Monthly Archives: November 2014

19 Ways to use blogs with students

The website entitled 19 Ways to Use Blogs With Students showed up on one of my RSS feeds and since we had talked about it previously and people were wanting to blog but not knowing how they might incorporate blogging, I liked the idea of a few suggestions:

*For teaching digital citizenship     *Homework        *Class recaps    *Weekly check-in/reflection         *Conversation continuation     * Online diary of learning    *Creating character/historical figure blogs *Timelines or chronological coverage    *Current events   *Research for Interdisciplinary projects     *  In response to reading    *Fanfiction     *In response to word problems in math    *Mathography     *Lab write-ups in science     *Field guide for science classes     *Language Labs    *Play Lists      *Art Portfolios


Google Drive, Sites, and Classroom, oh my!

By Alissa Hansen

On using Google Drive, Classroom, and Sites

I agree with Angela; Google has made a daunting task a little less daunting. Grading has become easier, feedback is more readily available (and cannot be crumpled up and thrown away…well, at least not in the same way), and students have a hard time making the excuse, “ I lost my homework.” Thank you Google! I too suffered from going through about 150 student folders (using gclass folders) in search of assignments, and if students didn’t have the assignment properly labeled, I was in for a wild ride that lasted much too long…ugh! And let’s face it, work was still not put into the correct folder, despite constant reminding. But, enough with all that, Google offers some great tools that are impacting the way we teach, and the way students learn.

Here is how I use the many tools of Google:

Google Drive-

  • Google Forms is an amazing tool that I use often for both formative and summative assessments. Anytime that I need data, and quick, I can utilize Forms. You can create multiple choice and/or matching Forms and Flubaroo (a FREE add on) can grade them for you! You can also email students their grades directly from the Form. Forms nicely package the data in the summary of responses, which is an incredible tool to use to go over test results with students. Here they can see the percentages of answers that were incorrect and correct, and from the entire class so we all know exactly what content has been covered well, and what needs to be retaught. It’s a great tool to use to inform instruction as well as metacognition for students.
  • Google Calendar is a nice way to help students plan ahead, and since students do not have planners, this is something that I know my students look at often. I have the calendar embedded on my Google Site. You can attach assignments to each calendar event, but if you use Classroom or Drive and students have access to the documents already, there isn’t any real need to do so.
  • Kaizena is a handy free add on that allows you to leave voice comments on documents. I have yet to try it out on an assignment, but plan on leaving voice comments through Kaizena for the personal narrative assignment my English I students are working on right now. I cannot wait! I did a trial run this summer, but I am curious if students would be more willing to listen to me talk them through their work rather than read my comments. Hmmmm, it is less work for them to listen. I may try this out and then do a Google Form survey to get student feedback on how they prefer feedback.
  • I still like to use my Google Drive Edit Folder every once in a while, but have completely stopped using the Assignment and View Folder as it’s all in Classroom. Just recently, I was speaking with another teacher about a skill we saw needed some drastic improvement: writing topic sentences. She decided to have her students go over each topic sentence together; I thought this was a great idea. I decided to make a document in the Edit Folder, set up a table, and have students write their topic sentence anonymously by using a hashtag, and we went through every student’s topic sentence and discuss what worked well, what needed improvement, and made suggestions. It went very well and was a great workshop not only on topic sentence writing, but collaboration. I will say the paragraphs turned in after this activity were the best I have seen thus far.

Google Classroom-

  • I was luck term 4 of last year and was able to get Chromebooks during the early roll out for my English classes. It was a game changer in every sense of the word. I started off by using the gclass folder system so students would have their own Assignment Folder, a View and Edit folder. It actually worked very well and the upperclassmen that I had took to the system very quickly. This year, however, I have freshmen, which is a whole other beast. I started out the year making 150 gclass folders for my students. YES! 150!!! And let’s just say, it goes/went/is still going… downhill from there. The View folder is a great concept because students know to go to this folder to view documents, but if you want them to work on that document, then they have to go to File → Make a Copy→ and then rename that copy and move it into their assignment folder. In other words, too many steps for young minds and too many avenues for work to get lost in translation. YUCK!!! Needless to say, like Angela, once Classroom came into view in September, I was eager to get it started. Now, however, I am still running into the same problem because students have not fully transitioned over to Classroom from Drive, and I still have to remind them to go to Classroom. Regardless, it functions so seamlessly. You can set up the assignment for students (make sure that you give all of the students a copy if you want them to work on it), the program names the document and attaches their name to it as you did so you do not have to search for documents that are titled 100 different ways, and it organizes the work for you: Done and Not Done. It’s easy and you can grade, leave feedback (I recommend suggestion mode for internal comments, and commenting for overall comments), and send messages to students. It makes the grading process very interactive and students have no choice but to look at your comment, even if they choose not to go into the document to see the blood, sweat, and tears left by their teacher. It’s just a really good tool that keeps assignments very organized for students and the teacher. Students KNOW when they did not turn something in and are reminded of it often. In fact, every time they log into Classroom if an assignment is late, it shows up red with an exclamation point. Students can submit work when they are completed and when they submit work, they cannot go back to edit it until the teacher returns the form or they unsubmit. This also lends itself to revision, a very important part of the writing process.

