Sunday, August 23, 2020

The importance of meeting students social and emotional needs while distance learning

It was 2:45 pm on March 13 when I received the news that I would be immediately transitioning to distance learning starting Monday.  There was no time to say goodbye to my students or prepare them for the next few months.  I spent the weekend scrambling to figure out how to modify my instruction and, for me, how to keep teaching SEL.

SEL stands for social and emotional learning. It’s the process through which students learn to understand and manage their thoughts and emotions, set and create action steps to achieve goals, learn to show empathy for others and self-compassion for themselves, build positive relationships, and make responsible decisions.  These days, students are dealing with so many things that it is difficult for them to concentrate and perform at school.  Teaching students SEL helps them calm and quiet their brains so that they can take in new information and access their learning.

Before moving to distance learning, I took 40 minutes out of my week of teaching science to teach SEL through mindfulness and principles of success.   My students learned how to acknowledge their thoughts and emotions and keep them from taking over their lives.  They were also learning success skills such as perseverance, embracing feedback, goal setting, and visualizing what they wanted.  I felt that these skills were extremely important, more important than the science topics I was teaching them.

When we had to transition to remote learning suddenly, my main concern was my students’ technology and emotional needs.  Many of my students have high anxiety, and some of their home lives are not that great.  School was a safety ground for them.  I was concerned about their abilities to access their assignments and even more concerned about how they would be dealing with the added stress of being at home and the uncertainty of Covid-19.

I turned every Friday into a wellness check.  Asking them how they were doing? Having them fill out a Google Form to tell me about the emotions they were feeling and why they chose those emotions.  I felt like I wasn’t doing enough.

I knew I had to bring mindfulness and the principles of success back. Students were asking for them and saying that it was what they missed the most about being in my classroom. But how to do it online?

I did a few things to accomplish this.

  1. I created an Instagram account for my school to post inspirational messages and do some live mindfulness breathing exercises.
  2. I created some guided mindfulness audios and shared them with my students to access them whenever they felt the need.
  3. I created slide presentations, digital journals, and videos to cover the topics that allowed me to teach the information to my students and reflect on the information and do some exercises.

Now that we are starting a new school year and will once again be starting the year entirely online, I plan on continuing to bring SEL into my science classroom.  I have witnessed the changes in teaching mindfulness and principles of success have made for my students.  I will be doing a block schedule with synchronous and asynchronous teaching.  I plan on spending every Wednesday teaching mindfulness and principles of success to help the students have a positive start to their week. I'm calling it Wellness Wednesday.

        You can access the videos I created on my Youtube channel to help you meet your students’ social and emotional needs this year.  Whether you are entirely in the classroom, doing a hybrid model, or fully online, these videos will help students with their social and emotional needs.

Sunday, April 19, 2020

Using Digital Notebooks and Digital Readings in the Classroom FAQ

         More teachers are having to incorporate technology into their classrooms.  Digital notebooks and Digital readings are a great way to introduce the topic and have students review but they can present some challenges.  Here are the five most frequently asked question I receive from teachers using these lessons.

#1: Moving the pieces and writing on the slides

    The main question I get asked is how to drag the pieces and write in the text boxes.  In order to do this you need to be in edit mode.   If you are in presentation mode you will not be able to move the pieces or type in the text boxes.  The presentation mode is to view your work when it is done.   You will know you are in edit mode if you can see one main slide and all of the other slides in the presentation are on the left side. 

#2: I can't write in the box and I'm in edit mode

      Sometimes students accidentally delete the text boxes.  I usually have at least one student every other time I use these in my classes do this.   If a text box is deleted they will need to go the the text box icon at the top left and click on it.  Then they will click on the space they want to add the text box to. From there they can change the size of the box, font size, and font style.

#3: Adding pictures to the slides

      To add pictures you have a few options.  If you have a picture that you took or that is in your google drive you will need to go to insert at the top and choose picture or choose the picture icon. From there you can choose to upload your picture or go to your drive and click on the picture you want.  If you want a picture from the web the easiest way is to go to tools at the top.  From tools choose the explore tool.  Type in the type of picture you want and choose image.  Once you see a picture you would like you can click on it and drag in onto your slide.  You can then modify the size and place it where you would like it to be.

#4: Fixing major mistakes

      Sometimes students will accidentally delete a slide. Or perhaps they are working with a partner on the google slide and someone deleted something by mistake and the undo function is not solving the problem.  When this happens you will need to go to file, then click on version history, and click see version history.  The history of all the moves made will pop up on the right.  To get a more detailed history you can click on the triangles.  You can then restore it to the version before the mistake happened.

