clearly, you haven’t. Never assume that because you posted an announcement once or said it over a video meeting that anyone heard it (or will remember it).

Set a Communication Schedule

One strategy for ensuring consistent and clear communication is to have a schedule. Set a routine, communicate that routing, and then keep to it. As a teacher I created many systems that ended up being more maintenance than useful. So take it from me, remember to keep it simple (see below). Don’t create an overly demanding or complicated routine you will regret having to keep up in a few weeks.

Involve Students

Consider involving students in writing or recording updates for parents. Here’s a sample newsletter on a Google Doc, with more explanation in our Collaboration post.

Speak Up

Now that we aren’t physically together, we lose out on the little social moments we used to have at drop off and pick up. It’s more important than ever for teachers to communicate succinctly, clearly, and often. And parents, don’t let things sit until they grow into a problem. For some addition ideas, read this Edutopia article: 12 Conversation Starters on What Parents Want You to Know. It is from 2013, but still great ideas for communication applicable to remote learning.

Keep it Simple

We are all overwhelmed with the amount of links, emails, and texts from multiple sources. Think about families with multiple children, from primary students who need more support with daily class activities, to secondary students who need to juggle the assignments and systems of multiple classrooms daily.

Two Streamlining Tips

Having a central place for all your links, announcements, and assignments helps your families wade through all the information. See our post on Links for ideas on how to keep your virtual information organized for students and parents.

Try this formula for each day: What We’re Learning, Ask Your Child, and How You Can Help. Post it in a continuous slide presentation so people can look back at it as needed.

Ask for Feedback

I’ve seen this in so many environments: the most persistent voices will often get the most attention. The unfortunate byproduct is we often don’t get the full picture of a situation: a few loud voices seem to represent the whole.

Teachers, frequent feedback from students and parents is one way to get off that hamster wheel. You will be surprised at all the things going well, as pick up a few tips for tweaks to make.

Our Exit Tickets are a quick and easy way to check in each day.

Ask for feedback from all your families regularly, and you will soon find it isn’t intimidating. Send out a simple Google Form survey monthly or weekly to take a pulse of your entire class. Approach your survey positively, keeping in mind the goal is working together more productively. Ask questions from the perspective of students’ needs and social-emotional health. Ask how you can improve, but don’t forget to ask what is going well, too!

Give Feedback

How many times have you looked up reviews on websites like Yelp and Amazon? How many times have you written a review yourself, either positive or negative? People in general tend to only give feedback when it’s astoundingly negative.

Positive Feedback Goes a Long Way

Don’t fall into the Yelp trap with your classroom community! Parents, your two-sentence email of encouragement or thanks goes a long way in supporting your teacher’s efforts. And teachers, taking some time to appreciate each student goes exponentially further in building connections and inclusivity. See this post for more information.

Parents, when giving feedback, approach it positive, solutions-focused mindset. Also temper expectations: some things we wish are unrealistic in a remote environment with a large class load. Teachers may not respond immediately, since they are teaching online all day. Also remember, while your child’s teacher is your direct conduit to the school, they have far less control over the policies and laws governing wider district decisions.

Forge Connections

My good friend has a daughter in first grade. The other day she said to her mother, “It’s hard to make friends on Zoom.” Ugh!

This is not true only for our youngest learners. Working together (student to student) is also a challenge right now. Remote students are missing many daily, physical interactions that used to be the norm.

Build in Time to Connect

While content instruction is always front and center, think about little ways to build in connection time among students. When students feel more connected to you and to each other, their learning benefits.

Check out our post on Interviews for ideas to forge meaningful connections between school, home, and each other. Consider ways for students to ask questions of each other to get to know their classmates. In our Interviews, we include over fifty silly questions you can ask your class. Students can also ask the questions of each other. Try one today!

Take Advantage of Tech

Even though remote learning is a challenge, there are some perks inherent in technology that teachers can use to their advantage.

Some posts you may find helpful:

Now that many lessons are being recorded, take advantage and post those videos for review. Read more about using video here. All learners benefit from hearing something more than once, and parents welcome videos they can review for support. Another perk – you might escape the, “That’s not how my teacher said to do it!” lament. (Parents, don’t feel badly about this: I have advanced degrees in education and this happens to me frequently.)

Work Together, Stay Positive

The most powerful strategy for student success and well-being is a connected team that is working together. We hope these tips help you forge virtual connections with your school community!

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Remote Learning A-Z: V is for Video

Remote Learning A-Z: V is for Video

Instructional videos have been around for a long time, but they are rapidly becoming the norm in our remote classrooms. Because there are so many tutorials and articles out there on teaching with video, this post is focused instead on some ways to spice up your instructional videos, and offering up some ideas for getting students involved in the process.

