Sunday, December 9, 2018

Groupwork Protocols for Blended & Flipped Learning

I am inspired by Catlin Tucker and her Station Rotation model, but in a 43-minute period, I struggle with how to effectively implement the rotation piece with my ninth grade students. Every second in our 43-minute period is precious. No matter how well I train my students, the transition time for station rotation is problematic. So I thought, "What if the stations rotate to the students?" And with that, my Group Agenda Protocol was born!


Protocols & Procedures


This protocol for a class routine is designed to promote student accountability and efficacy, shifting the role of the teacher from the “sage on the stage” who is tethered to the front board to the “architect of learning” who creates structure for learning to occur and the “guide on the side” who facilitates student learning by circulating through the room as students work. While similar in design to a station-based model, students do not move from their seats, but rather complete tasks listed on the agenda in a set amount of time.


Set-up Quick Steps:
  1. Set up the room. 
  2. Determine the agenda and copy/paste the chosen agenda format to a new document and fill in with appropriate information. 
  3. Print agendas and organize materials for each group. 

The teacher sets up the room to create four groups of six students for a 24-student class or five groups of six in a 30-student class. Students may choose their group or the teacher may assign students to a group.

Each table configuration is identified by a number, taping a sign to the wall near the group. The agenda and group roles are printed and placed in a basket or bin on each table. Materials needed for the class period are also placed in the bin/basket.

The group roles are designed to maximize student accountability and to allow for every student to participate within a group of 6 students. If there are fewer or more than 6 students in a group, they can double up on responsibilities/roles.





The Group Agendas

There are three versions of agendas that can be customized as needed with specific directions, links, and tasks. To add additional tasks to the agendas below, simply insert a new row into the table for v.1 or a new column (then merge cells to get rid of extra spaces) in the task area for v.2 and v.3 agendas. It is recommended that you keep an ongoing document on which you compile the agenda for each day. This document can be shared with students and administrators. To see an example of a month’s worth of agendas following v.1 format click here, and to see examples of v.2 and v.3, click here.

Agenda v.1 is designed with all groups completing the same tasks at the same time in a 43 minute period. Think of this as a common playlist of tasks. The class period begins with a Do Now, bell-ringer activity, then progresses through three tasks, and concludes with an exit ticket. During the class period, the teacher circulates through the room, helping students and groups as needed.

The number of tasks can be increased when following Agenda v.1, but be mindful of the decrease in time for each additional task. One way to manage tasks is to break up a big assignment or a worksheet into smaller chunks. For example, a four page packet of activities could be separated into four tasks, one page per task. This will allow students to practice pacing and makes a large assignment seem less intimidating for struggling learners.

Agenda v.2 is designed with all groups completing tasks via a rotating schedule so that the teacher can meet with each group at a designated time to check work or give a mini-lesson to the group. The class period begins with a quick Do-Now and then progresses through 4 non-sequential tasks of equal duration. The 4 tasks are completed in 8 minutes each, but can be completed in any order. Each group rotates through tasks using the provided sequence listed on the agenda. The period concludes with a 3 minute Exit Ticket.

Agenda v.3 is designed with a rotating schedule of 3 non-sequential tasks of varying duration (2 short tasks, 1 longer task). The 2-1 duration tasks are completed in two 8 minute blocks and one 16 minute block. One of the 8 minute tasks is spent meeting with the teacher. Each group rotates through tasks using the provided sequence listed on the agenda. The period concludes with a 3 minute Exit Ticket.

When following v.2 and v.3 of this group protocol, it is recommended that the number of groups be kept at four so as to maximize the amount of time the teacher visits each group. Included with the agenda templates is a version of Agendas v.2 and v.3, designed for groups of 5. If the number of groups and tasks are increased to five, then the time for each task and the time the teacher has to meet with each group is decreased from 8 minutes to 6 minutes per in a 43 minute class period. This may affect the quality of the meeting with the group, the work students are completing and may impact the type of tasks they are directed to complete in such a short time.

All Do Nows and Exit Tickets should be recorded in a student’s notebook, serving as an ongoing record of activity. The class tasks can be completed in the students’ notebooks or on teacher-provided handouts or digital files as appropriate.

To minimize the time spent by the teacher accounting for student completion of work, the Quality Controller should be recording the progress of each group member throughout the period on the provided chart located under the agenda, noting the completion of each task by each group member. Rather than collecting all papers for each group member and handing the papers to the teacher, students should keep evidence of the task completion in their notebook, which can be produced upon request.

