Interactive Student Notebooks are not just for lower grades. They are extremely beneficial for high school students if we implement them mindfully. They are valuable organizational tools and provide tangible visual learning opportunities. Click through for frequently asked questions and answers about using ISNs in the high school classroom.

Most high school teachers have strong opinions about Interactive Student Notebooks (ISNs). They either love them or hate them. They see the benefit of using them or they see them as too juvenile and a time drain.

Students are the same. When first trying to implement them a few years ago, I heard the common complaint from students, "Why can't we just get a three-ring binder and a three-way hole punch? It would be so much faster."

I'm going to answer that question for you, as well as a series of other frequently asked questions that I get about ISNs in high school. But if you have no idea what ISNs are, you might want to start with this video, and then come back to this post. I promise, ISNs are worth at least considering.

Q: Why are you still doing paper ISNs when your school is 1:1? Isn't that a waste of paper and time?

A: I implement Blended ISNs mindfully. This means that I take the best of both formats and merge them. Research has shown the benefits of interacting with physical materials and the positive effects of writing, coloring, and doodling on memory. In digital format, many of these benefits are lost--especially in note-taking. My friend and colleague, Math Giraffe, has written an excellent blog post about these benefits and the problems with going completely paperless.

Q: How do students stay organized going back and forth between digital and paper? That sounds confusing.

A: It's not confusing if we plan upfront and implement it mindfully. I use a table of contents for each unit to keep everyone on the same digital and traditional page. I divide it into three columns, "Paper, Concepts, and Digital." I organize my digital platform (i.e. Google Classroom, Blackboard, etc.) by unit, so all students have to do is click on the appropriate unit to find the digital resources they need. Here is an example of one of my blended table of contents (always the first page of every unit in my ISNs):
Interactive Student Notebooks are not just for lower grades. They are extremely beneficial for high school students if we implement them mindfully. They are valuable organizational tools and provide tangible visual learning opportunities. Click through for frequently asked questions and answers about using ISNs in the high school classroom.
Be sure to download my free Blended Interactive Notebook Handbook here.

Q: Why do you waste time cutting and gluing when it's so much faster to use a three-ring binder and a three-way hole punch?

Interactive Student Notebooks are not just for lower grades. They are extremely beneficial for high school students if we implement them mindfully. They are valuable organizational tools and provide tangible visual learning opportunities. Click through for frequently asked questions and answers about using ISNs in the high school classroom.A: I've tried it both ways, and the cutting and gluing works best, especially for students who struggle with organization. Here are reasons why:
1. They can't take the papers out, so they don't lose them.
2. It's nice to be able to say, "Turn to unit 3, page 5," and everybody has the same thing there. Papers have a tendency to move around or become lost in a three-ring binder.
3. Students take ownership of these--they become their creation. They have built it. In building it, they are more likely to be aware of contents and more familiar with the material.

Read on to find out how I avoid making the cutting and gluing a waste of time.

Q: When do you give the handouts to the students? 

A: I give students most of the handouts on the day we begin the unit. I have a table in my classroom where I place handouts, and students pick them up when they enter. My desks are set up in groups of four, and each group has a box containing scissors and glue. Here is how I set up my classroom and free desk labels.

Q: Do students have an empty notebook where they glue all the handouts? 

A: I tell students to purchase a large 100 to 200 page spiral notebook. By large, I mean 8.5 x 10 or 11. They can go smaller, but then they have to trim pages. I keep all of this from wasting time by teaching them how to put it all together at the beginning of the semester. Then, any day we begin a unit, I set a timer for 15 minutes because I have found they will take all the time I give them and if I don't give them a time-limit, they will drag it out. So all of the class time I give them to set up each unit is 15 minutes. Here is a great timer to use. 

At the start of a unit, the first thing I have students do is to look at the table of contents (always on page 1) of each unit. They go ahead and number each page in their notebooks right away to "hold" pages for handouts they may be getting another day (such as more complicated foldables we will put together as a class--I use these sparingly and, again, mindfully).

Q: Aren't ISNs more for elementary and middle school?