Benefits of Video

Engagement: With visuals, music, and animation, videos can provide can be a more immersive experience for the audience.

Access: visuals, narration, and closed-captioning features expand access for all learners. The ability to watch or listen to something you missed is another added resource.

Time Savings: Make a video once, and you have it forever. (If you’re like me, you make it twenty times to get the camera angle right and hair in order.) But theoretically, make it video once and show it to all your sections or groups, then post it for later help and review.

Family Support: With many parents doing greater home support than before, your posted videos can be a huge tool for them as well.

Teaching Tips

FlipGrid and SeeSaw are incredibly popular right now for classroom videos. Also,click here for a helpful list of general tips for teaching with video.

Of course I can’t write a blog post without getting a little pedagogically preachy. Just remember, video is like every single teaching tool in your arsenal: when used thoughtfully and with intention, it’s powerful. When it’s used without a clear objective, it’s the opposite.

Know Your Goals

The most important thing, as always, is to know your lesson objective. Once you know, it will be much easier to determine if video is your solution. If it is, ask yourself what type of video would work best. Would a straightforward video work quickly and efficiently to get your point across? Or would a screencast, picture-in-picture lecture, whiteboard demo, or Tasty-style video be more engaging and also worth the time?

More and more, we’re asking students to film videos and upload or post them, but the same questions apply. When designing your task, ask: What type of response helps me know the student has achieved the objective? If it is a video response, what type would provide the most student and be the most rigorous at the same time?

Ideas for Instruction with Video

Each of the ideas below are ways to make your own video lessons more engaging for students. But don’t forget how powerful they can be when students are in the driver’s seat too!

Screencasts

A screencast is a digital video recording of your screen. It usually includes audio narration.

TEACHER USE: When the visual (slideshow, document, etc.) is center stage, you may need to highlight or call attention to text on the page, and you only need narration. Screencasts are great for modeling and think-alouds.

STUDENT USE: Have students create their own screencasts to demonstrate their understanding of a topic. Record a tutorial on a topic to teach others or demonstrate your approach to a problem. (Bonus: save these teaching videos to use for other classes or next year!)

Programs like Screencastify are user-friendly and make this process much easier. Kathy Schrock’s Guide to Everything will literally give you everything you need to know about screencasts in the classroom.

Picture in Picture

Don’t we all want to feel like a meteorologist sometimes? You can do that with picture-in-picture!

TEACHER USE: When students need to see your face but also need the support of student visuals.

STUDENT USE: Have students demonstrate learning by creating a newscast or sports-announcer type broadcast over a video.

Clipchamp is just one of the programs out there to help make this process easier.

White Board Videos

I just love those cool whiteboard videos with the elaborate illustrations and writing. They’re so aesthetically pleasing, and addicting to watch.

TEACHER USE: When you want to to convey complex information such as explain timelines, historical events, or highlight cause and effect.

STUDENT USE: There is so much knowledge transfer when learners have to teach. Have student create whiteboard videos for retelling a story or creating a virtual mind map of a concept or event.

Programs like Doodly and Powtoon make these videos far less intimidating and easy to create. Powtoon even has this video to help you!

Ideas for Student Tasks

Make Movies

That’s what we used to use videos for, back in the day. While students may not be able to get together in a room and act in a play like before, they can still write screenplays and do a virtual table read, create a newscast from a time period and edit their snippets together, make a commercial, or perform a solo.

As with student writing, it’s always more powerful when you have a real audience. Show students a few Ted Talks and analyze what makes them compelling. Then have students to make their own Ted Talk on a topic or a claim: for other students, for other teachers, or to convince a group of people.

Stop Motion Animation

I made a bunch of Harry Potter peg people (I promise – it’s a thing) for my sister. My youngest niece took the people and recreated all the Harry Potter movies using a stop motion animation app on her iPad. In the classroom, you don’t even need clay – you can do these videos with paper and pen only.

I love this tool for the classroom because the process requires meticulous attention to detail, sort of like drawing that ball bouncing on the corners of a notebook page. It also encourages design thinking, problem solving, and attention to precision.

Stop Motion Studio is a great app for making these videos.

Tasty Videos

Don’t deny it, when you see the video of the cake being decorated on Facebook, you’re mesmerized. I recently discovered it isn’t that difficult to make amateur tasty videos. Usually these videos have no narration, and tell their stories using only fast-moving images and a little text. When you have students show what they know in this format, it requires them to synthesize information and retell using symbols and key ideas. Very UDL!

Animoto is a great classroom tool, and has a tutorial for making tasty-style videos.