At the end of the period, the Agenda page is turned in to the teacher. The Agenda is kept on file as documentation of student participation and behavior. The teacher can award participation points to each student based on the number of tasks completed. For example, if Biff Bifferson only completed 3 out of 5 tasks, a grade of 3 out of 5 can be recorded in the gradebook for that day’s participation. The teacher can follow up with each student and verify the authenticity and accuracy of the completion of work in a quick and efficient manner. If the student makes up the INC assignments, the teacher can easily update the gradebook.

Folks who attended FlipTech East Coast and Rewire conferences got to experience the Group Agenda Protocol first hand. Below are the slides for the session.

The Group Agenda Protocol is a method for maximizing the precious time we have in class and for promoting student efficacy and autonomy in a structured learning environment.










Digital Assessment Techniques with Edpuzzle

Edpuzzle is at the center of formative assessment in my flipped classroom.  From syncing with Google Classroom to quick checks for understanding, Edpuzzle is my go-to tool for assessing students' learning with video lessons. I have used Edpuzzle to flip my Back to School Nightblend with paper texts while reading audiobooks, and deliver instruction in professional development workshops.

I can quickly record my own screencast or locate a video on  one of their popular channels, such as YouTube, Khan Academy, National Geographic, TED Talks, Veritasium, Numberphile, and Crash Course. It is easy to upload the video, crop if needed, add voice or typed directions, and insert questions. Multiple choice questions are automatically scored, and teachers can provide feedback with the answers to provide students with follow up instruction. Scoring of students' typed responses is easy as well: teachers can give a numeric score out of 100 and typed comments to the student.

For today's post, I want to share my workflow for providing typed feedback on students' open-ended responses.  Teachers know that assessment is a time-consuming, but vital part, of the learning cycle. For my EDpuzzle lessons, I will predominantly use multiple choice questions so that students are given immediate feedback, and I can quickly check and add scores to my gradebook using my OSU Rubric. So as to hold students accountable for the work, but not overly penalized for mistakes during formative assessments, students earn a grade in the gradebook based on where their raw score falls in the ranges below.




While providing immediate feedback with automatically scored multiple choice questions is very efficient, providing typed feedback on open-ended responses can be time consuming. Typed feedback, though, builds rapport with students and solidifies connections between the teacher-student and the student with the content. To speed up my typed feedback, I use a comment bank that I keep in Google Docs.

On a Google Doc, I type up feedback that I give to the students. Many make the same pattern of errors (need to elaborate, need to cite sources, etc) so I am often retyping the same sentences for multiple students. The copy/pasted feedback serves as the base of my feedback for I will add more personalized commentary (student's name, specific phrases from his/her response, etc) to the comments in Edpuzzle.

Quick steps:
1. Create a Google Doc comment bank
2. Split your screen: Comment Bank is open in one side, Edpuzzle open in the other.
3. Copy/paste the feedback to the Edpuzzle comment area.
4. Add personalized wording
5. Click COMMENT and give the student a score.
6. Repeat





So that I am not bogged down scoring open-ended responses, my Edpuzzle lessons are predominately multiple choice questions with one or two open-ended responses at the end of the video lesson. I am purposeful in the design of the lessons so that when students type open-ended responses, they are utilizing higher order thinking skills.

No matter the edtech or paper-based platform, the design of the lesson must align with the function of the lesson, and assessment techniques must be efficient and effective for all.



 

Sunday, September 3, 2017

Digital Dashboard Document

This year I am trying a more transparent and strategic approach to my technology integration.  I've always been mindful of the purpose of the tool, but I wonder if I've consistently conveyed that purpose to my students and colleagues.  I have a plan. I know what I'm doing, but do others see it?

So, to get things started, I created a Digital Dashboard Google Document on which my students will see what sites we will be using consistently, the rationale for using that site, and an area in which they will type in login information---not their actual password, but hints or clues in case they forget. There are important class links to district sites, as well as extra rows for students to add additional sites they may choose to frequent.

Both Edmodo and Google Classroom give users the ability to generate an editable copy for each student with the file name and sharing permissions, so in the event that someone does not remember his/her password, the student can access the doc or I can offer clues.  Many of the tools we will employ in class allow the teacher to reset passwords, but I want students to be responsible for their accounts before I access my dashboard.

