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Remote Learning A to Z: P is for Practice Slides

Remote Learning A to Z: P is for Practice Slides

One of the many interactive activities in our new remote curriculum are sets of drag-and-drop practice created in Google Slides. These slides are an engaging way to deliver skill building and change things up a little. The best part: if you share a forced-copy link with your students, they will have their own copy to complete and return to you digitally!

In a previous post, I shared our interactive games in Google Slides. Our Practice Slides operate on the same idea of creating a Slide presentation where most of the background is a locked image.

Sample Slides from Our Remote Math Units

But don’t be fooled…these slides are not limited to math! A format like this is perfect for Cloze reading activities, matching sight words, vocabulary in any subject, timelines…basically anything you can think of that can be dragged and dropped!

The How-To

Do you want to make your own activities? The steps are summarized below. A step-by-step is also included here.

Create the Background

In this example, I’m making a math matching activity for primary students.

Create your background with anything you don’t want to move when students use it. Basically, you want everything in the image other than the pieces that move or places where students will type.

I create the background image in a Word document and set the paper size legal and the orientation to landscape. Then I snip the whole page and save it as a JPEG or PNG. Now it’s ready to upload into Slides!

Insert into Google Slides

You can upload your image as a background right in the window where you create slides, but I personally like to use the Edit Master feature. It allows me to have all my different backgrounds in one place.

To access this, go to Slide –> Edit Master. Then duplicate a blank slide, upload your background, and it’s ready to go!

Return to the main screen of the presentation. Click the plus sign to add a new slide, you you will see your layout there. Now you have a slide of your background!

Create the Images

Create a separate image for every item that moves. I usually create them in Word and snip each one, then paste it into the slide. If you want to get really fancy, you can upload it to a transparent editor like LunaPic to get rid of the white border around the snip.

You also don’t need to worry about the pieces you make fitting exactly into the spaces you created, because you will resize them in the presentation.

In some of our Practice Slides we have text boxes where students type instead of images to move around. In this case, you don’t need to create any images and can simply add in a text box wherever you want a student response.

Add Images and Resize

Drop all the images into the slide, and resize them if needed. You can see in this picture the original size of the image I pasted, and then the resized image of fourteen.

I have found it’s better to make the original snips/images bigger because the resolution when pasted into the slide is better.

The Finished Product

Set up your images in the format you want your students to see them. Test by dragging and dropping to make sure everything works.

Your slide is now ready to go!

Share Your Slides!

You will need to share the slides with students as editors, or they won’t be able to move anything around.

The easiest way to do this is to share a forced-copy link with students via Google Classroom or your LMS. Students will then make their own copy, complete the activities, and share it with you finished. Check out how to make a forced-copy link here.

Hope this helps make your teaching and learning more interactive!

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Remote Learning A-Z: O is for Opinion of a Student

Remote Learning A-Z: O is for Opinion of a Student

What better way to know what works and doesn’t in remote teaching but ask students? Our Complete Curriculum Intern has contributed today’s post for us. Like most of us, she was thrust into remote learning this Spring, and thoughtfully shares her experience to help educators everywhere.

My Remote Learning Experience

by Emeline Tu

Sophomore, UC Santa Barbara

As we all prepare to return to instruction for the fall term, I’d like to share with you my experience with distanced learning and what worked and didn’t work for me as a college freshman this past spring.  I do have higher and more optimistic expectations for the preparedness of my classes and instructors and will provide a few general items that can be applied at all education levels and that, in my humble, non-educator opinion, should contribute to remote education running as smoothly as possible.

What to Keep Doing

Maintain Empathy

One of the things I appreciated the most from my professors during spring quarter was the empathy they maintained for us. I was lucky in that my instructors were all quite aware of different circumstances students were facing at home, whether it was international time zones, unreliable internet access, taking care of relatives, other personal family matters, or lack of a quiet space to work. This may seem like a no-brainer for most educators, but I’d still like to maintain it as a gentle reminder. Please be compassionate.

Obviously, educators are dealing with these same issues as they attempt to figure out the best ways to hold their classes, and I do hope my peers and fellow students will recognize this as well. Thus, I think one of the most important ways to ensure the best circumstances possible is to be aware and understanding that each of us has our own personal matters that have intruded on the academic environment, and that these matters may sometimes have to come before school. 