A: The ones that are made for elementary and middle-schoolers are. A high school ISN will have coloring and foldables, too (though mine aren't heavy on foldables--I use ISNs more as an organizational tool), but the content is geared for high school. 

We are trying to help our students' learn, and the research says that visual note-taking, doodling, and coloring help them to process the information better. Here is a video (again, from my friend Math Giraffe) that explains this phenomenon. 

These are a couple of examples I implement instead of traditional worksheets or digital content to help students visualize and better understand concepts:
Interactive Student Notebooks are not just for lower grades. They are extremely beneficial for high school students if we implement them mindfully. They are valuable organizational tools and provide tangible visual learning opportunities. Click through for frequently asked questions and answers about using ISNs in the high school classroom.
Preview this resource HERE.

Interactive Student Notebooks are not just for lower grades. They are extremely beneficial for high school students if we implement them mindfully. They are valuable organizational tools and provide tangible visual learning opportunities. Click through for frequently asked questions and answers about using ISNs in the high school classroom.
Preview this resource HERE.
Q: Do students glue the bellringers in their notebooks? How do you check their bellringers and other work? 

A: I think routine and consistency are important, so I have students glue bellringers into page 4 of each unit in their ISN. I walk around the room during the bellringer and initial pages (homework or classwork) for on-time completion. At the end of every unit, on test day, I take up their ISNs and grade the unit using a rubric (students glue it onto p. 2 of each unit). This is tedious at first, but it becomes very fast once you get used to it. I haven't taken a box of these notebooks home in years. The grading and feedback of the ISN are important because it ensures students keep up with them.

Q: Do students turn-in any work at all to you or does everything go in the notebooks?


A: Most things go in the ISN, but projects, exit tickets, and digital assignments are turned in directly to me. As I said, I initial assignments for completion when they are due to keep students on track, but I grade everything on test day using the rubric, which is glued into their notebooks. Here is a sample rubric:
Interactive Student Notebooks are not just for lower grades. They are extremely beneficial for high school students if we implement them mindfully. They are valuable organizational tools and provide tangible visual learning opportunities. Click through for frequently asked questions and answers about using ISNs in the high school classroom.

Do you use interactive notebooks in high school? If so, how do you implement them? If not, what are your reasons? Leave a comment and let me know!

And if you're looking to dig deeper into blending and ISNs, check out my course here.


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QR Codes may seem like old news to many teachers. But there are so many more ways to use them than just linking to websites. Teachers can embed text and images within QR Codes to create a more interactive classroom. Click through to discover 10 creative ideas for using QR Codes in the classroom. Don't forget to download the Cheat Sheet and the editable templates!

These days QR Codes are old news, and in 1:1 classrooms, they may seem redundant. Why not just share the link digitally with students?

But there are so many ways to use QR Codes in the classroom besides linking to websites that can really spice up your lessons and make learning more interactive. You can hide questions and answer keys within QR Codes. You can also hide pictures and further information on a given topic.

Below I'm going to give you ten suggestions for using QR Codes to make your lessons more interactive. I'm also going to give you a free template for making a fun scavenger hunt with QR Codes. But first, I want to show you a super easy way to create them using Google Sheets and a free add-on.

Make QR Codes in Five Free and Easy Steps

Step 1: Open a Google Sheet.
Step 2: Get the free QR Code Generator add-on.
Step 3: Type what you want hidden in the QR Code into a cell.
Step 4: Highlight that cell and open the QR Code Generator.
Step 5: Select the format you want the QR Code in (a doc, an image, etc...).

QR Codes may seem like old news to many teachers. But there are so many more ways to use them than just linking to websites. Teachers can embed text and images within QR Codes to create a more interactive classroom. Click through to discover 10 creative ideas for using QR Codes in the classroom. Don't forget to download the Cheat Sheet and the editable templates!

QR Codes may seem like old news to many teachers. But there are so many more ways to use them than just linking to websites. Teachers can embed text and images within QR Codes to create a more interactive classroom. Click through to discover 10 creative ideas for using QR Codes in the classroom. Don't forget to download the Cheat Sheet and the editable templates!

And now for some fun things you can do with your new powers....