Screen Recording

I know, I know. It makes absolutely NO sense to me why anyone would want to watch someone play a video game rather than play it themselves. It also makes no sense why you want to watch someone taking something out of an Amazon box. But kids these days…

You don’t need to understand it either, but why not capitalize on that inherent love for walkthroughs and unboxings and use it in the classroom? Have students create videos to teach a concept or show how they know, TikTok or YouTube style.

While gamers use some fancy screen reording software for this (believe me, I live it every day), you can get by in a classroom with something like Screencast-O-Matic.

Hope these tips are useful! Let us know what your kids create!

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Remote Learning A-Z: U is for UDL

Remote Learning A-Z: U is for UDL

What Is It?

The Universal Design for Learning (UDL) framework was created by research organization CAST. UDL helps educators approach their teaching to meet the needs of all learners. The idea is that while the classroom environment may be the same, the learning experience of each student within the classroom should not be.

There are three fundamental guidelines in UDL, and the key idea behind each of the three big umbrellas is designing for multiple means.

Multiple Means Of:

  • Engagement: capitalizing on student interests and motivations
  • Representation: presenting and providing content to promote higher-level thinking
  • Action & Expression: allowing students to demonstrate and apply learning actively

Why Do It?

Outcomes of UDL

UDL done well benefits everyone. In a UDL classroom:

  • All students are clear on the learning outcomes
  • Multiple options for learning are available to all (through intentional planning)
  • Students have access to supports and resources throughout their learning (not only at the beginning, or at test time)
  • Students build their own knowledge, internalize it, and are able apply learning and see its applications to the real world

You can read more at CAST, and with a post from Understood. Below are tips for applying those principles in the design of your remote classroom.

Engagement

Capitalize on Student Interests and Motivation

We know when students are connected to the content, they are more engaged learners. In UDL, engagement involves capturing student interests, clearly defining learning outcomes, fostering collaboration, and self-assessment. See our posts Teaching Responsively and How are You Doing? for more on connecting with students.

Remote Engagement Tools for Synchronous Instruction

There are absolutely times when you need to be face-to-face with your students. There are times when direct instruction is needed. Even so, be cautious your online instruction isn’t always active teacher lecture and passive student learning. Try some of these tools to spice up your direct instruction and keep engagement high:

  • Games: Games just make everything more fun! Reading a nonfiction text becomes more engaging when it’s a scavenger hunt. Learning multiplication facts is more fun as a card game. And a little healthy competition with the teacher is always a engaging! See our post on Games for more ideas.
  • Interactive Slide Presentations: Student visuals are key, and it isn’t just because you can’t always count on your sparkly personality to hold the room. Visuals provide students with something to connect with as they are learning. Ask questions, play games, involve students in the teaching. See our posts on Presentations and Student Visuals for more tips.
  • Access: This would make me cringe too. But when you do present in real time, think about recording your lessons. This allows kids to go back and watch anything confusing. Did you know Google has a closed-captioning feature? Turn this on help support the processing of new information.
Remote Engagement Tools for Asynchronous Instruction

One benefit of asynchronous learning is that it allows students to move at their own pace. This frees you up to support and challenge individual students throughout. Many parent and educators are reticent about this form of instruction because it feels like without a teacher, how can students be learning?

Intentional Planning

But the beauty of asynchronous learning is that the teacher is very much still there. They just aren’t using precious time to stare at kids working independently. The teacher has designed lessons allowing students to show what they know, is giving individual guidance, AND collecting assessment data to plan and refine future teaching.

  • Screencastify: This is an incredibly easy to use tool to create narrated demonstrations and videos to accompany your slide presentations. It works with Google Chrome and the free version is solid. (More on that in the V is for Video post coming soon!)
  • KWL Charts: One of our favorite standbys, the KWL Chart, can easily be done in remotely. See our KWL post for ideas and tips.
  • Google Slides: We’ve sung the praises and versatility of slides in many of our posts, but one tip we haven’t mentioned is the ability to add videos (yours or someone else’s). You can even share these slides in present mode to students, building in pauses to solicit responses or give a task along the way.
  • Hyperdocs: These online tools have the principles of UDL built in. With Hyperdocs, students move at their own pace. They also explore material designed specifically to move them through the learning process. See our post on Explorations for more tips.
  • EdPuzzle: This is a nifty tool for using video for self-paced learning that also allows teachers to track views, narrate, and add questions. (Again, you’ll have to wait for V for more!)
  • Wonderopolis: This amazing program builds on students’ natural curiosity and is an excellent lesson starter to get students asking questions and seeking answers.

Representation

Provide Content to Promote Higher-level Thinking

Now students are thoroughly hooked, but we still have to teach them something! Research tells us this involves a combination of varied content, opportunities for inquiry, and student choice to construct knowledge. (See our post on Rigor for more information.) The UDL framework emphasizes rich content and rigorous tasks that encourage choice, critical thinking and comprehension, as well as ensuring access for all.