Be Flexible

An additional example of my professors showing empathy was their flexibility with deadlines. Of course, I don’t reasonably expect teachers to simply not require any deadlines for assignments. One of my classes offered pretty generous extensions for our term and final paper deadlines, while also making it clear that the later the assignments were submitted, the later they would be graded. This, to me, seemed like a fair exchange, and provides a good example of the compromises students and teachers must make with each other during this time. 

Balance Online and Offline

When it came to asynchronous versus synchronous lecture formats, this was a bit of a toss up in terms of preference for me. In some situations, having the professor explaining and speaking to the class live simulated the back-and-forth of a classroom environment and helped with answering questions as they arose.

However, many students would be better served by being able to adjust course times to manage internet availability and stability, living in different time zones, working part- or full-time jobs, or just needing to have more flexibility in their schedules. Pre-recorded lecture videos also allow students to go back and hear something they missed or study for exams later in the term. Thus, it is difficult for me as a student to recommend either format separately, because I benefited from both. I will say that a mix of the two is probably the most helpful option for students; for instance, posting lecture material as a recording, but holding optional meeting times or office hours for students to ask questions or get more assistance. 

Communicate

Another major element to consider for remote learning is the importance of communication (as if this weren’t already a super important part of…life). I felt most confident in classes where the professor and/or TA was communicative and available, whether it was through Zoom office hours, email, or even other online messaging mediums.

Unlike the days of in-person lectures, students can no longer easily approach instructors after a lesson for a quick question or clarification. Especially when it comes to asynchronous, or pre-recorded, lecture videos, gaining extra help in the moment isn’t as simple as raising your hand anymore. For classes that were held in real-time video meetings, it was definitely helpful when instructors offered to stick around or stay on the line for a few minutes after lecturing just to answer any follow-up questions. 

Keep to Schedules

Amid this ever-changing public health crisis, there are many situations we can’t control in our lives. Having a detailed and logical weekly routine in each of my classes was extremely helpful for my stress levels and sanity. Professors provided certain times and days when they would post lecture content, as well as had regularly scheduled meetings or office hours.

Knowing when my homework was going to be due each week, and even having an outline in the syllabus of what material would be covered allowed me to plan my daily schedule efficiently. Students really do need the flexibility to make these situations work for them, the same way teachers do. Both parties ultimately benefit from knowing when and where they need to submit, post, or meet. At this point, I think we all would really like to have as few surprises as possible.

What to Consider

With all the rapid changes that occurred at the end of winter quarter and the beginning of spring quarter this past school year, instructors suddenly had about a week to shift all curriculum, assignments, tests, lectures, etc. to an online format. I can only imagine that most professors and TAs spent the majority of their spring breaks frantically scrambling to figure out how this was all going to work.

So needless to say, spring quarter itself was a challenge, and I think this lack of prep time was one of the main reasons. Because of the short notice, syllabi were late being updated, professors unfamiliar with streaming and PowerPoint presentations had to make do with holding up pieces of paper to their webcams, pets interrupted lectures (which, honestly, I did not mind), and communication among professors, TAs, and students was immensely stunted.

As much as I appreciate how generous and lenient my professors have been, I would like to touch upon a few things that didn’t work as well during this time (keeping in mind, of course, that all of this was new and involved quite a bit of rushed planning).

Camera Rules

First, when it came to video meetings, I wasn’t a huge fan of being required to have my video camera on throughout the class. I understand the desire to ensure that students are paying attention and not just tuned into the call while sleeping in front of their disabled camera.

Believe me, I’ve heard about plenty of students who have done something of the sort. However, I think it shows more compassion to encourage cameras to be on, but also allow students the option not to have to display their living conditions to their peers

I am very fortunate to have my own workspace and didn’t have a big personal issue with keeping my camera on (other than the weird feeling of rolling out of bed and joining a call five minutes later). However, I know that many of my fellow students have different housing or living situations that they may simply not want to broadcast via video camera. Thus, I hope that teachers holding live video meetings with their students will be as flexible as possible on the camera-on policy.

Grading Policies

Grading Policies

Something that added unnecessary stress to the online learning experience was a lack of transparency when it came to grading or the class syllabus. In several of my classes last term, the grade weighting was unclear for the majority of the quarter, making it difficult to gauge how well I was really doing in the class.

One instructor even eliminated the grading scale entirely, and made the grading much more vague and subjective. For example, “great effort” would earn an A, while “average effort” would earn a C, and so on. The reasoning for this was to alleviate stress of concentrating on grades and numbers. Personally, it caused me to worry more about whether my standard of “average” or “great” was really aligned with that of the professor and TAs.

