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Save time with these three spectacular digital strategies to check for understanding


Teaching life shifted when schools shut down in March 2020. Suddenly teachers had to learn how to teach 100% online. As I’m sitting to write this, it seems as though online to in-person flip flopping is coming to an end for most schools around the country, but who really knows for sure. I learned through the whole online teaching process digital strategies to check for understanding were going to be very absolutely necessary.

I never have been the greatest at looking over student work to check for understanding. Sure, I’d walk around and try to catch mistakes, but I’ll be the first to admit it shouldn’t have been my only strategy. And looking at papers to check for understanding just took so long!

COVID Made Me Do It

Pro tip: If you have an iPad, use the free Notability app and connect it to your digital classroom platform to scaffold digital worksheets!

When I was forced to use digital tools during COVID, I realized I could see what kids did and didn’t understand as they were completing their work, and quickly! I could suddenly help kids in the moment instead of waiting two weeks after we moved on and I was finally catching up on grading.

I realized that I had to teach heredity and genetics completely online. I’m a fairly techy person, but how was I going to teach such a vocab heavy, somewhat confusing topic online and keep kids accountable? Teaching heredity vocab and Punnett squares online really helped me see the variety of ways I could digitally check for understanding. Let’s be honest, it’s easy to type answers into a Google Doc. It’s not so easy to make a Punnett square!

Even as schools opened up through the pandemic and we did more in-person learning, I still used these digital strategies to check for understanding and great tools to help me keep track of their progress instantly. While schools now are less likely to move fully online, these tools work great for snow days or digital learning days! 

These three digital tools help save me time and sanity, and I still use them all the time!

1. Boom Cards

If you have not learned about Boom Cards, let me explain them quickly. It is basically an interactive Google slide with features like drag-and-drop, type, multiple choice, and others. The advantage to Boom Cards is it automatically grades each box so you don’t have to sort through 25 individual Google Slides presentations in order to grade each one.

I find most of my Boom Cards in stores on Teachers Pay Teachers, but there’s a Studio option to make your own. If you click on this link, it will show you how to make your own boom cards set.

What I can actually see from Boom Cards

I love that Boom Cards are easy to assign in Google, and I get analytics for individual students. I can see what the students’ score is, how long they spent on the deck, what questions they got wrong, what their answers were, and how long each attempt took them. As a bonus, I can see this in real time. When I see several students are struggling or getting a specific question wrong, I can redress it very quickly.

If you want to see more about progress monitoring with Boom Cards, you can read about it here. The author of the blog I linked is primary teacher, but the analytics breakdown is the same.

The solution for your “get it done fast” students

I found that I had students who would rush through, get wrong answers, skip cards (we all have that kid who will click random things to “complete” it. My solution is to tell kids they needed to have an 80% or higher since they can redo it multiple times, with the clarification that if they had tried and done it three times, they could send me an email. I then look it over to see how to help them.  

The boom learning subscription is $25 per year for multiple classes and up to 150 students. I believe I had like 172 students and I emailed them and asked if that was okay, they told me as long as it was in my roster in Google Classroom that was fine.

Pros: Creative, easy to find, cheap

Cons: Some students rush, Decks don’t always take long to get through

2. Formative

Formative is my all-time favorite teaching tool, and I will never teach without it again. Period. I will start by saying it is $15 per month, but it literally saves hours per week. I’m not exaggerating. I can assign something to kids 10 minutes into class and it can be graded with feedback and sent back to them before they leave. 

As far as digital strategies to check for understanding, Formative is what I have dreamed of for years but didn’t know how to make! Go check out my blog 7 Reasons You Need Formative In Your Digital Classroom!

There are two options for creating assignments. First, you can click the + button on the top of the screen and you’ll be able to add one of 6 types of teacher directions and one of 17 answer options. You’ll begin to build the assignment right onto a blank page. Second, you can upload a PDF and overlay those answer options by clicking on top of the PDF.

Auto-Grading In Live Time Is True Magic

Most of the answer options are auto graded instantly. There’s even a way to auto grade short answer and essay questions.

I love that I can see students working IN REAL TIME.  I can see what question they’re on, what they’re typing as they’re typing, and I can see whether they got it right or wrong. Formative codes the answer as green, yellow, orange, or red based on the type of question and whether or not you chose to include partial credit.

Flexibility with Show Your Work

As far as checking for understanding with Formative, there are so many options but I think the most flexible is the Show Your Work tool. 

By adding a show your work tool, students either draw or type onto a blank canvas to give you an answer. You could also add a background for students to type and draw on top of. Check out the picture to see how this turns out on the teacher end! 