If you like this design, go ahead and snag a copy, customizing it for your students. In the comments for this blog post, please share how you convey the purpose of technology integration to your staff and students.





Saturday, September 2, 2017

How to Flip Back to School Night

In a previous post I shared about the results of flipping Back to School Night. Today, I'm going to show you step by step how I used blended learning to achieve those results.

The first few days of school:  (Nothing crazy here)  Have your Class Expectations typed up on either a Gdoc or Word document, photocopied and distributed to the students.  I also include an area on the document for student and parent signatures.  Give your students a few days to obtain the parent signatures.

I do not read the expectations document to the students in class because all teachers in all other classes are doing the same thing and my expectations will get lost in the shuffle.  I do tell the students that they are to read the document carefully before signing.

So what do students do instead of passively sitting listing to me drone on about the course expectations? We are jumping right in to learning activities: icebreakers, group work, problem solving,  etc.  For the 2017-18 school year, I'm going to start with an editable Escape Room / Break Out activity created by Nouvelle ELA. I don't normally purchase items from Teachers Pay Teachers, but not being experienced in creating my own breakouts yet, I thought this was a worthy investment, and at less than $6, a real deal!

Recording & Delivering the Video:
There are a few simple steps for recording your video and making it interactive for parents and students.

  1. Prepare your recording space by adjusting the lightning, background props, and alerting others that you don't want to be interrupted. Since you are providing an overview of your course, it is important to record your video in your classroom space. I put a sign on the door stating that I'm recording and do not want to be disturbed. 
  2. Create a title slide for your video using Google Slides or PowerPoint. Keep it open on your desktop.
  3. Have open your Course Expectations document.
  4. Open Screencastomatic or Camtasia, and select recording a portion of your screen and have the picture in picture on. You want folks to see and hear you. So don't be camera shy! You will size the frame so that it captures the slide first. Tip: you don't need to put your slide in present mode, simply have the recording frame capture the area of the slide.   
  5. Record a quick introduction stating your name and the course. Hit PAUSE on the recording. 
  6. Switch to your course expectations document, resize the recording frame, and hit record.
  7. As you talk through the expectations, you will slowly scroll through the document. Try not to read from the document verbatim, and do not ramble!  This video must be kept under 15 minutes. 
  8. If you plan on importing the video into EDpuzzle or another interactive video tool, strategically pause after important moments so that you will have spaces to insert the questions which will check for understanding while watching the video.
  9. After you have finished talking through your course expectations, pause the recording, switch back to the title slide or create a slide that includes your contact information, resize the recording frame, and record a brief closing message. This will give your video a more polished feel by capping the ends with an opening and closing slide.
  10. Create a handout of questions to accompany the video. If using an interactive video tools such as EDpuzzle, insert the questions to check for understanding. 
  11. At least two weeks prior to Back to School Night, assign the video lesson as homework, the student and parent must watch it together! The two week timeframe allows parents to work around their schedules.
  12. So as to prevent tech issues from occurring, provide multiple avenues with which parents and students can access the video and reinforce that all answers are to be written on the question handout page. No matter the hardware, EDpuzzle allows for folks to view either by signing in to their account or through Guest Mode, so parents can experience the tool along side their student, but you don't have to worry about the student not completing the assignment if they have trouble logging in to their account at home. 
  13. As students turn in the questions page, review the responses and make note of any patterns: if many got the same question incorrect, then you need to address the issue on Back to School Night and follow up with the parent individually in an email.

After the Video:
Following up with parents after the video is important for community building and creating an open dialogue with parents.  All parents should be sent an email thanking them for their completion of this task and inviting them to Back to School Night.

If your Back to School Night is anything like mine (9 minutes per class with 5 minutes between each), it is impossible to do a deep dive and convey all of the information about your course to parents. Also, due to work schedules and such, not all parents attend Back to School Night, so rather than thinking of this event in terms of information delivery, focus on how to let the parents in the room experience your class with a short learning activity. Let the video be the information delivery mechanism, as you can ensure all parents and students take the time to view it and answer the corresponding questions.


Thursday, December 15, 2016

Digital Portfolios with Google Tools

I realized that I was over complicating matters and making things too complex when it came to creating digital portfolios with my 9th grade ELA students. I am passionate about technology integration in my class, but I am mindful of how/why we use the technology. As I flip the learning in my class, it is easy to get inundated with the myriad of edtech tools and sites that are available. So, keeping things very simple, and sticking with what we know, I decided to capitalize on the power of Google Docs and hyperlinks to create digital portfolios with my students.

