Thursday, July 31, 2014

Using Google Tasks in Google Calendar to Stay Organized

save image
No one loves Google more than I do (ok, that might actually not be true, but I am a Google fan!), so today I´ll share another Google tip. I know that right now there are lots of options for online organizers. I won´t pretend to be familiar with all of them (or even with a small percentage of them), because I simply am not. What I am, though, is obsessed with Google Calendar and how easy it is to stay organized by using it. The above image is a screenshot of my calendar (what displays on the left-hand side of the calendar). You´ll notice you have ¨tasks¨ also included. You can include tasks to any calendar, and oh boy is this feature fantastic! I don´t know about you, but my teaching day is filled with a million and one things to do (teaching is actually only one part of that million and one things that I need to do).  Now, on the right-hand side of your calendar is where your tasks will appear (but only if you have clicked on the ¨tasks¨ on the right-hand side, as I have done in the above image). save image You can input more description and details about the task within the task field itself, which is very nice. From my own task list you can see that each task has a date it must be completed by (the date is below the task). As you complete each task, you click on the task and it will cross it out. You may also delete the entire task from your task list if you would rather not have it appear in your list at all. This task list can be printed out if you´d like to keep it in view at all times. That´s it. It´s so easy and simple, but it keeps my life organized.

What do you use to stay organized?

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Using Google Calendar to Make your Lesson Plans

     Yesterday I posted about how to use Google Calendar for all your pacing calendar needs. Using Google Calendar for your lesson plans isn´t much different, but it is much more detailed. As you can see from the above image , I can align both my pacing calendar and lesson plan calendar together. This helps as I am putting together my detailed plans. What I have done is schedule my general lesson plans without having yet plugged in the details of the lessons. For example, I have scheduled the reading block, writing, math, etc. for the entire year. As I go to do my actual plans, I start plugging in the details in those general slots. I also have a separate document of my units with lesson activities, and even though I primarily do the same ones each year, I always have to look back to see what was in my plans and make any necessary changes. As I look back I just start plugging the activities into my Google Calendar lesson plans. I actually put the details of the lesson in the ¨description¨ field (see below). The best thing about this is you can print out your calendar if needed, or save paper and just work directly from the computer (that´s what I tend to do). 
  1. That´s all there is to it. I have seen a lot online planners offered for free or for a small fee, but I find that everything I need to plan is available in Google Calendar, and for free! You can´t beat that. 
Do you use Google Calendar? I´d love to hear your thoughts on Google Calendar and how you use it. 

Monday, July 28, 2014

How to Use Google Calendar to do a Pacing Calendar

     It´s no secret that I love Google. If you´ve seen my last two posts, you know that by now. In the past year I have started to use Google like never before. I don´t pretend to know even half of what I can do with Google, but I do know a little bit and today and tomorrow I will share a few tips on how to use Google calendar to help make planning your pacing calendar easier. If you don´t already have a free Google account go and do that. Now. You can do that here.
      Ok, so now you have your Google account. One of the applications available to you in your new Google bundle of joy is the Google calendar. I have various calendars, and one of them is my pacing calendar (titled ¨pacing guide¨ on my calendar). What I have done is map out the various concepts and skills throughout the year and plan it on the actual calendar. Like with any pacing calendar, this took some time. I did this over several weeks. So, while somewhat time consuming, it can now be shared with my entire grade-level team. As you can see, the date appears at the top. Since I plan by week, I decided to count the weeks (week 1, week 2, etc.) on each Sunday for easy viewing. Now, one thing that made this time-consuming was that for each subject I created a new entry (language arts, writing, math, etc.). I could have lumped them all together, but it was difficult for me to focus on what was actually on my pacing calendar that way. So, I did each as its own entry. You will want to decide which way looks the most appealing and works best for you. A great feature of the Google calendar is you can assign a beginning and end date. So, if I have a unit for 6 weeks all I have to do is assign the beginning and end dates and it will show up over that six-week period.  
     That´s pretty much it. It´s not complicated at all. I hope you find this helpful. I would love to hear from you if you plan on using Google Calendar or already use it.
Pacing Calendar

