Browsing Tag

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

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: 

Hi, 

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

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

Navigating Conflict on Your Campus

Picture this with me. You’re at the park on a field trip and you see a student on top of the 25-foot-tall, blue, shade tarp above the playground, and he’s jumping on it like a trampoline! The headline flashing through your head reads, “Student breaks all bones on playground while teacher is nowhere to be found!” Not to mention, this is the kid you JUST told sternly, for the second time, they couldn’t be on top of the playground equipment.

You’re walking him over to sit out and he’s arguing that, “he wasn’t on top of the playground equipment!” (As if it even occurred to you that you’d have to tell him to stay off of the shade structure.)

Now you get mad… 

During this conversation, a teacher on your team comes over and forcefully tells you that you are being mean to a poor kid and abusing your power. Kids should be kids and have less rules. In front of the student. You are a professional and explain that you will discuss this when you get back to campus and are not in the presence of children. You walk away and he’s now raising his voice so students nearby start paying attention.

TRUE STORY.

I worked with this teacher for five years, and we never really saw eye to eye on student management. I thrive on structure, and he is go with the flow. Until this point, it was just a difference we recognized and respected. This confrontation completely caught me off guard, and I was absolutely livid.

There’s a huge misconception that teachers work alone. Sure, we work alone in our classrooms with our students, but we don’t actually work alone. We work with our administration, the office staff, our SPED team, paraprofessionals, and even the teachers on our team or our campus. Inevitably, disagreements happen.

It’s tempting to go back into your classroom, close the door, and hope the disagreement blows over. But that’s not how we handle it. Because we are adults. And we are professionals! (I’m hearing you all cheer for me and my motivational speech right there!)

So, what should you do when you land yourself in the middle of conflict?

First, decide if this it a pet peeve or a true conflict? I will be the first to tell you that I have things that bother me about my coworkers. Little pet peeves that annoy me. On the other hand, conflict is usually brought on by a disagreement between two people. The distinction is important to realize because the approach is somewhat different.

Pet Peeves

If it’s a big deal, and it directly affects your job, mention something to them. Even try mentioning it in passing. One student started showing up to my first hour everyday, loudly announcing that another teacher sent him to give me something. He came in with the most random things – tape dispensers, books, puzzles, candy….

When I asked this teacher why the student kept showing up in my room, she explained the situation to me. I just said, “I get it, but you can’t send him to my room. He’s a daily distraction and it’s hard to reign my class back in. I’m so sorry.” I wasn’t rude and didn’t make a big deal out of it, but the student did stop showing up.

If it’s not a big deal or doesn’t directly affect your job, you might want to consider letting it go. A teacher might complain to about how bad their class is, but won’t take direction from administration or practical steps to resolve it… there’s not a whole lot you can do. Tell them what you think when they ask. Be brief without being rude. When you walk away, you don’t have to deal with their classroom.

Find someone to talk to. Find someone safe to vent to who won’t go blabbing your frustrations or secrets to everyone else. It doesn’t solve the problem, but I feel better safely getting it off my chest by talking to someone who understands.

We can’t fix everyone and everything. If you can just talk it through with someone, do it. If you can bring it up casually, do that too. But, I’ve found that a lot of my little pet peeves with coworkers can be solved by going back into my classroom. However, pet peeves can quickly turn into conflicts.

Conflict

1. First (and biggest) – Is it your boss telling you to do something you don’t want to? Excuse an assignment? Morning duty? Go to an IEP the Friday before fall break at 4 PM (It happened to me!)? Have a sit down meeting with them and a parent? Do it. This is not a hill you want to die on. If your boss is telling you to do something (reasonable), they have a reason. You might see their reason as wrong, self-serving, or self-promoting, but they’re the boss (and eventually, you’re going to have to ask them for a letter of recommendation).  

2. Is it your fault? Ouch. No one likes to be wrong, but we all are at some point. It might be your fault. My biggest advice – apologize. Approach the issue with humility. Being “right” is not worth creating lasting tension.

3. Who else is involved or needs to be? And who does NOT need to be? In my story about the student park, my administrator needed to know. They may have parents call or students say something. If my team wasn’t there watching, I’d probably tell them. We work as a team and when something is wrong, it throws us off. Does every teacher on campus need to know? Absolutely not. Tell the people that need to be involved in solving the problem and that’s it. Otherwise it’s nothing but gossip.

4. How will you take steps to resolve it?  I highly recommend having a vulnerable (and unfortunately, uncomfortable) conversation seeking a resolution instead of pushing it aside. It’s likely that emotions will run high. I always have to sit on what I am thinking for a few days to let it all process out in my head before I can approach the person.

You may need to write it out before you can talk. You may need a third party there to listen and help come to a solution. Your administrator may be able to help you determine what the best steps are. It’s possible that after talking to your admin, they can handle it for you.  

5. If the conflict is not resolved, can you put your feelings aside and remain a professional? This is so hard. Feelings might be hurt and lines might be crossed in your conflict. I implore you – be a professional. You may disagree. You may hate the way that person refused to engage in any resolution. The ultimate resolution to your conflict may be leaving the site and finding a new job.

Be Professional Anyway

Until then, know you are strong and capable. When you must engage with this person, be brief. Create boundaries as necessary. You are a professional and while the resolution you attempted didn’t turn out your way, you have an audience – your administration, your fellow teachers, your students.

I will be completely honest and tell you that after that teacher yelled at me in front of students, I tried to work it out several days later when I could think with a clear head. Instead of getting into a debate about managing students (like I said, we never agreed on this to begin with), I focused on the fact that brought this up in front of the student because it undermined my authority.

He held his ground that he was right. The conflict did not get resolved, and I still work with him. I set this boundary in place: I will not engage in a conversation with him unless it concerns something professional.

Conflict is hard and uncomfortable. When it comes to working with people, conflict is inevitable. It’s my hope that these questions help you think through how to navigate conflict on your campus. There is something freeing about being able to work together, navigate a problem, and come out the other side a stronger teammate, teacher, and person than you were before.

(Please note – this post is simply about disagreements between your coworkers. If you are dealing with consistent unresolved conflict or harassment, please look into your district’s protocol.)

Middle School, Professionalism

Teaching Observations and Inference in Science

I love middle school. But they think so quickly that they don’t necessarily think about what they are thinking! In science specifically, they have to know the difference between an observation and an inference. Their observations lead to their inferences and generally serve as evidence for their inferences.

To introduce this idea, I give them that “angry teacher” stance and eyes and ask them how I am feeling. Without fail, they tell me that I’m mad, angry, upset, that they want to run away and hide (HAHA!!)… and a few will say my arms are crossed or I’m not smiling, but usually not without some prompting asking them how they know I’m angry.

They can tell you clearly that I’m upset, but I need them to break it down and use their observations as evidence for their inferences.  Read More »

Hands On, Middle School, Notebooks