I am launching a new video/blog series which will feature 30 quick and easy strategies for creating a more literate classroom. Each strategy takes no more than 10 minutes of class time and no more (but probably less) than 10 minutes of prep time. The strategies are aimed at intermediate grades. If you teach grades 3 – 6, I hope some of these strategies help you transform your classroom! If you teach primary or upper grades, some of the ideas will be applicable with a few modifications.
The strategies are organized around 10 themes:
Get to Know Your Readers
Bring in Picture Books
Space and Time
Make Friends with a Book
Think About Books
Plan for Poetry
Each theme will have several strategies. If you are not already a follower, now is a great time to hit the follow button! You will get an email about each new strategy! Or, just click the hyperlinks to go directly to the blog post.
As always, thanks for reading, and Happy Teaching!
Get to Know Your Readers
Reader’s and Writer’s Survey
Sell Books! (or, Channel Your Inner Gizmo Knife Guy!)
Like the author, Shana Corey, I fell in love with the AAGPBL after watching the movie A League of Their Own. I was delighted to find this book and share that same intriguing story with my students! Now, I’m taking it down from the top shelf and dusting it off to share with you!
The book centers on the fictional character, Katie Casey, who is baseball mad. If you know the song Take Me Out to Ballgame, you might recognize that as a riff of the first line. The song was originally written in 1908, and of course, girls did not play professional baseball at that time. Shana Corey took that song, married it to the true history of the All-American Girls’ Professional Baseball League, and created a simple but effective story. This book makes a terrific interactive read aloud because there is so much to talk about!
Probably my favorite part of the book is the language. During your interactive read aloud, you will find plenty of opportunities to discuss alliteration, juxtaposition, idioms, and really strong descriptive language. Take a look at this quote from the book.
In this sentence, Corey uses alliteration with the repeated sounds of the letters s, b and h. She juxtaposes two ideas (like sliding and sewing) to help students learn about the main character. I am in awe of her ability to pack a lot into a fairly short sentence! As you read the book, you will find many more examples that you will want to analyze with your readers and writers.
This book is also really great for teaching character analysis to 2nd and 3rd graders. Both the illustrations and the text give us a strong idea of who Katie is. During your interactive read aloud, I recommend showing the illustrations under your document camera so that students can easily see them. When I read this, I always give students a chance to use the magic paper to highlight aspects of the illustrations that help us understand Katie’s character. For example, on page 7, the illustrator shows us that Katie’s room is full of books about chemistry, signed photographs of baseball players and high top sneakers. The text gives us even more clues about Katie’s character, and again, Corey uses alliteration to draw attention to these important characteristics.
The book is also a terrific springboard for discussion about gender stereotypes. The text frequently asks, “What good is baseball to a girl?”, and at one point in the book, the baseball players are sent to charm school to become more ladylike (this is a true historical fact)! Be sure to read the Author’s Note so that students learn that gender stereotypes eventually led to the discontinuation of the AAGPBL. There are so many opportunities for rich conversations about how things have changed since the 1940’s, and how they have not!
This is definitely a top shelf book for me. I have used it in classrooms from kindergarten to fifth grade, and found that it works well with all ages. By itself, the book is a terrific match for 2nd and 3rd grade standards. Check out Players in Pigtails Interactive Read Aloud Lesson Plan for everything you need for two days of meaningful instruction centered around this book. In my fifth grade classroom, this book is part of the mini-unit I teach on how baseball has been part of many important historical moments in American History. Check back for more on that in future blog posts.
In the past year and a half, I have grown to love Google Forms. They are so versatile – you can include text, videos, photos… There are tons of different ways to ask questions, and they save me time because they are self-grading. What’s not to love?
One of the things I most enjoy creating with Google Forms is Escape Rooms. I used paper Escape Rooms in my classroom before discovering the digital version, and I will never go back! Escape Rooms are so fun and engaging for kids – they forget they are learning! The key advantage of Google Form Escape Rooms is no prep. With the paper version, you have to print, cut, laminate, assemble, distribute…. You get the idea. Once a digital Escape Room is created, there is NO PREP! Just assign it through your Google Classroom, put the kids in groups, and away they go! For more about assigning Google Forms in Google Classroom, check out this blog post.
