Monday, December 14, 2015

Google Classroom, The Why and How

Google Classroom is changing the game for classrooms all around the world. Are you a teacher who's been asked to start using it in your classroom? Or maybe you're wanting to make the jump out of your own volition? Either way, this post will help you learn a little bit more about the pros and cons of using Google Classroom, as well as provide you with a free cheat sheet to help you get started.
I spend an inordinate amount of time making copies. I despair over the trees to whose demise I contribute. I weep for the amount of time I spend clearing jams. I gnash my teeth at all of the time I've wasted standing in the copier line (really, I'm considering a copy room mouth guard--is there a patent on one yet?--something to ponder).

In 14 years in the classroom, I estimate that I've devoted an average of 30 minutes a day to worship at the great copy room shrine.That's a grand total of around 52 days of my life that I'll never get back--52 work days that I could have spent grading, creating lessons, contacting parents, drinking coffee while listening to adult contemporary with my door closed....

Another way to look at it is 4 extra days of productivity a year. That may not seem like much, but to this teacher who is perpetually behind and overwhelmed, that's time I could really use.

Enter Google Classroom. The prospect of completely revamping my classroom is daunting. Too daunting to even consider at times. And sometimes students need to manipulate, fold, and sort, so I'm entertaining a hybrid model for next semester.

My students do interactive notebooks, and they will be virtual for the most part. I'm thinking a benefit here could come mainly for note-taking (oh, yes, and less time at the copier for me).

Google Classroom is changing the game for classrooms all around the world. Are you a teacher who's been asked to start using it in your classroom? Or maybe you're wanting to make the jump out of your own volition? Either way, this post will help you learn a little bit more about the pros and cons of using Google Classroom, as well as provide you with a free cheat sheet to help you get started.The entire point of interactive notebooks is for students to interact with the curriculum. I typically do cloze notes (fill-in-the-blank) on the left hand side of the page and have some type of student response on the right.

Virtually, the notes can be there already. Share the slide or slides with students through Google Classroom and they read and interact with the notes right there.

They can type text right into Google Slides, or move pieces around (great for categorizing) and submit their work virtually. They can keep it all in a folder in their Google Drive. I'll have them create a folder for World History and separate folders within that for each unit. Their notebook will be with them wherever they go.

A huge benefit I foresee is the ease of differentiating and classroom flipping. Students can take notes without the teacher, freeing you up for discussion and remediation with small groups.

Here's one response I've gotten from a survey I've taken about it so far: "I think it's best for the kids to keep hard copy interactive notebooks for their own notes and responses; however, Classroom creates a great place for organizing typed work, resource lists for research, discussions, and other activities."

I can see that. Interactive notebooks have been a game-changer in my classroom, and I'm reticent to give up the hard copies. That's one reason I am a little trepidatious about so many systems going 1:1.

But if it's happening, our goal should be to make it as interactive as possible. Here's how converting to Google Classroom format looks:
Google Classroom is changing the game for classrooms all around the world. Are you a teacher who's been asked to start using it in your classroom? Or maybe you're wanting to make the jump out of your own volition? Either way, this post will help you learn a little bit more about the pros and cons of using Google Classroom, as well as provide you with a free cheat sheet to help you get started.
Get It HERE!


Google Classroom is changing the game for classrooms all around the world. Are you a teacher who's been asked to start using it in your classroom? Or maybe you're wanting to make the jump out of your own volition? Either way, this post will help you learn a little bit more about the pros and cons of using Google Classroom, as well as provide you with a free cheat sheet to help you get started.
Get it Here
Google Classroom is changing the game for classrooms all around the world. Are you a teacher who's been asked to start using it in your classroom? Or maybe you're wanting to make the jump out of your own volition? Either way, this post will help you learn a little bit more about the pros and cons of using Google Classroom, as well as provide you with a free cheat sheet to help you get started.
Get It HERE!
And finally, for those of you who are just so overwhelmed that you don't know where to begin, here's a quick Getting Started Tutorial. Check out the slideshow, and then download and print the PDF


***Tip: It's helpful to do a test run with a DEMO class. Ask a few students to join just so you can practice and see how everything works.***




Get a copy of the cheat sheet to print HERE, and good luck!

How do you feel about paperless classrooms? Leave a comment below to let me know.




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Thanks a million to Danielle Knight and all of her amazing Go Interactive help!

Monday, December 7, 2015

Mindsets in the Classroom: Ch. 3 Differentiation

Mindsets in the classroom is a hot topic in education right now, with the growth mindset rapidly growing in popularity. I participated in a blog hop with a few blogger friends to discuss this book for teachers, and this post gives you an overview of what the author, Mary Cay Ricci, discussed in Chapter 3. It's all about differentiation and provides for concrete ways to differentiate to help grow and support student mindsets.Reading Mindsets in the Classroom: Building a Culture of Success and Student Achievement in Schools, by Mary Cay Ricci, has got my head spinning. I'm reeling trying to think of ways that I can implement some of the great ideas in my own classroom.