Remote Representation:
  • Student Choice: Student Menus and Choice Boards have been around for a long time. We like to use the Google Gameboard (pictured above) for a visually appealing option.
  • Real World Connections: Many websites have been stepping up to provide students with a ways to connect with the real world. The Smithsonian provides amazing virtual tours, and apps like Google Expeditions even incorporate VR into the mix. Here’s a roundup of 25 Ideas from We Are Teachers.
  • Newsela: If you don’t know about Newsela, stop reading and go there now! (Just kidding, go there after!) Newsela has tons of student-friendly, current event articles and ability to vary by grade/Lexile level within an article. It’s amazing!
  • Listenwise: Similar idea as Newela, but Listenwise adds the component of auditory comprehension. They offer podcasts and narration, as well as listening assessments.
  • Infographics: There so much learning in teaching students to read infographics. There’s even more learning in students creating them! (Think about how much synthesis, data, and visual representation goes into making one.) Programs like Canva, Easelly, and Venngage can help.

Action & Expression

Demonstrate and Apply Learning Actively

Even in a remote classroom, we can still provide students with ways to apply learning and show what they know. In UDL, we want students to communicate their learning, apply it, and reflect on it strategically.

  • Multimedia Presentations: Presentations are a natural tool for demonstrating learning in this environment. Be careful: without explicit parameters, the learning can be lost. See our post for how to support both the presenter and the audience for maximum learning.
  • Kahoot! I love the quiz program Kahoot! for all ages. It’s engaging, easy to use, and students can respond using any device.
  • Video Response: While I do suspect we’re going to see a little video fatigue soon, in this environment video is another way to everyone to connect. Programs like Flipgrid and SeeSaw are really useful for this.
  • Peardeck: This program works with Google Slides and also allows for videos, narration, and creation of formative assessment.
  • Socrative: Secondary teachers love this program for quick assessments and feedback.

In a remote world, teacher time is an even greater commodity that it used to be. In the end, designing UDL lessons can free you up to support the needs of your individual students. Time well spent!

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Remote Learning A-Z: T is for Teaching Responsively

Remote Learning A-Z: T is for Teaching Responsively

Culturally responsive teaching was not the norm when I was in school.

Back in the dark ages, I was one of a handful of Asian students in my entire elementary school. When Chinese New Year came around, my teachers would get my classmate Monica and me involved in a project related to the holiday.

This project was inevitable coloring the Chinese characters for Happy New Year, or making paper lanterns. We would also teach the class how to say Gung Hay Fat Choy, even though that phrase is Cantonese and I spoke Mandarin at home. (Poor Monica had even less investment in these projects; she’s Japanese and her family didn’t celebrate Lunar New Year!) Eventually, Monica and I learned that these projects were our cultural contributions to our classroom. Yet we did it, because we didn’t want to disappoint our teachers.

Yay! We’ve Evolved!

Thankfully, teaching has evolved considerably since I was in school. In addition, the research and resources available around anti-bias education, culturally responsive teaching, and inclusion in schools is abundant and readily available.

Reflecting today, all my elementary school teachers were kind, well-meaning, hard working educators. I believe they truly wanted to include my culture and background into the classroom. They just weren’t entirely able to do it as sensitively and responsively as I now would have hoped, and I didn’t have the language to ask for it.

Luckily, today I do have that language, and I want to share it with you.

It Starts with YOUR Mindset

A responsive classroom in any environment (virtual or traditional) starts with teacher mindset. Culturally responsive educators embrace and value student backgrounds, interests, and experiences. They see what students bring to the table as assets and not deficits.

Responsive teachers understand the importance of including student lives and perspectives in teaching–not only in certain months or around certain holidays–but every single day. They recognize that this attention to students fosters inclusion, respect, and empowerment.

YOU Make a Difference

First and foremost, I hope you never lose sight of just how much power and influence you have on a young mind, even if at times it may seem like none of your little minds are paying attention. (Believe me, my son is fourteen. I know how it feels.)

One teacher can change the course of a person’s life. If you don’t believe me, this Ted Talk from my good friend and hero, Dr. Victor Rios, will convince you. Dr. Rios dedicated his career to prevent society from labeling students as “at-risk,” and instead to see all young people as “at-promise.” Why? Because one special teacher did it for him.

Ms. Russ listened to my story, welcomed it into the classroom and said, “Victor, this is your power. This is your potential. Your family, your culture, your community have taught you a hard-work ethic and you will use it to empower yourself in the academic world so you can come back and empower your community.” 

