As the 2020/2021 school year approaches, teachers have a lot of questions about what it will look like. When we ask this question, it seems like all we hear is “We don’t know yet.” Since governors, district leaders and administrators don’t know what schools will look like next year, teachers are struggling to figure out how to prepare. In this blog series, we are looking at 10 ways that we can prepare this summer without wasting our time. Each way will prove beneficial to you, whether your district ends up using distance learning, traditional classrooms, or a hybrid education approach. Included in each blog post in this series will be tech tool suggestions, free resources, and a giveaway entry form.
Today we will begin with the first thing all teachers should do to prepare for next school year:
You can prepare a digital classroom.
My current school uses Google Classroom for our digital classrooms. However, digital classrooms can also be created using Edmodo, Schoology, Seesaw, Otus, Kiddom, Canvas, and many other platforms. Technically, you could build a digital classroom out of any website with forums, if you had enough coding experience. Personally, I like using a program like Google Classroom or Edmodo, where someone else has done the heavy lifting and all I have to do is create assignments.
The essence of a digital classroom is that it provides you with an online place to: give students access to website links, videos, digital documents, etc. Then the students have a place to complete assignments, ask and answer questions and post what they have completed. This can look very different from class to to class depending on the age of the students and the subject area(s) being studied. Personally, I spend time each year organizing my digital classroom similarly to how I organize my bricks and mortar classroom. In my Google Classroom, I create "topics" with each subject area so that kiddos can go and find everything they need for that topic. To me this is the same as putting all of the math manipulatives in one cabinet and the ELA materials in another. It helps me, AND THE KIDS, know where to get the learning materials needed.
Digital Classrooms work in Traditional Classrooms Too
Digital classrooms are not only helpful when you are doing distance learning. Having a digital classroom when you are in a brick and mortar school gives you a way to give students website links, videos and activities in an organized and easy to access way. This is much easier than having students type in links, often incorrectly, wasting learning time with technology issues. Within the classroom, students can use the digital classroom when they are at a computer center, in the computer lab, or any other time they are working on a device (Chromebook, iPad, laptop, etc.) in your classroom.
Digital classrooms also allow students to continue working on these assignments at home, which is a good feature for distance learning, but is also helpful when we are in a brick and mortar school and students want or need extension and remediation activities at home. I have used digital classrooms to post videos that help students through homework assignments and family projects. I have used digital classroom to help students remember links and passwords to websites we use in class - like Zearn, Freckle, Duolingo, etc. My students also have access to all of the videos we use in class (skip counting videos, background knowledge videos, teaching videos etc.) at home. So if they miss a day or they need to review what we did, they have access to everything everywhere.
If we are back to "normal" come fall, having a digital classroom will be beneficial. If we are doing "distance learning" or any kind of "hybrid learning" situation, having a digital classroom will be a necessity. So basically, working on a digital classroom will be a win/win activity for all teachers to work on this summer.
FREE Resources for Your Classroom
As you take some time to build your digital classroom this summer, here are three free resources which may help you out:
Technology Integration Plan for Writing - This plan has a variety of project ideas to use technology while teaching writing. I developed it while I was a computer lab teacher.
Technology Integration Plan for Math - This plan has a variety of project ideas to use technology while teaching math. I developed it while I was a computer lab teacher.
Websites to Use in the Classroom - This is an e-book I published back in 2012 with websites and technology ideas to be used in any type of elementary classroom.
June Digital Learning Resource Bundle Giveaway
Now time for our giveaway!!! With today's giveaway entry form, you will be entering to win my Technology Integration Bundle. This bundle includes: technology vocabulary cards, online portfolio planning sheets, guidelines for students to create videos, an internet safety presentation and an internet research presentation. Enter to win this Technology Integration Bundle, by completing the June Giveaway Entry Form #1.
All winners will be chosen on July 1st. Winners will receive the bundle directly to the provided email. All those who enter will also receive my monthly Raki's Rad Resources News Releases.
Interested in more tips on how to prepare for the unpreparable 2020/2021 school year? Come back tomorrow for tip #2!
Missed a day? This blog post contains the entire list of 10 Things You Can Do to Prepare for Next School year.
It's happened! A Chromebook cart with a device for each and every student is now housed in my classroom! I'm so excited. I imagine all of the possibilities now that I have chromebooks for my students. It's better than a whole box of classroom supplies, because these little devices can connect us to so many options!