Of course, an Escape Room is only as good as its content. My bestseller, Escape from the Lab uses texts and videos to teach students about the states of matter and to increase their comprehension skills of non-fiction text. It is a straightforward Escape Room that includes all of the information that students need to escape. Each section has a new lock, and the answers to the questions give students the code. I labeled this Escape Room B for Beginner because students do not need to solve difficult riddles and crack codes to be successful. Use this type of Escape Room if you haven’t done them with your students before or if you want the focus to be only content, and not include the extra layer of codes and ciphers. If students get the right answers to the questions, they will also have the codes and solutions for the riddles. These Escape Rooms are a similar challenge level – the content is on grade level, the codes are simple and all the information is clearly presented to the students.
If your students are more experienced with Escape Rooms, I just finished creating Escape from Ireland, an adventure about the stories of Ireland. It’s perfect for St. Patrick’s day! The focus is on reading comprehension, so students read embedded texts and answer questions about them. The Escape Room includes a biography of St. Patrick that you can download for free on TPT! It also includes a retelling of the Legend of Finn MacCool, a fictional story about the Leprechaun King and 3 short descriptions of famous castles in Ireland. When you put those texts together with the storyline of the Escape Room, kids will be doing a lot of reading! The codes and riddles require some background knowledge, so this is rated I for Intermediate. I have filled this Escape Room with high quality photographs of Ireland, interesting texts and opportunities for critical thinking and problem solving. Plus, there are leprechauns and magic! What’s not to love!
Another type of Escape Room adventure is the choose your own adventure style. This is by far the most complicated type of Escape Room to create. It is not straightforward because the students make decisions during the activity, and each decision leads down a different path. These are incredibly engaging for for the kids, and I find that they play them over and over because they can have a different outcome each time! Escape from Plymouth Colony and Adventure in the Chocolate Factory are both this type of Escape Room.
Want to learn how to create Escape Rooms like these? Become a follower! I’m putting together a video training series, to teach teachers how to create Google Form Escape Rooms. The link will be posted in the blog soon, so check back! In the meantime, check out this free YouTube video on using Google Slides Task Cards with Whiteboard.fi.
Google Forms have become one of my go-to strategies for distance learning. I embed instructional videos in Google Forms for asynchronous instruction (for more on that, check out this blog post) and I use them for formative and summative assessments. I also use them to create digital Escape Rooms, which my students love! (Check out this blog post for more on that!) With the help of Google Forms, BOOM Cards, and Whiteboard.fi, I have a fairly good idea of what my students can and can’t do, which helps me plan instruction.
This blog post will walk you through how to assign a Google Form in your Google Classroom. We’ll start with a video tutorial, but read on for screenshots and additional tips. In the video, I am assigning Deiondre’s Homework, a Google Form about decomposing fractions. The resource can be purchased on my TPT store, and includes 3 Google Forms and an embedded instructional video.
I hope the video was helpful. You can find more tech videos for students and teachers on my YouTube Channel.
Now, let’s walk through the process of assigning a Google Form in Google Classroom one more time. This time, I am going to assign a Google Form on Equivalent Fractions. You can also purchase this at Ms. Cotton’s Corner on TPT. The resource includes 3 Google Forms, one of which includes an embedded video.
Step 1 – In the Classworks tab of your Google Classroom, click create and choose assignment. You can also choose Quiz assignment if you prefer.
Step 2 – Create the assignment. Give it a title and description and set the points and due date. Then, Click Add, and choose Google Drive. When you purchase the resource from TPT, they will automatically create a folder called TPT Purchases. It will be there unless you have saved it in another folder.
Step 3 – Choose the Form that you want to assign from your Google Drive. I always Toggle Grade importing to the “On” position. Then, once the students complete the work, all I have to do is import the grades with one click. Easy breezy!