The portfolio is one Google Doc on which the student will list and link to each of the writing pieces, as well as write a brief reflection of what was learned about the process of writing.

The Quick Steps:

  1. In Google Docs, create a template hyperdoc of the portfolio.
  2. In Google Slides, create a slide deck that walks students through the set-up process.
  3. In Google Classroom create an assignment and attach the slide deck ("anyone can view") and template doc ("generate an editable copy for each student"). 
  4. Allocate time in class for students to work on the portfolio. 
  5. Score the portfolio each marking period.

The Template

If you haven't picked up a copy of The Hyperdoc Handbook, you better do so NOW. Author Lisa Highfill and all share strategies for creating Google Docs with an enhanced visual design.  The template I created for the portfolio is organized by inserting tables to create title areas and lists of assignments. Also, I changed the background color of the page and the fill color of each table section. By changing the visual design from the usual white Google Doc, I am influencing students' initial reaction to the doc: because the portfolio doc looks differently than the other docs they've seen, they will react to it differently.

Students are allowed to personalize the doc and change the fonts and colors, but I want to make sure that they have a consistent theme to their visual design.  Color palette generator such as Coolors  and other activities that teach students about visual design facilitate the process.

Open the doc and go to FILE, MAKE A COPY to create
your own editable version of my template.


The sections of the portfolio doc include a heading area for the student's name, an about the Author section, and a list of the assignments that include a label for the type of writing, the assignment title and link to the student's writing piece, and an area for reflection on the specifics of the writing task. The most important area is the reflection. If I want students to act like authors, then I need them to think about the intention of their writing and reflection on the process of creation. 


Setting Up the Portfolio

To lead students through the set up process in a flipped instructional manner, I created this slide deck that walks students through the process.



You'll notice that I also included the rubric for scoring the portfolio with in the slide deck. More on scoring later in this post.


Google Classroom Assignment

If you aren't using Google Classroom yet for your Google Docs workflow with students, you are missing out! Google Classroom makes managing student docs so much easier.  For each assignment I create, I can attach resources and templates. Each attachment can be set to view only or editable by all, or I can have Google generate an individual copy for each student that has the file name and sharing permissions automatically created. No more untitled docs!

For the Digital Writing Portfolio Assignment in Google Classroom, I attached the slide deck (set to view only) and had Google generate an editable copy of the portfolio doc for each individual student.  All docs created are housed in the folder for this assignment in my Classroom folder in my Google Drive. 



As we finished up individual writing pieces, I allocated class time so that students could add the latest assignment. The beauty of using hyperlinks for each assignment is that my students are not just limited in creating Google docs of their assignments: anything that they create that is housed on the web can be linked to their digital portfolio doc.

Scoring the Portfolios

At the end of each marking period, I give students time to finalize their digital portfolio. In Google Classroom, the students click DONE to submit their assignment, thus removing editing privileges on the doc. I score the portfolio with the rubric below using the Doctopus and Goobric add-on in Google Sheets. After all portfolio docs are scored, I return the files to the students. At the end of the next marking period, they revise the portfolio doc and hit DONE on the same assignment I first created-- no need to create a new assignment for each marking period! 

Philosophically, I am against putting grades on writing, but working within a system that mandates grades on assignments, I focus on providing feedback and ample opportunity to revise assignments until the student (and I) feel that the piece has met the objectives while also finding a way to get a numeric grade on the assignment. 



If you notice, the rubric adds up to 100 points, but the columns for scoring are equivalent to a specific percentage and letter grade that aligns with the grade breakdown of my district:

A = 100-92
B = 91-83
C = 82-75
D = 74-70
F =  69-0

20/20 = A
18/20 = B
15/20 = C
12/20 = F

I do not give half scores or use other numbers for each column listed above. The numbers are the numbers, but you will see a greater range of scores when you look at the permutations of the possible rubric scores and what score shows mastery versus lacks proficiency.


Rubric design and scoring will have to be saved for another post. But, if you look at the permutations above, because I made set each column score to a specific number that aligns on the 100 percent/point scale, I've allowed for more possible passing scores than failing scores. As Rick Wormeli will tell you, the 100 point scale (especially in my district with 100-70 as passing) puts way too much emphasis on failing grades. My scoring flips this dynamic and puts the emphasis on the upper range.


