Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Literacy Shed is my Best Friend Forever

Reluctant writers are everywhere and for one school year, I thought they were all in my 3rd-period class.  Essays, summaries, poems, and even their names were all items they simply weren’t interested in putting on paper.  I needed to find something that would get them writing because they NEEDED to write.  I came across a website called The Literacy Shed.  This free site houses short films and animations with teaching ideas.  I thought it would be a wonderful opportunity to get my students engaged with a visual and then have them do a writing extension.  No matter what the writing extension was, the point was they were writing.  It became a popular feature in my class, so every Wednesday was dubbed Creative Writing Wednesday.  I saw a change in some of my most reluctant writers as they put pen to paper and added words to their page and even my shy students began to share aloud their creative pieces.  I highly recommend that you check out this site and see how you can use it in your classroom.

Here are a few of my personal favorites.

Monday, October 9, 2017

Add a little Splash with Unsplash

If you are looking for a way to add a little more pizazz to your presentation slides or to make them more professional then I have the site for you.  Unsplash.com is a site that offers you free  HD photos that you can use at your discretion.  Simply download the photo(s) you like and use them as backgrounds to your slides, desktop, etc.  It’s free and it’s easy!

Check it out! Unsplash.com

Also check out this Youtube video tutorial on how to edit and use Unsplash.com photos in your Google Slides.

Monday, October 2, 2017

The Wonder of Google Drawings

GD77Flyer (1).jpgEver since I was a little girl, I’ve rooted for the underdog.  If it was the tortoise or the hare, I pulled for the tortoise.  I rooted for Charlie Brown to finally kick the football, The Greeks to win in The Battle of Salamis, and Lennie to live a happy full life in Of Mice and Men.  I rooted for them because I believed in their potential.  So, it is no surprise that I am sitting here, writing about the potential of Google Drawings.  It is the underdog of the G-Suite tools.  In workshops, I have led and in general conversations with people, Google Drawings doesn’t appear to be utilized as often or at all.  So, my question is Why?  Is it the name?  Drawings gives off the connotation that you need to be an artist, creative or Salvador Dali-esque.  The reality is that Google Drawings should be in the forefront alongside Google Docs, and Forms because you can create wonderful things that can be applied in the classroom.  Here’s a list of possibilities:
  • Posters 
  • Flyers
  • Timelines
  • Infographics
  • Hyperdocs
  • Sketchnotes
  • Custom logos
  • Memes

But rather than me telling you about all the wonders Google Drawings has to offer, why don’t you see for yourself.  Here are six resources that will help you get started.  Enjoy the wonder that is Google Drawings!

Felicia Wilson
Las Vegas

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Applied Digital Skills from Google

Google has created a curriculum students can use to apply their digital skills to different activities like researching a topic or creating a budget.

From Google:

"Try a couple Applied Digital Skills activities as a break from your regular curriculum. The video-based lessons teach students everything they need to know to build creative, useful projects — and require little prep on your part."

Check it out here: https://applieddigitalskills.withgoogle.com/en/high-school

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Differentiated Instruction with Ongoing Formative Assessments

Teachers can move towards a more student-centered classroom when they plan learning tasks that focus on student engagement, growth, and mastery (Tomlinson, 2001). And when data from ongoing formative assessments is used to inform their planning, teachers will reach learners at different levels of skills, interest, and preparedness. Afterall, differentiated instruction and ongoing formative assessment go hand in hand.

According to Cauley and McMillan (2010), formative assessment "is a process through which assessment-elicited evidence of student learning is gathered and instruction is modified in response to feedback" (p. 1). The collected evidence can be used by teachers to identify misconceptions students might have about the content, give pointed feedback to students to help them correct their misconceptions, and modify instruction to reinforce the corrections.

Research suggests there is a positive correlation between formative assessment and how well students perform on standardized tests (Cauley & McMillan, 2010). Ongoing formative assessments impact student learning because, in addition to allowing teachers to modify their instruction, they "allow students to see concretely how they can improve" (p. 2). In today's one-to-one blended classroom, educational technology can help make linking formative assessment with differentiated instruction easier.

There are many online tools, resources, and services to help teachers formatively assess their students, provide feedback, and differentiate instruction. Socrative, for example, allows teachers to administer any combination of multiple choice, true/false, and short answer questions to students. The teacher can allow students to receive instant feedback as they attempt the quiz, or he can use student scores to form mixed-ability groups to work on a project later in the unit.