Google Sites-

  • I know many teachers who have given up their sites because of Google Classroom, but I am pretty attached to my site and put a lot of time into it daily. I have pages for every class, a class calendar, syllabi, and a daily agenda and announcements page. I use my website every day. I pull up the calendar at the start of every week so students know what is coming and to remind them to look ahead themselves, and I move to the agenda page where I have the objectives and essential questions listed for each day and our agenda. I walk through what we will do before we jump into the day’s content. I also practice the art of hyperlinking here, since this is a mainstay of online writing. My site is also host to student work, where I highlight some of the finest specimens from each unit.

So, I think so far so good with the transition. As with anything new, there are always bumps in the road but I am really loving the organization of Google Classroom. Students seem to like the tool as well, in fact, when we were still using Google Drive Folders in early September students asked: Why aren’t we using Google Classroom? I had to think about that one and this is when I decided that a change was in order…especially after going through all of those pesky Assignment Folders a billion times searching aimlessly for assignments that were not titled properly. Those days are over! Thanks again Google for being this teacher’s shoulder to cry on.

Fishbowl Discussions Using Padlet

On Friday Honors English 2 students held a fishbowl discussion over The Great Gatsby.  Students were given 8 Final Discussion Questions at the end of class Thursday to go home and respond/freewrite to in preparation for the following day’s discussion.  When students came into class they were greeted by 10 desks in a small circle in the center of the room with the remainder of the desks in a larger circle around.  Students who were in the center circle were the first discussion leaders while the students on the outside took notes on interesting comments/thoughts that this group discussed, or they noted new ideas of their own branching off of a comment that was made by someone in the  inner circle.

The Rules:

Students in the inner circle had to speak at least three times (I was keeping track on a sheet).  They could not speak more than six times because we wanted to make sure that everyone had the opportunity to share.

The outer circle students had to make comments/notes via Padlet at least three times as well, but I found that most students commented at least twice per question for a total of 8 comments.


Once the inner circle discussed the first four questions, students swapped roles.  The outer circle came in to discuss while the inner moved to the outside to listen, reflect, and respond.


Teacher-led Discussions (this is not a posed picture–students were oblivious to my camera):

Student-led Discussions:

Inner Circle Looking For Textual Evidence

Inner Circle Looking For Textual Evidence

Student Discussion

Student Discussion

Discussion Notes and Comments/Questions from Outside Circle:  

Outside Circle Comments

Outside Circle Comments

More Padlet-Outside Circle

More Padlet-Outside Circle

What scenario looks more engaging?  Easy, right?  

The Results:  

What I saw in my classroom was great.  Instead of having the same students dominate discussions (no matter how hard I try to call on everyone, it never fails that there are still some students who just can’t be shut down), with the Fishbowl discussion I had everyone speaking and focused.  It can be very difficult for students to pay attention during a 90 minute block, but this activity helped greatly, and as a class we were able to project the Padlet screen and see what other students were saying outside of the inner circle which then brought new ideas and further discussion.  I most definitely plan on doing this again; basically, this is what I call The Shared Inquiry Method (who remembers doing that training back in the day?).  Now, if I had this when I taught Freshman Honors when we did a Shared Inquiry story four times a semester, this would have made life so much easier!  It used to be so challenging to keep track of students speaking, and I hated looking over the recordings of others–Padlet made this a piece of cake today!   -Angela

Student-Created Videos

The topic of creating videos has been discussed in our group. Last week we parted ways encouraging each other to experiment with video-making sites that are accessible to students. For myself, I want students to create short videos showcasing their understanding of a character or major theme from the novel. In the past, I used Animoto; however, it ended up being a 3-4 day project for a video that is only 45 seconds in length. The amount of time used in the classroom just didn’t justify the end product, BUT students enjoyed the activity and loved presenting their videos.

I just recently discovered Magisto–it creates short videos for a user by simply uploading a minimum of 5 photos. I tried this out, and in 20 minutes, I almost like what I put together. We are currently reading The Great Gatsby, so I decided to use the character of Daisy. I wanted to show how smart she is, but she ultimately is stuck, so I end up hating her because of her later decisions/actions. Here is what I produced in my really short time:  http://

Please share your own ideas! -Angela