9 Weeks of Google Classroom

Google_Classroom_Logo

As I sit here at my desk on my last Saturday of fall break, I’m excited to start anew with my integration of Google Classroom. This August, I finally gained access to the G-Suite through my district. Looking back at the past nine weeks, I know that I can do a better job of blending my classroom. There were some hurdles that I encountered which definitely stunted the start of my school year. Here are some of the obstacles I will need to overcome in the coming weeks:

  • Lack of computers everyday. I do not have a class set of computers and I am limited when checking out a laptop cart from our library (two days a week if they are not already checked out).
  • Adding students is restricted. Whenever I get a new student in my class (either new to the school or switched to my class) I need to email our district contact to have the student’s Google account activated. At the the beginning of the year, this process lasted multiple days and didn’t allow new students to jump right in to some of the classwork online.
  • Myself. Due to some of the setbacks I have been reluctant to go all-in. With the lack of computers, I’ve been relying on the “traditional” method of classroom work (lots of copies). My goal is (mostly) paperless. I will have to trust my students to get access (on their phones and at home) when they have assignments due online.

There have been many, many positives in the first quarter of the year. Some highlights:

  • Collaboration is amazing. Having a group of students work on the same document and hearing them discuss the assignment and delegating the work has been amazing. It gives each student ownership of the assignment and helps them focus on their specific role.
  • Feedback and communication has been improved. I’ve had some great conversations with students about the assignments when they send me a message after viewing my feedback.
  • It is so easy to add supplemental materials to the class page. My favorite so far has been creating a gallery using Google Arts & Culture (Anglo-Saxon Gallery) and having students comment on their favorite piece. I also showed them in class how to take a virtual tour of the British Museum.
  • Google Forms has been an amazing resource. I use it for study hall checkout (students fill out a form and let me know where they are going for tutoring) and I’ve used it for giving quizzes.

Overall, the positives have outweighed the negatives and I’m excited for another quarter of using Google Classroom. I’m excited for the new Classwork page as well and I’m hoping that my assignments will be better organized going forward.

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Storytelling with Minion Comics

With the new Minions movie opening today, there has been a surge of Minion everything the last few months. Titan Comics has created Minion comics to give the Minion fan more stories of mischief and silliness. The comics have been a hit with my four year old son as the pages have minimal text (most with no text at all) and an art style that depicts the Minions in a new way. Here is a sample:

Minions Comics

The real value of the comic is that it inspires storytelling from my son, and it could for any emerging reader. When we first started looking at these comics, I just needed to help with sequencing by pointing to a panel and asking “what is happening here?” and my son would give me his version of the story. My son had to depend on the facial expression to try and piece together a story (plus it led to some discussions on emotions as well). Soon, my son had the sequence of a comic page down and he was weaving his own Minion stories based on the visuals. At times he would create a story with so much detail, in regards to what he thought the Minion was thinking, that it left me amazed. Best of all, he will grab his comic on his own (when it’s not reading time) and just sit and look at the visuals and come up to me and tell me a Minion story. It’s a step in the right direction in creating a lifelong reader.

These comics are great for teaching the basic sequence of a comic and allowing a pre-reader to create their own stories. Most of the stories are contained to a single page in the comic, which gives the reader many different stories within one comic book. The Minions comics have been a great addition to our summer reading list.

School is in Session

School resumed yesterday, and it will take some time to get used to the schedule of the daily grind. Summer was too kind to me.

I was able to accomplish one of my goals yesterday: incorporating technology on day one.

padlet logo

 

For class introductions, I had the students post to a Padlet wall and describe themselves using only six words. The students were a bit surprised when I asked them to take their cell phones out and put them on their desks. Padlet worked great, and the students were able to add to the wall quite easily from the mobile site. Now that I have introduced Padlet to my students, I plan on using it as a bell work activity in the future. I even had some adept students figure out how to post pictures, which they used to accompany their introductions.

