5 Ways to Make Writing Accessible in Google Docs

Writing is an important component of all schools, yet it often creates barriers for students based on ability and disability. Google Docs is an awesome tool to increase student success in the writing process. Here are five ways to make writing more accessible in the classroom:

1. Google Voice Typing

Google Docs has a great feature called Voice Typing.  When you are in the Google Chrome Browser, open up a Google Doc, choose the Tools Menu, and select Voice Typing. Students can use this free speech-to-text tool to record their thoughts. 

2. Table of Contents Feature

How can you use Google to provide students with the scaffolds and supports they need? Why not turn to the table of contents feature in Google Docs to answer FAQ's or Frequently Asked Questions. Students will be able to click on a hyperlinked text, which will direct them to the resources they need to answer their questions. 

Want to see it done? Check it out!

3. Outline View

The outline view is a great feature to help anyone navigate your document. It provides you with a panel (in the left-margin of your screen) listing all of the headings appearing in your document. Click on any heading in this panel and you will automatically be hyperlinked to that section in your document. This is a great way to navigate long documents. Only text in the Heading format will appear in your room. How can you turn this feature on? Visit the Tools menu and select Document Outline.

4. Research Tools

Where do most students go to do research? Google. Instead of leaving the document, you can visit the Tools Menu and select Research. Say for instance, you want to look up information about Milton Hershey. If you highlight the word in your document and use the Research tool, you will have a panel appear on the right-side of your screen with your research results. Find a picture, article, website, and even quotes. This feature allows you to hyperlink content directly into your document OR cite your resources as a footnote.  

5. Add-Ons

Google Docs, Sheets, and Forms come with default features. Add-ons provide enhanced capabilities within these three Google Apps. Some of my favorite Add-Ons for Docs are:

  • Easy Bib Add-On - this tool helps students cite resources and create a bibliography with the click of a mouse. Simply paste the URL of a website, article title, or book's ISBN number. Google will search through the database to find your correct article. With a click of a mouse, you can add this to your list of resources and create a bibliography in any format.
  • Orange Slice Rubric Add-On - I love Orange Slice as a way to generate rubrics for grading. I love that students have the ability to assess their performance through self-grading.  

November is Clicks for a Cause Month!

Addison Jacobs was born on 1/13/15, one month prematurely with unknown underlying medical issues. At nine months old, she was diagnosed with Shwachman-Diamond syndrome (SDS), a rare autosomal recessive disorder characterized by exocrine pancreatic insufficiency, bone marrow dysfunction, leukemia predisposition, and skeletal abnormalities. Addison requires a lot of care with all of her complex medical issues. All of her medical necessities trips to Philly for her care and time off work creates an enormous financial strain for her family.  
During the month of November, I need your help to make a difference for Addison and her family! Here is how!

  • Visit and share blog posts - I will be personally donating 1 cent to her family’s medical fund for every blog visit for the entire month of November.

  • Make a donation - for the price of coffee or lunch, make a donation to Addison’s fund via credit card, debit card, check, or cash. Sign up to make a donation using this Google Form. I will send you an invoice via PayPal. At the end of the month, I will make a donation directly to the family.

Clicks for a Cause has been helping children in need since 2013! For more information, check out my Clicks for a Cause Page!

HOW You Use Video Makes ALL of the Difference

Do you have students watch videos for class? Are you flipping your classroom? I love using the power of video, but have you ever thought about the potential barriers students might face when watching videos?

Here are a few things to think about:

  • How would a student with hearing difficulties listen to your video? 
  • How will non-visual learners access information? 
  • How will students without Internet access or devices access your videos outside of school? 
If we don't think about these things, we create unintentional learning barriers for our students. Here are a few tips for utilizing an important medium like video, while still providing access to all learners:

1. Where you post makes all of the difference. Are you using YouTube to post your videos? If not, you may want to consider using this powerful tool. Why? The automatic Closed-Captioning feature provides access to students with hearing difficulties or who need to see the words.

2. If you cannot use YouTube, have you considered putting together an outline with key ideas or a transcript of what was said? 

3. How will students access your videos if they do not have Internet access? In the technology era, it is often a requirement that students have access to the Internet; however, many families still cannot afford devices or access. 
  • It may be helpful to help students come up with a gameplan on where they can go if an assignment requires a device and Internet access, such as computer labs, public libraries, or a friend's house.  Even if students have access to WiFi, what happens if it goes out? I would recommend having a backup plan in place for ALL students!
  • Students may have a device, but no access to Internet. In this case, are you able to put your video on a flash drive that the student can borrow? 
  • Is there a way for students to borrow devices? Do you have access to old iPods, cell phones, or laptops that students could use for the night?  