#5: Marking the text when it is part of the background

      With the guided readings, the text is part of the background so students can't just highlight the reading and choose underline.  Students are still able to mark the text with underlines, circles, and highlighting if they follow these simple directions.

    - Circling key words:  To circle key words you have two options.   

Option 1: Go to the shape icon and choose circle.  Then go to the fill color icon which looks like a paint bucket and click transparent.  Students can change the color of the circles outline by clicking the border color icon (looks like a pencil). They can also change the thickness of the circle by choosing the border weight icon.

Option 2: Go to the line icon and choose scribble at the bottom.  This gives them a free hand to make their own circles. Students can then change the color of the circles outline by clicking the border color icon (looks like a pencil). They can also change the thickness of the circle by choosing the border weight icon.

    - Underlining key points:  To underline parts of the passage there are again two options.

Option 1: Go to the line icon and choose the line, which is the first one.  Use the line tool to underline the sections you want to underline. Students can then change the color of the line by clicking the border color icon (again it looks like a pencil). They can also change the thickness of the line by choosing the border weight icon.

Option 2: Go to the line icon and choose scribble at the bottom.  This gives them a free hand to make their own lines. Students can then change the color of the scribble line by clicking the border color icon. They can also change the thickness of the scribble line by choosing the border weight icon.

    - Highlighting words: To highlight a word or words you will need to go to the shape tool.  Choose the square and place a square over the word or words.  This will block the words.  From there you need to go to the fill color icon which looks like a paint bucket.  Choose custom and then pick the color you want and change the transparency so that it is in the middle.  This will give the square a color and allow the text to show through.

Click Here for a video tutorial

          My students love using digital notebooks and digital readings in the classroom.  I hope these tips help you to successfully use them in your classroom also.  You can find digital lessons for the science classroom here: 

Monday, March 30, 2020

How to move from your Google Drive to your LMS

         Google is a huge name in education for many reasons.  While many schools are using Google Apps for Education and having their LMS be Google Classroom, it is not the only LMS out there.  LMS stands for learning management system.  It's the way you assign tasks to your students. I will take you through the steps of sharing your digital lessons from your Google Drive to some of the top LMS sites out there.

* Google Drive to Google Classroom

- Although these both start with the word Google, they are not the same thing.  Google Drive is like your giant folder.  It is where you hold all of your Google app resources. Your Google slides, Google docs, Google Sheets, and so on.  Google Classroom is an LMS.  It is where you post the specific lessons you want the students to complete.

- To share your lessons to Google classroom Follow the simple steps below.

1. Go to Google Classroom and open the class you want to create an assignment for. 
2. Go to classwork and choose create. From there you can choose to post an assignment, quiz assignment, question, material, and more.
3. Title the assignment, add a description, and then at the bottom you will see the add button where you can go into your drive and attach your assignment from there.
4. You can choose whether you want the students to view the assignment, edit the assignment, or make a copy for each student.

* Google Drive to Schoology

- Although I am in a GAFE school, I prefer to use Schoology as opposed to Google Classroom.  To share your Google Drive resources is easy but does require you do complete a simple step.

1. Go to the Resources tab at the top--> open the apps--> choose install apps and select Google Drive.
2. Students can also go to the Resources tab and follow the same directions to attach their own Google Drive assignments if they are also using Google Drive.
3. To share your Google app lessons you will want to create an assignment.
4. In the assignment you will want to click on the resource tab.
5. Choose apps and then search for the resource you want and choose import and then one of two ways.
          - Choose import file if your students do not have a Google Drive.  This will convert it into the Microsoft equivalent.
         - Choose import link if your students have Google Drive.  When students click the link it will open in their Google Drive.  Students can then make a copy of the assignment and work on it.
         - After students have modified the assignment they can then reattach it to turn it in.

* Google Drive to Microsoft OneDrive

- Microsoft OneDrive is Microsofts version of Google Drive offering their Microsoft apps like Powerpoint, Excel, and Word in place of Slides, Docs, and Sheets. Moving your Google app lessons to OneDrive is very simple.

1. Open the lesson that you would like to transfer whether its Slides, Docs, or Sheets.
2. Click File and then download as to find the Microsoft equivalent.
3. This will download the file onto your desktop.
4. Once on your desktop you can just upload the file to your Microsoft OneDrive.