BUT, the whole purpose of the digital writing portfolio is to de-emphasize grades and focus on publishing student work in a manner that is organized, reflective, and on-going, and using Google Docs as the housing system of students assignments is a method that is simple and sustainable. I don't have to worry about a special website or an app closing down in a few years, and students can easily replicate this process after high school graduation with their own personal Google Doc accounts to create portfolios for college and career.











Wednesday, October 19, 2016

8 pARTS and Creative Writing with Research

Before I share today's 9th grade writing lesson with you all, I have to give a big, huge, ginormous SHOUT OUT to my edifying edu-buddy Cheryl Morris and the indomitable Jon Corippo. The evolution of this lesson and writing task begins with Corippo's 8 pARTS and Cheryl's sharing of her versions of said resources.


Here is a quick tour of Corippo's 8 pARTS: using imagery in art to teach grammar skills.




Great stuff, right?!  
I think so too!

But, I'm a bit of a stickler for visual design and the layout of paper (dare I say the dreaded word) worksheets, I adapted Corippo's design and created my own template that included a space for the picture and grouped the parts of speech to designate relationships visually.

Click here to access the Google Doc. Go to FILE, MAKE A COPY, to create an editable version.

The talented Cheryl Morris created a rubric for the writing task, and I snagged this too, tweaking it for my class.

Click HERE to access the Google Doc version. Go to FILE, MAKE A COPY to create an editable version. 


For our first repetition of this assignment a week ago, students focused on a picture that could relate to our reading of Richard Connell's "The Most Dangerous Game." The students wrote their paragraph on paper and I conferenced with each individual student, going over the worksheet and rubric and providing narrative feedback on the paragraph. Notice the rubric focuses on the application of grammar concepts, not necessarily the creativity of the writing. Don't worry, that will get added in later. At the end of each conference, students were told to write down a list of ideas for revision based on our conversation-- don't actually start revising (yet), just down a plan to revise.

After all conferences were complete (this took a few days), students were directed to revise and type their scene based on the picture, relying on their revision list. I told them at this point to stop thinking like students and to start thinking like authors: the picture was a starting point, now go in any direction that makes sense, as long as dialogue and description was included in the writing. Some wrote a continuation scene of "The Most Dangerous Game," others capitalized on the theme of the story and wrote a fanfiction piece using characters from the Hunger Games. To "publish" their work, students added the link to their Digital Writing Portfolio (more on that in another post!).

For our second repetition of the 8pARTS task, which took place today, I added a bit of a twist. See if you can spot it in today's agenda posted to our Edmodo class group:





We started the task same as before: close read the image and jot down a list of examples of each part of speech in the picture -- a picture which was also a connection to our reading of James Thurber's "The Secret Life of Walter Mitty."




After our list was generated, I told the students this is a picture taken from real life, not a film, tv show, or one of Walter's daydreams, and I asked them what questions they had. Shouts of "How old is that plane?" "What kind of plane is that?"  "Did that come from the Bermuda Triangle?" "Is that Amelia Earhart's plane?" reverberated through the room.  

I replied, "I don't know. How about we try and find out?"

(Ok, so I really did know some things about this plane, but I learned so much MORE during the next step.)

Students grabbed their phones or borrowed a Chromebook. They started typing in keywords to search; I showed a few how to do a reverse Google Image search.

And an amazing thing started to happen: around the room, I heard exclamations of "I found it!"

Students visited the sites and started shouting out information: the plane is a FM-2 Wildcat; it was in Lake Michigan; it crashed during a training mission.

AND THEN they started digging deeper: they found the name of the pilot, the name of the ship the plane took off from, the story of the crash, how long it was underwater, what happened to the pilot, how many other planes are in Lake Michigan, how this plane was found and recovered, and where the plane is now.

As they found the information, the students were directed to keep a running list of notes in their composition book.

By the way, this whole research phase took less than 10 minutes. I didn't hammer them on sources and citations (yet) of their information. For now, I wanted them excited about what they found. Don't worry, we will cite our sources later.

Calling the class back together, we compiled our quick research and created a plot diagram of the story of this plane: The FM-2 Wildcat flown by Ensign William Forbes from the deck of the USS Sable that had engine trouble during a training mission and crashed into Lake Michigan. Forbes was rescued, and after 70 years, the plane was recovered where it was later transported to an aviation museum in Florida.

Students got a kick out of my puns, because there was literally rising action as the plane takes off, and literally falling action as the plane crashes.