10 Ways to Use QR Codes to Build An Interactive Classroom

1. Round-Robin Discussion Starters

After delivering a lesson, place students in groups of four. Give each group an envelope containing four QR Codes. Instruct each student to randomly draw a QR Code, scan the code, and take two minutes to jot down their responses to the question or prompt that the QR Code obscured. They don't
QR Codes may seem like old news to many teachers. But there are so many more ways to use them than just linking to websites. Teachers can embed text and images within QR Codes to create a more interactive classroom. Click through to discover 10 creative ideas for using QR Codes in the classroom. Don't forget to download the Cheat Sheet and the editable templates!
This Item Is A Part of My Active Learning Pack
talk during this part. When their time is up, give them 10 minutes to have a round-robin discussion, each student focusing on their prompt or question.

Tips: 
  • Type the instructions and glue them to each envelope. 
  • Write first in the cell of one of the QR Codes when you generate it to ensure the students don't waste time deciding who starts the conversation and instruct them to go clockwise from there.
  • Use the timer and traffic lights on classroomscreen.com to keep everything moving. Here's a tutorial for using classroom screen.
2. Activity Cubes

Hide activities inside QR Codes, and glue them to the sides of dice. 
    QR Codes may seem like old news to many teachers. But there are so many more ways to use them than just linking to websites. Teachers can embed text and images within QR Codes to create a more interactive classroom. Click through to discover 10 creative ideas for using QR Codes in the classroom. Don't forget to download the Cheat Sheet and the editable templates!
  • Place students in groups and have each group roll the dice to decide what they will do.
  • Place a different cube in four corners of your room, each for different learning styles. Place an activity obscured by a QR Code on each side of the cube that has to do with that learning style. Instruct students to go to the corner of the room that represents how they feel they learn best, and roll the die to see what they need to do. For example, in the kinesthetic corner, the cube could have (1) act out the story/event and record it, (2) mime your vocabulary and record it (3) make a model of a scene/event (4) create a card sort with people/characters/places/vocabulary (5) make a map of a book/place (6) mimic the poses of portraits/photographs/literary descriptions, and take pictures.
  • Use the above as station activities for various topics.
  • Roll a reward--when students are rewarded, have them roll the die and scan the QR Code to see what they won (homework pass, restroom pass, sit where you want for a day, free quiz answer, extra points on an assignment, extra xp [if you gamify], candy)....
Tip:
  • Order foam dice from Amazon. Don't worry about getting blank ones (they are more expensive), as you will be covering them up.
3. Answer Keys for Self-Guided Work

For station or group work, embed the answer key or suggested answers in a QR Code on the handout. As students finish, instruct them to check themselves and reflect on why they missed the questions they did.

Tips:
  • If your students are prone to changing their answers so they don't have to reflect, instruct them to write in pen.
  • If your students will scan the QR Codes and simply copy the answers, put the answer keys on separate cards that they will not get until they show you their completed work, or have them check their phones and devices until a certain amount of time has elapsed. If you are circulating the room, you'll have a good idea of who is actually working.
4. Project Exemplars

Whenever a student hands in an excellent project, take a clear, well-lighted picture of it. Save the pictures on a secret board on pinterest. Right click the image, select "copy image address," and paste it into a cell in Google Sheets to generate a QR Code. Include a QR Code of relevant project examples on project handouts.

Tip:
  • If your school blocks pinterest, load the images to a Google Site and grab the links from the published site, or use this method on Dropbox:
QR Codes may seem like old news to many teachers. But there are so many more ways to use them than just linking to websites. Teachers can embed text and images within QR Codes to create a more interactive classroom. Click through to discover 10 creative ideas for using QR Codes in the classroom. Don't forget to download the Cheat Sheet and the editable templates!
Download The Cheat Sheet HERE.

5. Make Interactive Bulletin Boards and Posters

Add QR Codes to your posters and bulletin boards to direct students to films, images, music, or readings about the topic.

6. Virtual Tours and Gallery Walks

Set up a virtual tour or gallery walk inside your classroom using QR Codes. For example, each corner of your room could be dedicated to a specific country. You could post QR Codes that lead to Google Maps, pictures, music, and other relevant information from that place.