Earlier I talked about how Formative helped me teach heredity digitally. It’s a very vocabulary heavy topic, and all I could think was how do I even start this? To introduce the vocabulary, we took about 20 minutes of notes. Using the show your work answer choice, they uploaded photos of their notebook before the end of class. Next, they had to work through a few multiple choice and short response questions to see if they got it!

While this was great for long-term digital learning, it’s also an option for single snow days or digital learning days!

Watch Them Change Their Answers!

To give you a less specific example to a digital classroom, I love using the show your work feature to assess Punnett squares. I give students Punnett square practice problems and ask them to show their work inside of the box. They can click wherever they want and type their answers. I can watch my screen and see students doing this in real time, so if they are doing something incorrectly, I’ll say, “Hey Shane, be sure to use the alleles with As, instead of Bs.” I can see students delete the Bs and re-write the answer with As!

How Much Time Do You Waste Opening Google Slides?

After students are complete Google interactive slides, they can upload a photo of specific slides to the Show Your Work box. Stop spending time scrolling through… let’s say 112 Interactive Google slides assignments to make sure students completed them. In answer box 5, upload the slide number 7 that says, “Punnett Square Practice.”

Here is the coolest part! While you are grading, you can look at every single one of your students question 5 at one time. And you can batch grade them too! Select multiple answers and use the slider on the right to grade them all at the same time! TALK ABOUT TIME SAVER! 

I I know I talked about Formative a ton, but it really is an incredible tool. Including Formative into your digital strategies to check for understanding is a must. I highly recommend it to any teacher in any grade. There is a 30-day free trial when you sign up for the free account.

Pro: Literally everything. Plus they’re always adding new features.

Con: Price per month (although, I think it’s worth every ounce if time I get back)

3. Teachermade

The third tool I used to digitally check for understanding is called Teachermade. It’s pretty similar to Formative, but it is a little more clunky and a little less flexible. For example, you can still upload a PDF as a background and overlay questions on top of it. That is huge! I know I have so many pre-created curriculum PDFs or something that’s not in a digital format I got from TPT. It’s nice to pop digital question boxes on top of the PDF. Most of these questions on Teachermade are still auto graded. There are nine student answer options that include matching, multiple choice, short answer, and more. 

Teachermade is a great option if you don’t have $15 per month, but I don’t find the website as easy to navigate. For example, I can see every student’s individual paper (remember, autograded!), but I can’t see every student’s question number 5 at the same time. And as far as I can tell, there’s no way to see live student work. They have to submit work before you can see their score. With that said, it’s still an amazing auto-grading tool that gives you fast feedback. 

The Teachermade PRO account would definitely be the way to go, as the free version limits you to 100 student submissions per month.

Pros: Cheaper than Formative, Auto Grading

Cons: Less features than Formative, harder to navigate

Are you ready to use digital strategies to check for understanding?

These three tools help me see where students are struggling and how I can help them so much faster than traditional paper pencil. Boom cards are great, and then I would suggest choosing between formative and teacher made for more flexibility in using your work sheets you already have in a digital way.

I know none of these tools are free. Good programs rarely are. If you’re struggling to come up with financing for these programs, reach out to your admin (I showed mine how Formative worked and he loved it – we ended up with a site license!) Ask if they can get you some funding. If that’s not an option, ask PTO. Oftentimes, this is something that they will spend money on because it directly benefits students in your class.

These three tools gave me great digital strategies to check for understanding so I can see where students are struggling and how I can help them so much faster than traditional paper pencil, even while students are in class with me! Boom cards are great, and I would suggest choosing between Formative and Teachermade for more flexibility in using your worksheets you already have in a digital way.

Digital Learning, Middle School

Six Of The Most Common Questions About Google Classroom

iPhone with Google Classroom sections on screen

I was alone at a friends house a few months ago when one of their breakers got tripped and shut off my very important TV show. I proceeded to flip it back but when I did, the soundbar wasn’t working! It took me FOREVER to figure out how to reconnect it correctly, and I was so frustrated! Of course when I told them about it, they were like, “Oh yea… you click this and that and push this and you’re good to go!” 

Sometimes I feel like Google Classroom is this way – frustrating to figure out until we finally get it. 

Not a day goes by where I don’t read a frustrated post by a teacher in a Facebook group about something they can’t figure out in Google Classroom. Now don’t get me wrong… Google Classroom is a fabulous tool for what it does. But a few things consistently trip us up and frustrate us. 

If you had the answers, wouldn’t life be easier? Good news, my friend! These are the top six questions I see online, and the answers to all of them. You’re welcome. 

