Thursday, January 26, 2017

Old Game with a New Twist: Pictionary on an iPad?

I am always looking for ways to engage students through technology. I love using technology to combine an old concept with a new idea. Here is a twist on one of my favorite games while growing up, pictionary.

Remember Pictionary? 

If you remember the game pictionary, participants are broken into teams. Each team has a person who is tasked with drawing an assigned person, place, thing, or phrase. Each team has a certain amount of time to guess the answer.

A New Twist on an Old Game

Why not combine pictionary with an iPad to review important terminology or vocabulary? I love using screencasting Apps like Explain Everything, Educreations, and ScreenChomp to play. Have students draw their terms in small groups, teams, or to the entire class through Apple TV.  Set your iPad's timer to limit how much time they spend drawing and guessing the terms.


There are many ways that this game could be used in class. For example, students can do this as a review before a test, during the last five minutes of class, as a warm up activity, or as a filler. Use vocabulary from your lesson, word wall, or textbook.

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. Spice Up Your 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. Include memes as slides. Encourage students to use less wording and more images in your PowerPoints to support the concepts being taught.


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?