The Brown Box

There it is. A brown box. That box has been sitting there in the front of the classroom for about 20 minutes and no one has said anything. Nothing. It’s like it’s not there.

No one has asked what it is. No one has asked what’s inside. No one has even noticed the brown box.

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Holy #HyperDocs, Batman!!

There is a new sheriff in town when it comes to learning and technology.  It’s the HyperDoc.  There is so much to do with these and the interactive piece is amazing!!  I am in the process of gathering a MULTITUDE of sources to put all in one place… right here.  So, hang in there!  This is the push to get everything in ONE spot for my own reference! =)

Google Apps in a 5th Grade Classroom

I never realized how much I know, I do, or collect until I’m asked to present about how I use Google Apps for Education in my classroom.  Earlier today, someone from my Twitter PLN asked to share with another educator the different lessons, activities, etc. we do with our kids in Google Docs.  That was the inspiration for this post.  I need to make a repository of sorts to list what I do, in case I ever decide to try something old again or I forget what I’ve done in the past!

So, here’s a list, by App and I will try to go in and add pics soon.  In addition, this is by NO MEANS the complete list… this is just what I’ve remembered off the top of my head.  I’m taking a number of classes this summer, and I know I already have other activities to add to this list!  I’m sure this will constantly be a work in progress!


  • TOPIC WRITING: I have a list of 80+ writing prompts that I share with the kids and they choose what topics they want to write about.  I use it for “extra time”, when I’m discussing parts of speech, punctuation, voice, etc. I’ll ask for a volunteer, pull up the kid sample on the big screen and discuss with the class (while they all have their own docs open)
  • ALL WRITING PIECES: ‘Nuff said

SPREADSHEETS I know this is typically used for mathematical computations, but I use it for NON-math things.

  • IDIOMS: Kids choose an idiom and explain what the idiom means (all on one spreadsheet)
  • WRITING TOPICS: I will create and “open” a spreadsheet and ask the kids to brainstorm what ideas they have and list them all.  Then, I go through and take out the ideas I’m not a fan of them writing about (or that I know will be too difficult) and from there they can choose their topic for their informational/persuasive piece of writing


  • OBSERVATION LOGS: I use this in science and the kids have to take pics and write each day’s observations on a slide.  The kids work in groups, so each group has their own set of slides.
  • MEET THE STUDENTS: My best friend growing up also teaches 5th grade, but in Arizona.  We do a read aloud via Skype/Google Hangouts and read City of Ember together.  From there, we put the kids into mixed up groups in Edmodo for discussion and project purposes.  But, in order for them to et to know one another, I created a set of slides where the kids had a pre-determined set of favorites to answer about themselves.  They could include a picture of themselves as well as decorate the slide however they wanted.  My class had a large H in the corner and her class had a P (fist letter of each of our last names).  I made the link for set of slides PUBLIC while the kids were first working on it, then I switched the link to private.
  • INFORMATIONAL RESEARCH: This is something I do at the end of the year (sometimes) and the kids can choose anything fun to research.  They can include music, videos, but they must write their own research.


  • SELF-GRADING QUIZZES: I use these ALL the time for science vocab terms.  This way, in less than 45 minutes, the kids can take the quiz, I can score all 30-32 quizzes, AND get their scores back to them via email.  (I use the Flubaroo add-on.)
  • SURVEYS: Anytime I want info from the kids, I’ll have them complete a survey
  • HS SHOW BIOGRAPHIES: I do the program for a friend of mine who is the drama teacher at a local high school.  Our schedules do NOT match up in any way… they go from 7-2 and we go from 9-4.  I have a 2 year old and can’t go before school and she has a show o put on and she can’t come see me at 4.  So, her kids enter their biographical information into the form, I share the spreadsheet of info with her, and from there I have all the names and details for the program for her show!

Free Things Teachers Would Love

So… as a teacher, I know that budgets are thin at schools and for districts.  However, there are still *some* free things out there in this world.  Here are two of my latest favorites… This website offers permission slips for FREE!  They’ll even collect your money (but I think there’s a charge for that service).  My district won’t allow PermissionClick for field trips (yet), but I use this for when I go present places.  This way, I can get parent permission to show their kids’ work and their names (as I often present on Google Apps for Education) and although I have samples for the adults, I still like to share the actual work of the kiddos so the attendees can see what “real” kid work looks like. So, to be honest, I tried this website a long while ago.  It was cumbersome and I had issues with how it worked.  However, I tried the site again this past week and I really like the evolution the site has gone through to be more user friendly and much more manageable.  There is a free version (with paid options to upgrade – of course) and that is what I signed up to use this next fall.  I will be using my online PLNs to promote the kid work and seek responses to what they’re doing.  I am starting with everything private and branching out once I’m convinced they can “handle” the public process.

