Tag: freebie

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: 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: 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: B is for (More) Brains!

I said this before, and I’ll say it again: In a true collaborative task, the task itself cannot be completed without the thinking and work of everyone on the team. This was hard enough in the traditional classroom, but it’s even more difficult as a distance teacher and learner. In this post, I’ll show you one activity I loved using with kids and teachers, and how it’s been adapted for the remote world.

This activity, More Brains are Better, used the old teacher standby of sticky notes and paper. (Remember those good old days?) Kids were presented with a question or problem, and individually wrote their own answers on the notes. Then they got together with their groups and each post it note was put on the paper. Students shared their notes aloud, asked questions, and worked together to write a final solution or answer in the middle that represented everyone’s best ideas.

The paper for the traditional classroom looked something like this.

Now, the Remote Version!

We’ve adapted this resource for use in the remote classroom using Google Slides. Instead of students writing their thoughts on sticky notes, they create their own individual slide. Next, they paste their slide into the shared presentation of their group, present and discuss, and then work collaboratively (online) to create their final slide.

Get Yours Free!

While collaboration is still a huge challenge in the virtual world, it doesn’t mean we still shouldn’t try and find little ways for students to continue to work together. In the coming weeks we will showcase more of these resources to share with you!

This template is a freebie, available right now at Teachers Pay Teachers.

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