Then I think about how I'm going to manage 22 devices and 22 students. What if they break it? What if they go looking where they're not supposed to? What if, what if, what if...... Instead of thinking about what ifs, I used these chromebook classroom management strategies to keep us on track, and it's made for a great school year so far!
Chromebook Classroom Management
1.) Set up expectations and be prepared to repeat
At the beginning of the school year, I teach students how I expect them to use a notebook, how I want them to sharpen their pencil and how I want them to line up. It's obvious that I would also need to teach them how to use their Chromebooks.
The students rolled their eyes at me as I taught them where the power button was and how to plug in their headphones. But a few of them needed those instructions, and they weren't about to speak up and tell me that they didn't know. I also taught them how to hold the Chromebooks (screen closed, two hands, hugged to body) and how to plug their Chromebook only into the plug next to their number in our cart.
Each classroom's expectations will be different. This is what the expectations look like in my 3rd grade classroom:
2.) Develop procedures for dealing with food and water
Before Chromebooks I encouraged my students to have water bottles at their desks and to eat their snack while working. However, I have no desire to be the person who has to go to my edtech and explain that a Chromebook isn't working because a student spilled water all over it. So as soon as the Chromebooks arrived all water bottles were delegated to the students' supply caddies. Snack is now something that is eaten only when we are NOT at our desks, generally during silent reading or other non-technology reading centers.. And of course we talked about both of these changes and why they were happening. Now my students are the first to remind me if we have food or water near the Chromebooks.
3.) Set up your furniture where you can see MOST screens
I hate rows! Let me say that again, I hate having my desks in rows. They move constantly so that they're not a row and the kids have limited access to the students around them, which hampers those good educational discussions. (Yes, I'm a teacher who likes when my kids talk - mostly!) However, we started the year with rows simply so the kiddos know that I can sit at my table in the back teaching small group and see exactly what everyone is doing on their Chromebooks.
As time has passed, we've fiddled with the arrangement and now we have U shaped desks with the desks facing away from me belonging to my most trusted students. I still get up and move around as much as I can, but if I can't teach small group while students are on the Chromebook, then they are kind of pointless.
4.) Train your tech support helpers
One of my favorite classroom jobs is that of "tech support". These are the students whose job it is to go and help others who get stuck using their technology. In past years I had 2 students for the entire class. This year, each group has their own tech support. The students choose their own roles, and I approve them. So the kids with the most actual technology knowledge end up in this role.
One of the reason that I love having tech support is that they solve 90% of the questions that come up. Another reason is that when we are changing something small in our routine, I train only these 4 students. Then they are able to help their group. Now if we are starting a whole new website or program, I train the whole class. But if I moved the location of a link in Google Classroom, then I just show my tech supports and they pass on the news.
5.) Set up bookmark bars
The first technology skill I taught my students, after logging in, was how to bookmark websites. Then we bookmarked all of the sites we use regularly - Khan Academy, Pearson, Math Magician, Google Classroom, Flipgrid, Storybird, etc. This way they can easily get to their websites WITHOUT retyping it incorrectly nine times. Saves time, saves frustration, and saves a teacher's sanity!
6.) Practice accessing challenging sites
Even with bookmarks, there are certain sites that take a thousand clicks in order to access what you're looking for. The website where we access our curriculum in e-book is like this. It takes, no lie, 9 clicks for my kiddos to get to their books. This takes a lot of practice for students to remember those clicks.
On the first day that we had our Chromebooks, I had took them through all 9 clicks. Then I had them close it all out and do it from scratch. And then I had them repeat the steps 4 more times. The kiddos were not happy with me by that fifth time, but they could all get through the steps on their own. We talked about the importance of practice. Then, we did it again. Now they know that every time we start a new, challenging website, we're going to practice a bunch of times.
7.) Have students log in as soon as they arrive
One of the biggest complaints I hear from my fellow teachers is how much of their lesson time they lose by waiting for kiddos to log into the system. I bypassed this by making logging in one of the steps of their morning routine. They come in, unpack, move their name on the attendance board, grab their Chromebook, log in, and place it in the corner of their desk. Then they go about their morning work routine.
At first it felt odd for them to have their Chromebooks out if they weren't working on them, but now they know we'll get to them later. And it's much easier to say "jump on this site real quick" if they already have their Chromebooks ready to just be opened and accessed.
8.) Practice a "safe store" situation
Even though we have Chromebooks, the students are not working on them every minute of the day. However, I do not like wasted time in my instructional day, which means that I don't want kids to get their Chromebooks, put them away, and then get them out again. So, once my students get their Chromebooks in the morning, they keep them on their desk for the rest of the day.
