Google Earth Starter Kit for Teachers is our new 11-page guide to take you and your class on virtual field trips, starting today! We designed this guide for teachers wanting to find some quality examples of Google Earth trips, to create their own, or to give students new and engaging ways to share learning. If this sounds like you, sign up on the left-hand side of our page (we promise to never ever spam or share your info–you’ll just receive occasional email updates from us)! We also list the best of HGU printables and how-to’s on the confirmation page as an extra thank-you for joining our learning community!
Our new kit is packed with practical how-to tips, links to rich virtual field trips, and ways for students to harness Google Earth’s potential for discovery and sharing.
Leave the Classroom Behind with Google Earth
Landforms Virtual Field Trip (using subfolders of placemarks)
Amazon Rainforest Virtual Field Trip (using the tour-guided feature)
Ancient Civilizations (using outlines)
Make Your Virtual Field Trip Today
9 tips for making your own trip
Descriptions of the different tools to try in Google Earth
How to use simple codes for clean, neat description boxes
How to save & share your trip
Suggestions for Student Creations
10 fun ideas for student creations in Google Earth
Have you ever felt parent teacher conferences become a blur of shallow compliments and trite suggestions? Have you ever worried about the quality of students’ involvement? Do you want parents to gain more meaningful insight on how their children spend 7 hours a day, 5 days a week? Then consider shifting to student led conferences!
After a couple years of traditional parent teacher conferences, I began to doubt their value. Attendance was patchy, and the bulk of meetings that did take place often felt inconsequential. Given the vast expenditure of time and energy in preparations, conferences generally seemed to yield trivial returns–goals quickly forgotten, behavior largely unchanged, and work samples simply discarded. All that changed when my school introduced student-led conferences.
Note that this is geared toward upper-elementary. However, it can easily be adapted for younger and older students–our entire school adopted student-led conferences.
Stage #1: Introduce Student-Led Conferences to Students (Estimated time: 30 min)
Give a labeled folder to each student to keep conference materials organized.
Give students their report cards, progress reports, and/or other records that are to be shared during conferences. Let them know they need to be familiar with everything on it, so to ask for clarification as needed.
Stage #2: Make Goals (Estimated time: 45 min.)
Brainstorm as a class possible areas for improvement in math, reading, writing, and behavior.
Teach class about writing goals according to your school or grade level standards. Our team used SMART goals (s=specific, m=measurable, a=attainable, r=relevant, t=time-bound). I also like Kath Murdoch’s idea of 1-word goal-making.
Have them write 1 goal for each subject area on the brainstorming sheet and turn them in.
Give back to students to write their final goals after you have reviewed them.
Stage #3: Meet with each student (est. time: 5 min. per student)
Make sure their conference folder has all required items in order (I gave each student this list to organize their work. I also post it on the whiteboard, and have students sign up to meet with me once their folders are completely ready).
Double-check the finalized goals.
If your grading system has a “social skills” or behavior field, consider having the student self-grade with you. Have a discussion on what each grade means (ie, 4 means “I rarely need reminders or help in this area,” 3 means “I sometimes need reminders and I could work on this area,” etc.). Not only have I found that students are often harder on themselves than I am, but the increased ownership better prepares them for sometimes tough conversations with their parents.
Go over the “During Conference” checklist together. Discuss any questions on how to present each area.
Have students practice going over their checklist with a classmate (tell them they can leave out sensitive items like their report cards). Use a stopwatch to give them a realistic idea of the timeframe.
Make copies of student goals for teacher, parents, and student
Student and Parent Response
After each conference, I surveyed parents and students. Below is some of the feedback I frequently received.
Removing the frightening anticipation of grown-ups discussing unknown issues during conferences (avoiding situations such as the one on the right).
The opportunity to “show off” some of the things they were most proud of.
How professional they felt as they took the lead.
How knowledgeable students were about their own progress and responsibilities.
Students taking the lead with the teacher helping where needed.
How students explained their report cards themselves.
The pride and ownership students took in showing their work.
Pitfalls to Avoid
Time allocations: Make sure there’s plenty of time for parents to ask questions and have further, informative discussions as needed!
Inadequate student practice: Let students practice at least 2 times in class. This will help them with both confidence and purposeful time management.
Inadequate student organization: Use the conference folder items list to go through every item as an entire class one more time right before conferences start.
Hesitation to Jump In: One parent voiced concern that problems were sugar-coated, and that she could not speak freely because of the student’s presence. Let your students know beforehand that in order for conferences to be effective, everyone needs to be 100% on the same page, and that you will redirect the conversation if necessary.
Unengaging Parent Homework: At first, we assigned parents to write a letter to their children reflecting on their feelings about the conference. However, very few parents completed the assignment. We switched to emailing a Google Form survey for them to share feedback on conferences. Some of the questions we asked included:
What made you feel proud?
Do you feel your student’s goals match the areas in which he/she can improve? If not, what are additional areas in which you feel he/she can improve?
