Friday, March 27, 2020

Creating Simple Google Sites to Keep in Touch With Students

When schools were closed in Michigan some elementary teachers in my district wanted to keep in touch with students using a website. I made these two short videos to help them get started. They are meant for beginners. Also, please understand they were done quickly and are quite informal.

I'm happy to say they helped teachers create sites who had never made one before. I got some sincere thanks for the effort.

This first one shows how to start a Site and add text, images and links.

This second video shows how to publish the site the first time and how to find the link so others can view it. Note that you have to publish the site again each time you edit it.

Sunday, March 15, 2020

Recording Online Lessons With Screencastify

I compiled a brief document to help my teachers use Screencastify for screen recording. It's my tool of choice for making quick screen recordings and video lessons, because it's easy to use and it saves directly to Google Drive.

Most secondary teachers in my district have used it already, but this resource was meant to be a reminder and a way to help them set it up on their home devices.

You can find the document here.

In it, there's a link to the video below, where I show briefly how to record the screen and share the video file.

Tuesday, February 18, 2020

Recording Audio and Adding It to Your Google Slides Presentation

It's a simple process to add audio to Google Slides presentations now. Students can use the feature for many things, including their narration on each slide. Here's a simple example I made to show how this might work.

While it's easy to add audio, there are at least three steps that students might need help with, especially when using Chromebooks. I made a document (at the link below) that will walk them through the process. It is intended to be useful for a variety of different classes and projects. 

Those three things they might need some help with (or reminders for) are:

  • How can you easily record the audio for the slides?
  • Don't forget you have to upload those audio files to Google Drive.
  • And if you share the Slides presentation, you also have to share those audio files with the same people.
All of those details and more are addressed in this one-page document. Feel free to share that document with others and edit as you like. Please keep the link to my blog at the top.

These tutorials are linked within the document:
  • A video tutorial for using Bear Audio Tool to record the files for each slide
  • A video with tips for how to add the audio files and be sure they play how you want them to (including how to upload them to Drive)
  • A brief explanation in the document of how to easily share the audio files so when someone presents them, they will play.

Saturday, January 18, 2020

Our Best Interactive Story Project Yet

I've been experimenting with interactive story projects for a couple years now and this past week we worked through our best one yet. Sample resources and tutorials are included below.

What Is an Interactive Story?
Like the others I've written about, this project gave older students (from high school Creative Writing this time) a chance to write short stories for younger students (3rd graders in this case). It's interactive, because after each short piece of the story we include a feedback survey. The younger students fill out the survey to give the authors input on what happens next.

I originally started working on these projects as a way to motivate writers and to encourage younger students to read for pleasure. I was able to be in the classes at both grade levels this time and it really seemed to accomplish that goal. We had high engagement at the high school, since they knew the younger students would be reading their work. And the younger students loved seeing what the high schoolers had written. All teachers involved were very pleased with the project.

How Did We Do It This Time?
In this case, students wrote their introductory "chapter" in a Google Doc. The teacher required three parts:
First came the introduction to the story. We encouraged students to introduce a character or two, establish a setting and lead up to a problem. 

Next, students added a link to a Google Form that asked some questions of the readers. We required students to ask at least two multiple choice questions and one open ended question. See below for more information about gathering feedback.

Finally, we required an author bio that included the students' interests and goals. In our case, most of the stories were written by two students working together. 

You can see the sample document we showed the class here. Check out the sample story (written by a student, with a few edits) and the sample survey to see how those might look.

The survey and link to the survey were the only steps of the project that required the students to learn some tech skills. I walked them through the process in class, but this document shows all the steps. The final part of it includes a link to a video tutorial. 

Other Details

  • We were pressed for time at the end of our semester, so we only did two sections of the story that asked for reader feedback, then a third part that wrapped the stories up. It took us just about two weeks of class time to complete that. In the future we hope to keep the project going longer, with at least two more chapters.
  • I shared the stories with the younger students by creating a Google Site that linked to each story document. Whenever I share stories like this, I make a copy of the student document, edit it if necessary, then post the shareable link to the document on the Google Site. 
  • The authors should be encouraged to use some of the reader input, but they certainly don't have to incorporate it all. The open ended questions especially can bring in too many ideas. Ultimately the decision is up to the author on how the story proceeds.
  • For the second chapter, we had students write an author note in place of the "About the Author" section. The note thanked the readers for their input, then explained just a little about how they used that input to write their story. Again, most of these documents, including the story, link to the survey and the authors' note, were only a page long.
  • If you want more information about gathering feedback, see this summary I made for a similar comic project. You can read more about that in this post from a couple years ago.