EdPuzzle is a tool that will transform the way your students watch and interact with online videos. Teachers can crop an online video to focus students' attention on a specific part and record their own audio narration to any YouTube video. Teachers can set up their videos so when a student reaches a certain spot, the playback stops and they are asked a question. Teachers can even provide feedback, based on the answers the students provide.

There are a number of online graphic organizers and templates teachers can use to differentiate instruction. HyperDocs can be designed to provide student-choice as they show mastery of the content.

Teachers can use a Must Do May Do graphic organizer to allow more student-choice (clicking on the link will force a copy of the template to your Drive.) Use the Must Do May Do template when you would like students to complete a required task and then choose between two optional tasks.

When teachers differentiate instruction based on formative assessments, deep learning occurs. Educational technology can make offering different approaches to demonstrate mastery easier. Give it a try!

Chris Justus

Las Vegas


Cauley, K. M. & McMillan, J. H. (2010). Formative assessment techniques to support student motivation and achievement. Clearing House: A Journal of Educational Strategies, 83(1), 1-6. 

Tomlinson, C. A. (2001). How to differentiate instruction in mixed-ability classrooms. Alexandria, VA: ASCD.

Friday, September 15, 2017

Differentiated Instruction in a 1:1 Classroom

Image credit to Luisalvaz
When an educator differentiates instruction, she provides multiple modalities for students to learn the content, the processes they use to interact with it, and the final products they turn in. According to differentiation guru Carol Ann Tomlinson (2001), as teachers begin to differentiate instruction "they move away from seeing themselves as keepers and dispensers of knowledge and move toward seeing themselves as organizers of learning opportunities" (p. 16). Because of this, a differentiated classroom will likely include more student-centered, active learning opportunities.

When differentiated instruction is combined with a 1:1 Chromebook environment, 21st century skills can be practiced and applied.

On her blog post 10 Ways to Differentiate Instruction with Technology, teacher Heidi Raki writes, "Let students follow their passions through Be the Teacher projects, student-led inquiries, passion projects, Genius Hour or 20Time [projects] to get them more engaged in their learning." These projects are a way "to differentiate by bringing in each students' individual interests and level." Google's suite of online productivity tools makes integrating these types of projects easy.

For example, students can use Google Docs to organize their research. Within Docs, students can find more resources related to their topic using Doc's 'Explore' feature. Students can create a folder within Google Drive to house all of the artifacts and components generated for their project including videos, Slides presentations, research Docs and essays, and visuals made in Google Drawings. Collaboration and communication between students can be facilitated by the communication features in G Suite and a class Padlet.

When teachers differentiate instruction, they should group students based on their skills, interest, preparedness, and choice. Check out our Differentiating the Learning Experience with Technology article for inspiration on using a graphic organizer to increase student choice and leverage individual interests, skills, and readiness. The graphic organizer can easily be modified to allow groups of students with mixed-abilities to choose their methods they would like to use to demonstrate mastery of the content.

Be on the lookout for an article next week on how ongoing formative assessments are an important part of the differentiation decisions teachers make.

We also have an upcoming professional learning opportunity starting October 1. Learn more about Leveraging Online Tools and register for the eCourse here.

Chris Justus
Las Vegas


Raki, H. (2016). 10 ways to differentiate with instruction. Retrieved from http://blog.whooosreading.org/10-ways-to-differentiate-instruction-with-technology/

Tomlinson, C. A. (2001). How to differentiate instruction in mixed-ability classrooms. Alexandria, VA: ASCD.

Monday, September 11, 2017

Differentiating the Learning Experience with Technology

Google's suite of online productivity tools makes differentiating students' learning experiences fun and easy. For example, leveled groups of students can design class presentations by sharing a Slides presentation with one another and work on them collaboratively. 

Another way to differentiate in the classroom is to give students a choice in how they work on their assignments. Check out this Tic-Tac-Toe Choice Menu. When you open the link, click 'Make a Copy' to add it to your Drive.

With the Tic-Tac-Toe Choice Menu every student starts with the center square, which should include background information, content, and/or links every student would need to successfully complete the assignment. Using the center square as their jumping off point, students then create a tic-tac-toe line by completing the tasks in the green and blue sections. Each blue and green square should offer students differentiated tasks they can choose based on their level and abilities.

The Tic-Tac-Toe Choice Menu can make learning relevant and can ensure teachers are reaching all students, regardless of their level.

Inspiration: Shake Up Learning

Chris Justus
Las Vegas