7. Jigsaw Learning and Review

Jig-Saw Reading is a tried and true method for covering a lot of information in a brief amount of time. Type page numbers into a Google Sheet and generate the QR Codes on a doc. Cut up the doc, and give each student or group a QR Code. They scan the code to find out what their part is.

Likewise each student or group could get a QR Code that leads them to a video or a reading over a specific topic (say a particular unit for end of term review) that they then will present to the class.

8. Pick Your Own Path

QR Codes may seem like old news to many teachers. But there are so many more ways to use them than just linking to websites. Teachers can embed text and images within QR Codes to create a more interactive classroom. Click through to discover 10 creative ideas for using QR Codes in the classroom. Don't forget to download the Cheat Sheet and the editable templates!This is like Choose Your Own Adventure and it requires more effort on the teacher's part if you come up with a different scenario for each potential choice."Make choice 1 and scan this QR Code. Make choice 2 and scan this QR Code."

But how about having students create their own using your guidance? I'll use history as an example, but you could do this with character choices in novels or short stories, too.
  • Pick a historical example, and think of a series of choices that led to a certain point. Think of one counter choice for each decision. For example, "Henry VIII has a choice. The pope has refused his request for an annulment of his marriage with Catherine of Aragon."
  • The two choices could be (1) obey the pope and stay with Catherine OR (2) leave the Church and divorce Catherine.
  • Place a QR Code beneath each choice with pros and cons of each decision. Instruct students to select one of the choices, scan the QR Code to read the pros and cons, and construct their own scenario of what happened based on that decision.
  • Have students share their scenarios with the class and compare their scenarios to what actually happened.
Tips:
  • If you use this to introduce a topic, after students present, give a presentation or show a short film about what actually happened. Give students a Venn Diagram to compare their scenario to the actual event.
  • This can also be used to review a topic. It's interesting here, because students who paid attention generally (though not always) select what really happened. This is a good opportunity for students who missed something to clarify and review.
  • Save student scenarios to create one big Pick Your Own Path review for exams, embedding student scenarios in the QR Code for each choice.
9. The Take-Away

This is a spin on the exit ticket. At the end of class, post three QR Codes near the door, or project them on your screen. Post one for "I Got It!", one for "I Kind of Got It", and another for "What Did We Just Learn?"

"I Got It" could lead to a fun Gif. "I Kind of Got It" could lead to a form where they can explain their confusion. "What Did We Just Learn?" could lead to a summary of the lesson.

QR Codes may seem like old news to many teachers. But there are so many more ways to use them than just linking to websites. Teachers can embed text and images within QR Codes to create a more interactive classroom. Click through to discover 10 creative ideas for using QR Codes in the classroom. Don't forget to download the Cheat Sheet and the editable templates!
Grab This Editable Template.
10. The Trusty Scavenger Hunt

I've blogged about this one before, but that was in terms of using it for a lengthy exam review. I also like to use these for review over shorter topics. It's way more fun for the students that a worksheet.

I type a series of questions into a Google Sheet (being sure to number them), generate a doc with the questions as QR Codes, cut them up, and hide them around the school or my classroom. Students scan the code, and answer the questions on the numbered answer grid I provide. 

I have a template for this. I like it because I type the questions into the template, copy and paste them into the spreadsheet, generate the QR Codes as images, and then insert them into the next page of the template. Then I have two options for implementing the hunt--with or without QR Codes.

You can grab the simple, editable template here for use in your classroom.

Do you use QR Codes in your classroom? How do you use them? Leave a comment and let me know!

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There is a lot of pressure on teachers -- pressure we put on ourselves and pressure from outside sources. Moreover, there is a lot of pressure to be perfect. But, perfection isn't always attainable in the classroom! Click through to read this blog post about why it's healthier for teachers to start focusing more on being good teachers and less on being perfect teachers.

There's something about me that you may not know--I am an extremely high strung introvert.

I often come across as laid back, but that's only if you don't know me. If you walk into my classroom on a given day, I am calm and smiling, and my desk looks like Einstein's (that would be fine if I had his brains, but sadly, I'm just a major slob).

So when I have a day like today, I go home feeling off. I second guess myself. My mind spins thinking of ways I could have done better.