Dr. Victor Rios
Help for Kids the Education System Ignores

I’ve included a transcript excerpt below, but you truly have to listen. It is a must-watch for any educator. Trust me, it is well worth 12 minutes of your life.

From: Help for Kids the Education System Ignores

The reason I’m here today is because a teacher that cared reached out and managed to tap into my soul. This teacher, Ms. Russ … she was the kind of teacher that was always in your business. 

She was the kind of teacher that was like, “Victor, I’m here for you whenever you’re ready.” 

I wasn’t ready. But she understood one basic principle about young people like me. We’re like oysters. We’re only going to open up when we’re ready, and if you’re not there when we’re ready, we’re going to clam back up. Ms. Russ was there for me. She was culturally relevant, she respected my community, my people, my family. 

I told her a story about my Uncle Ruben. He would take me to work with him because I was broke, and he knew I needed some money. He collected glass bottles for a living. Four in the morning on a school day, we’d throw the glass bottles in the back of his van, and the bottles would break. And my hands and arms would start to bleed and my tennis shoes and pants would get all bloody. I was terrified and in pain, and I would stop working. 

My uncle, he would look me in the eyes and he would say to me, “Mijo, estamos buscando vida.”

 “We’re searching for a better life, we’re trying to make something out of nothing.” 

Ms. Russ listened to my story, welcomed it into the classroom and said, “Victor, this is your power. This is your potential. Your family, your culture, your community have taught you a hard-work ethic and you will use it to empower yourself in the academic world so you can come back and empower your community.” 

(reprinted with permission from the author)


In Your Classroom

There is so much research on diversity, inclusion, and culturally relevant teaching available. So much, it cannot be contained in a single post. But I did want to get you thinking, so I’ve culled and summarized some of the important points.

Food for Thought

This list isn’t meant to be a checklist, because that implies at some point you can be finished with an item and cross it off your list. Instead, these are reminders for your planning at all times. When you ask yourself these questions, consider your classroom environment, your daily routines and structures, and even your individual lessons and tasks.

How am I creating a structure in my classroom that…

  • Builds relationships: Get to know your students, and let them get to know you. (See our How are You Doing? post for more resources). Conduct interest surveys and interviews. Use the information you learn to incorporate student interests and lives.
  • Makes problems relevant & provides context: Consider and explain how your lessons apply directly to student interests and experiences. Encourage discussion, analysis of bias, and sharing of multiple perspectives (see our post on Rigor for more examples.)
  • Allows for more than one way to achieve: Remember, there is never one singular right way to teach or learn something. Allow students to demonstrate understanding and mastery in multiple ways. Try projects that incorporate art, multimedia, games, physical expression. You may just discover hidden talents you wouldn’t have through traditional assessment methods!
  • Is student-centered: We say student-centered a lot these days, but in a true student-centered classroom tasks are designed to allow maximum choice and access to content. Provide students with many opportunities to explore and express their values. Also, when finding and creating content (text, videos, articles, even story problems), let your students see themselves reflected in that content.
  • Teaches and fosters true collaboration: In true collaboration activities, tasks cannot be completed without the work of every member. (See more in our Collaboration post). Avoid those activities that let one or two students do all the work while the rest of the team is on the sidelines. Instead, offer tasks that encourage students to grapple with multiple perspectives and seek consensus for their team projects, rather than .
  • Involves families and community voices: Think about your most and least engaged families. Consider the barriers that your least engaged families may face in connecting fully with the school system. What ways you can chip away at those barriers? Bring in guest speakers that represent your students and your community.

Resources for Culturally Responsive Practices

To learn more, here are a few places to get you started:

We hope this is helpful! If you have a website or resource recommendation, please leave us a comment so we can add it to our list!

Remote Learning A-Z: S is for Student Visuals

Remote Learning A-Z: S is for Student Visuals

Many teachers have been using Google Slides for years as a visual support for their teaching, and continue to use this resource remotely. In this post, we’ll give you a few ideas to supercharge your student visuals.

We <3 Visuals

Our Student Visuals support your teaching of each lesson with graphics, screenshots, and more to reinforce the lesson objective and demonstrate key skills interactively. The beauty of these slides is that they can be used beyond your daily lesson. Post them for student reinforcement and review, screenshot slides for your LMS, share them with parents and colleagues.

If you are using Google Slides in your lessons, here are a few general tips to make them more engaging for students. (Our favorite is the potential in animation, which is an often untapped resource!)

Drag and Drop to Demo

This screenshot is from our Grade 2 Beginning of the Year Review. It demonstrates the concept of iterative units by using pennies and paper clips to measure a pencil.

In this slide, the pencil is a locked background image in the master, and the pennies and paper clips can me moved to measure. Students can follow along at home with their own materials as you demonstrate.