* Google Drive to Edmodo

-Using Google apps in Edmodo is very simple.

1. Use your Google account to sign up. 
2. Go to your class and add an assignment.
3. At the bottom go to add attachments and choose add from library.
4. There you should see the Google drive icon.  Choose your assignment and then you can set it so that students can view it or you can make a copy for every student.

* Google Drive to Nearpod

- To use Google apps in Nearpod you will need to sign up with Google so you can link the account. Then follow these steps.

1. Go to my library.
2. Click the create lesson in google slides.
3. Follow the steps to add the add ons extension for Nearpod.
4. Once you have added it you can go to any of your google slides, go to add ons, and open the Nearpod add on.
5. Choose how you want the students to work with the slides and then click save and go to Nearpod to add it to your library.

* Google Drive to Seesaw

- To use Google apps and allow students to manipulate them instead of just turning them into a PDF, you will need to follow a few steps.

1. Both you and your students should have Google accounts.
2. Click on add and choose assign activity.
3. Create a new activity and then choose add multimedia instructions or example.
4. Click link, NOT file with the Google Drive icon.
5. In your Google Drive open the resource you want to share with your students and set the share to view by anyone.
6. Copy the link onto the link box in seesaw.
7. Give directions for students to open the link, make a copy, work on the resource, and to set their own version to be viewed by anyone and then attach it to turn it in.  (Note: if you change the ending of your resource from /edit... to /copy it will force the students to make their own copy making it easier on your students)

It really is easy to use your amazing resources that you have created, been given, or purchased with your students.  Head to my Youtube channel for more ways to integrate technology into your classroom.

Thursday, March 12, 2020

How to transition to e-learning with success: Tips and tools

     My nephew's school district is shut down for two weeks due to a COVID-19 virus outbreak that affected four of the schools in the district and my sister's school just followed.  Their school districts have decided to do e-learning for the next two weeks while they deep clean all of the schools. E-learning is a method designed to deliver the education online.  If your school is thinking about doing e-learning there are some logistics that need to be thought through. What platform will be used? How will students learn the information? How will students practice the information? How will you check on their progress? How will struggling students be helped? How will you extend the learning for students that need more enrichment? And finally, What about those students that don't have access to the technology necessary to do e-learning? The answers to these questions will depend also on how long the school needs to be closed for.

What platform will you use?

        One of the first things that you will need to figure out is which platform or LMS (learning management system) you will use to provide the students the lessons.  If you are a GAFE school then your students are already familiar with Google classroom and the google suite so choosing this platform would be a good choice. Using Google Classroom is great for checking student progress and communicating with your students. 

          Another choice you could use is Schoology.  Schoology is an LMS that is free to use and integrates with Google.  Although I am in a GAFE school and use Google Classroom, I prefer Schoology for my digital classroom.  I can easily create folders, discussions, assignments, files, links, and assessments.  It will also give analytics on the assignments and assessments. (Click HERE for more information on using schoology and why I like it better than Google Classroom) 

         Edmodo is another LMS that is free to use and easy for students to navigate through.  

         Along with a main LMS other apps and programs that you might consider using are Edpuzzle (to host videos), Formative (for quick assessments), Quizizz (for quick assessments), Kahoot (for quick assessment), Flipgrid (for students to visually explain what they know).

How will students learn the information?

       Something that will need to be figured out is how the students will learn the basic information for the standards that need to be taught. 

Textbook: If your class uses a textbook then perhaps they could get their information from the book. Students could read certain sections and take notes on the information. 

Presentation: You could create a presentation using Google Slides or Powerpoint that the students could move through at their own pace and take notes on. You could use Pear Deck with Google Slides and turn your Google Slides into interactive slides where students could go thought the slides and answer questions along the way.   

Expository Text online: You could provide an article or a different text that students could read and take notes on. 

Video: You could also create a video of you teaching the information, or find one on Youtube, that the students would take notes from.  If you are a math teacher, I would highly recommend the video method so that students can gain more of a visual of how to solve the problems. You can host the video in Google Classroom, Youtube, or Edpuzzle.  Edpuzzle will allow you to prevent skipping, add notes, and add short answer or multiple choice checks for understanding questions. Check out my blog posts on using video in the classroom HERE.

How will students practice the information?

     Once students learn the basic information about the topic they will need to practice using the information.  This will be different for each subject.  Think about what you already do in your class and how you could modify it so that it is online.  Could you create a google doc that they could then mark up and answer questions? 