Here was my day:

I overslept and rushed out the door practically dragging my son behind me. We pulled into his school drive up line exactly one minute late, but I dropped him off anyway as the very kind teacher supervising waved me on.

I got to work, wanting to sit at my desk, drink my coffee, check my email, and not talk to ANYONE. Instead, I was pulled in five hundred different directions from the word "go." A student needed this, a parent needed that, and I realized with a sickening pit in my stomach that I had forgotten about one of a thousand administrative deadlines.

Okay, all I wanted was to be left alone, but my lessons were actually ready to go. That's something. We were starting my favorite time period in world history with my most favorite lesson ever. Yes, I had to be completely "on" for that lesson. No, I didn't feel like being "on." But I'm 18 years in. I've faked it hundreds of times. I chose this career. I love it. I know it can be downright painful for introverts at times, but I was ready to go.

Then the bell rang.

After first period, I stood in the hallway staring blankly at my work best friend. Things seemed to be going well for her, and all I could do was ask, "Is there a full moon?"

"Nope," she said. "That was earlier this month."

It just got worse as the day progressed. 

My favorite lesson was falling flat. My students were off task and completely distracted (dare I say rude?). They were so uninterested that I was taking it personally.

On my planning period, I started searching frantically for ways to change up my lesson. The students obviously didn't care. I needed to do better.

We have the internet now. We have Teachers Pay Teachers. I was sure I could find something that would connect with them.

But in the middle of my frantic search, a long known yet too often forgotten teacher truth occurred to me:

I have tasks I need to do (and the list is a mile long). I have already planned. If the students aren't responding, maybe, just maybe, it's not my fault.

There is a lot of pressure on teachers -- pressure we put on ourselves and pressure from outside sources. Moreover, there is a lot of pressure to be perfect. But, perfection isn't always attainable in the classroom! Click through to read this blog post about why it's healthier for teachers to start focusing more on being good teachers and less on being perfect teachers.One of my colleagues once told me, "Kids change every four years or so. Beware of anyone who has never been in the classroom or who hasn't been in the classroom in four years bearing advice."

And, oh my, they have changed so much in four short years. We are competing with social media and notions that students are consumers who should be constantly entertained. 

I love to entertain, but sometimes, it's necessary just to suck it up and work (I had to do that today). Boredom is not the end of the world (contrary to popular belief).

Teaching, like motherhood, has been placed on a pedestal where it does not belong. I think this is damaging for both the students and for us as teachers.

Don't get me wrong--when I stop working to make my classroom engaging, I will retire. But every day can't be a song and dance. And teachers, don't believe anyone who tells you that it needs to be. We need to look after ourselves and help our students develop the character that comes from not always expecting to be entertained.

Politicians have told us otherwise and so has the general public who believes that teachers are lazy and uncaring (after all, we do get summers off, don't we? [cue the collective teacher howls of laughter]).

Many of us feel high strung, I think, because we have been put under the microscope by administrators who are compelled to do so by policy makers. We feel like we can't mess up, like we can't have a bad day, and in some cases, like we can't call our students out for behavior that will ultimately be detrimental to their futures.

Don't get me wrong--we should do our best to teach our students. We should constantly learn and develop our professional knowledge. I even love gamifying my classroom (it's so much FUN and it builds community--that doesn't mean YOU have to do it, though). 

But in the words of the media specialist at my school, "Calm down. We're not curing cancer here." 

Truer words were never said.

We need to remember the joy of the job. We need to give ourselves permission to try and fail. And fail I did today.

But I think that's okay. What do you think?

Solving The Late Work Problem
"A student slaves from dusk till dawn, but a teacher's work is never done."

Okay, I made that one up, but it sounds good...right? Our society counts "busy" as a virtue. And teachers are busy. So working in a classroom must put us all up front for those shiny halos.

We teachers work hard, and it seems like we are never finished. There are engaging lessons to plan, constant administrative tasks to complete, hundreds of parents to call and email, avalanches of papers to grade...and just when we finish and feel like we can finally breathe for a minute, we are bombarded with it.

It generally comes on a pleasant evening when we are feeling particularly accomplished. It always comes after we have updated our grade books. We are usually enjoying a movie or a quiet dinner with our family when the push notifications begin emanating from our digital devices.

