Sunday, January 22, 2017

6 Ways to Learn Through Memes

How often do you see memes on social media? It seems like they are everywhere, especially with our recent election in the United States. Our students use them in dozens of ways. Why not use them in the classroom?

How Can I Create a Meme? 

It doesn't matter which device you have because tools like Google Drawings, Meme Generator, or the Mematic App are great for creating meme. This makes it perfect for any classroom.

How Can I Use Memes? 

1. Define Vocabulary Terms

Although memes provide humor, they can also provide students with a great way of understanding a vocabulary term. Memes combine the power of picture, humor, and text to formulate understanding.

2.  Class Rules

Do you often feel as if your students aren't paying attention to your beginning of the year speech? Do your students need reminders on class procedures? A meme might be a great way to capture their attention. I love the Teacher Memes website because it contains awesome examples of using memes to communicate class rules, homework procedures, participation, paying attention, etc. You could easily re-use the memes on this site in a variety of ways.

3. Summarize Learning

Looking for a creative way to assess understanding? Why have students summarize what they have learned through a meme? It's a great way to utilize the last few minutes of class, which are often wasted.

4. Q and A

Have students form pairs. Have one person create a meme with a question relating to the day's content. Have the other student create a meme with the answer.

5. Self-Reflection

Self-reflection is an important aspect of learning. Why not use a meme to have students reflect on their understanding of content, their performance in class, or even their goals for the new semester?

6. Get Rid of Boring PowerPoints

When I was in the classroom, I would often use carefully designed PowerPoints with bulleted information. Over time, I have learned that my students are visual creatures.  Memes are excellent visuals to help students grasp concepts.


Maybe you are skeptical about how to use memes in the classroom. It may be helpful to get student input. In my experience, students are extremely creative and helpful. Why use in the classroom?

Do you have creative ways to use memes in the classroom? I'd love to hear your ideas. 

Monday, January 16, 2017

Differentiate with a Click: Google Classroom's New Feature

Google Classroom just unleashed a new feature to change the way that you give assignments. You can now create individual assignments with a few clicks. This feature is extremely helpful for differentiating instruction, assigning work to small groups, sharing announcements with specific groups, or facilitating small group discussion. The following post will address how it works.

How does it work? 

Step 1: Create Your Post

When you are in Google Classroom, you can use the individual assignment feature for creating assignments, questions,  or announcements.

Step 2: Click on All Students

Once you create your assignment, announcement or question, you will see a box in the top-right corner of your screen called "All Students." Select this box and you will notice a listing of all of the students in your class.

Step 3: Select Individual Students and Post

Once you have selected the "All Students" button, you will see a listing of all of the students in your Google Classroom. Uncheck the "All Students" button to unselect all students. Go through your list and check which students will have access to the assignment, announcement, or question. When you are finished, post your assignment.


We know that all students learn differently; however, there are sometimes limitations on the tools that we can use to address student needs. The individual assignment tool is a great feature to help meet the needs of all students where they are at.

Monday, January 9, 2017

8 Strategies to Give Better Student Feedback

How do you give students feedback? The type and how quickly we give feedback can make all of the difference. Here are eight ways of giving feedback that can be helpful:

# 1 - Commenting Tools

Although this is obvious, many of use forget to use the commenting features of Word, Google Docs, and Pages. This can be extremely helpful when grading online assignments. I also like using different color text and highlighting tools to point out specifics.

# 2 - Enhance Your Comments

Who says that comments just have to be in the form of text? It may be helpful to attach a helpful link to a tutorial, webpage, or a video clip to explain the concept further. There are tons of great video tutorials from Khan Academy and YouTube.

# 3 - Screencasts

Have you ever thought about giving students verbal and visual feedback through a screencast? It may be helpful to develop a quick 30 - 60 second screencast with feedback. Tools like Screencast-o-Matic allow you to create screencasts of your students documents, annotate the document, and upload to a private link or channel.

# 4 - Frequently Used Feedback (FUF)

Have you ever given an assignment and received the same questions over and over from students? To make the process more efficient, I would often add 2 -3 frequently asked questions (FAQ's) and answers ready for students to look up on their own.

It may be a good idea to do the same with feedback. Have you thought of developing 3 - 5 canned responses that address common student mistakes? For example, perhaps students do not know the order of operation. You could provide a brief clip from Khan Academy explaining the process. This will make it easy for you to copy and paste responses.

#  5 - S.I.P. 

How do you tend to give feedback? Students need specific feedback in order to learn and grow. It may be helpful to design feedback in a way that follows the acronym S.I.P.

  • Specific - what specifically needs to be improved? For example, if a student started a sentence with the word "And," you may want to share why starting with a conjunction is not a good idea.
  • Improvement - what specifically can the student do to improve their mistake? 
  • Positive - what was something positive that the student did? Students are sometimes more willing to listen to feedback if they hear the "good." 