       Perhaps you post some math problems that they will have to solve and that they could then take a picture showing their work and upload it to your LMS? They could use Google Earth to see what the places looked like during a certain time period and learn about the cultures of the region. 

        I teach science so for me it would be providing an online science lab for them to do and an online form to go with it.  pHET and Glenco have some great online science labs.  Many of the pHET labs are HTML and can be done on any device.  Glenco uses flash and is not compatible with iOS devices.  

        Other ways to practice would be to incorporate digital notebooks where they have to drag and drop information and fill in text. 

How will you check their progress?

     To check the student progress of learning you could use online games like Quizizz, Kahoot, or Formative.  Formative is excellent for science and math because it enables drawing so students could draw their diagrams or show their work on solving math problems.  They could create a video using Flipgrid where they can add pictures, show their notes, and explain their learning.  You could also create formative quizzes using Google Forms. Schoology has a great assessment tool also.  We would love to think that all the students are going to do the assignments but chances are that the students that are not doing the homework now are not going to be doing the assignments during this time also.  They will probably treat it as a holiday and be on their phones or play their video games the whole time.  The good news is that this won't be the majority.  You need to just let it go since you can't control it or change it and really focus on the students that are putting in the effort to continue learning when faced with this extra challenge.

How will you help struggling students?

     So you have given the students the information, they have practiced using and applying it, you have assessed them, and you discover that some students are still struggling.  Now what do you do?  They can't go directly to you for help, or can they.   You could hold "Office Hours" for your students where you will go live on a video platform.  You could go live on Youtube, Zoom, or Google Hangouts.  You could address some of the most missed questions and then have students submit questions that you could answer.  On Zoom and Google Hangouts, you can visually see and talk to the students so that they can show you where they are struggling.  On Youtube live the students could post questions in the comments that you could answer.  Students who aren't able to make your "Office Hour" time could send you an email ahead of time with a question for you to answer and then they can watch the replay.  You could also have extra practice problems for them to solve and figure out during your "Office Hour" time.

How will you extend the learning for those that are ready for enrichment?

       You have the struggling students covered but what about those that understand and are ready to extend their learning?  This is where a menu choice could come in.  Students could create a video designed to teach the information to other students using iMovie, Flipgrid, or any other video recording tool.  They could post their videos on Flipgrid or in google classroom or Youtube (check the rules of your district for this first).  Another choice could be creating a poster or info graphic using Canva or Google draw to explain the information.  They could create an ebook that could be used to teach students that are four grades younger than them.  They could also create a Prezi to take the typical presentation to the next level.  The idea is to give them a choice and let their creativity flow.

What about students that don't have access to the technology necessary for this?

       At my nephew's school district, the district gave all students that didn't have computers or internet a technology device and a district hot spot to take home with them.  However, in rural areas even a hot spot might not work.  So now what?  As teachers we can be very creative when we need to be.  If you are an ELA teacher, think about what writing skills you would like them to work on and have them write in a journal every day for 20 minutes or write a one page journal entry every day about their experience that day to practice a skill.  Have them edit it and then when school is back they can then turn it in.  For Social studies, have them write about current events and how they are related to the events in history they are learning about.  For math, you could send home worksheet packets for them to work on or have them look at newspapers for evidence of math being used.  How does the CDC know how many people are affected and how are they able to project the numbers? For science, have them practice engineering skills and the scientific method.  Have them create questions and find solutions and present what they did when they come back.


      E-learning really doesn't need to be that scary.  Most of us are already using technology in the classroom.  Instead of being in your class where you can monitor them and they can have conversations with other students in person they are doing it at home and the conversations are done digitally.   E-learning is also an excellent time to reinforce digital citizenship and expectations about virtual communication and digital etiquette in an academic setting.  Click HERE for more blog posts on digital citizenship in the classroom.

     Nothing is better than the personal interactions with a caring teacher, however, when necessary for a few days or weeks, e-learning can help students stay on target and replace the need for make-up school days in the summer.

Wednesday, February 26, 2020

5 morning habits every teacher should do for a better day

     A couple years ago I went on a journey to discover myself again.  I was going through a major life change and I had lost track of who I was, what made me happy, what I was passionate about, and what I wanted out of life.  While on this journey I read many books on self improvement, law of attraction, and teaching philosophies.  One book that really stood out was the Success Principals by Jack Canfield.  I started to incorporate some of his principals into my morning routine on school days and I have seen a drastic change.  I am happier at work, my days are filled with more positivity, and even my students are being affected, or perhaps I just see them in a better way.  Here are my five morning habits that I feel every teacher should be doing to improve their day and create a more positive environment.

