Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Parent Communication

While we all want to have timely, effective communication with our parents, many teachers struggle with the upkeep of a website.  Some teachers communicate with families via a blog.  Blogs can be anything you want them to be!  It can be an ongoing personal journal about something you are passionate about or a place to share information.  All of my tech tips are curated on my Technology in the Classroom Blog.  

Some teachers have switched over to a blog instead of a traditional website.  The added bonus of a blog is parents can sign up to receive an email each time you update your blog, resulting in better school to home communication. Updating your blog is an easy as sending a quick email! Blogs can be updated weekly, monthly or as needed.  They can include pictures, videos, calendars, etc.  The announcements can be a short reminder about an upcoming event, or a more detailed description of your curriculum.

Check out some of these great blogs by our colleagues!  Karlyn Lazazzero's Live, Laugh, Learn, Little Blog or 
Stef Carpenter's First Grade with Mrs. Carpenter.  I am sure there are many, more great examples. I would love to check your blog out!

Happy Blogging!

Thursday, December 1, 2016

Hour of Code

The week of December 5th - 9th is the "Hour of Code" Week sponsored by Code.org. During this week, students around the world will be introduced to computer programming or coding.  There is no prior experience necessary on the part of the student or the teacher!  Students (or teachers) will choose how to spend their hour of code by completing game-based activities online or on an iPad and will receive a certificate upon completion.

If you would like your students to participate in an Hour of Code, you can dedicate a full hour during the week of December 5th or you can break it up into mini sessions as long as the total time is one hour.  You can use computers, Chromebooks or iPads.  If you do not like the activities provided on Code.org, you can try apps like HopscotchKodable or Scratch (especially appropriate for the younger grades).  Code.org has some wonderful, engaging activities including Frozen, Minecraft, Angry Birds and Star Wars themed activities.  

The goal of this week is to promote interest in computer science.  Over 100 Million students have tried an Hour of Code.  It is available in 40 languages!  We hope to peak the interest of both boys and girls to explore coding in the future. 

If you are interested in exploring coding options or activities, I would be happy help you plan or teach these lessons.  These lessons can be completed at any time - not just next week.

Happy coding!

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Team Drives

You may have noticed a new feature in your Google Drive, the "Team Drive."  The Team Drive is a collaborative space to create and share files with any group of people within the Westwood Public Schools Domain.  You may want to set up a "Team" of your grade level teachers within your building or maybe you want to collaborate with the entire grade level across the district.  Any invited member of the team will have access to the documents, slides, etc. that are created within that team drive.  Members can have full access, editing or commenting access or view only.  You can also add, remove, or manage members at any time.  This is similar to having a shared folder within Google Drive.  The benefit of the Team Drive is if any member of the team leaves, no files are lost, as the files belong to the team - not an individual.

Check out this video for a quick overview.  (video by Shawn Beard)

Just Read Extension

Many teachers use websites for researching, sharing passages with students etc.  The Just Read Chrome extension strips away the excess ads, information, graphics from web pages - so you only see the passage and images.  By streamlining the page, your students will be better focused on the task.  Once the web page is open, select the blue icon with the open book in the top right corner of their Chrome Window.

Before using the Just Read Extension

After using the Just Read Extension

As you can see, the after screen is much cleaner and less distracting!  To add this extension, click here and select 'Add to Chrome.'  It's that easy!

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Thanksgiving Activities

Looking for some fun interactive Thanksgiving activities?  Check out these great resources!

Review parts of speech and write a Mad Lib Thanksgiving Story with National Geographic Kids (Thanksgiving themed and history videos also available)

Learn about life as a Pilgrim by listening to or reading this book or taking a Virtual Field Trip with Scholastic.  The site also includes a Thanksgiving Readers Theater, taking a tour on the Mayflower learn about daily life of the pilgrims (including comparing and contrasting housing, clothes, food, chores, school, and games), webquest about The Thanksgiving Feasta vocabulary quiza printable Thanksgiving fact hunt, and much more!


Thanksgiving AdditionSubtraction or Multiplication Games

Do you have any great holiday resources to share with our colleagues?

Have a wonderful, relaxing Thanksgiving Day!  I hope you have safe travels, lots of laughs and make memories with your family and friends.  

Monday, November 21, 2016

Exit Tickets for Stemscopes

During our science professional development, many teachers mentioned that Plickers would fit well with our Stemscopes unit.   Ever wonder......did my students leave with a solid understanding of today's skill?  Upon reflection, you may ask do I need to reteach to the whole class, switch up my approach or review with a small group of students?  Exit tickets provide quick, reliable data as to the needs of your students and the next steps for you.