1. Why can I sometimes “make a copy for all students” and sometimes I can’t?

Great question! The very first time you create an assignment  and push it out, you can make a copy for all students. However, if you post the assignment and then try to edit it, you cannot make copy for all students.  You would have to create a whole new post for the assignment if you’ve already posted it and are trying to edit the settings.

2. Why do I not have the option to include a due date?

 This is the difference between an assignment post and a material post.  creating an assignment allows you to set a due date and points. You can also  make a copy of documents for all students when you create an assignment. Creating materials are for student reference only.  This might be something like an announcement,  a link to your website, or something else students consistently use that they will not turn in. 

3. I get so many alerts in my email… how do I manage them all?

First, turn them off! On your main menu with all of your classes, click the three horizontal lines to open up the side menu. At the very bottom, click the settings gear and scroll to see the notifications section. You can select or deselect all or any notifications on the list to get emails for! You can even select specific classrooms. (Also, check out my digital missing work form. It’s a LIFESAVER!)

4. I want to make posts or parts of my directions stand out. Can I bold or italicize my fonts? 

You would think, right?! Unfortunately this is a feature Google Classroom does not have! I use emojis to emphasize my posts. Read about it here

5. My stream is so disorganized. How do I clean it up? 

Turn that bad boy off! I rely solely on the Classwork tab unless I’m posting an announcement (usually that I’m not there for the day and there will be no Google Meet). By keeping the Classwork tab organized, students can only go one place to look for assignments. Inside of each Classroom, you can click the settings gear in the top right corner and scroll down to General Settings. Under Classwork on the Stream, select Hide Notifications

6. I assign work to all students and they swear they completed it. But when I look at the post, there’s no assignment. What is happening? 

There’s good news and bad news. The bad news is that your students are deleting the work and telling you it went missing. The good news is, once you assign it to them (whether they delete it or not), it’s shared with you and in the Classroom folder in your Drive. Simply open the Classroom folder, find the class, find the assignment and their name should be on it! When you open the file, you can see their edit history – showing whether they did it or not. 

It took me a while to figure out some of these tricks and tips. Now you can feel a little more confident navigating Google Classroom properly so that you can troubleshoot quickly and keep teaching!

Classroom Management, Digital Learning

Five Reasons To Use Physical Notebooks In Your Digital Classroom

Notebook about Graphs

When I think back to what I remember learning about most in school, I think about faults in 6th grade and genetics in high school. Those two topics had something in common – both teachers drew everything and actually taught in class. I wasn’t overwhelmed by how many words I had to read or feeling like I had to rush because the teacher was going to move on to the next slide too quickly. 

When I realized this, I quickly implemented interactive notebooks in my middle school classes. My students draw, write, listen, and use color when they learn something new.  Of course we do other things but when it comes down to what I want them to put in their notebooks, we draw. 

And then school shut down.

Chart showing eye color and dominance of the trait

Then COVID hit and my classes went completely virtual. Suddenly I felt swamped and overwhelmed by so many digital notebook options. I love tech, and constantly implement it in my classroom, but I chose to continue using my interactive notebooks as normal – drawing and writing. It was totally possible and effective with my laptop and a doc cam.

As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases. I earn a very small commission from items purchased through affiliated links, but your purchase price is always the same!

These are five reasons you should definitely use physical interactive notebooks in your digital classroom!

1. They take no prep time! 

I made so many Powerpoints my first few years of teaching, spending at least an hour (if not more) on the most perfect slides. Then I’d spend all day teaching that same Powerpoint. When I use an interactive notebook to draw and write, I spend almost zero prep time because I teach live with students. 

2. Students are more likely to follow along (and understand). 

When you create notebooks with students, you’re writing and drawing with them. You emphasize what is important by how you lay out your notebook. Adding small drawings or diagrams creates another layer of understanding when they reference their notes. Which students will really draw pictures you add to a Powerpoint?? I don’t think so. 

When I use notebooks with students in my classroom, I like using the Crayola Super Tip Markers. I leave a bunch in a bin on my counter and kids are allowed to grab 3-4 while taking notes. Plus I use them. They don’t bleed and you don’t have to battle with kids at the pencil sharpener! Obviously this doesn’t work if students are digital, but there’s no reason you can’t use notebooks in an actual classroom!

3. Students are so tactile. 

A physical notebook gives students something they can touch! While digital options are awesome and only getting better, a paper interactive notebook is something they can pick up, open, and flip through. Since it’s not on a screen (that they’re probably sharing with 5 other tabs), they can access it easier.

4. Drawing and writing help students process and learn information differently. 

Did you know drawing actually makes you remember something better? The way your brain processes information through the movement increases memory! 