I can’t wait to *really* put these to work next school year!


Screencasting – What to Do and What NOT to Do

So, I tried my first screencast earlier this week.  I used Jing (which is *FREE*) and made a short video (less than 5 minutes – because that’ all the time you get with Jing).  I’m going to share the video here… I’d really like for this to be a NON-judgement zone (unless you like the video 😉 ).

Now, what TO DO: (1) DO TRY!!  I was afraid to try for fear that my voice would be weird, that my voice would be crackly, that I wouldn’t explain something right and I’d have to do the screencast over and over and over.  Well, I did try three or four times, but that was all it took – for my FIRST one EVER!!  (2) Plan ahead.  Plan what you want to say.  Plan your props (if you need them).  Plan your windows/clicks.  Plan.  Plan. And PLAN some more.  (3) Have fun!  I think this tutorial for my kids will be more useful than I anticipated!

Now, what NOT TO DO: (1) Don’t freak out.  They are YOUR students (unless you put your video out there for the word to see, like I’m doing) and they will love you.  They might laugh at you, but that won’t be anything new if you have fin with your kids and are as bluntly honest with them as I am with mine.  (I do try to limit their giggles at me, when I can.)  (2) Don’t try and shove EVERYTHING into one video (that’s what I did).  I will be going back and separating this video into about 4 or 5 different shorter videos.  This way, I think I can get better explanation.  I am keeping this video, however, so my kids can see how long this project should take them in class.

So, go on!  Try your own screencast!  You’ll be glad you did!


Blogging, Anyone!?

As a part of a course I was taking this summer, I was to create a blog. Well, this is said blog. I’m not sure who is going to find this little gem, and maybe it won’t ever really be seen. But, I’m okay with that. I’m okay with writing down my thoughts and sharing them here. I also plan on sharing funny stories from the classroom as well as any “brilliant” tech ideas I come up with as well as explaining the failures.

One BIG thing I am starting next year is blogging with my kids. I’m going to have them write a blog at the end of every day. They can write about a test, assignment, project, evening/weekend activities. I will be using that as a living document to track their writing throughout the year. So, please indulge me. If I share that the kids are looking for feedback, please visit them.if anyone else is having their kids blog, if live to connect, especially if it’s through KidBlog (that’s the one I’ve chosen for my kids to use).

So, here’s to blogging and making it a living portion of our day!


Google Apps in the Classroom

About seven years ago, my district started to incorporate Google Apps for Education within out middle schools and high schools.  When I discovered what this Google Education thingy was, I wanted in on it.  I emailed our new Director of Technology (a friend of mine) and shared with him that it might be nice to have an elementary classroom be a part of this pilot they were running with some teachers and classes.  He let me in.  I’ve been “in” ever since.

My kids were amazing and we did amazing things!  We had script writing going on, where students were writing (together, yet separately) the Friday morning announcements.  We had an A/B Anchor crew and a 1/2 Anchor crew.  They alternated weeks and had two weeks to plan their script, interviews, and practice.  At that time, that about more than I could handle as that was outside my literacy time and managing the Anchor crews (which changed EVERY WEEK) was a daunting task.  However, with the live editing and sharing of documents, I was able to manage the crews and everything went well.

Well, this morning, at our staff retreat planning meeting, I offered up to do this again.  What was I thinking??  Oh yeah, make the students accountable.  Give them the power.  This time around, I’m also going to train a tech crew and we will go “live” with announcements on Friday mornings!  I will be planning rehearsals, script writing sessions, and tech training.  All so I can turn the control over to the kids.

Using Google Slides, Spreadsheets, and Docs has made teaching so much easier.  I don’t have to worry about printing.  Kids don’t have to worry about their dog eating their assignment (I did have this happen once).  Parents don’t have to make a special trip to school to drop off their kid’s project.

As I use these learning tools throughout the year, I will try to remember to share some of the spectacular outcomes.  If nothing gets posted, I guess that means nothing worked well.

Nothing ventured, nothing gained.  Here’s to using more Google Apps in the Classroom!