Plickers is a quick and easy tool which requires only one iPad or a smartphone.  Students hold up a card indicating their response to a multiple choice or true/false question.  With a quick scan of your students, answers are collected. The teacher can view which students responded correctly and which may need intervention.  Students cannot see each other's responses.  However, a graph of the responses can be projected with the press of one button.  This not only informs your teaching but can also lead to a dynamic, in the moment conversation about misconceptions.

Since we are having a common experience, it might be helpful to share potential questions by your grade level on the attached Google Spreadsheet.  (Plicker quizzes cannot be shared at this time.  But they are hoping to have this feature added by the end of the school year.)

Please use this spreadsheet to share suggested questions for the Physical Science Unit.  There is a sheet for each grade.

Please let me know if you need any assistance.

Interactive Activitites

Google Drawing or Slides can be used to create an interactive template.  Interactive activities will provide a visual and tactile activity to engage and support your students.  Teachers or students can adjust the graphics to solve math problems, create a music staff or categorize shapes!  The possibilities are endless.  Identify parts of speech, seasons sorterphases of the moon or geometry or science terms, categorize by attributes, we can create anything!

Share on Google Classroom, (Make a copy for each student) to have students complete an interactive assignment for homework or during class!

Sunday, November 13, 2016

Math Resource

Meeting the needs of all of your students and the various skill levels can be quite challenging.  Pinterest and Teachers Pay Teachers have tons of ideas, teaching strategies and lessons available, some free, others available for a small fee.  The Howard County Public School Math Site is a FREE resource available to Westwood Public School teachers - thanks to Beth Cormier!

The Howard County Site includes lessons, exit tickets, assessments, extension activities and much more.  The site includes resources for kindergarten through grade 5.  Primary Routines, sample videos of teachers, journal questions, math flashcards, everything you need at your fingertips!  Problem-solving samples, assessments and answer keys, all ready to go!

Take some time to explore the Howard County Site today!  It will save you time and effort when planning your lessons.  

Word Problem Samples

Exit Tickets 

Saturday, October 29, 2016

Special Characters, Symbols & Emojis

Google makes it simple to add the special characters, symbols or emojis we often use on math worksheets or within our writing.  You can even use your trackpad to draw the symbol if you can remember its name!  Watch How to Insert Special Characters into Google Docs, Slides, and Drawings to learn how to insert special characters into your document. (2-minute video)

1.  Select "Insert/Special Characters"
2.  Search for the name of the character or emoji, etc.  or draw the symbol using your trackpad 

It's that easy!

Directions for Posting and Printing in Aspen

For directions for Posting and Printing in Aspen click here.

Friday, October 28, 2016

Graphic Organizers

Check out Graphic Organizer Maker to quickly create organizers for close reading, research, the scientific method, math or any content area.  You or your students can create organizers for any task.  Choices include Venn diagrams to compare and contrast; timelines to document research, flow charts for retelling, thought webs for brainstorming during the drafting stage of writing, and so much more.

No need to create your own.  Click here and download an organizer.  You can then upload it to your Google Drive and share out on Google Classroom!  Want to add specific words to the organizer to make it your own?  Add it to a Google Drawing and add any text or images to differentiate for your students.

Have an "organized day!"

Sunday, October 16, 2016

Merging Documents

Looking for a quick way to print or share all of your students' poems or essays?  PDF Mergy is a Chrome app which allows you to combine many documents into one! 

1.  Go to Chrome Web Store, search for PDF Mergy, select "Add To Chrome"

2.  Select "Documents from computer" or "Documents from your Drive"

3.  While holding the command key down, select all of the documents you want to merge 
4.  Select save to computer or drive and rename

5.  Open and print or share 

Election Process

With the election looming, I thought you might be interested in some sites on this topic.  Check out these sites for more information regarding the electoral college, maps depicting polling and election results for various offices, the descriptions of the various offices.

Kids Discover  Great infographics (posters)

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Interactive Math Activities

Just a quick reminder about the interactive resources on Illuminations!  These resources can be teacher driven during a mini-lesson or used by a student during a math workshop on a computer or iPad.  You can search by content area, grade level, standard or even keywords. Students will find these activities engaging and the visual model are most beneficial!  

Bunny Times - Visual models of Multiplication


Monday, October 3, 2016

RazKids Reading Levels

Students are able to change their level on the updated RazKids. To prevent this from happening you can lock the students level.