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Yet Another Really Cool Google Chrome Extension

     I guess I´m on a roll with these Google Chrome extensions. Today I found another extension that I am super, and I mean SUPER excited about! It´s called Awesome ScreenShot and it allows you to take, well, screenshots that are pretty awesome. You can circle, highlight, and even annotate information (see my screen shot above? Yes, I did that by myself). As a teacher and blogger, this is a fantastic tool. My head is already spinning with the possibilities. I use Google Slides almost on a daily basis in my class and often find myself wanting to include just a snippit of a screenshot into my presentation and this tool will make it easier for me to do so.
    To get ScreenShot, you go to the Google Chrome Store found here and search ¨Awesome Screenshot¨ and then add it.

p.s. No, I do not secretly work for Google. Thanks for asking. I´m just a BIG fan of Google.


      Do you use Screenshot? If so, I´d love to hear what you use Screenshot for.

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Google Chrome Extensions that Rock

     Ok, so you might be asking yourself what in the world does google chrome extensions have to do with teaching? Well, the answer to that is nothing and everything. Ok, before you start quietly tiptoeing away from this page, let me explain. We teachers use technology. A lot. Did I mention we use it A LOT? We do. As such, google extensions (and applications) can really enhance our computers´ functionality, making it easier (and better) for us as we plan, look up lesson ideas, blog, or create. I recently discovered some fantastic extensions that I am already loving! I am loving them so much that I almost don´t want to leave my computer´s side (oh wait...that´s me on a daily basis). To get these extensions (for free), just go to your local Google Chrome Store (ok, it´s on the internet so just navigate your browser that way) and add them. Ok, here we go:







1) Adblock Plus:    Ok, I am loving this one! It removes adds from your computer. No more Facebook adds, no more youtube adds (don´t you hate those pesky commercials?), no more adds PERIOD! Now, I have to warn you it is controversial because those who make the adds are losing money, so use this only if you feel comfortable removing the adds.


2.  Disconnect: Another great one! With Disconnect you prevent other websites from tracking you. This helps you keep your privacy, well, private.

3.  LastPass: Have trouble remembering all your passwords? I do. This extension keeps them in a vault for you. So, when you go to login, Lastpass inputs it for you. You can always go into your vault and look at all the passwords for the sites you have saved. This is becoming one of my favorite extensions! My sister is an accountant in Santa Barbara, California and her company uses LastPass (she´s actually the one who told me about it).

I am super excited about these extensions and hope you will try them out. I think you will love them too. Do you use other extensions that you just love? I would love to hear about them.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Brag Tags Freebie

      Bird Sitting In Window

     Yesterday I posted about brag tags (something relatively new for me). I have decided I really want to try them out for this coming school year, even if only on a small scale. This could be the perfect addition to my positive classroom. Now that I have done my research on brag tags ( you can check out the post here if you missed it), I am ready to take the next step and implement these babies in my own classroom. What I did was spend about 40 minutes yesterday really studying what brag tags look like, then creating my own using Google Draw. Ok, these first ones are pretty simple and weren´t that difficult, but I am super excited about them. I plan to make a few more and start using them in my classroom come August. I am offering them here for you to use as well. If you decide to use them, let me know! I would love to hear from you.

Brag tag: I did a kind act.

Brag tag: I helped a neighbor.

Brag tag: I was responsible

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Brag Tags....A means of implementing positive reinforcement



     Have you heard of brag tags? I recently learned about brag tags and am very intrigued by them! So intrigued, in fact, that I might try them for this coming school year. Essentially they are tags that you can give to students for demostrating certain behaviors: completing homework, being kind, helping others, etc. The students keep their brag tag on a necklace. The necklace can be an actual chain necklace, or a ribbon or string necklace! The actual brag tags might be a bit costly, but many teachers are making their own! You can make them on cardstock or even poster paper and then laminate them. It´s a nice way to recognize students for their efforts and exciting for students to receive.
     Are you using brag tags in your classroom? I would love to hear about it.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

iPads in the Classroom...What do I do now?