How can you help your student remember and succeed at his/her goals at home?
Veteran’s Day is observed on November 11 each year, the anniversary of the day World War I ended. Help your students to truly appreciate our veterans’ sacrifices by selecting one or more of the ideas listed here.
#1: Gallery Wall of Veteran Photos
On Veteran’s Day, ask your students to bring a photo of a veteran they know. It could be a parent, aunt, cousin, great-grandfather, or even a neighbor. Have students bring the following:
An 8×10 copy of their veteran’s photo
An index card with information that includes:
Student’s name & relationship to veteran
Term of service
Branch of service and rank
Country for which the veteran served
Any notable information about the service
Keep the photos posted in your halls for a few weeks–not only does this beautifully honor those who have served, but it also is perfect to renew the feelings of gratitude that we seek to magnify throughout the Thanksgiving season.
#2: Poppies & Poetry
Poppies are a classic, but not all your students may be aware of their significance. Choose a way to share “In Flanders Fields” with your students, whether you simply read the text and background, watch a video, or show a picture book. (Alternatively, share Cheryl Dyson’s poem for a piece suited for very young audiences). Then, ask students to find meaningful ways they can express their understanding and appreciation for this poem:
Have students write letters expressing gratitude to a soldier. Mail these to soldiers at your closest military base or visit websites like Operation Gratitude. Students could also share their pieces created in the above Poppies & Poetry activity.
This project was started by Congress in 2000, and is sponsored by AARP. The goal is to “collect, preserve, and make accessible the personal accounts of American war veterans so that future generations may hear directly from veterans and better understand the realities of war.” As a class, you could:
Register for the VHP RSS feed (and add to your class blog if you have one!)
Locate a veteran to interview (either a student’s family member or someone found in a local veterans service organization), then hold the interview in class if he or she can make it, or by phone.
While volunteer student interviewers must be 10th graders or older, younger students can participate in interviewing family members. Additionally, donations are welcome, so your class could alternatively hold a fundraiser for the project!
When you barely have time to suck down occasional gulps of air amid swells of paperwork, it’s understandable to lose some perspective. Unfortunately, this is a condition many teachers face when it comes to approaching formative versus summative assessments.
Opportunity for impact?
But how important is it, really, to keep track of such minute details on student progress? Well, Google defines formative as, “serving to form something, especially having a profound and lasting influence on a person’s development.” Black and Wiliam found “that innovations which include strengthening the practice of formative assessment produce significant, and often substantial, learning gains.” And we have discovered teacher-student relationships become elevated as students recognize just how invested teachers are in their daily progress–not just in what they produce at the end of units.
The nature of the beast
Formative assessments do not cast the intimidating shadow of their summative counterparts. They are so authentically woven into the day, it can feel almost spontaneous as you uncover quiet learning moments, pinpointing students’ true understanding. Meanwhile, summatives are not only highly concrete and measurable, but they’re also accompanied by pressure for results–pressure that may come from administrators, parents, politicians, and even sometimes teachers themselves.
Educator’s catch 22
And so, we run into the classic teacher dilemma: on the one hand, we know part of the value of formative assessments lies their authentic, unassuming quality; on the other, it is precisely that quality that makes it easy for them to slip under the radar. The key is to make a plan for a record-keeping strategy that works for you. This sounds easy enough, but it does take a little trial and error as you find one or more methods that feel comfortable and easily accessible in the flow of your classroom. Below are a few personal favorites, all of which have functioned well in various contexts.
This is the Mary Poppins carpet bag of education apps. No matter how full I’d pack in anecdotal notes for each student, it stayed organized and easy to navigate. It was also easy to share with parents during parent-teacher conferences. Some details I appreciated include:
The option to sort notes in practical ways, including by student names, groups, and feedback.
A design in that’s conducive to appropriate feedback with fields like “strength,” “teaching point,” and “next step”–great to remind teachers to look for what’s going well along with what needs work.
The ability to apply one note to multiple students simultaneously–and the fact that it saves a previously-used note so you don’t have to type out the same phrase again.
The color coded flags to remind you who currently needs some extra support.
Note: At first, some students were unsure about my typing on my phone during our discussions–they worried I was texting, or otherwise distracted. Be sure to introduce this method of note-taking to your whole class, telling them exactly how you are using your phone during your conferences.
2. Notecard Waterfalls
This one is a bit old-school, but I found it especially handy for reading groups. I would write each student’s name on one notecard, sort them into their groups, and then tape them into a waterfall on half a piece of laminated cardstock per group. (see photos below) I found this to be the perfect place to keep tallies for simplified running records and reading notes. After a student would read aloud, I would say something like this:
“Ok, I’m writing that you are rocking your punctuation expression. You paused appropriately at every comma and period! I’m also writing that we’re working on paying attention to the endings of words, since you left off -ing and -s a couple times as you read. Do you want me to add anything else for us to remember next time we work on reading together?”