Sign into with your Raz-Kids teacher account
Select My Classroom/Roster
Select the individual student/Edit Student Info
Select "Reading Room Settings"
Under the levels, select "Level(s) Below Student Level and Above Student Level Lock At Level J Through Level K"
You can choose 0 levels above/below or 1 level above/below.
Select "Save and Close"
See image below:

Tuesday, August 30, 2016


Today we used the tool Flippity to randomly create breakout groups. It is very easy to create - just type the names of your students into the pre-made template! Flippity can also be used to create flashcards or even a Jeopardy game. Great way to review prior to an assessment.

1. Select Flippity

2. Select "Random Name Selector Template"

3. Select "Make a Copy", then change the name of the document

4. Type in the first names of each of your students

5. Click on the tab "Get the Link Here" (on bottom of spreadsheet)

6. Select File/Publish to the Web/Publish/OK

7. Copy the link, then select the "X" in the top right corner

8. Paste that link into the Green cell on your spreadsheet. A new link will appear below. This is the link to click on anytime you want to make groups or randomly call on a student.

Friday, August 26, 2016

Google Classroom Updates

Google Classroom Organization with Topics Teachers can organize the class stream by adding topics to posts, and teachers and students can filter the stream for specific topics. This will make it much easier to search or refer back to an old post or assignment.
Google Classroom Email Notifications for Parents and Guardians Parents and guardians can receive automated daily or weekly email summaries of student work and class announcements. (Teachers must invite parents first.)
​Please let me know if you need any help setting up your Classroom. Thanks!

Tuesday, May 3, 2016


Planning lessons and end of the year field trips, report cards, parent conferences, PARCC, we are all busy and struggling to fit everything in.  GMail's Boomerang and the new Schedule Feature in Google Classroom will make your life easier!  Boomerang is a Chrome Extension (available free in the Chrome Web Store) that allows you to write an email now and pre-set the date and time of when you want it sent.  Want to email parents concerning an upcoming assessment or field trip?  But you don't want to send it until Monday morning?  You can write it now and Boomerang will send it automatically at the time you select!  You can even use it to send yourself a reminder!

Google Classroom has added a feature that allows you to write the assignment now but it will not post until the date and time you select.  Plan now and your schedule will be less hectic and stressed!
Do you use Google Classroom for homework assignments?  You can also share a Google Classroom calendar with parents.  Parents can then check your calendar to review assignments or homework due dates.  No more emailing you to find out about homework!

Tuesday, April 5, 2016


Is it Spring yet?  I know many of you have poetry units coming up.  Or perhaps you want your students to practice reading fluency, retelling a story, presentation skills or singing a song or inspirational rap for your persuasion unit or studying for a test!  Students can write and record a song about the regions or science terms to help them study.

 Vocaroo is a quick and easy way to record and share out your student's recordings.  Click here to listen to a second grader from Paul Grenham's class share her beautiful poem.  What's better than their sweet voices? Parents will love this!  Just share the link!

Monday, March 14, 2016

Brain Breaks

We have reached the middle of March!  March is a long month causing the students to become more restless and unfocused.  A brain break and body stretch may help release some energy and re-focus on learning.  Check out some of these quick and easy resources for your class today!

Brain Breaks can be incorporated into your day.  Some opportunities are:
  • in the morning to energize your students
  • before or after an assessment
  • transitions
  • to refocus following recess  
  • yoga or dance movements                     

Some resources:
Just Dance Symbaloo - wide assortment of dance movements
Popsicle Stick Activities - randomly select a body movement
GoNoodle - Can be added to iPad as a shortcut or accessed through your computer - energizing and calming breaks for younger children (I can show you how to create an iPad shortcut.)
KooKoo Kanga Roo Music videos (YouTube) - all ages
Just Dance 3 - Dynamite - Taio Cruz - dance break for older children
20 Three Minute Brain Breaks includes a list of specific activities you can try.  

Friday, March 4, 2016

Add-ons for Google Forms and Spreadsheets

Some people expressed an interest in using Google Forms for Parent Conference Sign Up.  I have attached two brief videos with step by step directions on how to create and share these forms.  Some teachers only want the choice eliminator option which is explained in the first video.  If you also want your parents to receive an email confirmation, please view the second video as well.

1.  To create the form with Choice Eliminator

2.  To send each parent an email response with their conference date using FormMule

Please let me know if you want any help.  I suggest you do a test run on the form before sending it to your parents - just to make sure it is exactly how you want it.  I am happy to be your guinea pig if you send me the link!