I hope my pondering benefits you--later in the post, I have a free formative assessment printable and a differentiated planning map.

I'm afraid that many of my students suffer under the cloud of deficit thinking. Deficit thinking involves educators making assumptions about them based on their race, low income status, or English language acquisition. I hope I don't do that.

The trouble with deficit thinking is that students begin the internalize and reflect those attitudes. This leads to underachievement and failure.

So mindset is incredibly important to student success. My friend Brigid at Math Giraffe discusses chapter 1, which is all about fixed and growth mindsets, HERE. A fascinating take-away is the plasticity of IQ. Chapter 2, discussed by my friend Ellie at Middle School Math Moments, suggests ways to build a growth mindset at your school. Read about it HERE.

Chapter 3 is all about differentiation. Ricci argues that a growth mindset cannot be achieved without differentiation. And that makes sense. If you do not meet students where they are in order to guide them higher, they will not grow. It's the proverbial, "You have to learn to crawl before you learn to walk."

Ricci suggests taking the following steps to differentiate your classroom:

1. Preview and Pre-assess
2. Implement Flexible Grouping
3. Use Formative Assessment
4. Use Relevant Summative Assessment

Preview and Pre-assess

Mindsets in the classroom is a hot topic in education right now, with the growth mindset rapidly growing in popularity. I participated in a blog hop with a few blogger friends to discuss this book for teachers, and this post gives you an overview of what the author, Mary Cay Ricci, discussed in Chapter 3. It's all about differentiation and provides for concrete ways to differentiate to help grow and support student mindsets.Of course, you must pre-assess in order to truly differentiate, but Ricci recommends previewing the material first. She recommends spending 5 minutes or less going over the material in order to activate the students' background knowledge. Show a short film clip, read a brief article, ask a few questions, work a few problems on the board, etc. This may be all some students need to learn (or recall) the skill or content.

Once background knowledge is activated, it's time to pre-assess. Ricci recommends variety here. Use words, pictures, read the directions aloud.... 

She warns against assigning an arbitrary number for mastery (85%, say) because that is meaningless. Instead, perhaps make a chart, color-coding each question that represents a specific skill or difficulty level. If questions 1, 9, and 10 deal with factoring, for example, make their columns all blue on the chart. If questions 4 and 6 are higher-level application questions, color them green. 

You will then be able to group the students according to what they need to work on. That leads us to the next step.

Implement Flexible Grouping

This is when you will use the data from the pre-assessment to group students with similar needs for your unit or topic together. Each group will work on what they need to work on. Some will need quite a bit of remediation. Others will already basically know the material, while others will fall somewhere in the middle.

This process will require curriculum compacting--that is, eliminating previously learned content for the students who already know it.This will allow them to dig deeper or move on. Ricci advises "adding a thin layer of enrichment" for students who appear ready to move on just to be certain. That is, ask them to analyze or apply a concept to be sure they truly understand it.

She also recommends anchor activities (though not busy work--enrichment) for early finishers so that you are free to work with other groups. I have some ideas for implementing stations as anchors in the secondary classroom HERE.

Mindsets in the classroom is a hot topic in education right now, with the growth mindset rapidly growing in popularity. I participated in a blog hop with a few blogger friends to discuss this book for teachers, and this post gives you an overview of what the author, Mary Cay Ricci, discussed in Chapter 3. It's all about differentiation and provides for concrete ways to differentiate to help grow and support student mindsets.
Get It HERE

Use Formative Assessment

Check for understanding often. This can be in the form of oral or written questioning, exit tickets, observation, 3-2-1 (3 things I've learned, 2 things I have questions about, and 1 thing I want to learn more about).

Grades for formative assessment should only be for completion. Grading formative assessment for accuracy turns it into summative assessment and negates the point. Correct it. Hand it back. Go over it.

Download one of my free formative assessment exit tickets HERE.


Use Relevant Summative Assessment

In a truly differentiated classroom, each group will not have the same assessment because each group will be learning differently. The assessment should match the learning that has taken place and challenge students appropriately.

Summative assessment need not be a test. It can be a project or a product--just be sure to offer choices on these because you want to be sure to assess the content or skills they are learning and not something else (for example, you don't want to assess their art abilities when you are trying to assess their knowledge of WWII).

The Take-Away

So that's the gist of chapter 3--it's all about front-end differentiating, which begins by assessing students where they are from the moment they walk through the door. Here's a quick visual for lesson planning to build a classroom culture of success:

Mindsets in the classroom is a hot topic in education right now, with the growth mindset rapidly growing in popularity. I participated in a blog hop with a few blogger friends to discuss this book for teachers, and this post gives you an overview of what the author, Mary Cay Ricci, discussed in Chapter 3. It's all about differentiation and provides for concrete ways to differentiate to help grow and support student mindsets.

Check Out the Next Chapter
I am really learning a lot from this book. Hop on over to my friend Andrea's site, Musings of a History Gal to check out the next chapter--coming next Monday!

What do you think about the book? How do you try to build a mindset of success and achievement in your classroom? Let me know in the comments!