5. It works! 

A couple years ago, my previous years 7th graders went on their 8th grade trip to California. One of the chaperones came back and said he was so impressed – the kids answered all the instructors questions and even offered up more information about tides. When he asked the students where they learned so much, they responded, “Miss H’s class last year.” WHAT?! Isn’t it every teacher’s dream to hear that? Why do I think they remembered? Because we drew it in our interactive notebooks! As we talked about it, we drew it. They actively participated! 

Notes comparing independent and dependent variables using plants and different amounts of salt water.

I’m a huge fan of interactive notebooks. When we went digital, I panicked for a minute. I wasn’t sure what to do. But then I realized all these amazing reasons why paper notebooks are so great!  Not an artist? No problem. Just give it a shot. I always tell my students, “This is not an art project.” Your student will take your lead and try their best too. 

One more thing. Don’t think I’m over here ragging on digital interactive notebooks. I love them! They are great tools and definitely have a place in the digital classroom. I just don’t want you to forget a super awesome low tech tool you have at your fingertips. 

Digital Learning, Middle School, Notebooks, Uncategorized

Three Ways to Use Gmail Templates

iPad Screen showing Gmail

I am not a fan of writing emails. It takes so much time, and even copying and pasting is tough because I usually have to copy and paste the email. Then I lose my message. What if I told you there was a shortcut to sending emails with a few clicks? Introducing Gmail templates!

Google allows you to save email templates so at the click of a couple buttons, you can fill in an entire email and send it off! 

Scroll down to watch how to set them up! 

1. Checking on student work

Let me show you the three ways I use them most! When students are virtual, I can’t always tell they’re working by looking at them on the virtual meet screen (most likely because their camera is off). But if I can see their progress on Formative, EdPuzzle, or I open their Google Doc and they haven’t completed work, I’ll send them a generic email from my template bank saying: 


We’ve been working on our assignment on Formative for almost the whole class period so far and I don’t see that you’ve made any progress. 

Do you need help? 

Sometimes I send it to the kids, sometimes I send it to parents. Either way, it gives me a tool to document work and hold kids accountable. 

2. A generic response

I use a missing work form to keep track of digital late work. When kids send me emails saying they’ve turned in late work, I send them the following email using about two clicks: 

Hey there, 

If you’ve turned in a late assignment, please be sure to fill out a missing work form on the classwork page of the website! That way, I have a record and know go back to look at it. If you only email me, your missing assignment will get lost in other emails. 

Here’s the link: (link to form here)

I love it! It saves me so much time in typing out the exact same email! 

3. Periodic communication

When conferences came around, I created a Gmail template to send to parents of students who I needed a conference with. All I had to do was copy and paste the email, click a few buttons, and change the students name and I had a clear, almost personalized email to parents inviting them to conferences. This is something I also do for students who are missing projects, are failing, or anything else where I need to email more than two parents or students for something. 

Gmail templates are the easiest tool I wish I’d known about for years! Watch the video below to learn how to make them!

Digital Learning, Middle School, Professionalism, Uncategorized

Three Reasons You Should Use Emojis to Organize our Google Classroom

Screen with Google Classroom Feed

I’d be lying if I said Google Classroom was the best learning management system ever. The truth is it falls short in several ways. Many teachers use it because it’s easy and we have to. Don’t get me wrong, I am so thankful I have it – but I wish there were some features with a little more oomph!  So what can we do to make it more user friendly in the meantime? Here’s your answer: use emojis. 

Emoji Keyboard on iPhone

Yes. I said it. Use emojis.

Even if you’re not tech savvy. “What if I think emojis are over rated?” Use them anyway. “But my students are in high school.” My personal opinion… all teachers should use emojis to organize their Google Classroom stream.

Here are three reasons why. 

  1. It draws attention to the post. The Google Classroom stream is monotonous. Without being able to change font color or type, students get lost in a sea of words. Using emojis to draw attention to different topics is key. Whether you organize posts by week or by topic, students are much more likely to find the post you’re asking them to if you use emojis. 
Google Classroom stream with emojis to organize it.
  1. Students are so visual. Google Classroom is one long list of words students have to sort through every day, in every class.  Adding an emoji to topics or assignments helps students remember what they’re looking for when they see it.  For example, I used a wizard emoji for my posts about variables because I connect variables to wizards. I use a division symbol for cell division. It gives students one more cue to find the information easily! 
  1. Communication to parents & students. Parents are even more lost than normal with digital work. I include the emoji for the assignment on my Weekly Agenda. When I talk to a parent who is struggling to keep track of work, I tell them they can use the emoji on the agenda to find the post in Google Classroom. It helps so much! 

How to add emojis to Google Classroom

Pin an extension to the Google Chrome menu.