In order to have our Chromebooks out all day, we must talk about storing them safely. For my classroom, this means that the Chromebook goes in the upper right corner of your desk, turned to the right. They are closed, and nothing is allowed to be on top of them - not even your arm. This helps students practice protecting the screens of their Chromebooks, by not pressing on the tops. It also gives them plenty of room for other work.
9.) Don't use them just to use them
Just like every other tool we have in our arsenal, chromebooks should be used with a purpose. They should be used to make our lives or our students' lives better, easier and more rewarding. They should not be used just because we have a new toy.
The ways that I have found to use my chromebooks that help enhance my curriculum are:
- having paperless assignments using Google forms and websites like Khan Academy and Math Magician that reduce the amount of grading I have to do. This also gives the students more instant feedback on many assignments.
- using the Chrome extension Snap and Read to allow my struggling readers to have assignments read to them. We've also used audio books on our reading program and voice recognition typing, so that our assignments are more accessible for struggling students. This means they can keep up better and avoid trigger behaviors like frustration.
- giving my students access to Genius projects, Storybird and Code.org during our intervention block. This engages my students actively, allowing me to pull small groups more successfully.
- posting video clips directly into Google Classroom instead of showing the video whole group. This allows students who might be out of the room for speech or gifted to not miss out on the video. Also, students listening on their own individual device with their own headphones tend to pay attention better than when they are watching on the big screen, sitting next to their friends.
- using direct links to activities that I want students to participate in, rather than general links to a website. This has been great for specific math games, but it has also been great for guided research, like in my Internet Scavenger Hunts.
10.) Be prepared for things to go wrong
I have a lovely new teacher on my team who told me she doesn't want anything to go wrong. I don't think I helped her when I said "Don't worry, they will." But, I spoke the truth. Things are going to go wrong. Computers will break. Logins won't work. Internet goes down. You mess up the way you assign an activity in Google Classroom (or forget to assign it at all). Just like everything else we do in the classroom things will go wrong. That's okay.
We need to be prepared to do our lesson in a completely different way, or to say "You know what guys, we'll try this again tomorrow." I often talk to my kiddos about what our plan was, how the plan is now going to change because of a technology failure, and what my thinking was behind the change. This helps our students to know that we need to have flexibility when dealing with technology. It also builds real life problem solving skills, which is something our kiddos need the most!
Most third grade teacher and students are familiar with Google Slides. My students LOVE creating slide shows about their research or about other topics that interest them. (I can't tell you how many slide shows I've read about dogs!) However, this year I stumbled on a cool upgrade to Google Slides - the collaborative slide show!
In order to create a collaborative slide show, you create a slide show that has at least one slide for each student and you share the slide show, on edit mode, with the entire class. This way the kids can each work on their slide seperate of their friends, but they can see the work their friends are doing. This works great with a one-to-one device situation like having Chromebooks in the classroom, but I have used it in a classroom of just 3 computers. Students do not all have to be working at the same time, they can simply go to the slide show when they go to the computer center.
A few management tips:
- Students need to know in advance which slide is their slide. In my classroom the students have numbers, so I often just have them work on the slide that coordinates with their number. However, students can choose a number from a hat or be assigned which number slide to work on, depending on the needs of your project. Some projects they may even need 2 slides.
- Students will lose the link, so make sure that you post the link to the editable version in some place accessible to them - in your Google Classroom or Edmodo or even on your class blog, just some place they can access easily.
- If someone's work "disappears", try going to File - Version History. You can then make a copy of the old version and copy and paste the deleted work back into the slide show. (This happens more than you think with 24 students all working in one document!)
- When you are done working, it is possible to change the share settings so that students can no longer edit. This comes in handy if you want a finished product!
Collaborative slide shows have a lot of uses, here are just a few:
1.) Create a class book or "online magazine" where each student's slide is their writing on a specific topic. For example, my students each researched a different rock using my rock project. Then we used their informational writing to create a rock magazine.
2.) Create a problem of the day (math word problem) slide show where each student's slide has the same problem (or different if you want to differentiate). Students can work on their problem, showing their work with sentences and drawings (insert drawing or insert shape). Then students can compare their own thinking with the thinking of their classmates.
3.) Create a slide show to completely explain and explore a story you are reading in class. Each slide can have a prompt or question about the story like characters or connections. Students can each complete one slide, and then as a class you have a full slide show explaining and describing the story.