Habit #1: Exercise

      I'm not going to explain the importance of exercising.  We all know that a healthier life revolves around exercise and healthy eating.  There is a big benefit to having exercise be the first thing you do in the morning.  Before breakfast, before you scroll through your phone, before you do anything else, you should start your day with a little bit of exercise.  I myself don't have much time in the mornings but I do start my day off with exercising for 20-25 minutes.  Sometimes its 15 minutes on the elliptical followed by 5 minutes of yoga and stretching.  Other times its 5 minutes on the elliptical with 10 minutes of weights and then some yoga.  The point is to get your body moving and stretching.  I find that my mind starts to wake up and ideas of what I need to do start popping up in my head

Habit #2: Mindfulness / Meditation

       Another habit that I have found really beneficial is to have some quiet alone time with myself.  I started with 5 minutes and have worked up to 10 minutes.  I take time to close my eyes, breath, and just focus on the present moment.   When thoughts pop in my head I acknowledge them without judgement and then go back to my breathing.   Some days it is easier than others to turn my brain off and quiet my head.  However, even on days when my mind won't be quiet, I feel extra charged and ready to tackle my day when I do this.

Habit #3: Drink Water

       Hydration is really important in more ways than one.  Sometimes when I'm feeling tired it has more to do with being dehydrated than anything else.  So one habit that I have started doing is to make sure that I drink at least 12 oz of water before I leave my house.  Most of the time I have my glass of water while I'm making breakfast or right after my workout.   To me drinking that glass of water has a way of energizing me and waking me up just as much as my coffee does.

Habit #4: Daily Affirmations

      Affirmations are a way of stating what you want and visualizing it.  Think about how you want your day to go.  Is there an activity you want the students to do without any problems?  Are you being visited by an administrator?  Are there a few challenging students that you would like to see a difference in?  The key to affirmations is that they need to start with "I am" and have an emotion and an action attached to them.  A few examples are: I am happily noticing my students are all actively engaged in todays note taking activity, I am so happy and grateful now that (insert student or students names) are using their energy to participate and help others around them, I am joyfully watching my students tackle a difficult critical thinking task and are excited when they figure it out.  You could use the same affirmation every day or change it up.  After you write it out you will want to spend 30 seconds to a minute reading it out loud and then taking the time to feel what you have written and visualize what it would look like.

Habit #5: Being Grateful

      According to Jack Canfield author of Chicken Soup for the Soul and the Success Principles,  "gratitude is the most important ingredient to living a successful and fulfilled life".  Being in a state of gratitude is the fastest way to change your mindset and set the tone for a positive day.  It is hard to be frustrated, annoyed, or discouraged when you are in a place of gratitude.  Try and look for something to be grateful for in all parts of your day.  Look back on what happened in your classroom yesterday.  What happened that you are grateful for?  Sometimes this will be easy but at other times this might be more difficult.  Remember though that even the students that challenge us can be a blessing.  When a student talks back and is defiant, you could be grateful for the chance to practice patients.  When a few students didn't do their homework you could be grateful for the 85% that did do their homework and took this learning opportunity.  Gratitude helps us focus on the positives.  I think that in teaching we spend too much time focusing on the negatives.  The few students that misbehave or don't do their work.  Instead we should be grateful for all of our students that are doing what we are asking, that are participating, that are following the rules and expectations.  So find three things that you are grateful for from the day before and write them down in a gratitude journal or say them out loud.  Then, and this might seem weird at first, I will want you to send positive, happy thoughts to one or two students or other faculty members that make your day more challenging.  These students and faculty are the ones most in need of positive loving energy.  So just send them positive, loving, happy thoughts and think about them for a few seconds.

I challenge you to try these five habits out for a month and see if they make a difference.  If they don't work as well for you as they did for me well you won't be worse off than before the challenge.  However, what if they do work.  What if they do improve the quality of how you feel and bring you more positivity in your life.  You have nothing to lose but lots to gain.  I would love to hear from you if you did take on the challenge.  Let me know how it goes or if you have found another habit I should add to my morning routine that you have found to make a huge positive impact in your life.

***********************************   Special Note *********************************

Join me in March on instagram as I go through these five habits every school day live.  Let's do this together and support each other.

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