We glance at the notifications and begin to feel overwhelmed all over again. Students are posting late assignments with accompanying comments, such as, "Oops, I forgot to hit turn in," or "I was really busy, and I forgot to do this."

And because we want to be "noble," we are taken in. We allow ourselves to fall behind yet again by adding late work to tomorrow's to-do list, which is already a mile long.

In the past, I (like many teachers) have taken it upon myself to add late work to my already lengthy list for four reasons:

1. I want my students to succeed. Life happens to everyone. We all get overwhelmed and forget. We all have to make cost/benefit choices with our time. We all have unexpected emergencies. A zero can make a big difference in the grade book, and we want to give our students a second chance.

2. I want my students to learn the content and develop the skills I am trying to teach them with that particular assignment. We all really want this as teachers. So it's hard for us to say, "Oh, well, that zero's sticking around," when we really want for them to learn the material the assignment teaches.

3. I don't want my students to give up. A string of zeros can make it difficult to bring a grade up to passing. Students will not develop a growth mindset if there is not a chance they can pass. They will simply stop trying. This is when disillusionment and behavior problems set in.

4. I want the parents on my side. If we don't have parental support, our job becomes infinitely harder. Parents want the best for their children, and they need to see that we have the best in mind for them, as well. None of us wants to be the rigid task-master who will not give a child a second chance.

So it always seemed to me that late work was a necessary evil--one more unending task to add to our unending list. Isn't being "noble" being "busy"?

Then a new teacher came to work at my school.
Solving The Late Work Problem
She was young. She had graduated from that high school the same year I first came to teach there. She had this policy that I thought would never work for me. But then, one year, I became so frustrated with never being caught up and never having a clear picture of where the students stood, that I decided to give her method a try.

It's very simple, and it has improved my classroom management and instruction, and above all, my quality of life. Are you ready for it? Here it is:

I don't take late work.

That's it. It's not more complicated than that. I don't take late work.

It's liberating, it's in my syllabus, and I don't explain it any further.

Of course, an IEP or 504 will ALWAYS trump my classroom policies--I would never ignore those.

But here is how my policy works:

-I don't take late work.
-Every week, students have the opportunity to take a bonus quiz over the content we learned the previous week. They can earn five bonus points to boost their grade. I put the topics we will be covering each week on our class calendar so that they know what to study (in case they weren't paying attention in class).

This simple policy works because it satisfies all four reasons I took late work in the first place:

1. I want my students to succeed. Part of being successful is being responsible. Responsibility entails following through on obligations, including meeting deadlines and accepting the outcome of not doing so.

2. I want my students to learn the content and develop the skills I am trying to teach them with that particular assignment. The bonus quiz encourages them to do just that. You have to make the quiz and grade the quiz, but you're not constantly backtracking. Class is moving forward (and so is your life).

3. I don't want my students to give up. Again, enter the bonus quiz. They are learning content and adding points to their grade. The zero doesn't go away, but the extra points help mitigate it. Consequences and growth in one neat package.

4. I want the parents on my side. The zeros that don't go away are enough to remind parents how many times their student has neglected assignments. We are all busy--any one of us could forget that the 85 on that assignment was once a "missing." But that zero is a constant reminder. This can contribute to a decrease in missing assignments. And again, the bonus quiz gives their student a chance to atone--every parent wants that for their child.

This simple policy for handling late work was brought to me by a wise, young teacher. She told me about it a few years before I decided to try it--I couldn't get past my four reasons for taking late work. I thought I was being noble for having an unending to do list.

It turns out, I don't have to work as hard as I thought. The system doesn't implode.

What are your policies on late work? Leave a comment, and let me know!

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Technology in the classroom can be a huge help -- and sometimes it can be a burden. To enhance learning and really help students comprehend, this blog post shares 10 simple tech tools that will get the job done. Click through to read about all of the tech tools!

Technology can be an amazing tool in the classroom. But I think we need to be mindful when implementing it. Standards and content should always come first. If technology offers us a way to better teach the content, then we should use it. If it doesn’t, then we should leave it. We should be careful not to discount face-to-face discussion and paper-based activities--students need those, too.