4.) Create a vocabulary slide show for any subject. Type one vocabulary word in the title section of each slide. Each student explains their vocabulary word using sentences and images. You may give them a list of what needs to be on each slide (definition, examples, non-examples, etc.) or you may allow them more leway to describe the word in any way they see fit. Once all of the words are described, the class can review the slide show and add or subtract if necessary.
5.) At the beginning of the school year (or any other time your students need reminding) have your students create an expectations slide show. In the title section of each slide, type an area of the classroom or school, or a material they will use. On their slide, the students define what the expectations are for using that area or material. Then as a class you can review the slide show and add or subtract if necessary.
How else could you use collaborative slide shows in your classroom?
You’ve picked out the perfect technology project for your students. You’ve given them a planning sheet with all the steps, and you’ve even given them an advance copy of the rubric so that they know what you are looking for. Everyone lines up and you set off for the computer lab OR you start your center rotation and they are working at computers in your room. The kids get on the computer and ask you – What’s my username and password? That’s when it hits you – you forgot to set up their accounts!!!! Oh the horror of wasted technology time due to missing usernames and passwords! The solution? Take time NOW to create accounts (or have students create accounts) for programs you think you will use during the school year.
Setting up student accounts ahead of time gives you and your students some distinct advantages:
1.) You’re ready for all kinds of projects – planned and unplanned (you know those great teachable moments!)
2.) The kids can play with the programs outside of school, or when they have finished their work, allowing them to figure out the programs BEFORE they have a big project due with this program.
3.) Students can show their parents the types of programs they will be using – helping parents to see that the technology they will use will not just be playing games, but will be using technology for educational purposes.
4.) When assigning a project, you can give students a choice of ways to present their work, empowering students to take control of their own learning. I started this with my Virtual Field Trip Project last year and the results were amazing!
Consider letting students create their own accounts, as long as they report their passwords to you.
1.) Demonstrate HOW to create an account before you ask students to create their own account.
2.) Have students use a password pattern so that they don’t forget their password. Find more details on this at my blog post about 10 Tips to Make Technology Integration Easier.
3.) Keep a record of each students’ usernames and passwords, in case students forget them or you need to get into their account for any reason.
So, what accounts should you have set up in the beginning of the year?
Even after 12 years of teaching, two of which were spent teaching only technology, I still forget some of these basics at the beginning of the year. So, I thought this list might be helpful if you are looking to add more technology to your day.
1.) Model EVERYTHING: I always forget exactly how much needs to be modeled until I start a new school year. At the beginning of the school year, you often need start with “This is a computer. This is the mouse and here is how you click and double click.” Don’t assume they know anything, because someone won’t. It won’t hurt those who do know to sit through one modeled lesson on how to access information, where to click etc. If you have access to a projector, it is nice to be able to show information on a projector. If you don’t, sit everyone around your computer and do it this way. (I’ve done this multiple times!)
2.) Take time to play with new technology yourself: A colleague of mine and I were talking the other day about those lessons where you set up the projector, ready to model a new technology and then the technology that you thought looked so simple does not work the way you had planned. I’ve done it, she’s done it, we’ve all done. Besides the fact that it is a waste of time, it is actually a good example to the kids that we are learning right along with them, lol! However, if you want to prevent this fate, the best thing to do is play around A LOT with whatever new technology you are trying to implement BEFORE you actually implement it.
3.) Teach basic steps – logging in, saving etc.: While you are modeling, be sure to take time to model how students are to log in, how they are to save their work, how they will open it up again next time etc. etc. If you are starting a new interactive website (LiveBinders, Storybird, EduBlogs etc.), give them their first time on the website to practice logging in. I always give students 2 days to create anything, and make it clear to them that if they have an issue logging in, they are to let me know on the FIRST day, so that we can fix the problem BEFORE there is an issue.
4.) Decide on password pattern and keep it the same: While you are modeling, go ahead and decide on a password pattern. Teaching students that passwords are their own and are private is important. However, in a classroom, I generally keep everyone’s password in a specific pattern (ie. msrakiJoseph123), so that when they forget what their password is, I’ll know what their password is. I also have them use the same password for everything,so that they don’t have 10 thousand things to remember. I do this for students below 6th grade. After 6th grade, you should begin to talk about the importance of having different passwords for different websites, but truly if they can’t log in to a site, they can’t do their work, and it becomes an issue of what skill you want to teach at this time. If you have an issue of students logging into each other’s sites “on accident”, an easy way to prevent that is to put a name into the password – first, middle, last, doesn’t matter, no one types someone else’s name on accident. If you have an issue of students logging into each other’s sites on purpose, then it is time to change passwords to include something like a student number or code word that is individual to that student.