I posted the link to each class’ Padlet on the respective class group in Edmodo. This allowed students to check out the introductions when they got home. It will be interesting to see if students will use the same six words to describe themselves at the end of the school year.

Online Presence for the School Year

I’ve been struggling with selecting a mode of delivery for my online content for my class. Last year, I went back and forth using  Google Sites and Edmodo. Each method had its pros and cons, but trying to maintain a PLE through Google Sites and a LMS through Edmodo got to be too much. I liked the flexibility of Google Sites, but I think I need a more streamlined approach this school year.

Edmodo Logo

Edmodo is ready to go from the start and all I really need to do is add students and upload content. Students referred to Edmodo last year as Facebook for school, which I liked since that meant that students would be able to use and navigate the site with ease. I participated in a webinar a couple of days ago (Training the Trainers), and these are the best aspects of Edmodo that were discussed and how I think they would fit into my classroom:

  • Groups: While I would have my large, main groups for each of my classes, I can create smaller groups within the larger ones. This will work out great for differentiating instruction with some of my lower skilled students. I can give an assignment to the whole class, and then give additional help (such as a graphic organizer) to only those students in the small group. This feature can also be useful for group projects. I would be able to communicate and provide feedback to each individual group.
  • Snapshot: Snapshot is a way to give your students a quick assessment based on the Common Core Standards. The teacher selects the standards they want to assess and Edmodo creates a series of questions and reading prompts to check the students’ level of mastery. This would be a great feature to utilize when starting a new unit (as a pre-test) or when data is required to support your lesson (as my teacher evaluation requires). Also, the data for each student is saved, and the teacher can see the growth that each student has accomplished throughout the year.
  • Mobile App: Students can download the Edmodo app for almost all devices. This ensures students will get a notification on their phone when I post an alert. Students will have constant access to assignments and the calendar. Continue reading “Online Presence for the School Year”

Marvel Comics Unlimited

Marvel-Comics

For a limited time, Marvel Comics Unlimited is offering one month of their digital comics service for 99 cents (Use code SDCC14 at checkout). Once the month is up, the monthly price goes up to $9.99. The digital comics service is great for the classroom as it gives access to thousands of comics which can be integrated into instruction. Looking to draw allusions to Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde? A few choice panels from the Incredible Hulk series would illustrate the point with a familiar character. Mythology is easier to introduce to students when you look at Norse mythology and discuss Odin and Thor before delving into some more complex myths. Marvel Comics Unlimited offers so many comics and provides a wealth of opportunities to incorporate these characters and their stories in the classroom. For 99 cents, it’s a great opportunity to check out the service and evaluate its usefulness for your classroom.

More information: http://www.wired.com/2014/07/marvel-comics-unlimited/

First Donors Choose Project

Donors Choose Project1

My first ever Donors Choose project was officially posted yesterday. The project is the first step I’m taking in creating a classroom library of graphic novels for my students. You can check out the full details of the project here. I want to thank all those that have taken the time to view to the project and those that have already donated.

UPDATE: My project was fully funded! I was not expecting that so soon. A huge thank you to all that helped fund the project. My students will be grateful.

 

Getting Organized

Before
Before

The summer is quickly winding down, but I was able to accomplish one huge task before I head back to school. In the hopes of having a better library of comics at my disposal, I finally organized the great mess that was my comic collection. Over the past year, I have been regularly collecting, but I wasn’t keeping up with reading them all as I worked on my master’s degree. Thus, I had a lot of comics randomly stuffed in my comic boxes.

I used the site Comic Book Database to keep a digital record of my comics. The site is easy to use and provides a multitude of reports to keep track of your collection and wishlist. As I add issues to my collection, the site will automatically organize it alphabetically. I can also save a digital copy of my collection (in Excel format) and have a handy reference of my collection.

After
After

In regards to the classroom, this helps me know what comics I have available when I think of a way to incorporate my comics in class. Not all are suitable for the classroom, but at least I now know exactly what I have in my collection. Now I just need to catch up on reading all of them.