Step 4 – Use the Assign button in the upper right hand corner to finish the assignment. You can assign it immediately or schedule it for the future. I often schedule a week’s worth of assignments on the weekend. It is very easy to reschedule if I find that the kids need more or less time than I planned.
And that’s it! Whether you are flipping the classroom, going paperless or teaching distance learning, Google Forms are an easy and effective way to provide instruction and assessment. Click below to purchase either of the resources featured in this blog post.
Maybe you don’t have this problem, but one challenge that I am facing is attendance during digital learning. For a whole host of reasons (technology snafus, motivation, family situations….) some kids struggle to attend our Zooms. And they tend to be the same kids who struggle academically. In my experience, one thing that motivates this population, and all of my students, is videos. The visual and auditory components are engaging, and if they are between 3-5 minutes, attention doesn’t lag. I’ve started pairing short videos with Google Forms as asynchronous learning so that all students, even those that don’t attend regularly, are receiving instruction. Pairing the video with a Google Form gives students an immediate opportunity to put what they’ve learned to use. When we return to in person instruction, I still think these will be invaluable tools to help remediate and extend students. I can see so many ways to easily differentiate by assigning students the video instruction and Google Forms that move them to the next stage.
In my TPT store, you can find many of the videos I’ve created with Google Forms. I’ve focused on upper elementary math, especially fractions so far. Be sure to check back because I’m always expanding this part of my store, mostly as I try to help my students regain lost ground. I teach fifth grade, so that’s why the content is mostly upper elementary. If this is something that you want to use often, I encourage you to look at this Growing Bundle focused on Fractions and save money!
In this blog post, I want to walk through one of the free resources on my TPT store so that you can get an understanding of how it works and whether this type of resource is a good choice for your classroom. The resource we will be exploring is Mixed Numbers and Fractions Greater than One (Improper Fractions). At the bottom of the blog post are links to many other similar resources that you might find helpful.
This resource includes a Google Form and an embedded video. If you’d like to preview the video, you can find it on my YouTube channel here.
When you download this free resource, TPT will automatically add it to your Google Drive. Make sure that you have signed in with the Google Drive where you want the file to be saved – usually your school account. If you are assigning the Google Form through Google Classroom or another district LMS like Seesaw, this is essential!
To preview the assignment and video, you will want to open the Google Form and view it as a student. The video does not play in the teacher view. To see the student view, click on the eye in the upper right hand corner, which I’ve circled in red in this image.
Once you are in the student view, you will be able to play the video. You can also give the Google Form a try and easily see what your students will experience. One of the things I love about Google Forms is the immediate feedback that students receive! And the teacher does too, so no grading!
Once a student completes the Google Form and submits their answer, they will be able to see their score immediately and also receive feedback about anything they missed. Learning theory tells us that just-in-time feedback is so important for learning, and Google Forms are one of the best tools I know for providing that just-in-time feedback. In this example, you can see that the student identified the fraction greater than one as 4/6, but the Google Form would accept either 7/6 or 1 1/6 as the correct answers.
One limitation on Google Forms is how exact the students have to be. Again, in this example, you can see that I’ve given exact instructions for leaving a space between the whole number and the fraction if students write a mixed number. Google Forms will count it incorrect if there is no space. As the teacher, you are able to modify the score if you need to. For example, if you don’t care about the space, you can easily go back and change the points.
To see the students’ results, and change the points if you want to, you will need to go to the Response View. Begin by clicking Responses, which is the top middle of the screen, circled in red in this image.
In this view you can easily see how your students are doing with this standard. Google breaks the data down into a class summary, which is fantastic for planning next stages for the whole class. Google also gives you question by question data and individual student data. To change points or grade a question, click “Question” in the center of the screen.
As you can see, in this example, 1 student left out the space, so that 1 1/6 looks like 11/6. If you would like to give that student credit, just click the green check mark and then save your changes with the red save button. Google Forms will automatically update the student’s score. If more than one student made that mistake, it will update all the scores with two clicks. Easy breezy!
I don’t have room in this blog post to go through all of the fantastic data that you get from Google Forms. Be sure to play around with it and explore. All this great data frees you from grading so you can do what you do best – plan for amazing instruction!