Of course, I can only imagine how difficult it must have been to adapt an entire course to an online format within the span of a week before our spring quarter had started, so I recognize that this could simply have been a product of the lack of sufficient prep time for professors and instructors. Going forward, however, I would ask that teachers make their grading policies as clear as possible from the beginning. 

Approaching A New Year

The school year has yet to begin for me, but I am anticipating once again becoming immersed in my academic life very soon. I plan to have as positive an attitude as possible about the conditions that surround all of us, and have touched all of us. I hope that on the other side of the pandemic and disruptions we’ve faced, we will have learned even better ways of communicating, working together, and making the education experience a valuable one for all. 

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Remote Learning A-Z: N is for Note Taking

Remote Learning A-Z: N is for Note Taking

You know what happens the first time you give a third grader a highlighter and a text to highlight? 95-100% of the text comes back highlighted. The reason for this is third graders loooovve to use highlighters. And many third graders don’t know what in the world they should be highlighting. This same phenomena also translates to high school: just because the teacher said “take notes,” doesn’t mean the student knows what those notes should be about or how to take them.

From about fifth grade onward, we start expecting our students to take notes, either on what we say or what they read. But many students have never been explicitly taught the point of note taking, or what makes a good set of notes. Note-taking is a skill we have to teach if we expect it to be done well, like just about everything else.

Why Take Notes?

My son was so thrilled when he found out he could bring one index card to his tests in science last year. He would spend hours painstakingly condensing everything from the unit in microscopic print on that teensy card. What he didn’t realize was that the act of rereading his material and figuring out what to include was helping it all stick in his brain.

The purpose of taking notes is to have a reference for the information you want to ultimately stick in your brain. Notes should be the most important points of something, but they should also be a way to process and synthesize new information. For so many students, they act stops at the writing and never gets to the synthesizing part. Many students take copious notes, but either they aren’t reviewed, or they are so dense that when they are reviewed, it’s just like reading the whole book once more.

What Makes Notes More Powerful?

Cult of Pedagogy has a great podcast and research roundup about note-taking. To summarize them (and others), here are some key ideas to remember about powerful note taking:

  • Note taking helps: just the act of listening and writing helps things stick in our long term memory.
  • More is actually more: even though we call it a “note,” the more complete they are, the better.
  • Teach note-taking strategies: I said that! (see above)
  • Add visuals: if you ever wondered why you like Pinterest so much, it’s because of visuals make a difference. Visuals help us access parts of our brain that we don’t thought traditional note-taking.
  • Revising, reviewing, and reflecting on notes makes them more powerful: this is a crucial piece often missing from notes, but it’s so important to make notes stick.
  • Scaffolding is important: Providing students with a template or outline helps not only teach students how to take notes effectively, but in the retention of information.
  • Handwriting beats digital, but…: the research is still sparse about this one, but what seems to ring true is it’s about whatever note-taking system works for the learner.

Read With a Pencil

This is a skill students can learn even at a young age. Reading with a pencil is essentially annotating a passage to create connections and meaning. It forces us to attend to the text (and not only an English text: this works for math too!) instead of skimming. There are tons of versions of this strategy out there, with different symbols and ideas. For young students, just circling confusing words or underlining one idea they like is enough.

Graphic Organizers

For another note-taking strategy that spans all ages, I really do love me some graphic organizers. When done right, graphic organizers are an amazing scaffold for supporting student processing of information.

To get your freebie PDF of this graphic organizer, CLICK HERE.

An important thing to remember is that not all graphic organizers fit all purposes. Before you assign one, always think about the purpose of the lesson: is it to summarize, reflect, or respond? Do I want to know what students know, or do I want to support them in making deeper meaning?

Then, think about the easiest way to achieve that goal. Sometimes an elaborate story map or flowchart can end up being more busywork than learning. In some cases, it might be an index card (virtual or not) with a sentence response.

Return Often

Notes aren’t very useful if we only take them. Writing the words down is only the first step: we actually have to return to them to make meaning and get it to stick!

Color Coding Helps!

Anyone who knows me knows how much I love to color code. Everything. But even if you aren’t like me, having a color coding system for your student to review their notes can help identify what the know, don’t know, and questions they have. Read on for a Google Doc template that can help you with color coding!