Install the Emoji Keyboard for Google Chrome. Pin the extension to the right of your URL bar by clicking the puzzle piece on Google Chrome (I added a picture here so you can see what to click on). When you open the keyboard and click on an emoji, it notifies you the emoji has been copied. Paste it into your post on Google Classroom and boom! You’re done! 

You won’t really think you made a big difference, and then you’ll hear one of your students say, “Where is the quiz?” Another student will answer, “It’s the post with the red exclamation point!” That’s why you need to use emojis to organize your Google Classroom.

Final tip: Get creative! No matter what topic you teach, there are only so many emojis that match what you’re learning. Think outside the box, or add a random emoji just for fun. As long as your students know what to look for, you’re good!

Classroom Management, Digital Learning, Uncategorized

Create Interactive Content for your Digital Classroom with Genially

Genially templates on computer screen

Every year, I teach my students the difference between observations and inferences using a “soil sample” from another planet I happened to visit over summer break. I started to wonder how the heck I was going to pull that off in a digital classroom. Taking such a tactile experience and making it digital is not the same.

That’s when I found Genially!

Genially is a super cool, interactive content creation tool used by teachers to create digital content for their lessons and activities. I knew Genially’s interactive image feature was exactly what I needed as soon as I saw it. Before I go further, let me show you! 

As you can see, I uploaded a photo of my soil sample and added interactive icons on top of each part of the soil I wanted to highlight. Could I have posted just a photo of the soil? Absolutely. But I used this simple tool to engage students in creating observations and inferences about a planet that happened to be Earth! 

Do you sell on TPT? Keep reading – there’s something in here for you!

How could you use an interactive image in your classroom? 

The box I chose to add one simple image to can be so much more complex. I can add so much interactivity to one image. Look below at the options you can select from:  

Genially types of interactivity are tooltip, window, go to page, and link.

I used the window option. Don’t let my simplicity of one small photo fool you – look at all the features in the window menu bar! Font size, color, and type. Videos, photos, HTML code – if you want to add it to that box, there’s a way. 

Genially Window interactive menu bar in Genially Window interactive

In a social studies classroom, create an interactive map of historical battlefields. Inside of a window, add images, descriptions, and links to websites with more information. Or, use that interactive icon to send students straight to a clip from Youtube. 

I used this image to create a simple tour of Google Classroom for parents who visit my class website. How many parents would love to see what you’ve got going on in that password protected Classroom? I’ll tell you – a lot! 

Students can use Genially too

 If students are working on an ELA project descriptive writing assignment, ask them to find an image and create a Genially interactive image using icons to describe their image according to a rubric. They can even invite other students to collaborate on their assignment via email. This is not your standard assignment in a digital classroom!

Genially animation options

Add some animation

Did you notice how those little icons on my images moved and the font kind of pulses? I added some simple animation to my image to make certain elements stand out. You can animate how elements enter and exit, which direction they come from, and what they do when they stay on your page. 

I don’t know about you, but I feel like I’m constantly looking to find ways to make what I’m teaching online engaging for students. I love Genially’s interactive image feature because it gives control and exploration back to students! 

Step it up! 

Now that you’ve successfully created an interactive image, use your tools to create a little more! Genially has a ton of free templates including games, presentations, and escape rooms to use if you’re stuck or maybe, designing things is not your strong suit. 

Add an audio clip or change the timing of certain elements. Check out this snippet of the variables lesson I made using one of the guide templates. Really pay attention to the animation features. 

It’s as easy as… 

  1. Signing up for a totally free Genially account
  2. Get inspired by their super awesome plug-and-play templates
  3. Make unlimited creations! 

I’m serious – Genially is something you should add to your digital classroom toolbox. Here’s an extra cool bonus – if you sell on TPT, you can add your creations to your store! 

Don’t wait, sign up for Genially today! 

Computer screen with Genially game templates
Digital Learning, Middle School, Projects, Uncategorized

5 More Reasons Teachers Need GoFormative

Girl sitting at coffee table with ipad

I shared all about how amazing GoFormative is in my last blog post. If you missed it, check it out here

Great news – that’s only half of it! Let me show you the next five reasons why you need to use GoFormative

The power is in the settings.

As awesome as all the features are that teachers and students use while creating and completing the assignment, the settings are the real powerhouse of the program.

It syncs with Google Classroom (if you don’t use Google, stick with me). 

YA’LL! This is awesome! Go to the Class tab on the top left of your screen to add classes through Google. Upload and post directly to Google Classroom. If that’s not easy, I don’t know what is. 

If you’re not a Google teacher, you can still create classes and ask students to join via code. Then they can access their GoFormative dashboard by logging into 

You can clone assignments.