And now comes the final (almost) step to this task.  I told my students to pick one event on this plot diagram and write the scene of this event. As if ripped from the pages of a larger novel, write the scene with characters, setting, dialogue, description pulled from the research, and (oh yeah, can't forget these) underlined and labeled examples of the 8 parts of speech.

Tomorrow, as I walk around the room quickly scoring their worksheet and draft completion using the same rubric above, I'll offer some narrative feedback, and they will type up their handwritten draft in Google Docs, publishing it by adding the link to their doc to their Digital Writing Portfolio (more on that in another post!). 

But seriously, I can't wait to read what they've written!

From one photograph, students practiced visual analysis, critical thinking, grammar, 8 parts of speech, research, and creative writing skills.

That in itself is a work of art.













Sunday, October 16, 2016

Blending Active Reading & Conversations with EDpuzzle

As I integrate technology into my classroom, I want to make sure that my students do not have their faces in a screen all the time. Also, I want to capitalize on creating opportunities for my students to practice listening and self-pacing skills. Blending paper with digital media and face to face interactions with digital learning, I created checkpoints in an EDpuzzle video lesson that would encourage students to close read a text and "Turn and Talk" to answer text-based questions accurately.


Building on previous teacher-centered lessons from our reading of Richard Peck's “Priscilla and the Wimps” and Richard Connell's “The Most Dangerous Game” in which we actively read texts together, students encountered a text for the first time in such as a way as to practice self-pacing skills during an in-class flipped lesson. In an effort to flip my reading instruction and to encourage students to actively read, I edited a preexisting audiobook video on YouTube to include the text of "The Secret Life of Walter Mitty" by James Thurber. I then uploaded the new version to EDpuzzle and embedded the checkpoint questions, tagging each with a NJ Learning Standard for ELA 9th grade (formerly known as Common Core Curriculum Standards).


Each student logged in to EDpuzzle on his/her class Chromebook, and then synchronizing with a partner, hit play and listened with personal headphones to the audiobook while reading along with a paper copy of the story.


As you can see from the EDpuzzle lesson below (go ahead, try!), at various points in the story, the video would pause and students were directed to mark up their paper copy of the text so that they could better understand the narrative structure, as well as answer comprehension questions. Students would turn and talk to their partner to discuss the directions and questions. I navigated around the room, listening to the partner conversations and seeing what students marked on their paper copy. It was immediately apparent if a student recognized the ellipsis or not, and I was able to quickly confirm or redirect as needed.


After marking up the paper text, students submitted their answers to the questions in EDpuzzle and were given immediate feedback on their accuracy, including an explanation as to why each answer was correct or wrong. I also tracked student progress in EDpuzzle and mark typed-in responses as correct/incorrect while students work through the video.


Despite the video being under 12 minutes, student conversations extended the lesson time. Those who talked too long or got off topic soon realized the consequence of not staying on task: Students who did not finish the lesson in class were instructed to complete the lesson prior to the next class meeting.






Even though the visual design of EDpuzzle’s site is different from PARCC or other online tests, the digital literacy skills students are using to answer standards-based questions will help prepare students for future digital standardized assessments. And by having students work synchronously with a partner, they are able to practice interpersonal, conversational skills.

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Connecting with Colleagues at Flipcon16

While I couldn't be at Flipcon16 in Allen, Texas in person, I was able to converse with flipped learning pioneer Aaron Sams, Flipcon keynote speaker Tyler DeWitt, Flipped Learning Network Board Charman Ken Bauer, and flipped educator and author April Gudenrath via a Google Hangout about nonlinear learning in today's classroom.



Thursday, July 14, 2016

Literature, Travelogues, & Google Maps

Integrating geography concepts into the ELA classroom is easy to do when a story features characters undertaking a physical journey. Students and teachers can create collaborative Google Maps pinned with specific locations to practice digital literacy and research skills.

To enliven our study of Homer's Odyssey, students worked collaboratively to create a map of Odysseus' and Telemachus' journeys.  Using evidence from the text, students pinned a specific location on the map, selected an appropriate and symbolic icon for the pin, typed up a blurb about the location, inserted an image for the location, and attached a link to a source that would extend visitors' understanding of the location.

You can visit the map and click on pins. 


To facilitate the process, students were directed on the daily agenda posted to Edmodo to visit the Chrome Web Store and install the Google URL Shortener, Tab Scissors, and Tab Glue extensions.