For more help with this feature, check out our post P is for Practice Slides.

Utilize Images

Our Grade 5 Beginning of the Year Review has a superhero theme. In this slide, students are introduced to the city of Sunnyside. For the lessons on multiplication models with arrays and area, this city of windows helps students connect to the lesson objective.

Examples

Below are a few more examples of images in our Student Visuals. In each case, these visuals support your lesson objective by helping you tell stories, encourage inquiry, and link learning to the real world.

Use Tables and Text Boxes

Our Grade 5 Unit on Expressions and Equations focuses heavily on ratio tables and input/output charts. Why not put a table right into your slide presentation to complete with students as you demonstrate?

Many of our games have accompanying recording sheets. As you will see below, you can add them right into the slide with a table!

Play Games

This a version of the popular game Race to 100, which appears in many of our units. In this slide, the hundreds chart is a locked image, but nothing else is. That way, you can pull a monster card and move your monster marker across the board. There is also a table to use as a virtual recording sheet!

For more tips for using Google Slides games, see our post G is for Games.

We <3 Animation

There are so many possibilities for engagement with the animation feature! Here are just a few:

Fade In and Out

A common warm up in primary classrooms to build number sense is to show a set of ten frame tiles for a few seconds and then cover them up. (Shhh…I used to do this with an overhead projector!)

Adding the fade in and out animation to your slides saves you from needing to get out your ten frames and your doc cam!

Appear, Disappear, Reappear!

Google animations let you select any image and make it appear and disappear. In this slide from our Grade 4 Beginning of the Year Review, animations support algebraic thinking. Here’s an example visual on balancing equations: the weights disappear, then move from one side of the equal sign to the other.

Fly All Around!

Google animations also allow images to zoom, spin, and fly in from all sides of the screen. This is especially fun with monsters and spaceships! The screenshot here is from our Grade 1 Beginning of the Year Review to demonstrate addition and subtraction story problems.

An Animation Example

I’ve saved the best for last to reward you for reading this far. This animation is my favorite, from our newest and cutest unit, Grade 1 Place Value. This unit is monster themed, and focuses on students understanding the concept of trading ones for tens.

Here are some screenshots of the animation. (NOTE: a lot of the the fun with this story is that the monsters fly in from all directions and spin around, which can’t be seen in the images below.)


Meet Ten! He lives in Tenland.

Sometimes Ten likes to visit the
planet next door, Onesland.

The monsters in Onesland all have a
different number of eyes.

Something very cool
happens to them when they get together.

Whenever there are more than
ten eyes together…

They disappear!

And they change into Tens!

With some ones left over.

Yay!

Hope these tips are helpful as you create your own student visuals. If they are, please like or leave a comment below!

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Remote Learning A-Z: R is for Rigor

Remote Learning A-Z: R is for Rigor

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I know, I know. It’s hard to think about rigor when you can’t even get your WiFi to work reliably or your students to learn how to mute themselves. But in my trolling of social media, I find this term being used more frequently, usually in complaints about remote teaching and learning. The idea of rigor is not new, but like many terms it’s become a victim of misuse.

What It Is

Simply put, rigor not what you assign, it’s what students do. In your classroom (virtual or otherwise), that means students:

  • construct meaning for themselves
  • engage in activities that encourage multiple solutions, problem solving, inquiry, and deep thinking
  • integrate new skills into learned processes
  • apply their learning to new situations and contexts

Why it Still Matters

Rigor results in resilient students that can problem solve, adopt multiple perspectives, be creative, and think critically. So I’d argue that in whatever education environment we are in, rigor always matters.

What Rigor Isn’t

Sometimes the easiest way to understand something is to think about what it isn’t. One of my favorite educational sources, TeachThought, put out a post many years ago called 7 Myths About Rigor in the Classroom that sums up all our misconceptions about rigor beautifully. The full article is definitely worth a read, but I’ve outlined the bullet points and added my own two cents.

In short, rigor is not:

  • Tons of homework: There’s been a lot of backlash on homework in the past years, and with good reason. But homework isn’t inherently good or bad, it’s about what you’re assigning and the purpose behind the assignment. Homework for homework’s sake is not rigorous. And twenty pages of homework without purpose is most definitely not.
  • Doing more: Rigor isn’t about piling on. It isn’t about pulling out all the bells and whistles; a rigorous assignment can often be a single, thought-provoking question or task. More assignments, activities, and tasks doesn’t equate rigor.
  • Just for some students: All students benefit from rigorous activities, even though what constitutes rigor can differ from student to student. Don’t reserve your rigor for only the high achievers.
  • Learning without support or scaffolding: All of us, even as adults, need support from experts when learning new material. Students are no different. When you provide a complex text to read or problem to solve, provide scaffolds to help tackle them too.
  • More stuff: In the history of education, there has never been a single book, program, curriculum, or website that was the magical answer to everything. It isn’t about adding more stuff, it’s about looking at what you have and seeing how it can be tweaked to make it more rigorous.
  • Standards alone: Standards tell us what to teach, not how. While standards are more rigorous these days, you can still teach them without any rigor behind the instruction.
  • One more thing: In teaching, almost everything seems like one more thing. But rigor, done right, is taking what you’re already doing and asking it in a different way.