I use this feature ALL THE TIME! When I am done creating an assignment for my classes, I clone it. Use the clone to create accommodations of the assignment for students who need it. I will change questions to multiple choice or take away answers – whatever I need to do to create an accommodated assignment. 

Original assignment and cloned assignment

Restrict access to certain students

This is the best for that cloned version you just made. You literally lock students out of assignments. Use this to assign accommodated versions to only your students who have IEPs or 504s and the regular version to everyone else. 

This feature is also nice for students who are absent for a test or quiz. I can deselect them from the list, and they won’t have access until I edit that access.

Schedule open and closed times

If the assignment is due by the end of class, you can close the assignment at the end of the period and it locks students out! Is the assignment a bell ringer? Set it to close after 10 minutes. I like using this on tests or quizzes that have to be done by the end of the period or for assignments due on a certain date. You can reopen assignments as students need more time. 

So Many Options After Submitting Work

First of all, GoFormative saves all of students’ work as they type it. No need for them to submit it if they’re not done. But, you have a lot of options regarding submission. You can allow them to submit and make edits, or have it hidden from their dashboard completely after they submit it. You can select to have a score shown right away or after it closes. One of the settings lets you show students the correct answers after submission. 

I particularly like the release answer feature for distance learning. It gives kids feedback very quickly and they could see what they did wrong. There were some assignments I was able to go over with them, but this was great in a pinch for a quick assignment.

It’s the best digital tool

I am telling you again, this is the best digital tool I’ve found for my classroom. Whether you are distance learning or back on campus, you need GoFormative. 

Check it out here to try the premium version for 30 days. Don’t just go with the free version… really try the premium! Like I said in my first post, I’m not getting any kickback for sharing this. I just love it that much.

GoFormative changed my teaching and you have to try it!

Sitting at table with iPad

Digital Learning, Middle School

7 Reasons You Need GoFormative In Your Digital Classroom

What a ride we were in for when schools suddenly shut down in March 2020. Teachers had to adapt to what everyone called “distance learning” and most created a digital classroom. I don’t know about you, but that was a fairly steep learning curve. None of us have ever experienced anything like it before. But we as teachers banded together on Facebook groups and Instagram to encourage and support each other. 

In the midst of the confusion, the question I saw over and over among teachers in these groups was, “What program lets students write directly onto a PDF?” Changed My Teaching Career Game changer. Life saver. So much so that I showed my admin and he loved it. He even asked me present it in a staff PD and we had enough interest that we got a CAMPUS WIDE SUBSCRIPTION. When was the last time that many teachers were all on board with the same idea?!

It’s literally the best thing I’ve found in my 7 years of teaching. I used it in my classroom before the COVID shutdown. It’s one tool on a list of many, but is truly exceptional tool for a digital classroom and you need to know it’s out there! This is part one of a two part post and I’ll show you some of the way to use and create assignments.

Before I move on, I should tell you – I’m not getting any kickback from this post! I just love it so much that I need to share. Let me give you the highlights, and trust me… writing on a PDF is the least cool thing about this program.

1. Upload PDFs and Docs, or Create Your Own Assignments

This is the least cool feature. Upload ANY PDF or Google Doc (actually, almost any kind of file) and have the kids answer in a designated box directly on the page. If you have pre-made curriculum, this is an awesome feature because you can scan it in. Add questions directly on top of the document. If you want to create new material or lesson, you can add photos, podcasts, youtube videos, and then choose from so many response options. Create a whole lesson on one GoFormative page for students to work through, or use it as a quick check in. You can also create questions just like you would in Google Forms. It’s a very flexible program.

Add questions directly to a PDF using


Include answers to questions so your assignments autograde.

This is wayyy easier than Google Forms. Of course you can give credit for multiple choice. Asking students to match or categorize? Autograded. Be sure to select the partial credit option and it gives them partial credit automatically. Open response? YES! Add keywords to the correct answer (be sure to check partial credit) and it will score them for you and color codes the answers! They’re not always perfect, but it gives you a place to start.

3. Student Responses

You can see all student responses for the same question on one page! That means no waiting to open every student’s Google Doc. That’s annoying. Look at the answer to question five at the same time for EVERY student. Because you can look at one answer at a time, you can grade that specific answer all at the same time.

Look at all the answers for one question on one page. You can see All the classes at once.
All of the answers to this question populated on one page.

4. So Many Answer Options!

Do you want them to write? Done? Matching? YEP! Students can respond with audio, a write an essay, categorize, respond with an image, or use the math keyboard. There’s also a super cool “show your work” response where kids have tools that allows them to draw shapes and type!I love using this for quick assessments if students need to show me something in a less restrictive format than typing (diagram or drawing). Using the show your work feature is a very cool option for a digital classroom. Physical notebooks or paper are easy to draw diagrams on, but there are very few easy tools that let kids draw like this digitally. This is also a great option for math!