This kind of feedback was quick and simple, but extremely effective as it kept us both on the same page. Another bonus: when a card would fill up, I could easily throw it in the student’s file and pop in another one.
3. Status of the Class
Status of the Class is the perfect tool to keep track of student-driven projects or independent work time. Simply call out each student’s name, and then jot down their selected task on a class list. This works well for long-term processes involving steps, stages, or centers with which the students are already familiar, such as the Writer’s Workshop, the scientific method, or math or literacy stations. Some advantages include:
Stay informed of where you can coach students in their individual processes.
Teach students metacognition as you require them to give a brief statement explaining both the what and the why of their choice. (I would periodically model how that would sound right before taking Status of the Class to remind them how to explain their choice. For example: “I’m working on illustrating because I want to better visualize how to describe my characters,” or “I’m going to read to myself because I just got to a cliff-hanger in my book.”
Keep track of students who seem to be stuck in one place.
Maintain accountability for students who may get off-task during independent learning time.
If appropriate, give on-the-spot feedback as you help students learn to spend independent time wisely (ie, “I see you’ve chosen that 3 times in a row here. How else could you spend your time to help you grow?”)
Tips: Use wet-erase marker to write on a laminated class list chart, such as the one pictured, and keep it posted in the room so students can also keep track of how they’ve been spending their time. Make a key for your abbreviations on the bottom.
What are some of your favorite methods for practical formative assessments?
Featured Image: Elli Pálma via Flickr Creative Commons
Whether you’re implementing a BYOD classroom, teaching students to develop PLN’s, or planning a Twitter debate in your class, these 5 tools may help you with some unexpected logistics.
The Importance of Keeping Up
Anyone involved with teaching today is familiar the swift and exponential nature of changes in 21st century education. This is true to the extent that even if you graduated with your teaching degree within the past few years, your pedagogical training probably did not leave you fully prepared. We hope that the following 5 resources will be valuable to you as you adapt to modern learning strategies.
If you are not already using Google Drive in your classroom, add it to your must-try-asap list! From elementary school on up, it enables effective digital collaboration. As an added bonus, it cuts down messy stacks of papers! Below, we’ve listed a few of our favorite time and sanity-saving tips to maximize your Google Drive usage in the classroom:
Teach students to use the “Comments” tool for peer editing and revising. That way, students can have actual conversations about the feedback they give one another without actually altering others’ work!
Self-grading function: If you are currently using or are interested in using Google Forms to quiz students (for free!), make sure you look up how to make it self-grading! (Check out one tutorial here!)
Revision history: Make sure that both you and your students are familiar with this tool in the “File” menu just in case one student accidentally alters or deletes another’s work.
Take Advantage of its share-ability: Long-gone are the days of needing to upload each student’s PowerPoint to a flash drive (see our article on Powerpoint alternatives), or even asking them to individually email you their digital project. Instead, have students create all projects that are compatible with Google Drive in one class Google account that you can easily access and manage.
Use Google Spreadsheets for a multi-purpose class roster: Keeping track of missing permission slips, student project groups, or anecdotal notes is a cinch with Google Spreadsheets. Google Drive’s app makes this especially appealing as you can whip out your phone or tablet to view your notes as you walk through the class!
#3: Digital Classroom Management Tips:
Establishing quality classroom management strategies is a critical skill for every educator. However, such techniques can quickly get complicated when BYOD is introduced–how do you manage a variety of phones, tablets, and laptops when such devices can already be distracting? Jennifer Carey, a director of educational technology, shared her top 5 tips for digital classroom management in an Edudemic article, from setting clear expectations, to recognizing that it’s OK to put the technology away at times!
Sure, Facebook, Twitter, and other social media may be a great place for exchanging selfies and cat videos, but what about when you come across legitimate information in social media that backs up your research?
Over the course of the past couple decades, we have moved from card catalogs, to library computer searches, to articles published online, and now on to social media! It can feel overwhelming to keep up with the most modern methods of research, especially when it comes to the various APA or MLA citation formats. Hopefully, this post will be a useful resource for you as you decide when and how to cite social media finds!
The TeachByte graphic below is an excellent general guide for both MLA and APA citations. However, as anyone who has done any research knows, certain instances can get more complicated than general guidelines. For instance, what if you want to cite an expert who sent you a personal communication, and it’s not publicly visible for audiences to click on? Or how do you know how to cite in-text vs. your bibliography reference list? The official APA blog answers these questions and more in greater detail using examples from their post in October!
As with all research, you will want to make sure there is plenty of variety among your sources. Just because it is now acceptable to cite social media does not mean it should consume most of your bibliography. Additionally, because of the unique nature of social media Tweets, posts, and videos in that they can go viral even if they are inaccurate, you will want to be particularly careful when considering whether to use one. The information literacy website, EasyBib, provides an excellent Infographic to help you in that decision-making process.
…It’s all about giving each individual the credit they deserve for their efforts and ideas! When in doubt, discuss your concerns with your teacher or professor!