After you have analyzed your data in Google Forms, you may want it in a spreadsheet so that you can easily enter grades in a gradebook. That’s easy too! Let’s explore a few more options from Google Forms.
In the upper right hand corner, you will find a green icon that allows you to easily export your data as a spreadsheet. When you click the green icon, you will see this message, which allows you to merge the data with an existing spreadsheet or name it and create a new spreadsheet. The default name is the name of the Google Form.
Simply name the spreadsheet and then click create. That’s it!
Some other great features are embedded in the three dots to the right of the spreadsheet icon. When you click them, you get this menu. Again, you can download the responses from here. You can also set a time for the Google Form to stop accepting responses. This is really a great feature if you are using a Google Form as a quiz. Probably the feature I use most often is Delete All Responses. Once I have downloaded the data, I delete the responses so that the Form is clear and ready for the next class.
One final piece of troubleshooting advice. By default, the Form is set to receive responses. However, below the three dots you will see an option to toggle the Form’s ability to Accept Responses. If that is toggled to the off position, your students will not be able to complete the Form. That is probably the question I receive most often, so when you are having trouble, check to make sure your Form can Accept Responses! You will know it is toggled to “On” when it changes color.
I hope this post helps you know whether Google Forms are a good choice for your classroom. For more information on this topic, check out my blog post about Assigning Google Forms through Google Classroom. Here are just a few of my Google Forms with embedded videos for you to check out.
My school continues with our digital learning adventure. Today I want to share with you a lesson I recently taught that went well. I’m happy to say, these are becoming more common as I get better at reaching my students through Zoom. This is a lesson I like so well that I will teach it again – in person!
First, what do I mean by decomposing fractions? I have to admit, when I moved back to fifth-grade after19 years at various other grade levels and educational roles, I did not know about decomposing fractions. Had never heard of it! Thankfully, my neighbor teacher was happy to fill me in.
Decomposing a number means breaking it into pieces. For example, in first grade students should have learned to break 10 into 2 and 2 and 3 and 3. Decomposing is important because mathematicians and scientists need to be able to think flexibly about quantities. This skill will be vital for student success in later grades. Even after students finish school, a person’s ability to do mental computation depends on decomposing numbers. With all the research on how fraction understanding predicts algebra success, decomposing is especially important with fractions.
The first thing I did was create a video in Powtoons which reviewed this concept for my students. Decomposing fractions is a fourth grade standard, but learning was so disrupted last year that I wondered if they knew how to do it. Check out this preview of the video on my YouTube Channel (you can purchase the whole video, along with three Google Forms on TPT). I assigned the video through Edpuzzle, a free website that I use to help me track students’ progress through videos. For this assignment, I asked students to watch the video BEFORE class, and I paused the video on Edpuzzle to ask a question mid-way through. That data helped me know, even before I began teaching, that decomposing was not a skill the kids were comfortable with yet.
During our Zoom, we used Whiteboard.fi to practice together. This is another free website that I rely on frequently during math class because it allows me to see the students’ work, but they can’t see each other’s work. I even use this website for assessment! These images show some of the fractions we decomposed during this Guided Practice portion of the lesson. On Whiteboard.fi, you can send an image to every student very easily. Feel free to download these images and use them if they are helpful!
Once the students understood the concept, I asked them to complete Deiondre’s Homework #1 for homework before our next class. This is the first Google Form in my resource, which you can find on TPT. The resource includes 3 Google Forms. Deiondre’s Homework #1 includes the video which students had already watched. Because it is embedded in the Google Form, they don’t have to visit YouTube. Students watched the video individually and completed the Google Form asynchronously. I got the results immediately, which is one of my favorite characteristics of Google Forms! I then analyzed the results to plan instruction for the next class.
Luckily, decomposing came pretty easily for many of my fifth graders, even though I think it was a new idea with fractions. Their experience in lower grades with decomposing whole numbers transferred fairly easily. Based on my analysis, about 2/3 of the class had grasped the basic concept of decomposing fractions. They spent their class time completing these BOOM Cards in breakout rooms with a partner.
