Monday, July 22, 2013

First Day of School Forms

We all have information we really need to get that first day of school to help everything run smoothly. Primary teachers especially, like to have lunch and dismissal info at the very beginning of the day. But the reality is, with 30 or more kids and families all coming in at the same time, you may miss someone. They might not see the form, the sign up list, or whatever it is you have out. Then you need to somehow make contact on the busiest of all days, the first day of school.

I decided to put my Google Geekiness into this and try to lessen the need for me to interrogate make contact with every single person. Using a Google form means many of my families can get me this info prior to school starting (we don't have "Meet the Teacher" events at our school.) And if they missed the link that I will put up on the class list, and on my website, I will have it on the front door both with the link and a QR code. Then I can concentrate on greeting my new kids and families and calming the criers helping everyone feel welcome.

Google Forms are awesome for this task. I created this one with just the info I needed to get through the day - student and parent name, quick contact info, lunch info and dismissal info. I'll save all of the "How can I help your child be more successful this year" questions for a follow up form. 

Here is what it looks like when accessed from a smart phone:

Creating a Google Form is very easy if you haven't tried it before. Here is the Google Forms Tutorial:

Then, if you want to make it into a QR code, go to a QR creating site like, add the link to the Live Form, and save your QR code. It's that simple.

Edited to add: Of course I will print out several forms for those who do not have internet access or a smart phone. Google Forms has upgraded recently to make printing out the created form just as easy so you don't have to create the form twice.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Communicating with students and parents

As most of you probably do, I use electronic communication to keep in touch with students' families. Most of the time email is the best way to go for me. But often there are families who are not quite as crazy frequent in checking email as I am. Sometimes, I just need to get a quick message out about a change in homework, info about the days field trip, or some other brief but timely reminder. I've seen info about an option for texting parents through Remind101 but didn't understand how it all worked.

Tonight I finally checked into the program and I'm definitely going to add this to my plan for this year! With Remind101 parents can quickly and simply join your class. Then you can send a text reminder at any time to the entire group and even schedule a text to go out in the future. I like this idea to be able to give quick reminders of library day, last minute changes, etc. If you end up adding a text late in the evening, it even reminds you that it seems kind of late, do you really want to send that now? You have the choice to preschedule the text to go out in the future at a better time. And it's super simple!

The big deal about Remind101 is that parents will not have your phone # and you don't need to add theirs. Also, they cannot reply through this. If they need to reach you, they still go through your regular email.
Check it out!

Friday, June 28, 2013

Students as Authors

Student Created Audio Books
You know how kids love to be read to? And they love to draw? And they love technology? Well, here is a combination of all three that inspired my kids to add more detail to their own writing and keep writing!

Students wrote their revised and edited stories into these cute little booklets. And you're thinking - "So what? Everyone does that."  "That's nice. I never thought of that before."

After writing, they illustrated their stories. Then, it got interesting! The students read and recorded their stories on a web based audio program called It's a free, very simple website with one button "click to record" and "stop". Then save. The site has a link when you save which will automatically create a QR Code. We printed the QR Code, glued it into the book and now had a new audio book for our listening center. 

The amazing thing was that, while listening to each others stories in the listening center, even my reluctant writers wanted to write more and more. 
Next year, I will have the kids branch out to writing and recording  non-fiction and much more!

If you'd like a copy of my booklet pages, you can get them from TPT.
Booklet with Upper Grade Solid Lines

Here is a post from Teresa at Fun in K/1 who uses Vocaroo and has a great graphic with instructions for students in creating the recording and QR code.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Student Log Ins

As we move toward more technology, one of the issues is helping our students with the log in process. In our school, we have AR log in, Tumblebooks, our new district cloud and who knows what else. Here is a blog post from Eryn at
I'll also note that I've had the discussion with my kids (second grade) about personal accounts and not using others' account log ins. For older students, they could probably keep their log in info at their desk for more privacy.

computer log-in cards.

At my school, we love us some technology! Teachers love it, kids love it, parents love it - we all love it! But seriously, who wouldn't? We can use it in so many different capacities - virtual math manipulatives, online storybooks, comic-strip writing, podcasts, movies, the list is endless. Be still my heart.

But it's not always unicorns and butterflies. Our little techy world has one major hitch that can bring our digital utopia crashing down in an instant. In order to operate any device in the building, all kids have to log-in with a username that is a combination of bits of their last name, first name, and student ID number (I'm sorry, what?!) and the password is their legal first name.

Now, I'm not at all complaining about the kids having to log-in to the computer - I absolutely understand the reasoning behind it! It's just the difficulty with teaching a six year old a complex web of capital and lowercase letters and numbers, and a password that is probably going to require them to tack on an extra 6 letters to the name they already know how to spell. Oh, and by the way, don't even think about messing up because then we get locked out of your computer and can't get back in for 2 hours. No pressure, young one.