  Girl reading on an iPad.   If you were recently granted iPads to use in your classroom and are now wondering what you will do with them, we are actually in the same boat (sorry...I hope I didn´t lead you to believe I had this one figured out). I have started investigating and planning to better prepare me, though, and I will share that with you here.
   Below are a few things that I have done that have helped me as I prepare for the following school year with iPads in the classroom.

1. Take a deep breath. You do not, and I repeat DO NOT have to figure it all out right now. Baby steps will help you maintain your sanity.

2. Define your goal, and keep it limited. For example, my team level decided we want to use our iPads for literacy. This does not mean we will not use it for other subjects, but we will focus on literacy for this school year.

3. Research: Find out what others do. How are they using their ipads? What applications do they find helpful? Search online and discover what other teachers are doing.

4. Make a plan: Now that you have a goal and have done some research, it´s time to make a plan. Writing it down will make it more concrete. Remember, your plan does not have to be concrete. Perhaps you will make changes as you go along. In your plan, include the applications you will use along with times of days students will use it.

5. Edit your plan: As you start to use your iPads in your class, reflect on what is working and what is not working. Make changes accordingly. Once you are comfortable, you can add more goals and add on to your plan. However, that comes only once you are very comfortable with what you are currently doing with your iPads in class.

Here is my own plan:

Goal: Use iPads for literacy purposes.

applications:  Bluster, iCard sort, Raz-kids, How to teach your monster to read

logistics: Use during Daily 3 reading time. Students may use as a word work activity, self-reading or read to someone.

As you can see, your plan does not have to be complex at all. The idea is to have something solid and clear, something that will make the idea of using iPads in the classroom less stressful and overwhelming.

Are you currently using iPads in your classroom or are going to start using them soon? I would love to hear about it. Leave me a comment and let me know your plan.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Behavior Management: The Stop Light, Clip Chart Debate

Students in Line with Teacher
    Many of us (including myself) use a stoplight clip chart in our classrooms to help manage behavior. You are likely aware of the debate surrounding this system. There are many teachers who feel the system is inadequate and unnecessary (I have always been, and remain, ¨on the fence¨ on this one). Their reasons include: the system is too publicly displayed, the system doesn´t really help to modify behavior, and students who end the day on red leave the classroom feeling bad (just to name a few). In my own use of the system, I offer a blue level where students may also move up. In addition, as long as students are not on red (red typically means they have had several chances throughout the day and chose not to change his/her behavior), they can move back up (on my own classroom stoplight blue is the first color and red is the last) if they begin to make better choices.
     I have always been intrigued by those who manage their classes without such a system. As such, every year I reask myself if I will continue using the system (so far I have always answered yes to that quetion). I am always so tempted to leave that system behind for the following reasons: I hate having to check who is on orange so I can take their recess away (also, I hate taking away part of their recess! Most kids who find themselves changing their color for por choices are the very ones who really need their recess time. In addition, sometimes a child lands on red and I wonder if their Little behaviors really grant a phone call or email home (which is supposed to be one of the consequences).
    What would I use instead of this system? Likely nothing. I have read several teachers post about just moving students to a time-out (or refocus área) which is what I do anyway. If their behavior still doesn´t improve then those teachers know it´s time to contact home. It sounds simple enough. It really does (hence why I am so tempted to change my own system to a posible non-system system). My main issue with this is that in my class any students on green get a hole in their punchcard. Those on blue (for outstanding behavior) get two holes. They turn in their completed punchcard for a prize form the prize bag which is what makes my system so motivating (of course that´s where others would argue the need for intrinsic rewards versus extrinsic...my oh my it is a delicate balance, isn´t it?). I have thought about how I could maintain this system and I suppose I could still use the punchcards without a stoplight system. I would still know whose behavior for the day did and did not grant a punch, as well as those with outstanding behavior who deserve two punches (I´m not quite willing to let go of my punchcard system.).
    A second option would be to try out Edmodo (another system I have looked at but declined for at least the last two school years). I think this system would not eliminate the need to manage and monitor itself, but, unlike my current system, it is my understanding that parents can be contacted through the system, so this might mean instant feedback to the parents (a definite plus).
    What I have really determined through all this thought process is no one system is right for everyone. A system that might have worked for a teacher might change later in that teacher´s career. I think as long as we teachers really think about why we use the systems we use, and if it makes sense and works for us then that´s the most important thing. I am not trying to persuade anyone in any one direction or another (especially being so undecided myself). I´m simply thinking out loud on a topic I continue to think about as a new school year lies in the horizon.
    Please share your own thoughts. What behavior management system do you use and how does it work?