It is important to think about these high-probability barriers before they happen so that you have a gameplan in place for students to spend more time on learning.

Are You Still Playing "Not-It"? Why Not Chwazi?

I am always looking for unique classroom management tools that take a new spin on old practices. Having trouble deciding who will share their analysis of an article? Trying to decide who will present your group's findings to the class? Whatever the dilemma,  Chwazi  makes random group selection fun.

This iOS and Android App is known as the "finger chooser" and is very simple to use.  There are two different features

  •  Fingers  is a very helpful feature to randomly select one person. Choose the number of people that will be selected (from 1 to 4), place one of your fingers on the screen, and the randomly selected finger(s) will be highlighted on the screen. 

  • Groups is a helpful feature for creating random groups. Choose the number of groups and people within the group, everyone places their fingers on the screen, and random groups will appear highlighted in different colors the screen.


Chwazi can be an excellent tool for any classroom and any grade level, where small group work and collaboration takes place. It keeps everyone accountable and randomly selects students. Instead of playing "not it," why not try Chwazi? 

7 Reasons Why You Need to Use PBS Election Central

We are less than a month away from the Presidential Election in the United States. Regardless of who you are or are not voting for, there are many great tools to help our students understand the entire process. PBS Election Central is an excellent resource to understand the entire election process, providing engaging resources to foster learning and debate.

Here are seven reasons why you should be using this awesome tool!

1. Election Collection

The Election Collection is a comprehensive set of resources describing why we have elections, how democracy works, and the foundations of the US Government.

2. The Election Process

Have you ever wondered how Presidents get elected or how the election process works?  The Election Process provides a set of PBS Learning Media videos and resources describing the process in user-friendly language and terms.

3. Understand the Presidential Debates

How do Presidential Debates work? Check out the Understanding Presidential Debates section for lesson plans, videos, and other resources to help students understand the importance of debates.

There is even another section that contains a Debate Toolkit, where you can facilitate your own classroom debates.  This is a powerful way for students to learn the power of civil and meaningful student-led discussion.

4. We The Voters Films

PBS partnered with We The Voters to create a series of short-films, handouts, and lesson plans to provide a non-partisan understanding of the election process, debates, democracy and government for students in grades 8 - 12.

5. The Electoral Decoder

The Electoral Decoder will take you inside every single Presidential Election and help you understand the Electoral College and its impact on the Presidency. This is an excellent analysis tool that highlights an often overlooked component of the US Electoral process.

Not sure how the process works? There is a helpful set of resources that explain the process.

6. Interactive Map

The Interactive Map provides you with information about each of the candidates, when and where they are campaigning, information about the event, information about the state they are campaigning in, and interactive resources. Follow each candidate from now until November!

The Virtual Field Trips section gives your students an opportunity to see important places related to the Presidency like Monticello, Mount Vernon, The US Capitol Building, and the Congressional Record.

More Than News! The New York Times Learning Network

Finding useful resources to engage students is one of the biggest challenges many educators face. The New York Times Learning Network could provide teachers with valuable lesson plan resources, student activities, relevant articles, stimulating current events, and much more!

Student Activities:

The New York Times Learning Network is filled with student resources, such as articles, writing prompts, multimedia, and contests. There are several different types of materials for students to use in the learning process, such as the Article of the Day and Teenagers in the News. The Writing Prompts section provides students with numerous options for starting the writing process, such as student opinions and picture prompts! One of the best ways to get students writing is to provide them with real-world audiences. The Contest section contains a calendar of opportunities for students to compete in writing contests and more!

Lesson Plans:

Need lesson plan ideas? The New York Times Learning Network combines the power of news / current events and lesson plans in Language Arts, Social Studies, Math, Science, ELL and the Arts, and Current Events. The NYT Learning Network designs lesson plans and provides ideas, activities, and resources to tie together current events with your subject area!

Why is Engagement Important? 

Engagement is not only the fuel necessary for learning to occur, but it is also one of the most sensitive elements in the learning process. Brain research is crystal clear in how educators can foster higher levels of engagement in their classrooms. First, we need to recruit student interest and find relevant topics, resources, and tools for learning. Secondly, we need to provide strategies, tools, and routines to help students sustain their effort and increase persistence. Finally, we need to help our students develop necessary self-regulation strategies such as developing coping strategies and reflecting on learning.

The SCARF Model and Reflections on Leadership and Teaching

  When I was a young high school teacher, I had a student named Scott in one of my classes. He and I usually got along, but there was always...