To help alleviate a bit of this stress, at the beginning of the year, I made each student their own "log-in card". I had a plethora of sentence strips, so for lack of a better option, I cut the strips in half and decided those would house the information nicely.I wrote their name so that it was the largest component of the card, then wrote their case-sensitive username along with their password below. I threw them in a bag and set them behind the computers for the kids to access each time they were logging-in to a computer.

Needless to say, it wasn't the most attractive place to house our cards. And the cards themselves were not the least bit lovely. But that wasn't the only problem - the kids would spend tremendous amounts of time digging around in the bag for their log-in card! Cards were sticking together, getting wedged in between papers and other cards - the system just was not working.

As I started thinking about what I could change to make our system of log-in cards easier to use for my kids, and more aesthetically appealing all at the same time, I knew that I would definitely need to type the cards' information. I also wanted to store the cards in a more easily accessible location. As for the "digging through the cards" problem, I knew that I could easily solve that problem by alphabetizing the cards by first name.

I typed up the cards and printed them on heavy cardstock. The child's name is still the largest text, their log-in name (partially blurred in the picture) is listed right underneath their name, and then their password is on the far right of the card.

But no collection of cards is complete without an adorbs cover, so I just HAD to make one of those as well.

And after hole-punching each card, alphabetizing them, and throwing them on a binder ring, our new log-in cards are lovely, compact, and easy for the kids to locate, remove, and replace!

I placed a Command hook on the side of the easiest-to-access computer monitor, creating the perfect new home for our log-in cards! They are easy to reach and always visible, which also encourages the kids to use them more often!

  • By using supplies I already owned, the project was no-cost.
  • It improved the system we had been using to make it easier on the kids.
  • It drastically decreased the space consumed by our log-in cards.
What simple changes have you made in your room that have helped your kids in a drastic way?

Monday, June 24, 2013

Google Drive - Sharing Files and Folders

One of the most amazing things about Google Drive is the ability to share files and folders. Not only can you share them, but if you are using Google file types (Document, Presentation, Spreadsheet, Drawing, etc) you and up to 50 others can work on the file simultaneously on separate computers no matter where each person is located.

When you are ready to share a file (or a folder, it works the same way), right click on the row of the file or folder, go down to share and choose share from the sharing options.

Check the permissions for sharing. For school files and folders I keep them as "Private - only the people listed below can access". 

At the bottom where it says "Add People" add the email addresses of people you want to have access. If they are district staff or students, once you begin typing their name, the email address will show up for you to choose.

There is a checkbox if you want to email the person/people that you are sharing with. I have students uncheck this box so I don't get 100's of emails. Then just click "Share & Save". 

The shared documents will show up in the other person's Shared Folder. You have the choice in how others interact with the file or folder. They can be set to View Only, Edit, or Comment Only. 
One note - when you share a folder, any document placed or created in that folder will also be shared the same way.

Check it out and try it. It's awesome!

Google Drive

One of the great things about Google Drive is the ability to automatically save everything you do. For students, this gives them the ability to save their work in progress wherever they are and continue later even if it's at a different computer or at home.

For teachers you can organize your files, access them wherever you are, share and collaborate with colleagues, and also share or assign files with students.

The first thing you do is log in to your Google Drive. For SEES teachers, you will go to the district cloud at, then type in your district log in. You'll find your Google Docs on the Desktop (if you don't see it, click desktop at the top of the page in the black bar.) If you are also signed into a personal Google account, you may need to click "sign in as another user" to get to your district account.

Within Google Drive (Docs) you can upload files from any device so you can access them anywhere.

You can also create Google files right within Drive. 

Below is a list of the various types of files you can create within Drive:
Document - similar to Word Documents
Presentation (also called Google Slides) - similar to PowerPoint
Spreadsheet - (similar to Excel but also does amazing things with Forms)
Form - I don't know what it's similar to, I just love it!
Drawing - a drawing app, of course

Next up - sharing Google files and folders.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Sharing Technology

Summers off! People think teachers have it made to have summers off. The reality is that we never really leave it. As I look over the plans for summer I'm excited to have some time to finish some projects at home, but one of the biggest projects is to set up some tips for others to add technology into their class activities.

I'll start with how to access Google Drive and try to share some tips for using and introducing the different parts of drive for the classroom.

To give you some background, we were able to access Google Apps for Education around February this year. Each of our students has access to a personal google account though a district site. This allows them to collaborate safely within the network of the district. They also can easily access their files at home or from whichever computer in school they are working on. I love the ability to add files to a class shared folder for us all to work on.