Google Forms

The Google Apps Suite is often compared to Microsoft Office.  While there are many comparable features, Google Forms is a real stand out.  The uses of Google Forms in your classroom are endless. Forms can be assessments, exit tickets, parent communication tools, surveys and much more.  Google automatically creates a Response Sheet within your Drive for each form.  All responses can be easily viewed live or at your convenience.  The wide assortment of add-ons personalizes your form (and response sheet) to meet your every need including self-correcting features such as Flubaroo or Super Quiz.
 Top Ten Google Form Uses

1.  Parent Conference Sign-ups (parents receive an email confirmation upon sign-up;  time slots can be removed once full; parents do NOT need a Google account)

2.  Assessments or Check-ins (digital assessments can include videos, images, multiple choice/select, drop down options, open response or grids - Great practice in preparation for upper level and standardized tests)

3.  Reteach/Retest Automation (Student's wrong response leads to a review video, then student tries question again)

4. Track Parent Contact or Student Behavior (bookmark your form to quickly record name, date and reason for contact or specific student behavior, spreadsheet provides documentation) 

5.  Flipped Lessons  (include a video on tomorrow's topic, students' responses demonstrate understanding or areas needing reinforcement)  Sample 

6.  Rubrics (grade student presentations as they give them - saving you time!)

7.  Data Collection and Analysis (Data summaries and charts available at the press of a button)

8.  Icebreakers (get to know your students), Student Feedback & Reflection Forms (feedback on field trips, units, learning experience or school climate) or Student Information Questionnaire (for parents to complete)

9.  Exit Ticket (share the form link and students can complete their exit ticket question improving student learning and teacher direction)

10.  Task or Project Sign Ups (sign up to bring a party item or students' can submit their research topic)

Stay tuned...Next Week......Top Add-ons for Google Forms

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Digital Text Websites

Looking for a new way to engage your students?  Want to make your reading passages more accessible and replicate PARCC style options?  These passages can be used during intervention blocks, reading class or for homework. Grade level specific websites are available. These websites include articles from a wide variety of genres, short and paired texts. Each text includes an assessment with multiple choice, multiple select and open response questions. Student responses will automatically be collected on a spreadsheet in your Google Drive! 

Digital Text Websites:
Grade 3 Digital Texts
Grade 4 Digital Texts
Grade 5 Digital Texts

Let me know if you would help getting started!

Revision History

The ability to access your revision history is priceless!  Google includes this feature within Google documents, presentations, spreadsheets and drawings.  Teachers find this tool useful for many reasons. Accidently deleted material?  Retrieving deleted material or slides, allowing you to restore your document to a prior state.  Also, you can easily see who is contributing as well as how and when your students are working on a group project.  This can be telling information in terms of equity of student work as well as work and study habits of your students.

Accessing Revision History:
  1. Open a document, spreadsheet, presentation, or drawing.
  2. Click the File menu > See revision history.
  3. Click a timestamp in the panel on the right to see a previous version of the file. You'll also see the people who edited the file below the timestamp, and the edits that each person made are shown in the color that appears next to their name.
  4. In the top right, use the arrows to scroll through the list of changes.
    • Note: Text that has been added will be highlighted in a different color. Text that has been deleted will be shown with a strikethrough.
  5. To revert to the version you're currently viewing, click Restore this revision.
  6. To return to the current version of your document, click the back arrow in the top left.

Thursday, February 4, 2016

Saving Assignments as Drafts in Google Classroom

You can create an assignment in Google Classroom and save it as a draft until you are ready to post.  This way the students don't see it until you want them to.  But you have the ability to set it all up so you are ready to go!

In Google Classroom, Create the Assignment then select the triangle drop-down menu next to the word "ASSIGN". Select "Save as Draft."  When you are ready, then you can assign it.

Monday, February 1, 2016

'Add to Drive' and 'Move To' Buttons on the Move!

Google is always looking for news ways to make your Drive more organized and accessible.  Google has recently relocated two important buttons.  The 'Add to Drive' and 'Move to' buttons now appear in the Shared with Me, Recent and Starred sections of your Google Drive.  Once you select the "Add to My Drive" button you are prompted to select a specific folder with the "Move To" button.  Taking these few seconds to organize your files now will save you time and aggravation!

This 1-minute video shows you how!

Searching your Drive

So color-coding your folders is too much?  Well, leave it to Google to making searching for that elusive document even easier.  By double clicking in your Google Drive search bar, a drop-down menu will streamline your search down to documents, spreadsheets, movies, pdfs, etc.

Still need help finding that document?  Advanced Searching Tools are available by selecting the triangle in the top right corner or under "More search tools" in the bottom left corner.

Another menu will appear allowing you to give as much information as you can remember.  Do you know the date it was created or modified?  Who shared with you?  Can you remember any key words that may be in the title?

Using today's tips and the 4 Simple Steps to a More Efficient Google Drive will make your searching much faster!

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

4 Simple Steps to a More Efficient Google Drive

Here are four simple steps you can do today to organize your Google Drive.  Not only are you modeling good organizational skills for your students but you will save yourself tons of time and aggravation!