Saturday, July 19, 2014

My Neighbors Unit: Freebie

 
      

I have worked really, really hard to improve my Neighbors unit, which I begin with every year. I used to teach Bible, but now that I teach in a secular school I have adapted the Neighbors unit to be secular friendly. The unit as it was originally designed is largely based around the Bible, but there's also a lot of other ideas and activities in the unit that are not so you can use to focus on carácter strengths if you don't teach Bible.

   I have a lot of resources in my live.binder, so you could even modify and change things up (I haven't even used all of my resources from the binder). Click here to access my Neighbor Unit. The Access code is: Neighbors.

   The unit is designed using Understanding by Design method. Feel free to use what you need to. If you use it, please tell me what you thought of it. Thanks!

Friday, July 18, 2014

Freebie: Classroom Newsletter (Owl theme)


Newsletters are a great way to keep in touch with your students´ parents. For this next school year I plan on making my class wesite´s homepage our class newsletter (I am blessed to be in a school where the students all have access to technology, making this a very effective way to communicate). In search for the best newsletter, I actually found one from teacherspayteachers, but modified it. I made my versión more colorful and changed the boxes to fit the kind of information I need to send out to my parents. You can access that newsletter here (it´s actually all ready for the first week of school!): https://docs.google.com/document/d/1gZ5xYHYvttokSt1NON7Cj6DIREjltxyQ0Td62YwcBiY/edit?usp=sharing
This is where I found the original newsletter: http://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/Owl-Class-Newsletter-572117

If you like the newsletter, you may save it as a copy to your Google Drive and then edit as needed. Please let me know what you think of it!

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Promoting a Growth Mindset



I was introduced to the growth mindset research about a year ago through a Stanford course I took. The research is amazing and changed how I work with my students. If you are not familiar with the growth mindset vs. the fixed mindset attitudes, I encourage you to really look into them. In a nutshell, research coming out of Stanford shows that people either have a fixed or growth mindset. A fixed mindset says one believes intelligence is fixed and nonmalleable. On the contrary, those with a growth mindset believe that intelligence can grow and change. The most interesting aspect of this, however, is that those with a fixed mindset have been shown to give up quicker, or not attempt challenging work at all because they do not believe intelligence can change. Those with a growth mindset push themselves more and, consequently, accomplish more because they believe intelligence can change. This has great implications for us educators, especially since there are things we can do to help students develop a growth mindset. To begin, we should embrace challenges and encourage effort. ¨Yes, that was difficult but you kept working at it. Good job!¨ Ensuring that we have conversations with our students about how struggle is healthy and means we are growing and learning will help students develop a growth mindset. In my own classroom last year, we really tackled the idea that mistakes were an important building block in our learning. I always shared my mistakes and as such students started sharing their own mistakes. No longer were they afraid of exposing their mistakes, they actually took every opportunity to share those mistakes. I am enclosing some links that might better help explain the growth mindset. 

 Short explanation:

 A longer explanation

Pinterest board about teaching grit and a growth mindset

Mindsetonline

Do you have additional resources on growth mindset? Please share them. 

Teaching To Each Learner

               Recently, I recorded a three-part mini series podcast all about teaching to each learner. I find that it is this very ar...