Supporting Rigor in Any Classroom

While it’s challenging enough to plan for virtual learning, here things to keep in mind to get the most out of your lessons.

Always Consider Application

“When will I ever use this in my life?” moaned every one of us at one point or another in school. It’s a valid question, and one that deserves an answer. Take time to answer that question yourself each time you launch a unit, and find opportunities to share that information with students.

Employ Design Thinking

In STEM, and project based learning you hear a lot about design thinking. Essentially, this is the process of coming up with an idea, testing that idea, failing miserably, reviewing why, and trying again with a modified design.

Design thinking teaches students how to persevere, take risks, and problem solve. It should also not be limited to science and engineering classes. When you are planning your lessons, ask yourself how you can build in opportunities to test, fail, and try again. Hint: this is best achieved with open-ended tasks and questions rather than closed ones (see below).

Design Up the Ladder

When I say “up the ladder,” I really mean any framework: Bloom’s Taxonomy, Webb’s Depth of Knowledge, the SAMR model, The Rigor Relevance Framework. In essence, all of these models are fundamentally saying the same thing: create more tasks that move students from rote memorization to analysis and application.

Important Note

It’s key to remember these models aren’t saying every single thing you teach must be at the top of the framework. Students need to memorize, summarize, and identify as part of learning. We just don’t want them to only be doing those tasks.

So, just pick a ladder and go up it.

Revising for Rigor

Here are some commonly used practices and ideas for how to revise for rigor, all which can be accomplished in a remote environment:

  • True/False and Multiple Choice Questions: State what makes the incorrect answers wrong. Rewrite false questions to make them true. Make more than one answer correct, or no answers correct and have students tell you why.
  • Completing a Chart: Mix up where on the chart students have to provide an answer. Make sure they are being asked to not only provide solutions, but look at solutions and come up with the question.
  • Copying Vocabulary Definitions: Students learn vocabulary in context, not by copying definitions. Have students write the definition in their own words, then also add: what it isn’t, draw a symbol that represents it, give examples and non-examples of the word or term, and find a real life example.
  • A Single Text or Source of Information: Compare and contrast with multiple sources, and I don’t just mean another text: challenge students to find news articles, videos, conduct interviews with adults, even TikTok (yes, I said it) to synthesize with ideas in the text. Challenge students to find facts that contradict the information and evaluate author bias.
  • Closed Lecture Questions: How you ask your questions is as important as what you ask. Think about how many questions you pose to your class that really only have one correct answer. Some of my favorite questions for just about anything are: How do you know? Can you prove it? What’s it related to in the world? What would have to change to make your answer incorrect?
  • One Right Answer or Process: Rarely in life is there ever one single solution or answer. Students who can approach a task from multiple angles are exercising their critical thinking and problem solving muscles. Once they’ve solved it one way, ask: What’s another way to solve it? Who would have a different perspective?
  • Copying Your Notes Verbatim: I mean, I’m just not a big fan of having students copy anything. But class notes are far more rigorous when students interact and respond to them. See ideas for powerful note taking in my blog post here.
  • Summarize the Chapter: Summarizing is an important skill. But after students write their summaries, there are so many ways to synthesize and connect learning. I love the RAFT strategy for providing engagement, choice, and rigor all at the same time.
  • Give Your Opinion: Our students are overflowing with opinions. (Believe me, I have a teenager, I know.) But once they’ve given theirs, turn the tables and make them argue the other side.
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Remote Learning A-Z: Q is for Quizzes

Remote Learning A-Z: Q is for Quizzes

Teachers have been giving quizzes in Google Forms for quite a while. But Google being Google, they are always coming out with new features to improve this experience. For any classroom environment (remote or otherwise) I love two features especially: their self-grading option, and their ability to attach feedback at multiple points in the process. Also, I just discovered a super hack to password protect your form quizzes.

But First: Remember the Why

Before we get to the how-to, I have to get on my little soapbox about assessment. Remember, the fundamental purpose of assessment is to provide actionable feedback on learning, both to you and to your students. Often in assessment we forget about the actionable part. Assessment data, especially given the advantages to analyze it with technology, must be used to give teachers insight on where students are struggling and succeeding. On the other side of that coin, once we get data we need to act on it by modifying our practice for student needs. Otherwise, the information is just stagnant and you’ve missed a prime learning opportunity.

Ok, rant over. Let’s get to the cool features!

So Many Question Types

Google has really ramped up their selection of question types available for forms. The traditional types have always been available: multiple choice, true false, short answer.

Their checkbox feature allows more than one correct answer , which is a huge game-changer in crafting quizzes that move away from just choosing C.

Short answers have the ability be self graded, but can be a little tricky to anticipate for spelling and random capitalization errors so you have to check them over.

Long answers and essay questions are also possible, but those need to be self-graded. However, think of all the time you’ll save only grading the essay questions because Google will do the rest!

Feedback Options

Google Form Quizzes provide multiple opportunities for real-time and timely feedback to students. In addition to allowing students to view their scores as soon as the test is complete, you can also attach immediate feedback to any test question.

Forms even allows you to customize feedback based on the response. If the student answers correctly, you can give them a virtual pat on the back.

Opportunities for Review

If one of our goals is the mastery of subject material, giving students the ability to review answer and try again is key. That’s why I love the incorrect answer feedback! The buttons at the bottom of the window (yellow) allow you to attach a link or a video. If the student gets the question wrong, they can watch a video or read through a text and try again!

Automatic Grading!

Google Forms allow you to create an answer key and set point values (even for long answers), and then it will grade the answers for you. Once students submit the quiz, you get all the responses in not only a handy spreadsheet, but in a host of charts that break down each question. Details are in our help doc.

This little trick will save you a lot of time in the long run, as well as provide some incredibly useful data for by whole class, by question, and by individual student. Now you can quickly identify where students are struggling and where to target your teaching!

Review Questions Quickly

I don’t know how new this feature is, but I was delighted to discover you can now select a question and see all student responses for that one question. With essay questions, this is great because you can read each one, check a box to assign credit, and add feedback right there.

Sometimes Kids Can Be Turkeys

One of the biggest challenges in secondary teaching has always been creating quizzes that are cheat-proof. In a remote world, this problem has grown new challenges. In a classroom, it’s far easier to walk around the room and see if a student has their phone out. Over a Zoom meeting, this is much more difficult.

Teachers have made great leaps in practice over the years in developing assessment tasks and questions that are non-Google-able in a Google-able world, which is one of the best strategies to prevent cheating. But even so, students can always find inventive ways around even our best methods for locking things down.

Creating Password Protection

The brilliant Samantha Groess, responsible for our help docs on Google Docs and Online Explorations, also shared asolution to add passwords to Google Form Quizzes. I mean, really. It’s so much genius I can’t stand it!

Sam wanted to be able to post her quizzes on Google Classroom, but didn’t want students to be able to access or see the quizzes until it was time to take them. So these are the steps she took to password protect them:

Create Question #1

For your first quiz question, ask for a password.

In order for this to work, your question type can only be short answer, checkboxes, or a paragraph. (Usually for a password you want it to be short answer.)

Add Response Validation

Click the three dots on your question and select Response Validation. A dropdown menu will appear under your question. This is where you make the rule for your password.

Set the Rule

I chose to make the password a number, and selected equal to in the dropdown so there is only one password. I entered the unbreakable password of 12345, and added a message if someone gets it wrong.

See more about making rules here.

Add a New Section

Click the equal sign that hovers to the right and a new section will be created. You can see my first question is now Section 1 of 2, and my Quiz Questions are all located in Section 2.

That’s it! You are password protected!

A Note

A feature of Google Forms is the ability to shuffle the question order, which was useful when students were sitting next to each other taking quizzes. If you use the password hack, you can’t shuffle question order because then your password will be buried somewhere in your quiz.

What a Student Sees

Now, if a student enters the incorrect password, they get my error message. If they enter the right password, they are taken to the next section and can start the quiz!

A Few More Tips

There are many videos readily available on locking down Google Form Quizzes to prevent students from sharing test questions and answers. Here are a few other suggestions:

  • Create slightly different forms for each class period. Yes, this is a bit of a pain, but Google does make it a little faster if you make a copy and modify the questions.
  • Set (reasonable) time limits. This can prevent students from looking up information in another screen or on their phones.
  • Add the answer key AFTER the test results have been submitted. You can create a quiz and send it out to students. Once the results are submitted, enter in the answer keys and release the scores.

The Help Doc

We hope this helps you save time, something we know is always a commodity for teachers, but especially now. If you want more details about how to do any of these things, try our help doc here. If you have a tip for using Google Form quizzes, please leave it in the comments below!

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