I worked in a small intervention group to practice decomposing some more, and then assigned that group Deiondre’s Homework #3. I chose #3 because that Google Form uses number lines and also emphasizes the unit fraction concept, which three of my students needed to practice.
Finally, I used Deiondre’s Homework #2 as a formative assessment. Using some free tools, two of the resources from TPT store and three 45-minute Zoom sessions, my students all gained proficiency in this vital skill, which we will continue to build on as we dive more deeply into fractions. You may find that this instructional sequence works for you, or that you use all three for practice and a different formative assessment. The resource is flexible enough to use in many ways!
I am working to digitize my Fraction-A-Day resource, and it should be done by the end of the week. I will be using that as a follow up to help my students continue to build a solid understanding of fractions.
I hope this lesson sequence is helpful to you and to your students.
Maybe you have been doing what I have been doing lately – a crash course into all things Google! If so, I can’t wait to share this tip that I just learned!
Often when I create Google Slides for my students, I need some of them to be portrait orientation and others to be landscape. Because Google Slides is meant as a presentation platform, that just isn’t possible. But, we teachers need it to be so much more! We need kids to drag and drop, underline, insert, and interact with the slides. AND we need the slides to go the way we need them to go. Here’s how I’ve solved that problem.
First, since my students need to interact with the slides, they know NOT to use the slides in Present mode. When I’m teaching them, I DO use present mode. This work around WILL NOT work in Present mode, but it is awesome for students.
Create the content you need. In my classroom we are working on grammar, so I’ve created this Grammar Adventure for my students. As you can see, most of the slides need to be Portrait orientation, but the brochure about Tikal really needs to be Landscape.
2. I created the slide in Portrait orientation by creating text boxes and images, and then rotating them.
3. Then I downloaded the brochure as a png. Making it a png means the content is locked and no one can edit it – not you and not your students.
4. Next, I created a new blank slide. I inserted the image of the brochure I had just downloaded. Don’t make it a background, insert it as an image. It will fill the entire slide. You are probably thinking, um, yeah, it looks just like it did a minute ago.
5. Now, the work around. Rotate the image. It will hang off the edges of the slide.
6. Go ahead and resize it to cover the entire slide. Now it will really hang off the edges!
7. That’s it. If you want to see a video of this, check it out here!
For other great tech tips for you and for your students, be sure to follow me on You Tube. I regularly post tech tips and instructional videos.
And I have tons of awesome print and digital resources on TPT, including this resource, Grammar Agents – the Quest for the Missing Mayan Medallions! Follow me so you find out about all my newest resources and insights to grow your teaching.
Building classroom community is essential for creating a risk free environment for students and building their capacity to learn from and support each other in learning. I teach fifth grade, and friendships are incredibly important at this developmental stage. A sense of community is even more essential during virtual learning because kids need to depend on each other during independent learning time and, more than ever, they need to feel connections with their peers. To help my students build relationships and friendships, I am being intentional about daily opportunities to work in break out rooms on Zoom, and I am pre-assigning the students so that they are with the same kids each day. To help them find connections, we did this activity in our first full week of class. Be sure to check out my video post for a demo!
The idea is simple. Students began by playing a virtual game of Would you Rather, (check out this post for more on how we do that during in person instruction and download these free Would you Rather cards to teach vocabulary related to Powers of Ten on TPT!)
Students met in break out rooms with their team, and began by adding their names using Word Art (my video post on YouTube shows you how to do that!). Then, the team worked through the slides together, each student giving their individual answer to the question. As they worked, they looked for connections – questions where all students shared the same answer. I found that students also engaged in chatting about school, and found connections to things that weren’t on the slides (like one group shared their excitement that we would be studying constellations. We previewed the year with this Escape Room, so they know what is coming!) Click here to download the slides for free – they are editable to add your own touch!