5.) Don’t overwhelm yourself – or your students – choose one new thing at a time: There are so many amazing websites, apps and programs out there, it is easy to get overwhelmed. Generally, when this happens, people do one of two things. 1.) Some people put their hands up and try nothing. 2.) Some people try to do everything at once and then wear themselves and their students out. Choose one cool new thing to try, do it and do it well. Once you, AND YOUR STUDENTS, have the hang of it, try something else. Build your technology base a little at a time, and you’ll be amazed at all your students can do at the end of the school year.
6.) Create cheat sheets: Write out the steps students your students will need to do in order to use their new technology. Use screen shots (print screen and then CTRL V) to help students visualize what they are supposed to do. Here is a link to a cheat sheet I made for my students to help them start their EduBlogs.
7.) Remember that not all students come with the same background knowledge: Just like with math and reading, each student will come to you with a different amount of background knowledge regarding technology. Some students have been playing on the computer and iPad since they were 3 and they know exactly how to do things. Other students may come from a home where kids aren’t allowed to touch the computer. The amount of exposure, and the type of exposure that students have before they come to you will impact how quickly they will pick up new technologies. Give a technology survey, like the one included in my Beginning of the Year Forms, at the beginning of the year – ask students if what devices, how many devices and what kind of devices they have at home (computer, iPad, iPod, Kindle etc.), ask students how often they are allowed to use these devices. This information will tell you a lot about who will need help in those initial days of a new technology.
8.) Be prepared to go over the steps again, and again, and again: You’ve modeled, you written out the steps, you’ve made the cheat sheet, and still you will be asked “What am I supposed to do again?” Don’t lose it, just know that technology is a skill like everything else, and you’ll have to go over it multiple times before you students have it down.
9.) Think about the end product – how will they save? Where will they put it? Before you set students out to create a project, begin with the end in mind. Will they need to save? How and where will they save? Will they need to publish? How and where will they publish? Showing students these skills ahead of time will save you a lot of product when everyone is finishing their projects (at the same time) and they don’t know what to do.
10.) Share the success stories: One of the best parts about using technology is how easy it is to share, so be sure to share student work. E-mail it to the parents, post it on your blog, share it with your class on Edmodo. Students can also add their work to an Online Portfolio, and have a compilation of their work at the end of the year. Show your students how to share their own work and watch how they begin to create new, interesting projects, even after the assignment has ended.
What tips help you make technology integration successful in your classroom? Please feel free to add more tips in the comments, so that we can all learn from each other.
In college I was always told that teachers are known to "beg, borrow and steal" from our colleagues. Of course this means that the stronger our colleagues are, the stronger we are as teachers. This year I had the pleasure of having Veronica from When Inspiration Strikes as a colleague, so this year has made me the strongest I've ever been as a teacher. Today she is allowing me to share one of her ideas for our Website Suggestion Wednesday.
The website I would like to share with you today is called Vocaroo. On this website, your students can record themselves speaking (or reading) and get a link or a QR code that connects to their recording. The website is very simple to use. Students simply click record and talk. Once they are done, they can listen to themselves and choose to save the recording or re-record. When they have it just right and they can share their recording in a variety of electronic ways.
Veronica's students create QR codes to share their recordings. She prints out these codes and hangs them in the hallway along with the written work. My students love taking our tablets out into the hallway to scan her QR codes and listen to her students' recordings.
A few other ways you could use Vocarooo are:
- Have students create their own podcast or radio show on a topic they have researched.
- Allow students to record picture books for younger students to listen to. (This would be a great way to enhance book buddies.)
- Have students create spoken partner stories, where each person adds a few sentences but they do not communicate about where the story is going.
- Have students create "mock interviews" with famous historical people or famous book characters. Two students can then work together to make an audio version that interview.
- Allow students to use the app to record their fluency passage. Then students can listen to themselves, count their own mistakes and even use a reading fluency rubric to give themselves a grade.
- You can record center directions, activity expectations or spelling lists into Vocaroo and post the link or QR code in your center.
- Create QR code scavenger hunts by recording clues in Vocaroo.
How else could YOU use Vocaroo? Let's all "beg, borrow and steal" from each other. Leave us your favorite ideas for recording apps in the comment section.
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