Friday, September 19, 2014

Google Classroom.... The beginning of a love affair...sigh

Ugh..... My pile of grading is daunting....

Ha! I make myself giggle sometimes! Seriously, that is my pile of grading. Google Classroom is amazing and fabulous and I'm a school girl in love.
I told the kids that this year I wanted top go "paper light".  All assignments would be in paper form and online. Students could decide how they wanted to complete them. I also have the luxury of 5 old laptops, 2 beautiful macs, and one iPad in the classroom and a study hall time for kids to accomplish assignments.

The kids were hung ho! I spent a whole day doing a tech sign up for the entire middle school (Google Classroom, Engrade, Quizlet, etc.) and showing them how Google Classroom worked. I was fortunate enough to have one of our tech instructionalists from the district join us, because when it comes to tech, an extra set of amazing hands is always welcome.

 The kids fell in love and we have been off without a hitch. I post all my assignments (as well as posting them on Remind... My other love) on Google Classroom. Weekly, I assign a current events article with Common Core close reading questions to support my English Language Arts teachers. This assignment can be "turned in" through Google Drive and they looooove it.

 About 70% hand the assignment in digitally. Interestingly enough, they still prefer to have the reading in paper form but love to do their writing in digital form.

Once we got started, I decided to step up my game. This summer I took a two day conference with EdTech Teachers and... Well.... It was amazing!!! My workshop was all about learning how to use technology to help struggling learners. With my special ed beginnings and my new endeavor in a district with a huge number of students who speak English as a Second Language, I was captivated by the entire two days. Beth Holland, my teacher, wrote a guest blog post for Richard Byrnes about combining Google Drive and Newsela.

 I took some of the suggestions and combined with this blogpost and found liquid gold. The first time I did this I used Junior Scholastic.  Junior Scholastic now offers a lower lexiled article online for teachers.  I then used the summarize tool on the mac to make an even lower lexiled version.

The second week I used Newsela to organize three articles at three different Lexile scores.

 I spoke with my ELA teachers and organized my readings into three levels, created folders in Google Drive for those three levels, and shared them with the students based on their SRI and MCAs scores.

 For bonus, I put reading comprehension questions in the comments based upon the reading level of the article.

 For my lowest level group, I made an audio version of the article, using QuickTime on the computer(something I learned from those crafty EdTech Teachers) and put that in their Google Drive as well. 

Voila! Instant reading groups, leveld discussion, teacher feedback and read alouds to meet every IEP.
Have I reminded you how much I love Google?

Monday, September 1, 2014

Currently September

Hey all!  I hope your beginning of the school year is fabulous!  It's been awhile,  but I'm linking up with the fabulous Farley over at Oh Boy! Fourth Grade!  

Head on over to see what other educators are doing!

Thursday, August 28, 2014

First Week is in the Books

The first week back is in the books and it was great! It was wonderful meeting my new seventh graders but I forgot how amazing it feels to loop with kids. My eighth graders came in and it just felt like home. They are such an amazing group of kids and I am so fortunate to get another year with them. Today they were getting sad because they don't want to go to high school next year. Woah Nelly!!!! You just got to eighth grade... Don't fast forward time just yet!!!

I went in my class last week and quickly set up my bulletin boards.

I really love my , "What's Been Going on in the World?" Bulletin board. I have presented five national and international stories from the summer with no words. For a bonus activity for my early finishers, they can take a guess at explaining what is going on in the pictures. If you're interested in the template, click here. I'll be changing them out every month, or as my smarty pants eighth graders say, every news cycle.

The first day I launched with my getting to know you video...


And then had them tell me about their likes and interests with Play Doh.


On day two did the Survivor Island activity that Dave Burgess talks about in his book and my teacher buddy, Ben Brazeau (@braz74) made (I modified it a bit for middle school students). Of course I had to add a bit of my own flare too it so I made this super fun launch video.

I also got to us Kahoot! Which I totally adore!

If you haven't used it yet, it allows you to do online quizzes and surveys where kids can use a myriad of devices to answer the question. It's much like Socrative or PollEverywhere but it has more of a game show feel to it. The kids loved it and I was able to use it to collect that beginning of year data, like do you have a computer or tablet, do you have wifi, etc? The kids adored it and I love that I can download all my data to a spreadsheet.

Lastly, I'm super excited because next week we're signing the kids up for Google Classroom and the whole cluster is going to use it. The possibilities are endless!!!!


Did you try anything new the first week of school? Let me know!!!













Monday, August 18, 2014

Back to School

One last sale before school! Use promo code BOOST and you'll get 28% off my entire store!



Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Rainy Day Fun Part 2

It was pouring here in New England today. I've been having trouble getting motivated for back to school ( t minus 11 days and counting) and then I remembered what I did last year to get jazzed. In a very similar rainy day I made a first day video to show my students. I loop with my kiddos so my eighth graders deserve a fresh new video. I worked on it a bit in the morning but I didn't want the kids to be stuck in the house all day. The big guy was at karate camp for the week so my hubby and I took the midget to Red Robin and the mall to buy a new school back-to-school outfit. Two adults, one 3 year old, and we ended up with no back-to-school outfit and a pink My Little Pony. I'm not quite sure how that happened.....
We hunkered down in PJs early and I got to work on the video. It was much quicker than last year cause I've definitely learned that ins and outs and iMovie Trailers. For those of you that are wondering, I used iMovie, I usedthe trailer option and I used Keynote to make the slides with handwriting.

What do you like to do on your first day of school?

Sunday, August 3, 2014

More TPT....sorry:)

I just got back from an amazing week at the beach....

I'm happy.... They were tired... And hungry.... And sandy.... And annoyed with documenting our adventures:)

While I was there, I found out TPT was throwing a sale fro Monday, August 4th through Tuesday, August 5th. I've discounted my store 20% and with the promo code you'll get an additional 8%. This is a great time to get those things you've wanted but thought, "Maybe next time!". Enjoy!



Sunday, July 27, 2014

Mind Blown!!!!

First, I need to apologize.... I feel like my blog has become nothing but an ad for my teachers pay teachers store. I've been spending a lot of time on my teachers pay teachers because well.... it's summer. I've been treating it like a part-time job that I work on after the kiddos go to bed and I've been creating some amazing stuff to revamp my beginning of the year units. But I need to get back to blogging!!!!

I have also been doing some amazing things with Ed Tech this summer. First off I took my first grad class since 1998. It was a fast and furious five day tech course and it was great to have a week to just play around with edtech. The coolest tech thing I've done, though, is attend a course I started today. It's given by the Edtech Teachers and if you haven't heard of them you totally need to look into them. I took this amazing two day workshop on how to use tech to meet the needs of all the students and your class as well as struggling learners. The class was the best class I've ever been to my entire career. I learned so many things that I didn't know I could do just with my own computer! I decided to create a list of five things that absolutely just blew my mind. I also included a Blendspace I created at the end of the page to show you everything that I learned.

Mind Blown #1 Did you know that you can organize your Google searches by reading levels? If you Google "Advanced Google Search". You will get a page like this.

You can organize your searches by file type, date published, and other filters. I love that you can organize by reading level. It's not the foolproof but when you choose show "only basic result" very kid friendly searches show up.

Mind Blow #2 I am always looking for new ways to differentiate readings in my class. I was introduced to this amazing website called With you insert the URL of the webpage you would like to read. Once it loads it up, you can actually delete pictures, sidebars, paragraphs, an actual sentences. It saves as a PDF file. This is a fabulous way to take a current event article and make 3 to 5 different versions for the struggling readers in your class.

Mind Blown #3

For those of you that have been reading my blog, you've probably noticed that I've been trying to accommodate readings in my classroom by adding videos, screen casting, and audio. I've been using different apps and trying different websites. What I didn't know is that the fabulous MacBook I have can do it without downloading anything. If you go to your QuickTime player underneath File you can do a new screen recording. I can screen cast right from my computer with no other add-ons whatsoever. Fabulous!

Mind Blown # 4

Did you know that if you have a Mac you have the amazing capability of taking any reading and summarizing it quickly? Find an article that you like on the Internet and copy it. Open up notepad on your Mac computer and paste the article into it. Once you do this you can right click and "summarize" is one of the options. There's a bar that you can actually scroll up and down to tell how large how small you want the summary. How unbelievable is this? Now I can take any article and summarize it so I can make different copies forget! Amazing!

Mind Blown #5

Lastly, I just found out that just by clicking the little microphone and my iPad I can dictate. I started in special-education 17 years ago. When we first started we would spend hundreds of dollars on Dragon speech software. I have never seen a more intuitive speech to text app and than what comes right inside this iPad. Actually, this entire blog post was written just using the speech to text app. Again mind blown!

Below, I've included a link to my Blendspace page that incorporates how to videos and websites I described that I learned from that fabulous Edtech teachers conference. Look at the last two links on the page because those go back to the Edtech teachers website which is just amazing within itself.


So, are there any amazing things that you were using in your class to accommodate fear struggling learners? I would love to hear from everybody!