Add Visuals

As a Bullet Journal devotee, I love sketchnotes, and it’s not just because I like buying pens and washi tape. The images below are not mine; I could never do anything so beautiful. They belong to the amazingly talented Amy. I find these so inspirational in their beauty and organization. I try every month to be like her, but I’m just not.

There’s something so pleasing about these notes! My son, who hates artistic endeavors in any form, also dislikes sketchnotes. But again, it’s all about what works for the note taker. I will say this: the act of creating a symbolic representation of ideas tickles a different part of your brain and makes you think differently. Even if you don’t consider yourself an artist, encourage your students to try it. Not one has to look at them but you!

If you’ve been taking effective notes along the way, you may have noticed I haven’t provided any remote tools in a blog series on remote teaching. Remember, since notes are for the note taker, handwritten notes might give our screen-overloaded students a moment of offline time. But for anyone who’d like some resources for teaching note taking to students, here they are!

Notes in Google Docs

Google Docs is a great standby for note taking. It’s quick and easy to use, easy to share, and has all the word processing features you may need. But remember, a blank document is intimidating for anyone. Providing a template to scaffold students as they learn to take effective notes helps immensely!

This template in Google Docs takes students through the note-taking process and requires them to re-read their notes to summarize, color code, and comment with questions or confusions. The more they use this template, the more their note taking skills will improve.

Do you want a copy of this template? Of course you do! CLICK HERE.

Google Keep

Google Keep is a task management/note taking program that you may not know about, at least for student note taking. It’s available by clicking what we used to call “the waffle” in your account (the nine dots). It’s the one with the light bulb icon. There are quite a few ways it can be used for students, outlined in this article from Shake Up Learning. Here is a sample set of notes I took on story structure from the astoundingly brilliant Tim Storm.

Here are a bunch of things I love about using Keep for notes:

  • Easy : Just start typing and your notes appear!
  • Color coded: Need I say more?
  • Interactive: Students can upload images and files to annotate and add notes.
  • Visual: It’s visually pleasing, and also allows uploading of images, creating your own drawings, linking sources.
  • Reflective: Keep’s structure lends itself to review of notes, which we have already learned is key. You can go back and add more notes to anything, add any number of labels to help with organization, color code for things that are important or confusing.
  • Collaborative: in an area where Google is king, Keep also lets you share notes and collaborate with others. So many possibilities!
  • Organized: You can create as many labels as you want and then sort by those labels to only see them. In the example images below, you can see where I’ve labeled some things “Connections,” and others “Story Structure.” When I click on the label, it automatically only shows me the Story Structure Notes. Students could potentially take notes for all classes in one spot, then seen only those things by clicking the label. And when you’re finished with a set of notes, archive them!

Google Jamboard

In an earlier post I focused on Google Jamboard, the interactive whiteboard program. Jamboard is also a great option for quick close reads and notes! Simply drop in an image of the excerpt you want students to read, and let them go to town with the highlighter and stickies. And if you want to add visuals, this is the perfect place to do it!

Here’s a sample Jamboard annotation from Tim’s article:

CLICK HERE to see a PDF of this Jamboard.

We hope this helps your students make things stick! Let us know how it goes by leaving a comment below.

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Remote Teaching A-Z: M is for Multimedia Presentations

Remote Teaching A-Z: M is for Multimedia Presentations

Over the last decade, I’ve probably given hundreds of presentations to groups of educators big and small. Back when I started there was only PowerPoint, so that’s what I used. (Also back then there was New Coke, and I also had to press the letter S by pressing the number seven, four times.) A few years later many flashier products were released. I was one of the first to jump on the Prezi bandwagon. I loved Prezi, but I didn’t love how people used it incorrectly and made me slightly motion sick. And then there came Google Slides, which opened up a whole new world of presentation collaboration.

Then, there was the wave of “presentations are for the tragically unhip.” In this school of thought, a presentation makes you like your aunt on Facebook who doesn’t know the comment section isn’t for personal, back-and-forth conversations about your roast beef recipe.

Bah, I say.

While it may be true for business environments, it isn’t in teaching or learning.

As the Teacher

We’ve all experienced Death By PowerPoint: seemingly endless slides, ten point font, the guy from Ferris Beuller, and that silent prayer when you look through the printout and see there are still 29 left.

However, presentations, when done well, can also enhance your message and provide a crucial anchor for your students. Remember, they’re processing information that’s new to them. They need to visually be able to hold on to something, because it’s hard work mapping new knowledge onto old. A good presentation also serves as a study resource for students after your meeting has ended.