Technology in the classroom can be a huge help -- and sometimes it can be a burden. To enhance learning and really help students comprehend, this blog post shares 10 simple tech tools that will get the job done. Click through to read about all of the tech tools!
That said, I’ve compiled a list of simple tech tools that can truly enrich your students’ learning and take it to a level that's difficult to reach without technology.

Here are 10 Simple Tech Tools to Take Learning to The Next Level



1. Open a PDF or Image File as a Doc to Extract The Text
Sometimes you have an old worksheet or a reading that you want to digitize. It’s simple to scan it to a PDF or snap a picture of it to upload for your students. They can use an app like DocHub to type, draw, or highlight directly onto the PDF.


But the text is flattened on a PDF. Sometimes you and your students need access to the text. When you have access to the text, you can use apps to read the text aloud to students or to translate the text for ELL students. You can’t use these apps with image or PDF Files. Google Drive can extract the text for you.


Simply take a clear picture or screen snipping of the text you need and upload it to your Drive. You can also upload a PDF to your Drive. In Drive, right click the image or PDF, and select “open with Docs.” The image or PDF will open as a Google Doc with the image at the top and the text extracted.


The image is shown at the top of the Doc. The text that can be manipulated is extracted beneath.
2. Use the Google Read&Write Extension to Help Struggling Readers
The Read&Write Chrome Extension is a powerful tool to help your students improve their literacy skills. It can be used with any text that is not flattened (see tip 1 for extracting text that is an image or PDF). Read&Write has many capabilities, including highlighting, text to speech, reading focus guide, vocabulary lists, picture dictionary, translate into French or Spanish, and speech input. It also has screenshot reader capabilities in the premium version. Here is a useful PDF explaining what each tool within Read&Write can do.


This is the focus guide feature. It really helps my students with processing difficulties read on a screen.
3. Use the Talk and Comment Extension to Give Your Students Verbal Feedback
There is little more frustrating than spending hours grading student essays and leaving productive feedback only to have students ignore it. With the Talk and Comment Extension, you can record your voice to give students audio feedback as you read their papers. I've found that they are generally more likely to listen to comments than to read them. Here is a helpful PDF for getting started.


4. Use Google Forms for Behavior Reflection
Early in my career, I read the book Teaching with Love and Logic, and it has had a major impact on my teaching philosophy through the years. One incredibly useful takeaway that I have implemented from it is a behavior reflection form (mine is free here).


When I had a large classroom, I created a corner for quiet reflection. If I sent a student back there, they had to fill out a sheet reflecting on their behavior. These days, my classroom is too small for that, so I have students fill out a reflection in Google Forms instead. Each time a student fills out the form, I have a digital copy that I can send to a spreadsheet. For minor offences, I like to keep it between me and the student the first time. If it recurs, I email their responses to their parents, letting them know that there will be progressive consequences if it happens again.


You can post a QR code to the form in your classroom, share the link through email to the infringing student, or post the link in a section of Google Classroom or whatever platform you use. Here is a copy of my form that you can use and modify.


5. Use Google Keep to Import Drawings into Docs and Slides
I have many students who are artistically gifted, and I love to give them a chance to shine with projects and activities. Digitizing their drawings is easy with Google Keep integration into Docs and Slides. Students draw their images in Keep, open a Doc, and click the Keep icon on the right hand side. They find their images, and drag them into the Doc.


Make your drawing in Keep (try not to be jealous of my abilities--we can't all be artists).

6. Use Google Arts and Culture App for Historical and Creative Writing
The Google Arts and Culture App is a useful tool for social studies, ELA, and, well, art. It has multiple categories, virtual tours, and 360 video. But the coolest part is the selfie feature. Students take a selfie and load it to the app. The app searches artwork to find one that looks most like the student.


Have students research that artwork and write an essay or creative story about it. Here are detailed instructions for implementing this feature. Be sure it will work for you and your students prior to class time.