After the teams had worked through the slides (it took about 10 minutes), they returned to the main Zoom Room and shared out some of the connections they had discovered. This helped other teams learn about the groups and also solidified the idea that we are all connected. I purchased lovely shield clip art on TPT from Glitter Meets Glue, so to end the first lesson, each team chose 1 -3 shields that they liked. Before the next lesson, I popped the shields in their slides.
For the second lesson, each team made a final choice about which shield they wanted to decorate. Then they created a team name, and added that with Word Art. Next, they revisited their connection points, thinking of images that would symbolize their connection points. For example, my students overwhelmingly prefer living in the country to the city. Some groups chose country animals (cows and bears….), others chose nature (trees and rolling fields). It was so fantastic to see the different ways they symbolically represented the same concept. They popped the images into their shields, creating a representation of their team.
Because we are all a class, I copied the shields into one Publisher document to create a new header for our Google Classroom. The kids were so excited to see their shields “hanging” up in our Classroom, and they made great connections with the other kids on their team. We will keep these same teams for about a month, and then get new teams to build more connections. Check back for our next cool Classroom Community idea!
For other posts on how to build classroom community, check out:
So, week one of virtual instruction in in the books. We are doing a soft start so it’s more like Day One is in the books! Even though I’m not with my kids in person, I still have the same goals for the first day – launch academics, make connections and surprise them so they want to come back for more! Be sure to check out how I do that in person with this blog post. Here is how I accomplished that virtually.
I wanted to really catch the students’ attention right away and launch some academics. I also wanted to surprise them. So, I decided to start with a digital Escape Room through the year (click the link to get a copy of the Escape Room I created. Edit and use it if you would like to!). Escape Rooms are so engaging because the story carries students through an adventure. The codes and puzzles bring a level of mystery and challenge that is also very engaging.
I created a story line that gave students a preview of the content we are going to study together. That helped accomplish my goal to launch academics. I decided to use Google Slides instead of Forms because I wanted to get the kids used to working with Slides because we will use them a lot in our virtual classroom . I structured the Escape Room with some of the codes that we will use in other Escape Rooms so that I could introduce them as well.
Here are a few of the slides in the Escape Room. You can download your own copy and modify it to fit your content! And if you like this type of activity, be sure to check out some of the digital Escape Rooms I have on TPT!
As we worked through the first challenge together, I was able to reinforce the content we will be learning and also begin to build connections with the kiddos. For the second code, I sent them to breakout rooms. We will use the same breakout groups for several weeks. This was their first time in the groups, and working on the second code helped them begin to get to know each other. We will build those connections over the next weeks with more opportunities to work with the same group.
For homework, each student clicked on one of the links to watch a video or read an article. Then they left a comment on the Graffiti Wall. That gave them practice with inserting a text box – an essential skill that they will use a lot this year and also gave me insights into what they are looking forward to.
This activity worked so well that I will use it again next year! The kids were definitely hooked and I accomplished my three goals – we launched academics, built connections, and did something surprising!
It is so important to build a sense of community even though we are not together in the same classroom right now. This summer I spent a lot of time brainstorming and thinking about how to do that. One of the best projects so far has been this art project.
Before school started, we passed out Chromebooks and school supplies to the kids, and I used that opportunity to give each student a copy of this art project which I purchased on TPT. I also included a self-addressed, stamped envelope and asked the kids to follow the directions, and then mail the art project back to school. About half of the students reported that they mailed it on the second day of class, so you know they were excited!
Once I received the art project back, it was very easy to assemble them and laminate them. Since we are not in school, I wanted to put the project on display somewhere the kids could see it. So, I found a local coffee shop with a big wall facing our main street. They were super gracious (thank you Moe’s!), and let me hang up the artwork.
This project was such a great way to start the school year. The kids were excited to share themselves with each other, and the opportunity to share this message with our community was really meaningful to the kids. The project also gave them a sense that we are a team and that we do big things, together. Plus, they think they are famous now! The response from the parents and community has been really positive, too. I think the message really resonates with the adults during these difficult times. It did take some time to assemble and laminate the project, but I think it was well worth the time because the payoff has been huge. I feel like we are well on our way to building a vibrant, connected, virtual community.