Teacher Tips for Powerful Presentations
  • Know your objective: Even as adults we rarely hear and comprehend the first time something is presented, and we shouldn’t expect students will either. Get to the point quickly and often. Put your objective in big, bold font at the beginning, middle, and end of the presentation.
  • Make slides engaging: Sometimes slides need more text. Sometimes they don’t. (The real answer to this question is in the tip above.) When you do have a lot of text, you can always break it up into smaller chunks. Or, consider writing the extra text in the speaker notes and sharing it with your students for reference. Either way, make sure your slides are easy to read and have a compelling visual image to accompany them when possible.
  • Build in interaction: Google Slides has a feature where audience members can ask a question and vote on it, but even without, think about moments within your presentation that you can stop and interact with your students. More importantly, when can they interact with each other?
  • Circle back at the end: Have students write a $2 summary on a Jamboard or IdeaBoard at the end of the presentation (10 cents a word, with key words free), or use a program like Kahoot! to make a quick, interactive quiz.

Student Presentations

As the Student

It’s not just about your presentations, either. Most state standards now require our students to have facility with presenting while using a variety of multimedia tools to do so. And what an important, lifelong skill to learn!

I will be the first to tell you that sitting through thirty student presentations is…challenging. And sometimes, sleep-inducing. Yet in remote and traditional teaching, student presentations are here to stay. So if we’re asking students to create and deliver these, why not take some proactive steps to ensure your students’ presentations are they best they can be?

Tips for Supporting Students
  • Teach presentation skills: like most everything, we can’t expect students to develop presentation skills without be explicitly taught. I like to show students examples of what not to do, partly because it’s funny. But it also has some great examples of what can go wrong when learning how to use presentation software. To get your copy of the presentation above, CLICK HERE.
  • Engage the audience: if you build an interactive requirement into the assignment (both for the presenter and the audience), listeners will be more engaged. Presenters might hold a question and answer, have a quiz question in the middle, or have a riddle that can only be solved be paying attention to the main point of each slide. Listeners can be asked to give a certain type of feedback, be on the lookout for a goal set by the presenter, or write a 20 word summary at the end. CLICK HERE for a list of ideas.
  • Use a rubric: provide students with a rubric that not only grades on the content of the assignment, but the presentation preparation, organization, and skills. This shows students that the presentation is part of the whole, and that the more they know about the topic, the easier the creation and delivery of the presentation will be. CLICK HERE for a sample Multimedia Presentation Rubric.

Hope you and your students benefit from these tips! Enjoy!

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Remote Learning A-Z: L is for Links

Remote Learning A-Z: L is for Links

More and more in the remote teaching world, we are sending students to a host of links for learning. In the course of a week, students visit dozens of website pages, documents, videos, and other programs. With prolonged exposure, this constant clicking can cause Link Fatigue.

Prevent Link Fatigue!

That’s not actually a thing; I just made that up.

Even so, the struggle is real. We want to provide as many engaging resources as we can for students. There is so much out there to share! At the same time, it should be simple for students and families to access everything without visiting ten separate documents to do it. Streamlining helps teachers as well. With time in short supply, you don’t want to be constantly creating a brand new template from scratch. And finally, if you’re anything like me, you also want it to look pretty.

Below are three strategies for creating appealing landing spots that you can reuse each week: Hyperdocs, Google Slides, and the Google Gameboard.

The Hyperdoc

Hyperdocs have been around for some time. At first blush, a hyperdoc seems like just a document with links, which fundamentally it is. However, upon closer inspection you realize it is much more.

The learning in hyperdocs comes completely from strong teacher planning. A great hyperdoc is designed to lead students through a learning process from engagement, to application, to reflection and extension. Essentially, we are virtually guiding students through a well-designed lesson plan.

One Possible Learning Process

Every hyperdoc you create won’t follow the exact same flow, but here is an example design I like to use:

  • Hook & Engage (essential question, KWL, class discussion)
  • Explore (video, close-read, teacher lecture)
  • Explain (quick whole-class check for understanding, brainstorm response)
  • Practice (collaborate with peers, complete practice problems)
  • Apply (create something)
  • Reflect (respond to what you learned)
  • Extend (provide resources for learning more)

I always find when I focus on the process as I create a hyperdoc, the lessons are so much more engaging and rigorous.

Are you hooked? The Hyperdoc Academy is your go-to spot to learn more and find examples.