Diagrams of covalent bonds using the show your work tool.
This is the show your work feature! Students used drawing tools to create a diagram of a carbon dioxide compound.

5. Batch Grading and Feedback

Say you used the answer key feature to autograde an open ended response and you see a group kids making the same mistake. Select all the answers with that mistake, give them the same score (at the same time) and send the same feedback to each student! 

Select several answers from students to give the same grade and feedback.
Notice how the right side says 5 students selected and they were all assigned 10/15 points and are receiving the same feedback. The answers with the blue outline on the left show the selected answers.

6. Keep Track of Student’s Pace

You can see what students are working on live-time – including what they’re typing at that moment! This probably isn’t as helpful if you’re in the middle of distance learning, but in a regular classroom setting, I can see if a student is on question 3 or question 12. Click TOTALS on the View Responses tab. You’ll see a little marker that shows which questions they’ve reached. 

GoFormative shows student progress.
If you have the totals board open while student are working, you can see the progress they are making. This shows which questions they have and haven’t answered.

7. Getting a Little Fancy

You can embed content into your GoFormative. Consider adding a Google Form or a Flipgrid. What about adding an interactive website? NewsELA? As long as you have an embed code, you can add it into your document. Check out iFrame to convert any URL to an embed code!

BONUS: integrates with Google Classroom!

Try Out For Yourself

Guys, I’m telling you this because it’s an incredible tool that will SAVE YOU TIME! I don’t even know how I would have taught remotely without it. I just told you about the cool features, but I didn’t tell you about so many more! is a MUST HAVE in your digital classroom. I promise it will save you time and give you flexibility you’ve been craving with your digital assignments! Sign up for a 30-day free trial here (although, I think you’re gonna want to skip the trial and just sign up)! 

If you me to walk through some of it for you, check out the GoFormative highlights on my Instagram!

If you’ve gotten this far, check out 5 More Reasons You Need GoFormative! I’ll let you in on a secret… the power is in the settings!

Computer with GoFormative screens

Classroom Management, Digital Learning

How To Create Digital Interactive Assignments with Google Slides

Pre-COVID school shutdown, I was pretty familiar with how to manipulate Google Slides to facilitate distance learning. I had even made a few digital interactive assignments in the past. But what I didn’t know was that there are a lot of teachers who struggled with this. I feel it is definitely my job to give you some direction on how to do this! 

If you’re reading this and thinking, “I don’t use Google on my campus!” … I’m sorry! I’ve found Google is the most widely used platform at this point, and there are a few things I think you’ll still find valuable (there are similar features on Powerpoint).  

If you want to download my sample digital activity to follow along and see some of the features, click here!


When you start making digital interactive assignments, this might be the first question you have. There are pros and cons to using both programs to create editable Google Slides. The bottom line comes down to this: both allow you to get to the same results, just with different steps. Google Slides is already included in your G-Suite for Education. I personally like Powerpoint because I can use fonts I downloaded onto my computer but other than that, Slides will work just fine. More on why it doesn’t necessarily matter which program you start with in a little bit. (If you don’t have Powerpoint, don’t go out and buy it – use Google Slides!)


My Monster Family Digital Genetics project requires kids to copy and paste monster parts to create a family! Want it? Click here!

Next you have to decide what you’re going to put on your slide. What is the goal of the assignment? Big question – I know. Are students using this as a worksheet or simple Q&A? Include want more spaces for writing or typing. If you’re using it as a review or instruction, you may want links to click and videos to watch. Can students drag and drop vocabulary or pictures?


Of course we want our students to manipulate some elements on the digital interactive assignments you’re creating. But there are certain things we may not want them to change or move. A title, the background, directions, or tables may be an example of this. 

I solve this problem by creating two files of the same assignment. The first file (if you use Powerpoint, this is where can use it). I start with is what I want to be stationary and immovable by students on the activity. It will be the background to the assignment I am giving them.

Let’s say I am giving them vocabulary on landforms and they have to look up the definition, write it down, and find a picture of that type of landform in real life. 

The following items should probably be stationary: a border, clipart or an image, the title, directions, and a data table for students to organize their work. You won’t want students to move, delete, or alter these pieces. Of course, some students won’t if they’re not stationary, but others definitely will. 


Save a slide as  JPEG

Create the bones of the digital slide you want to give to them. If you downloaded the example I created, this is slides one and two. Anything you want students to be able to move or type into should be included on this slide.To make this a stationary background, save the slides as a JPEG image. To do this, click File > Download > JPEG (current slide). This means you’re turning the slide you just created into one flat image. 