The extensions allowed students to split their browser windows, placing them side by side for easier jumping between tabs, and the URL Shortener truncated the long links for inclusion in the pin description. Each pin's description can be color coded and enhanced with images, text, and links to other sources.






In addition to marking locations, students could map the travel routes, customizing the color and width of the line. Additionally, the style of the map can be changed as well.


Odysseus' journey from Ithaca to Troy and then to the Land of the Ciccones,  and the Lotus Eaters. I can quickly see that this class is starting to get off course as they have skipped the Cyclops Island. 

 Throughout this "fun" collaborative class activity, students demonstrated digital literacy skills that included typing, searching, using the trackpad, and jumping between browser windows all the while speaking to each other face to face as they divvied up tasks and reviewed the content.

Brainstorming other ways to incorporate Google Maps in the ELA classroom, students could....

  • Pin where they went during summer or school-year breaks. 
  • Research their heritage and pin locations where their families originated
  • Write a creative travel-themed short-story with pins of scene locations and the text of the scene in each pin's description
  • Compose poetry based on specific pinned locations.


How have you used Google Maps with your students?
What other ways could Google Maps be incorporated into your classroom?
Post a comment with your thoughts!





Sunday, April 10, 2016

Goldilocks and the 3 Bears of Productivity

Everyone knows the story of Goldilocks and the three bears. Goldilocks eats, sits and sleeps through the bears' house seeking what is "just right".

As I attempt to stay organized with being a mom, wife, teacher, presenter, and coach, I feel as if I am Goldilocks. This planner is too big. That bullet journal system is too long. This app is too complex. From Pinterest to Amazon to Google, I've searched for just the right organizational system that meets the needs of my Type B (but many times Type A) personality.


Planners, bullet journals, and productivity apps... Oh my!

I like the idea of a planner, but not the actual item. I don't want one more thing to carry, and I guarantee I won't always have it with me. A paper-based planner is also less appealing since I use Google Calendar and Outlook Calendar for personal and professional purposes,  both of which are synched together. I don't want to run the risk of forgetting something because either the planner or the digital calendars were not up to date.  I have multiple calendars in Google: two for lesson plans  (one for each level of my classes), another for family, and another for my events and tasks. School events listed in Outlook appear on my Google Calendar. And all of my bazillion calendars are synched to my Android phone where I can quickly view events listed on the month-view widget.

Akin to scrapbooks, bullet journals are visually appealing and can be a robust way to track everything from appointments to daily water intake to long-term goals. I also like the idea of a bullet journal, but I know I do not have the time nor personal diligence to follow through with using it proficiently.  I did spend numerous hours on Pinterest pinning bullet journal resources, so if you are interested, feel free to check out my board:




I've been poking around on Google Play searching productivity apps, but nothing seems to fit my needs just right: I don't need a complex app, I like to write lists, and I want simple, but appealing visual design. I also need something that is platform agnostic since I own both Android and iOS devices, Chromebooks, and Windows and Mac computers. I also want something fast that when a thought pops in my head, I can quickly locate where that thought needs to go for reference later. Google Keep has been the closest I've come to "just right."

If you, dear reader, have any recommendations for productivity apps, please leave a comment on this post!


Google Keep keeps me (mostly) organized.

I LOVE LOVE LOVE Google Keep for list writing, and while it fits most of my needs for organization, I am still tweaking my system.  I can create digital post-it notes and check-box lists in Google Keep. All notes can be tagged and color-coded. I can attach pictures and share notes with others. I can drag to reorder the notes and archive them as needed or even turn them into a Google Doc. If I think of something, I grab my phone and speak, type or draw a note in Google Keep.


I have two ongoing lists that I refer to everyday:

1. To Do
2. Grocery Shopping


My To-Do list is a running record of things that I should get done ASAP within the next few days. While I can prioritize by reordering the items, I can't categorize them individually. I could create separate lists by category, but I'm leery of having too many high-priority lists at the same time.



Grocery shopping is self explanatory.  I can't tell you how many times I wrote a list on paper only to forget it at home, or I forget to put numerous items on the list. I check and uncheck items on the master list as needed rather than deleting and retyping items. I also have this list shared with my husband in case he wants to add something--which he has yet to do digitally.




Organization can be a Bear.

Ultimately, the planner, journal, list or app itself won't make me more productive and organized. I must take action.  Productivity and effective organization can't just be a fairytale!

If you have a system or tips for organization that you'd like to share, please post a comment!