Saturday, December 7, 2019

Holiday Classroom Game and Creativity Activity

Here's a free resource that can be used for a few fun, creative activities in the classroom. At its heart, it's just a way to generate a random pair of words that students use to write a holiday themed haiku.

I'll list a few ways I've used similar activities in class, along with a brief explanation of each. Some will link to previous posts with more details.

First, click here to get your copy of the Google Slides presentation. It will open in your Google Drive.

Generating a Prompt
No matter which way you choose to use the activity, you will be generating a random prompt and students will use it to write a haiku. To generate the prompt, open the presentation so the class can see slide 2. Don't present it. Just display it as shown below. Draw two random words from behind the gift. You can grab them and drag them by the circle at the far right of the screen.

In the above example, the two words drawn are "gift" and "peace".

Students will then create a haiku using the two random words. You can require them to use the exact words, any variation (such as singular or plural) or maybe they just have to use the general idea of the word in their haiku. Of course, if you're using it for the holidays, that will be an implied general theme for all haikus they write. How generally or specifically you want to make this is up to you, but be sure to explain your requirements before they start any of the activities explained below.

Note that you can change the words too if you want. Just drag the words off to the side of the slide, so you can see the word. Double click on the word and it should let you delete the text and replace it with whatever you want. If it's a long word, you might have to stretch the text box to make it fit. Then drag the word back under the present, so it can be randomly selected during the activity.

A Class Writing Prompt
This is the easiest way to use the activity. The teacher can draw two random words from behind the gift. Every student in the class uses those two words (and any other requirements the teacher provides) to write their own haikus.

The writing can be done in class or as an assignment outside of class. Once the teacher has time to look at the submitted haikus, she can choose up to five of her favorites and type them on the A - E spaces  of that slide. At any time after that, the class can vote on their favorite using a poll/quiz application like Socrative or Kahoot, or they could just use a show of hands or submit a vote on a paper slip.

A "Game Show" With a Few Contestants
I used to do all my creativity games this way. It is a challenging exercise for the contestants, but if you have a creative group it can be fun. In this case, 3 - 5 contestants sit at the front of the class. The teacher draws two random words from behind the gift to form the prompt. The contestants each write a haiku using those words and the teacher's requirements. They should have 3 - 5 minutes to write it.

When they are finished, the haikus are read aloud and typed into the spaces A - E (or just summarized). The class votes on their favorite using a poll/quiz application or some other non-digital method. Each contestant gets points equal to the number of votes they receive. Points can be kept on the Score slide. Usually we have time for about three rounds when we do games like this.

If you don't want to give such a strict time limit, you could combine this format with the above activity. The contestants could write their haikus outside of class and turn them in the next day for the vote.

See this post for more details and tips for running these "game show" style creativity games.

A Game Played in Small Groups
More recently I started running these creativity games in small groups. In this case, you can do a sample round with the whole class, just so they see how to play. Then have them work in groups of 3 or 4 students. Each group will have one device to access their copy of the Holiday Haiku slide presentation.

They will play multiple rounds. Each round one student will be the judge. He or she will randomly draw out two words from behind the gift and show the other group members. Everyone other than the judge gets a limited amount of time to write a haiku that uses the two words and follows any other requirements the teacher has given.

When finished, the haikus are gathered and shuffled up. One student reads each of them to the judge. The judge chooses one as his or her favorite. The player who writes it gets a point.

Now the next player becomes the judge and another round is played. Rounds are repeated until each player has been the judge once. The player or players with the most points wins.

See this post for more details about playing creativity games in groups.

No matter how I use these activities in class, I like to seal the learning by adding some reflection.  Here's the reflection sheet I used with one class after doing a similar small group version of a creativity game. Depending on how you presented the material and what the lesson content was, you will probably want to modify the questions somewhat.