The Google Slide

When you’re ready to change up your hyperdocs and add more images, I suggest using Google Slides. Slides is an easy, collaborative tool for creating visually engaging landing spots.

The beauty of this tool is you can upload any background image (including the Bitmoji classroom you spent three weeks making because those tiny book covers are so cute). The background image is then “locked,” so it can’t be moved or accidentally deleted.

A Sweet Example:

The exploration above (from our Grade 5 Expressions, Equations, and Coordinate Graphing unit) is created in Google Slides. Each cupcake is linked and takes students to the components of their exploration:

  • Vocabulary Preview: the green cupcake takes students to a Google Form survey. Students rate their familiarity with key terms for the unit. Bonus: you get all the answers in one spreadsheet to see what your students know before the unit even begins!
  • Cupcake Graph: since the unit is cupcake themed, the purple cupcake takes students to a Google Doc graph to weigh in on their favorite cupcake flavor.
  • Video: Clicking the yellow cupcake takes students to a video of a book that will be referred to throughout the lesson.
  • Response Sheet: the blue cupcake takes students to their Google Classroom, to respond to a discussion about the book they just listened to.
Ready to Create an Interactive Slide?

If you want to create your own engaging landing spots via Google Slides, CLICK HERE for a help doc with tips and tricks.

The Google Gameboard

Even if you’re a Google Docs kind of person, you can still make your link documents visually appealing.

Would you believe that this gameboard was made in Google Docs? All it takes to make this via docs is to change the background color and add a table!

After that, anything goes! Add in the links, spice it up with a few images, and you are ready to share. In this gameboard, I’ve added links both in the text and with some of the the images.

CLICK HERE to see the gameboard and access the links.

Hope this makes your planning and prepping easier!

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Remote Learning A-Z: K is for KWL Charts

Remote Learning A-Z: K is for KWL Charts

KWL Charts (What We Know, Want to Know, and Learned) have been around since long before I was a teacher…and when I was teaching my coolest technology in the classroom was my overhead projector! KWL Charts are still a standby because they activate prior knowledge, elicit questions, and allow students to reflect on their learning.

KWLs have evolved over the decades, though, even gaining a few letters here and there.

K-W-L Variations

If you do a search, there are quite a few variations of good old KWL. Here are some of my favorites:

  • KWHL: The H stands for How can we find out? Love that.
  • KWHLAQ: It’s a mouthful, but this one adds two things at the end that I also love: What action will I take? and What new questions do I have?
  • KWLS: The S stands for: What strategies did I use for this?

A Virtual Tool for KWLs

There are a lot of tools that can be used for KWL charts. Programs like Google Docs and Google Jamboard are easy ways to work in real time on these brainstorms together. Here is one you may not know about.

Ideaboardz is a great little tool for class brainstorms and KWL charting. It’s free, easy to create, and has some cool features that other programs like it don’t have. Also, did I mention it’s free?

How to Create an Ideaboardz

Create a Board

Go to the Ideaboardz site and click Create my own IdeaBoard. Give your board a name, description, and select a format. There are a few pre-made sections, or you can choose up to ten.

I chose four sections, one for each in KHWL.

Tell them you are not a robot, then click Create.

Grab the Link

Copy the link in your browser and send it to your students.

That’s it!

They can start brainstorming immediately by clicking on the green plus sign.

Vote, Delete, or Edit

When you click on a sticky, you can edit, vote for it, or delete it. It’s important to note that ANYONE can do that, even if you weren’t the author. Thus, it’s pretty important to set some ground rules with your students before starting a board.

Combine Like Ideas

This is one of the features I love most about Ideaboardz. In a brainstorm (especially a virtual one with your whole class at the same time) we know there will be many similar ideas.

All you need to do to combine stickies is to drag one on top of another. You will be asked if you’re sure, then the two are one!

For a little extra critical thinking and comprehension, ask your students read through everyone’s ideas and see where some can be combined. Not sure about what a sticky means? What an opportunity to ask clarifying questions!

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Remote Learning A-Z: J is for Jamboard

Remote Learning A-Z: J is for Jamboard

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Google Jamboard is one of the lesser-known apps available in Google Suite. The Jamboard is a nifty online, collaborative whiteboard. It is simple and user-friendly, so it’s quick for students and teachers to learn. Because it’s part of Google, it also integrates with Google Classroom. Jamboards are great visual tool for brainstorming, organizing a host of ideas,mindmapping, and storyboarding. I think of it like a virtual sticky-note board that lets me move everything around and never runs out of room.

How to Create a Jamboard

Find Your Jamboard

From your Google Drive, click New -> More and then select Google Jamboard.

Now you have a blank canvas (called a frame) to create!

Notice at the top that you can keep adding more and more frames to the same board. It’s possible to have your whole class on one Jamboard, with a frame for each student.

Jamboard Tools

There are some cool tools to select along the sidebar: pens and markers, text boxes, sticky notes (my favorite), and the ability to add images, animation, and shapes. There is even a laser pointer!

Text boxes and sticky notes will automatically resize the text when you resize the box. I love that!

Choose a Background

There are only a few backgrounds to choose from, but they work fine. I personally like to upload a great big image as a background because they look pretty, but that image is easily moved or deleted. (If the Google Gods are listening, it would be AMAZING to be able to upload a background that locked! Please please please please!)

Start Creating!

Now that you have your first board, start creating!

The example at the right is a rif on our More Brains are Better resource. With this example, share this Jamboard template with four students. Each writes an individual thought on a separate sticky, then they work together to form the thought in the middle from everyone’s ideas.

The template for this Jamboard is available as a freebie to you. Get it by CLICKING HERE!

Some Jamboard Tips

Some tips. In a Jamboard. That’s kind of meta, don’t you think?

Caution!

Because there are less of the standard Google tools available in Jamboard, you sometimes want more features. There is a limited selection of colors, and you can’t change the font. Also, a big consideration for teachers is Jamboard does not have Revision History, which is why it is better suited to quick brainstorms instead of more involved group projects.

More Jamboard Ideas

Here are just a few ideas for Jamboards: Venn Diagrams, A Question of the Day board, Classroom Graphs, Brainstorming Sessions, and (my fave) An Appreciation Wall. You can even start a new wall (frame) every day and have a collection of appreciations for your students to scroll through! (I wish you could see how that cute little green bean is when he’s animated!)

Have fun with this remote resource!

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Remote Learning A-Z: I is for Interviews

Remote Learning A-Z: I is for Interviews

This post highlights one of our newest offerings: a bundle of interviews and wacky questions to use in classroom discussions. These interviews are a useful way to stay connected. They encourage students to talk (and more importantly, listen!) to each other, share information and little known facts, and find commonalities. Everything in the set is in Google Forms, so you can share one version with students and read all the responses in one spreadsheet.

Printable and Google Form Versions!

Our set of interviews includes a teacher-to-family survey about your student and teacher-to-student surveys around mindset and preferences in Math and ELA. There’s a family history interview, which is perfect for students wanting to connect with a remote family member! Finally, we have two Partner Interview versions (for younger and older students) that students can use to talk with each other.

Bonus! Over 50 Questions of the Day!

What is your favorite smell?

When is the last time you read a book or watched a movie that made you cry?

Would you rather visit fifty years into the future or the past?

If you were a teleporter for 24 hours, what would you do?

This set comes with a PDF that can be used now or when you return to the classroom. As a bonus, we also included TONS of wacky, weird, and thoughtful questions that can be used for online class discussions or a Question of the Day.

Here’s a sample of some of the interviews:

We hope these are helpful! As a reminder, all of our remote resources are featured on our teacher page, with more added almost daily. You can click below to purchase or see a preview.

Have fun, and let us know how it goes by leaving a comment!

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Remote Learning A-Z: H is for How Are You Doing?

Remote Learning A-Z: H is for How Are You Doing?

In a remote classroom, forming connections with students is a challenge. Being unable to learn together physically makes it more difficult to get to know your students, or notice when one of your students may be having an off day. When we were in the classroom, it was much easier to spot when a child was feeling upset or acting different from their norm. It was also easier to intervene, ask questions, and help solve problems.

I know so many teachers who are struggling with this very issue right now. With all the energy and time put in for planning, making videos, holding class, taking attendance, making alternate plans when WiFi goes out…it’s hard to find time to check in with your students just to see how everyone is feeling. Then, when you finally do meet with your class, it’s a challenge to read their tiny faces on the screen!

Tons of Tips for Staying Connected

To help you keep forging those important connections with your students, today’s post is a roundup of strategies to help check in with your students, make sure they feel heard and appreciated, and also remind us why we decided to become teachers in the first place!

Start the Day with Connections

Superstar teacher Samantha Groess created a set of weekly check-ins on one Google Form for her high school students. (Bonus- they also help her take daily attendance!) Each day has a theme: Meaningful Monday, Technical Tuesday, Wednesday “Wonderings,” Talk About it Thursday, and Finally Friday. (She even wrote a cool little script so the spreadsheet answers are put into different day tabs…but that’s a tip for later in the alphabet.)

Do a Mental Health Check

You might also consider sending a daily survey (via Google Forms or other survey tool) specifically around how your students are feeling. For example, this teacher created a daily Mental Health Check that went viral.

End the Day with Connections

The end of the lesson is a perfect time to administer an check for understanding question or a question about how remote learning is working (try a prompt like Keep, Stop, Start).

This is also another opportunity to see how everyone is feeling. I’m stealing this example from a previous post (A is for Assessment), but Exit Tickets are a simple way to check in. A remote bonus is that in a Google Forms Exit Ticket, you get everyone’s individual answers and a class summary like magic!

Find Common Ground

Partner Venn Diagrams are great! And today, they can be done virtually in Google Slides, Drawings, or Jamboard. (I personally prefer Slides because you can lock the background image. But if your students are older, you can always teach them how to use the undo button.) Jamboard is faster and easier to use, but more on that in a few days!

Don’t forget to take part!

Kids can complete this activity with a partner, but teachers should also get in on the fun. Create a Venn Diagram to describe yourself, then share a forced copy with your students. Students can move images that you have in common to the middle, and add their own on the right side. Presto – you now know what you have in common with all your kids!

Want a FREE template? Of course I do!

Get to Know Your Class

A variation on the Venn Diagram that is individual is this FREE Getting to Know You Template. Students choose one of the backgrounds and add images that represent themselves. Don’t forget to make one for yourself and provide time to showcase class creations. Another option is to have your entire class paste their slides into one presentation and share it on your LMS as a slideshow.

The chart paper and sticky note graphs we used to use at the beginning of the year are a little harder to achieve remotely. Our Getting to Know You Graphs for K-4 can help you do this in a virtual environment.

Make Some Videos

On the subject of students learning about each other, my son’s biology teacher did a great welcome assignment using the popular program FlipGrid. He posted a welcome video and included clear directions. Then students posted videos with facts about themselves, watched other students’ videos, and were required to comment. It’s fast and easy to record a video response, too! Learn more about FlipGrid, here.

I’m sure a year ago no teacher thought they would become so comfortable with being on camera all the time. In addition to all those teaching videos you’re making, try and make a few quick ones just to check in with how your students are doing.

Give Some Love

Padlet is an visual and user-friendly tool for posting ideas, brainstorming, organizing information, and discussing. Why not create a Padlet Board just for appreciations or someone in need of a boost? Make sure to set it so that people can comment and give lots of <3. (SPOILER ALERT: There’s also a Jamboard version coming in Letter J!)

Ask Some Silly Questions

Utilize the discussion feature in Google Classroom or in your LMS to ask some silly questions too: What’s your superpower? What’s your warning label? What three books do you want on a deserted island? Would you rather always be dressed up or always wear your pajamas? You can learn a lot with these kinds of questions, and students can learn a lot about you too!

If you’re looking for more silly (and thoughtful) questions we have over 50 for you in this pack with our remote interview Google Forms.

Buddy Up

When we go swimming, hiking, or scuba diving, we should always have a buddy. Remote learning should be that way too, especially since classroom connections are more of a challenge remotely. Assign your students a classmate buddy on a rotating basis: change it up every week or every few days. Buddies are responsible for checking in on each other at least twice during the week, either informally (if you prefer) or more formally (with sentence starters or a google form) and reporting out.

You can even jump into the rotation here and there, which will let you check in with students individually throughout the year!

Get Creative

Watching my husband spend two days on his Bitmoji and teeny-tiny Bitmoji Kindergarten classroom seemed a little over the top to me at first…but these fun things help students feel like their virtual world is a little more personalized. Take a break from the teaching and make a Bitmoji Classroom or a goofy meme to share with your kids!

We hope these ideas help you make better connections with your kids in this challenging time, and we’d love to hear what you have done or plan to do to stay connected with your class!

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Remote Learning A-Z: G is for Games

Remote Learning A-Z: G is for Games

When I was in the classroom, my favorite way to teach math was through games. This is a lot harder to do in the virtual world, especially when a lot of online games are glorified versions of flashcards and don’t require a lot of strategy or critical thinking!