# 6 - Where Your Student's Post Makes All of the Difference?

Do you have your students turn in assignments online? Tools like Google Classroom will allow you to annotate and handwrite feedback on student documents from your mobile device.

When searching for a tool to turn in assignments, you may want to have this feature.

# 7 - Rubrics

It may be helpful to either paste a rubric in your student's document. I would often use the highlighting tools in Microsoft Word or Google Docs to identify their score.

As we advance in our grading practices, it may be helpful to use a tool like Orange Slice or Goobric to provide students with specific feedback on their performance.

# 8 - Opportunity to Improve? 

Do you provide your students with an opportunity to improve or correct their mistakes? What is the point of feedback, if you cannot correct it? It may be a good idea to have students correct their mistakes and turn in an assignment. I would often give my students one chance to re-submit the assignment and then average the two scores together.


Feedback is an important component of helping students grow and learn. When students enter the workforce, they will need to learn how to embrace feedback. Why not give them the opportunity to learn from their mistakes from the safe confines of the classroom?

Thursday, December 29, 2016

7 Tools to Make Classroom Management Easier

Classroom management is an important aspect of teaching. Here are some of my favorite tools for managing your classroom:

Too Much Noise! 

1. Noise Down iOS App

Noise isn't such a bad thing, but how can you keep your students at a manageable noise level? An excellent FREE tool is called the Noise Down App for iOS. This simple to use App helps you manage the noise in your classroom and even your home. 

Use Noise Down to measure the current noise level in decibels and set your maximum decibel limit. As soon as someone goes over the limit, an alarm sounds. Students (and your own kids) now cannot say that they were not being too loud!
Documenting Student Behavior 

2. Bouncy Balls

Don't have an iOS device? No worries! Bouncy Balls is a free web-based tool to measure the noise levels in your room. The site uses your microphone on your computer to measure noise levels. Students can visually see how "noisy" it is through bouncy balls, emojis, and even bubbles.  

Documenting and Communicating Student Behavior

3. Class Dojo

Keeping kids on task can sometimes be a difficult thing to do. Class Dojo offers a unique way of keeping track of the individual performance and behavior of students in your class. You can instantly record data on your phone, laptop, computer, or iPad. Class Dojo also offers you tools to communicate with parents. 

4. QR Codes + Google Forms

Are your students too old for Class Dojo? You may want to consider using a Google Form paired with a QR code. This is a helpful way to document behaviors as they occur!

Here is a helpful video to show you how: 

A Few More Ideas! 


There are many other tools that you can use to manage your classroom, here are a few extras below. 

5. Remind to communicate upcoming events and announcements to students and parents through a mass text. No need to share your cell phone either! 

6. Google Classroom is an excellent tool to post and collect student assignments. I also like how it automatically posts assignments (and due dates) to a class Google Calendar. NOTE: You can only use this if you are a Google Apps for Education School. A good alternative may be Edmodo or Schoology

7. If you don't have a tool to make seating charts or you want your seating chart to actually look like your classroom layout, you may want to consider using a tool like Google Drawings. This tools lets you easily import student pictures and draw your seating chart to match your classroom layout. 

What are some of your favorite classroom management tools? I would love to hear! 

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

11 Creative Ways to Use #HyperDocs in Your Classroom

Are you just using Google Docs as a substitute for a worksheet? Why not use the full capabilities of Google Docs by creating a HyperDoc?

If you are not familiar with the term, HyperDoc, it essentially means "an interactive Google Doc that guides students through innovative and inquiry-based learning lessons using directions, graphic organizers, links, and possible collaboration. The learning can be made to be self directed, and students can work at their own pace" (Google Training Center, 2016).

Let's take a look at 9 creative ways to use HyperDocs in your Classroom:

1.  Websites and Articles

Obviously this is the most obvious to link to. Google Docs provides your students with access to resources that a typical paper worksheet can not. Why waste your time making copies of articles for students to read, when they can access the via a link? If you students need a paper copy, they can always print them out. 

2. YouTube Playlists

Yes you can link to YouTube videos, but have you ever considered creating and linking to a playlist? This provides students with options on which pre-selected videos they should watch. 

For example, if your students have a homework assignment, you could create and upload a video with instructions and other supporting videos. Not sure how to create one? Here is a link:

3. Documents and Folders

How many times have you shared a document with someone only to have them "lose" it? By providing a hyperlink to the document that you shared, you avoid wasting time for the person to "find" the shared document. This is perfect if you have a number of resources that you need to share with others. 

4. Make an Audio Copy of Articles

How often do you provide students with a one-size-fits-all approach to reading text? Everyone has students who finish assignments early. Why not have that student record their voice narrating the article you will assign in the future? Use tools like Audacity, GarageBand, VoiceRecordPro, etc. to record and upload an MP3 file to Google Drive. Share the link from Google Drive. 