7. Use The Explore Feature in Docs, Sheets, and Slides for Research
The Explore Feature is already in Docs, Slides, and Sheets, but many people do not know about it. Students can right click on a word in their Doc, select “explore,” and research on the subject appears in the right of the screen. If students select a quote to use, Explore automatically generates a footnote for them. Click the three dots to select the citation format. In Google Sheets, the Explore Feature will format results and generate graphs. In Slides, it helps with the layout. Here are detailed instructions for Using Explore in all three apps.



8. Encourage Student Creation with WeVideo
I teach heavy content classes, and it’s difficult to genuinely teach all of the standards. But I think it’s important to make time for students to create--it’s more meaningful than their just consuming the information and it helps to build skills they will need for the 21st century workforce. The more creative the assignment, the better. For example, instead of having students make a slideshow about Napoleon, have them create an ad for joining Napoleon’s army.


A free tool for making and editing videos with Chrome is WeVideo. Here are the basics your students will need to know to work with WeVideo. They can create documentaries, advertisements, music videos, skits, and so much more to share with the class. An added bonus is that they can share their videos in WeVideo, so there’s no need to use YouTube if your school has it blocked.


9. Use Symbaloo for Student Choice and to Create a Differentiated Workflow
Symbaloo enables you to organize web content into tiles on topical boards to share with students. It can be used to jigsaw topics, create a differentiated workflow, and personalize learning.


Create a free symbaloo account and create your first board, for example, “The Enlightenment.”


Technology in the classroom can be a huge help -- and sometimes it can be a burden. To enhance learning and really help students comprehend, this blog post shares 10 simple tech tools that will get the job done. Click through to read about all of the tech tools!To jigsaw the topic, link to a different website, say about various Enlightenment thinkers. Have one per tile. Assign each student or group a different thinker. Have them follow the link and research the person. They can take notes on butcher paper to create a gallery walk for the rest of the students to take notes about.


To differentiate workflow, color-code the tiles. There could be a Blue Flow, a Green Flow, and an Orange Flow. Each flow contains leveled work over the same topics. For example, if the Blue tiles are for the higher level students (not that you would tell them this), the initial reading will be more challenging than the initial reading for the Green and Orange tiles. The next tile in each may link to an activity (force a copy link to a Doc) that is slightly different for each group. The third tile may lead to a different extension activity for each level, and the fourth may lead to some sort of formative assessment.



You can also use symbaloo to personalize learning. Create a choice board with various colored tiles. Each tile of the same color links to an activity that asks students to do a similar activity using different modalities. Have them choose one activity to complete for each color.


All blue tiles, for example, could ask students to learn content. They can choose how they will learn it. One blue tile might link to a reading. Another might link to a video, and still another might link to a virtual tour.

All green tiles, for example, might link to an activity. They might all ask students to analyze a primary source over a similar topic, but the genre for each source might be different. One tile might link to a letter, another might link to images, and still another might link to audio. Students select one to complete.


All orange tiles can link to a creative extension. One might be text-based, one might be art-based, and one might be video-based. Again, students have a choice.


Make all yellow tiles different types of formative assessment that students can choose among--a quiz, a quickwrite, a storyboard….


Don’t forget to create a red tile, for example, that links to a spreadsheet, form, or Google Classroom assignment box where students can turn everything in. I would have a different “turn in” tile for each class I teach.


The Sybaloo Blog offers tutorials and ideas for getting started.




10. Use Forms and AutoMastery to Re-mediate and Enrich
I’ve written about this before, but it is too amazing a tool not to mention again. AutoMastery is a free Google Forms add-on that enables you to effortlessly re-mediate or enrich after teaching information.


Create a Google Forms Quiz containing key concepts you want your students to retain from a lesson. Click the add-on, and select an emerging (perhaps below 70) and a mastery level (perhaps above 85). The intermediate level will be the scores in between.


Insert a link to a different activity for each level in the appropriate box. Activities can include reteaching and extension, depending on score. The appropriate assignment will be emailed to each student based on their score, so don’t forget to set the Forms quiz to collect their emails.



Here is a detailed blog and video for using AutoMastery with Forms.

If we use technology with intention and not just for its own sake, it can save us time and transform student learning in a way that was far more difficult to implement in the past.

What technology tool has taken learning to a new level in your classroom? Share your favorite tools in the comments below!


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