Now create your second file. If you used Powerpoint for the first part, you’re going to want to make this on Google Slides. The image you just downloaded will be the background you add to the slide. Right-click your new slide and select “format background.” Drag and drop the JPEG into the box, and that image will be the stationary background for your slide. 

If you’re a Microsoft based school, you can still add a JPEG to a background in a Powerpoint file. Use the Format Background feature to add your picture, and then add features the same way I’m getting ready to talk about! 


Now that you have the bones of your assignment, you can start adding your editable features. There are a few I’ll highlight. Don’t forget, you want to include the directions for whatever you want them to do on the slide in the stationary background. 

Writing Text

In this case, we want to add text boxes for students to type in. You might think – can’t they add text boxes themselves? Yes, but it is so much easier for you to add them. Add a text box wherever you want them to write and size it to fit the dimensions of the space. Try making this box a light color to show kids they’ll type there or add an outline. 

Text Boxes on Interactive Digital Activities
Students type in the gray and green boxes.


Since drag and drop is versatile and you have a lot of options, you can do this a few ways. 

Add pictures or clipart to the slide that students drag and drop to a specific spot. This is helpful for sorting or identifying objects. (If you make digital products for TPT, be sure you check the seller’s TOU before you add movable clipart to your digital interactive assignments!)

The next drag and drop feature is vocabulary words. You can just add a text box with the prewritten for students to drag and drop. There is a downside to this. They’re not as easy to move, and students can change the words by retyping in the box if they want!

To fix this, I like to type vocab words on a blank slide, take a screenshot of the word, and then add the screenshot of the text as an image. When you do this, it is no longer editable to the students. 

This is something you can use to categorize, resequence, and create a scaffolded venn diagram… anything you want them to manipulate on the screen. 


This student using the square shape to add layers of the Earth to a grid, creating a scale diagram.

This really depends on your lesson or assignment, but you can use shapes for a lot of things. I’m going to use my example of the square shape. I asked students to fill in a grid showing the layers of the Earth with the correct scale. 

Shapes Interactive digital Activities
This student using the square shape to add layers of the Earth to a grid, creating a scale diagram.

You can add shapes to the slide and ask them to copy and paste the given shape to add more. The line shape can be used for graphing. 

Because there are so many possibilities for this one, I’m going to leave you with those ideas and tell you to think outside of the box! 


Sometimes it’s just not possible to include everything you want in a Google Slide. This is where links come in. You can add two types of links: outside websites and other slides in the file.


Let’s circle back to links to outside websites. I’m going to talk specifically about a video, because there are multiple ways to do it. The second and third way work for any link, anywhere on the internet!


Add a video directly onto the Google Slide presentation. Add this on top of your background. Click Insert > Video and search on Youtube for the video you want the kids to watch. This adds a square thumbnail of the video onto your slide, so be sure you have space for it. 


If you’ve seen a different colored font in a paragraph that takes you to a website, you’ve seen a hyperlink. Highlight the word you want to add the link to and click Insert > Link. Add the link you want the kids to go to in the space provided. This option works great when you’re typing onto the presentation the kids edit (and the words are not a part of the stationary background).


Did you know you can add a link to a shape? This is best when you want to link to something, but the image or text is on the stationary background. Create a shape – use a colored outline and a transparent fill so kids can see through it. Highlight the shape, click Insert > Link and add the link to the site. Drag the shape over where you want students to click. When they do, a notification pops up under the shape with a link. 

I used this assignment in the spring. The background is completely stationary, so I added a transparent shape with an outline over the words I needed to add a link to! It helped students so much!

Shape Link Interactive Digital Activities
I used this assignment in the spring. The background is completely stationary,
so I added a transparent shape with an outline over the words I needed to
add a link to! It helped students so much!


Just like you’d add a link to any website on the internet, you can add navigation to different slides in the presentation. If you have instructions on the first slide with nine slides of activities, you may want to add links to other slides to help students navigate. 

Add hyperlink to slide

Add this the same way you would using option 2 or 3 above, but when you’ll see when you click Link, click the option underneath the link box that says “slides in this presentation.” Select from any of the slides you want to link to!

Pro Tip: I always add a link to the websites kids are using in the speaker notes! But it’s one more fail-safe in case something goes wrong! 

Now assign them!

Finally, you’re done creating your digital activities! Double check everything – make sure your directions are clear and your links work. Then assign your digital interactive assignments and watch your student’s progress!

Don’t forget to download your sample digital activity to follow along!

Digital Learning, Middle School