5. Graphic Organizers

Have you used Google Drawings? If not, maybe you should. In a previous blog post, I had described how you can create your own graphic organizers with Google Drawings. Why not create a set of graphic organizers and have students to choose the most appropriate tool.  

6. Quizzes

Have you thought about adding a formative assessment into your Hyperdoc? Why not use the Quiz Feature in Google Forms to create a self-grading quiz to test your student's knowledge?

7. Google Maps Street View

If you are studying about another part of the world, why not use the Street View in Google Maps to provide students with an opportunity to "see" the location you are discussing? 

Another added benefit is the Historical Imagery feature of Google Maps. This feature allows you to see how an area has changed over time. I love sharing with students how the site of the World Trade Center has changed since 2007. 

8. Google Maps Photosphere

You may even want to consider linking to a Photosphere or 360 view of a site. For example, if you are talking about the Great Wall of China, why not take your students to it through a link

9. Table of Contents

Do you have a major project that students need to complete? Why not use the Table of Contents feature in Google Docs to hyperlink to various parts of your document? This could be helpful in making sure that students go in a sequential order. It also provides numerous scaffolds and supports to meet the needs of all students in your classroom. 

10. FAQ's

In any assignment, I often think of 3 - 5 Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ's) that my students will have. I hyperlink materials, answers to questions, video tutorials, etc. to serve as scaffolds and supports for students.  This helps students to find the answers they need if I am not available. 

11. Custom Search Engine

Are you tired of your students constantly using Wikipedia? You can create your own Google Custom Search engine (powered by Google of course) to determine which sites students can use and cannot use. 


There are infinite ways to use Hyperdocs. All you have to do is think creatively. Do you have experience with Hyperdocs? I would love to hear about how you use them. 

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Google Drawings + Google Sheets = Badging System!

Badging systems seem to be a popular trend in today's schools. Whether you are using badges with students or staff, there are many benefits, such as providing:

  • A sense of autonomy 
  • Feedback
  • Visual representation of progress
I am currently experimenting with this idea. I have a student tech crew (aka SWAT team) that I work with on a monthly basis. I wanted to provide their teachers with accurate information on competencies they have achieved and technical knowledge that they have gained.  Here is my first stab at a badging system!

Step 1: Use Google Drawings to Design Badges

I designed my badges using Google Drawings. If you have not had the opportunity to use this valuable tool, you may want to check it out! It is more than just drawing pictures.

Step 2: Publish Your Drawing

You will need to publish you Google Drawing to the web for the next part. How do you do this? Simply visit the File menu and select Publish to the Web. Click Publish and make sure that you copy the URL because you will need to published address for the next part. 

Step 3: Create a Google Sheet to Display Your Badges

How do you display your badges? It is very simple! Check out my brief tutorial to lead you through the process:


Badging systems are quite effective in helping students or staff address competencies. If you are considering a badging system, why not try out Google? Do you have other ideas for badging systems? I would love to hear! 

Monday, December 12, 2016

4 Strategies for Using Video More Effectively

Video is an effective medium many of us are use to enhance instruction; however, have you thought about how to use this tool more effectively?

1 - Where You Post Makes All of the Difference

Where you post your videos makes all of the difference for learners who are hearing impaired, English Language Learners (ELL), or need to see written text. YouTube is an excellent place to house your videos because of its Automatic Closed-Captioning features. Click the Closed-Captioning button and there is nothing else to do.

2 - Embed Notes with Your Videos with VideoNot.es

There are several different web applications that you can use to embed notes with your videos. One of my favorites is called VideoNot.es because it links with your Google account.

How does it work?

  • To create your first video,  paste a video link into VideoNot.es and load your video.
  • Add notes to your presentation in the side margin. Each note will contain a bookmark with the exact time it occurs in the video. If viewers click on your note, they will be directed to the exact spot in your video. This is perfect for step-by-step instructions.
  • When you are finished, save your video. It will automatically save to your Google Drive and you can share it with your students. 
How does it work? 

NOTE: Students will need to open up your video using the VideoNot.es Chrome App. 

3 - Don't Repeat, Just Rewind

Are you tired of repeating yourself over and over? Why not use a tool like Screencastomatic, Screencastify, or another screencasting program to record your beginning of class, end of class, or homework instructions?

If a student didn't hear you, walked in late, or was absent, just have the student play the instructions. This will save you valuable time and frustration!

4 - Scaffold Instructions with a YouTube Playlist

One of the main reasons why students fail to complete assignments is that they don't completely understand the content. Why not create a YouTube playlist containing a brief tutorial of the assignment and other helpful videos to help with the assignment?

I often think of 2 - 3 Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ's) or topics that will prevent my students from understanding or completing the assignments. I provide solutions in the form of videos on my YouTube playlist.


Hopefully this is a great reminder that video is a powerful tool and even more powerful if used in strategic ways. Do you have other video ideas? I'd love to hear about them!