May 11, 2020

Why Research Projects are Perfect for Distance Learning

Research projects are PERFECT for distance learning because it puts the child in charge of their own learning!  The reason it is important for teachers like me, is our district decided teachers are not allowed to instruct on new academic content during this time of school closures.  This was a result of not being able to insure everyone has access to the same material.  So I thought, RESEARCH PROJECTS to the RESCUE! Besides, it's what I typically assign after state testing is over with anyway!
Digital google classroom activities
So, who doesn't love going on the endless rabbit hunt from time to time when you start diving into a topic?  GUILTY!! NOW is the time to get the students on that learning train!  Go ahead, dangle that carrot in front of them if you have to, but kickstart that love for learning again by assigning a digital research project.  Make sure you maintain parameters, of course! Just provide your class with a little bit of context, some suggested kid-friendly research websites, and an overarching topic.  
Watch my video to see how I kickstart the research phase of our Animal Research Project!

In my opinion, animals and countries are great places to start when introducing research projects.  Don't be afraid when you hear "research projects" and you think back to that dreadful semester-long project your high school English teacher assigned you.  Think of what it looks like now in a 1:1 classroom setting or digital learning through Google Classroom.  It can be as simple as a presentation you might create to teach your class about a new topic - but this time your students are teaching!
 Animal Research Project

What's the encyclopedia of modern times? The Internet!! And how do you begin that search? GOOGLE!  Nobody does Ask Jeeves or Yahoo anymore.  So utilize the research tools available inside Google Docs and Google Slides to set your students up for success in a research project!  And if you're looking for some quality research projects, hurry up and check-out my digital resources by clicking the image below. I promise you with the cute template and 5 video tutorials included to set your students up for success, you'll definitely enjoy how simple it was to assign a research project:

Google Classroom activities

Until we meet again, have a beautiful rest of your day!

April 27, 2020

Uplifting Strategies for Distance Learning

Attitude is a powerful thing, and it's important to UPLIFT students during distance learning when we can all feel a little glum!  
To combat my classroom Debbie Downers, I started a Moodlifter Monday video segment.  Basically, I played a humorous or thought-provoking video while my class watched & ate their morning snack. 
First, I set the stage for the video clip and stressed the importance of keeping a positive attitude even during times of adversity, and then played the funny reel.  My students LOVED getting in on the action and really enjoyed finding clips for me to share based on something they had created or found online.
During this time of distance learning and the pandemic, you can share a slide with your students through your shared screen on ZOOM, Google Meets or Google Classroom, etc.
 digital morning message
As you can see, there's an attached video clip (in the bottom right corner) for students to watch.  In this example, I have shared a humorous animal video clip from a search on YouTube.  I also recommend Kid President and Ellen for more great material!

  • sharing a joke of the day(can be changed to thought or quote of the day)
  • sharing a bitmoji image(can be changed to a or selfie)
  • Ask a check-in question through the Classroom stream, a shared Slide or Form
    (example: What's something fun you did yesterday?)
  • Include "national holiday" or "this day in history" fun facts
    (National Day Calendar or History)
  • Include a physical or mindfulness exercise clip for all to participate
  • Inspire creativity with a directed drawing (art video clip) or fun read aloud

April 21, 2020

3 Tips to Make Distance Learning Accessible

As an educator, I'm always considering the needs of how to make the curriculum accessible for my struggling readers.  Now more than ever, it is important these students get the help they need in the form of these technical tricks:

#1 - Share This Google Chrome Extension with Families

You may already be familiar with Read&Write Gold from your school's access to these amazing text-to-speech tools!  Click this link to access a free 30-day subscription to Read&Write. 

Read&Write for Google Chrome™ provides personalized support to make documents, web pages, and common file types in Google Drive (including: Google Docs, PDF & ePub) more accessible.  It's designed to help everyone engage with digital content in a way that suits his/her abilities and learning styles.  Here are some of the accessibility features:
  • text-to-speech to hear words, passages or entire documents read aloud (with easy-to-follow colored highlights)
  • text and picture dictionaries to see the meaning of words explained
  • speech-to-text to allow dictated writing
  • word prediction to help with spelling

As you can see, these features work wonders to help your English language learners, dyslexic, and below-level readers access a grade-level text passage!

#2 - Insert Audio Recordings into Google Slides Presentations
When teaching a reading lesson, I typically help scaffold my students to digest and comprehend the text to apply the new information learned.  Well, when no longer in a face-to-face classroom, students have to decipher through a lot of text on screens.  One way to make the information more accessible (as many educators use in classroom) is through showing an engaging video clip or tutorial on the concept.  As a 4th grade teacher, my students really enjoyed watching video clips from BrainPop or Flocabulary to bring the content to life!
However, there are certain teacher tidbits I like to share with my students based on my years of experience.  So I found that using the voice recorder app on my phone, then uploading the files to my GoogleDrive I was able to add my words of wisdom to the presentations I share on Google Classroom.
After you have uploaded your voice recording onto your Drive, then go to the desired slide in your Google Slide presentation and click INSERT -> AUDIO.
#3 - Use Screencastify for Tutorials & Oral Presentations
Another Google Chrome extension that comes in handy for inserting audio into your Google Slide presentation is Screencastify.  Click here to download the extension to CHROME from your Google Educator / work account.
I watched the video linked above and used a Screencastify recording I made  in my Text Structure lesson to explain how the interactive features work on my presentation (requiring students to toggle back and forth between edit and present mode).
You can also have your students use Screencastify to narrate a presentation they created with Google Slides and turn it in via Google Classroom for you to grade as you would an oral presentation in person.  Just share a quick tutorial video with your students and families like the one linked above!