1.  Categorize by Folders - Create a folder for each category of document.  You can even create sub-folders within your folders.  An 'uncategorized' folder can hold all the documents that don't fit into any other folders yet.  When you are ready to move a document into a specific folder simply right click on it and select 'Move to'.  Or when the document is open, click on the folder to the right of the document name and select desired folder or create a new one.

To create a new folder, select the red "NEW" button, then select 'folder.'

2.  Add some color - Adding color to your folders will streamline your search.  You may want to categorize by color and have your subfolders within that folder be a different shade of the primary color.

To change the color of a folder right click on the name of the folder then select the 'change color' option.  OR click on the three vertical dots on the right side of the top bar to access the same menu.

3.  Standardize your Naming Convention - The naming convention needs to expedite your search. Therefore, the naming conventions must be chosen by you.  Some names may include content areas, or topics such as PDPs, purchase orders or professional articles.  The name can begin with the date (1.8.16 Google Drawings) if you prefer to search by date.

To rename a document, highlight the documents name in Drive and then click the three vertical dots on the right side of the top bar.  Then select 'rename.'

4.  'Shared with you' Files - When a document is shared with you, it does not automatically get added to your drive.  Make sure to add the file to the appropriate folder in your My Drive.  If it does not adhere to your naming conventions, create a folder that suits you and add the file to that folder.

To add a document that is shared with you to your My Drive, highlight the document under "Shared with Me", then select the three vertical dots menu on the right side of the top bar.  Next, select 'Add to My Drive' from the dropdown menu.

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Aspen and Report Card Support

Recently there were issues with scrolling when in Aspen.  Turns out this was not an Aspen issue but rather a setting on your computer.
  •     Go to System Preferences 
  •     Choose the General icon  
  •     You will see a setting called "Show scroll bar to:"
  •     Set that to Always.
Then your scroll bars should appear.

Converting Microsoft to Google

Still using Microsoft as your go to?  Converting Microsoft to Google couldn't be easier!  Benefits of uploading your documents and presentations to Google Drive include automatic saving, saving to the cloud, access from any device, and more memory on your computer.  Though not every alignment is perfect, the new Google Document is accessible and you have the ability to share and collaborate with others!

4 Easy Steps:
1.  In your Google Drive select the Gear and "Settings"

2.  Check the box that specifies:  "Convert uploaded files to Google Docs editor format"

3.  Select red 'NEW' button and choose "FILE UPLOAD"

4.  A list of your documents will open, select the document you would like to upload.  To upload multiple documents, hold the "command" key and select multiple files.  Choose "Open"

You can also upload entire folders or Power Point Presentations.  Remember when you convert, some of your alignment may need adjusting.  This is usually true with tables and presentations.

The more you experiment with your Google Drive and it's capabilities the more comfortable you will feel.

Tuesday, January 5, 2016


If you know me at all, you know I am the queen of list making.  At this moment, I have a post-it note of things to do today.  My cell phones notes app includes lists on books to read, movies to watch, notes from a conference, food shopping, errands and much more!  I have always found lists helpful in keeping me focused and achieving my tasks or even long term goals.

There are an endless amount of tools to help with productivity.  I have highlighted a few below.  But the most effective tool is the one that works for you.  If you have a tool that has helped you stay organized and manage tasks, please share, so we can each find which works best for ourselves.

Chrome Extensions:

ToDoist is a free Google Extension (available in the Chrome Web Store).  This electronic "to do list" icon will appear to the right side of your Google Search Bar.  You can prioritize, set reminders group projects and manage your tasks in one location.  Found a great article but no time to read it?  ToDoist will link directly to your article! You can also add emails to your to do list directly from your Gmail account, reminding you to respond or complete email related tasks. Check out this brief video for more ToDoist tips!  (Video provided by 1st Productivity.)

Prefer something more visual?  Check out Google Keep or Padlet Mini.  Google Keep allows you to create colorful "stickies" which can be arranged to meet your needs, include photos, checkboxes or reminders. Pressed for time?  Record a voice memo and Keep will transcribe it so you can find it later! Google Keep can be used on your smart phone, tablet or computer. Use Padlet Mini to create (and share if desired) a grocery list, Venn diagram, a discussion board, brainstorm ideas, collect resources for an upcoming project or vacation.

One last app I couldn't live without.....Due is a reminder app for your phone.  Quickly remind yourself to make that appointment, complete a project or send that birthday card!  

Please share any tips or tools that you use to help you achieve your smallest tasks or even your biggest goals!

Google Keep:

Padlet Mini: