“Don’t just teach a lesson. Create an experience!” -Dave Burgess, author to Teach Like a Pirate
If you are not already a follower of Miller’s Ditch That Textbook site, one click on the Tech Like a Pirate Resources will have you hooked. Click on any of the pictures and you will be taken to a wealth of resources. Miller has always selflessly offered a number of materials to teachers that they can use to create a memorable learning experience. He embraces an attitude that it is more important to try and fail than to not try at all. Try, learn, adjust, repeat. That’s my kind of teacher.
“When they’re having so much fun they don’t even know that they’re learning. That’s the best, right?” -Kasey Bell
The book and website break down memorable learning experiences via the following eight categories:
Social Media and Apps
Storytelling (Bonus chapter on the website!)
The idea behind the book is to rethink your teaching to create activities that students will enjoy while using technology. In fact, Miller says in the podcast that his message to teachers is to see their assignment through a different lens. For example, could you recreate that writing activity into a social media post? Framing an activity in an appealing way to students will engage them and engrain your lesson that much more. Intentional, meaningful collaboration among you and your students, or from peer to peer, will add an even richer level of engagement. We know, for example, that social media is a huge part of our students’ world. Why not use that to our advantage and meet them at their interests?
In this remote learning era, this book could not have been more timely. In a time when resources are in overdrive to help out during remote learning, it is sometimes difficult to discern which will be the most valuable. I was already a follower of the Ditch That Textbook site. After seeing the book’s accompanying resources, as well as listening to Miller walk through his why for writing the book, I am completely sold. Not only will these ideas help finish the year strong but will also refresh us in the fall. I cannot wait to start flipping through the chapters to start brainstorming how to restructure my lessons. Imagine the storytelling that could come from this spring when we reunite with our students in person?
I would venture to guess that when the words “remote learning” are uttered in these recent weeks, “Flipgrid” quickly follows in the conversation. My favorite EdTech tool has likely been added to the top of many other teachers’ lists, too, during this remote learning time. Flipgrid is an extremely user-friendly EdTech tool that promotes social and emotional learning via a video platform that boosts student engagement. For an overview as well as video tutorial, check out my Flipgrid blog post.
Flipgrid not only increases students’ comfort levels when it comes to speaking, but it also provides a plethora of resources for teachers to collaborate on and boost their own creativity. The Flipgrid Disco Library provides ready-made prompts that you can duplicate and make your own. #Gridpals allows for Flipgrid users to connect while the Flipgrid Explorer Series has series of lessons featuring experts that can be directly added into your own grids. There is no shortage of resources!
Remote Learning 2020: Creativity Abounds
The creative uses for Flipgrid surface on a daily basis since remote learning began nationwide. A number of educators are using Flipgrid for the first time and their fresh ideas are Marker Mic Drop worthy. Long-time users are vamping up their normal Flipgrid agenda to reach into students’ homes (aka the new classroom). This post will highlight some ideas that can help you close out the year strong!
Virtual everything: Flipgrid allows for prompts, instructions, rubrics, additional documents needed…almost anything you would need in one centralized area under your topic. The latest Screencastify-like feature captures your screen while recording to more easily flip your lessons. Therefore, you can now virtually have band practice, book talks, show and tell, story retelling, topic presentations…the list goes on. Math and language teachers! Use the whiteboard feature on the bottom row of icons to have students talk out their work as they are completing a problem or writing a sentence.
Emotional check-ins: Many students who find it difficult to speak in class feel comfortable behind the Flipgrid screen. If you want to keep student responses private, check your privacy settings so that only you will see each student’s video and create a weekly check-in topic. I have also been creating check-in videos twice a week. Instead of writing weekly inspirational quotes on my large classroom windows, they are now a part of the selfie at the end of each video. (Insert picture from the row of icons at the bottom of the screen when taking a selfie. Resize and drag it to your liking.)
A new twist on story time: My personal favorite topic is “Confessions of a Fairy Tale Character,” but there is an even more engaging way to hear your students’ imaginations at work. Record an ongoing story by having students respond to each other. This could be in pairs, small groups, or the student could nominate the next student to pick up the story where they left off.
The Masked Singer: This may have been one of the most creative uses I have seen yet. By combining Flipgrid with a HyperDoc, a teacher brought “The Masked Singer” reality t.v. show to the classroom. With the gracious participation of her colleagues, each teacher recorded themselves singing on Flipgrid and placed an emoji over their face. To create the HyperDoc where students place their guesses, grab a screenshot of each singer that is linked to each video. Type “Guess” in each box where students type in a teachers’ names. (Hint: Use the “Make a copy” feature in Google Classroom for each student to have their own answer board.) I have created a sample game board here: “The Masked Singer” (Flipgrid). To make it your own, choose “File –> Make a copy, rename” then replace the images with the screenshots of your teachers’ videos and link their videos to the respective boxes. Voilà!
Just for fun: Whether it is “I Spy” or making your students guess your fib in “Two Truths and a Lie,” incorporate a weekly game that makes students connect in a fun way. I include the “I spy with my little eye” prompt in my video and in written form so that students know how to properly guess in French.
“Fliphunts” (aka scavenger hunts): Create a doc that sends your students on a scavenger hunt, whether physically collecting or displaying items alongside a task that displays their knowledge about said item. For example, my students have had to act or draw out and use a sentence with reflexive verbs, correctly corresponding that action to the proper room in the house. (“I brush my teeth in the bathroom.”) Encourage play and creativity with this activity! Check out Kathi K’s Fliphunt guidelines and examples for more ideas.
Talent show: Have students showcase their talents from their homes! Students and judges (perhaps other teachers?) can respond to videos with encouraging comments and feedback.
Physical Education class: Many P.E. teachers are using this to display proper ways to perform an exercise or as much as recording a full class students can follow along for their daily workout.
Advice to next year’s class: I am curious to know the advice current students will give to underclassmen. Create a Mixtape of responses and save it for the fall, showcasing your former students’ advice to their peers.
With a matter of a few short weeks of remote learning left in spring 2020, will you join the #FlipgridFever?
My department chair, Karen Knight, and I were discussing assignments for our remote learning experience that could potentially extend through the end of the year. “I want to give them a memory, Padrah. I don’t want to assign them 150 questions that won’t mean anything to them later.”
Karen proposed an idea that I absolutely love and will adopt for my classes in the coming weeks. Her students will be creating a scrapbook about their lives and the world during this global pandemic. The project builds upon itself with new themes or chapters for each week, with flexible expectations of responses written in the target language. Here is a breakdown of themes we brainstormed:
Week 1 – Current events headlines: Students gather current events articles and explain and summarize COVID-19, how it started and has evolved over the weeks. Students could elaborate on how it has specifically affected their community.
Week 2 – Family, activities, and the “New Normal”: Ask students to gather pictures and tell about their family. What are their ages? Jobs? Do they no longer work or work from home because of the pandemic? Most importantly, have your students discuss what their lives are from day-to-day now that they are at home. Have they been on more walks or spent more time with family?
Week 3 – A little humor: The memes, the GIFs, the videos of what people are doing to pass their time during stay-at-home orders are all pulling everyone through this with a smile. Have students recreate their favorites in the target language.
Week 4 – Twenty years from now…: What do students think the world will look like post-pandemic? Will we be more prepared and learn from this experience? Many schools and businesses have had to alter their ways. Will there be an overhaul to how we operate?
Week 5 – Reflection: Give your students an opportunity to express how they are feeling during this time and how it has impacted their lives. I would strongly encourage different mediums in which the students could present. Some are more comfortable with written or spoken words. For others, a drawn picture alleviates the pressure of speaking. Give an outline of reflection questions that can guide the students.
Presentation styles: There are various presentation options that a student can choose from for his or her final product. While we are living by the motto of “Keep it simple” in this teaching era, I believe that the more options you present, the better. Students only need to choose one, but by giving them alternatives, it accounts for their learning style preference as well as resources available to them. I could not possibly list all the resources available but here is a start:
Paper is always an option. Karen Knight proposed to the other Spanish teachers to accept this project at the beginning of next school year for a grade or extra credit.
Flipgrid presents a user-friendly video option. Even if students have a hard copy of their scrapbook, they could bring it to life by narrating it in a video.
Wakelet allows for beautiful digital storytelling, easily allowing students to add current events headlines as well as paragraphs with their own commentary and reflections.
COVID-19, corona virus, global pandemic. The year 2020 will be marked by these words when we look back. This event that swept the world disrupted much: our lives, our work, our economic system, and there was no exception made to our educational system.
In a matter of days, schools were forced to consider how to support their students within the possibility of shelter in place circumstances. Online learning became a reality. Even schools in the most ideal situation regarding resources were still overwhelmed with acclimating to virtual classrooms outside of their brick and mortar. Each school or district had their specific challenges. Some that normally provided a safe space and meals could only hand out curbside lunches to those fortunate enough with the transportation means. Others had to determine the number of devices to temporarily loan and how students (and teachers) would obtain them. But everyone affected dealt with the challenge of launching full-time remote learning that would best serve their learners, and in a quick turnaround.
Where we are now.
The response has encompassed a gamut of emotions, and understandably so. Administrators and teachers are needing to make fast, heavy decisions. Parents are suddenly educators. Students who relied on school for food are now less concerned with their academics when they have become full-time babysitters to younger siblings whose parents still work during this crisis.
While uncertainty and anxiety still loom, positivity has been in abundance. Humor to lighten the circumstances is starting to surface. Hop on Twitter and you will see the generous support of teachers reaching out to their students and colleagues. I beamed when seeing a Tweet, “Trying this for the first time!” and wished I could be a fly on the wall to see how schools rolled out their remote learning plan. Digital Innovation Specialists (or your district’s equivalent title) have worked around the clock to answer emails, phone calls, and texts. We are trying to support our learners in this difficult time, but let’s not forget how massive of a transition this is for teachers and families…and well, everyone.
“When faced with a problem, I reframe it as an opportunity.” -Richard Branson
It seems unrealistic to think that the educational system will remain unaffected by the recent massive modifications. I anticipate that the 2020-21 academic school year will look differently for some, but not yet for all. With the start of a school year less than six months away and no clear end in sight of the pandemic, we all may just need to step back, regroup, and take a breath before doing an overhaul of the next academic year.
Considerations for the (near and distant) future
We are all in the same boat.
Many parents and students are worried that their academics will fall behind, that regression should be their biggest concern. Similar asynchronous learning techniques are being practiced across the nation. While the academic situation anywhere may not be the most ideal, we are all in the same boat. Fall 2020 will be a reset for everyone everywhere. Until then, let’s talk about grace for a moment.
“Whatever the platform to keep learning moving forward, we also cannot lose sight of the importance of connecting people.” -Kellie Lauth, CEO of mindSpark Learning
Grace over grades.
There has been no shortage of anxiety in the early launches of nationwide remote learning. Administrators may not have the answers for their teachers. Grading systems are still yet to be determined. Best efforts of delivering devices or even simple workbook packets have been unsuccessful, thus leaving some students unaccounted for and begging even more questions that also remain unanswered. Much is unknown.
Furthermore, teacher, some of your best laid lessons may have had a glitch. Perhaps there have been unforeseen troubles on your end or for the student. Perhaps you did not anticipate certain factors when you bravely launched your new online remote learning tool. But you tried something new, which is honestly a step in the right direction.
Or maybe your students are now full-time babysitters for their younger siblings. Maybe they took a job at the local grocery store – one of the few businesses currently hiring – because their parents are no longer bringing in an income. Your math or history or Spanish lesson is not at the top of their priorities.
Regardless of the situation, much grace should be given across the board to everyone. Use this time as an opportunity to connect in a different way with your students instead of focusing solely on the importance of grades.
It’s time for some deep reflection.
Teachers and administrators should take advantage of this overhaul to reflect on the state of their school and educational philosophies. Are the current measures in place truly supporting students and preparing them for 2030 and beyond? Did your pre-pandemic school structure graduate global citizens who are connected to their community and the world beyond?
Ask yourself: Were your learners making an impact outside of the walls of your classrooms?
The emphasis on global connections across learning is still not completely widespread in schools across the nation. Each year has come with exciting changes in the last decade through the works of educators who saw a stagnant system, realizing that change is inevitable with how the world has evolved. Many schools discuss developing a well-rounded learner, but what does that look like in this era?
Trailblazers among schools encourage their students to not only think outside of the box but to also analyze and evaluate with an empathetic perspective. Pear Deck, Design Thinking, and countless other tools and models encourage creative engagement without ignoring the social-emotional factors always at play. Discussions and chats can be held to include all voices. Flipgrid videos embolden even the shyest learners and build confidence. ePals connects K-12 classrooms across the world. There is an abundance of resources available now to educators than even a mere ten years ago. The stagnant culture of textbooks and worksheets have slowly been making their way out the door. It is still easy, however, to fall into the routine of fulfilling the requisite content and standardized testing preparation, among other duties.
Are we too lost in the standards?
Before I continue, I believe in the value of curriculum standards. I have written and re-written curriculum maps and applied them to my teaching. But I have also seen teachers become so caught up in the minutiae that the standards become overwhelming, sacrificing potential student outcomes.
What if we took a moment to identify our end goal?
Understanding by Design (UbD) is one example of a backwards design approach to lesson planning. Identify the desired results and acceptable evidence that supports this, and avoid aimless activities simply for the sake of covering material. Forego checking all the boxes and instead produce a more well-rounded individual who understands and engages instead of sits and regurgitates. Work backwards and create reasonable, attainable standards that truly assess the students’ skills with rigor and value. The process will have an enormous amount of trial and error on the teacher’s part, but should we not push ourselves to be life-long learners, like we ask of our students?
Most importantly, let’s consider empathy. If a global pandemic doesn’t evoke empathy, then what will? I have always been a huge proponent of project-based learning (PBL) and Design Thinking. I believe every school should have a class devoted to marrying these two concepts to better serve their community. What issues can be addressed within your community and how can they be addressed? The young, innovative minds that sit in our classrooms have answers and ideas that will take you off guard, in a good way. Let them take ownership of their learning. Let them engage. Let them choose. Change your lesson plan model and embrace innovation and creativity that go beyond the pages of the textbook.
My most interesting conversations with teachers from coast to coast have been about school culture, particularly surrounding EdTech and more progressive pedagogical practices. The comfort and acceptance levels vary greatly, ranging from resistant to all-in, not just among teachers but within their leadership team, as well. I was shocked to hear of some schools whose administrators did not see the value in incorporating technology. How could that still be in this era when people often reach for their technology before their toothbrush?
Online learning is here now, but does not mean that it will become the permanent standard. Nothing can replace the interpersonal relationships that develop among students, students and teachers, and contribute to classroom culture. I cannot imagine my world without the intangible reward of teaching students and the connections made on a daily basis. This temporary model is not going to replace our traditional schools but it has certainly upended how many think education should be.
Quizizz is a gamified assessment tool that not only engages students but also provides valuable data to teachers. This EdTech tool is extremely user-friendly that comes with two incredibly important features: the ability for the teacher to give individualized attention to each student and reports with student and question data breakdowns.
Cost? Nada. Absolutely free.
Pre-made quizzes – Like Kahoot and Gimkit, you will be able to search for pre-existing quizzes so as not to start from scratch.
Classes: This is a new feature that can be found on the left hand side menu. Teachers can assign games without the need for a code. Students can log in to see assignments, progress reports, and flashcards, to name a few highlights. Teachers can also share updates with parents and connect to Google Classroom directly from the “Classes” menu page. The portfolio of current feedback to students and parents is an invaluable built-in Quizizz quality.
Self-paced = more individualized attention – I’m no stranger to Kahoot but when students need a little more one-on-one assistance with questions, Quizizz allows me to float the room. Each student answers at their own speed as opposed to one countdown for the entire class. I can read the frustrated expression on a student’s face or see the red next to their name to know there have been more incorrect than correct answers. Some students will ask for help but many are still too shy. This allows you to address each student’s needs without making them self-conscious.
Meme sets – Memes will automatically appear after each question but you do have the option to create your own meme set. Click “Memes” on the left side menu and then “Create New Meme Set.” Name your meme set and choose from the dropdown menu of memes or upload your own picture, then enter your own text. (Don’t forget to click “Save changes.”) The memes are categorized by “correct” or “incorrect” answers. Use the “Show Memes” toggle under Quiz Settings to select your Memeset and show pictures after each question. (Note! The Quiz Settings page will appear after you click the “Play Live” or “Homework” buttons on the quiz page.)
Post-quiz data – Each game concludes with specific data on how students performed, displayed in a visually appealing graph of red and green. The graph immediately draws your attention to questions that need to be reviewed in red. If I take a Quizizz for a grade, I can find the student’s percentage score in my reports. I have the ability to hide names and therefore rankings (first place, second place, etc.) during the game. When using Quizizz as a review, an overall percentage bar shows me class accuracy, letting me know as a teacher how well the class is grasping the grammar or vocabulary.
Calming (and also seasonal) music – The calming, meditative music that plays while students are working immediately sets the tone for learning once the game has begun. There are also festive tunes for the holidays!
Creative Quizizz uses in the classroom:
Check-in – Like many other gamified assessment tools out there, Quizizz will help you to check in on a concept without taking it for a grade. Remember! The live class average bar cues you in on their accuracy.
Quick review – For a grade or not! The post-game report gives you that option to have the data later if you need it. Just warn your students to use names that make them identifiable!
Homework – Co-founder Deepak Joy Cheenath recommends creating several quizzes with an accompanying Excel sheet that contains all game codes. Encourage students to have more fun while reviewing on their own.
Another option! Make one long quiz of review questions. Students can come and go, completing as much as they would like throughout several sittings, all without the need to create a account. Students can resume the game as long as they use the same name as when they previously played.
Review stations – Use Quizizz as one of several stations on a review day. This could also help to liven up your lessons in the days right before a long school break.
Student-created questions – APPSMASH ALERT! Use Google Forms, Google Sheets, and Quizizz to ease quiz writing. Create a Google Form where students can submit their questions with four possible answers. Export the data to Sheets and upload the data to Quizizz!
I hope this post finds you well and gives you a new trick (or refresher on an old one) for 2020. In the meanwhile…
Ahhh…yes. Cue Julie Andrews. It’s that time of year when, whether you like it or not, holiday music and decorations abound and you just can’t help but have one of those little tunes in your head. (Personally, I’ve been waiting for this season for months.)
In the spirit of music, Favorite Things-themed parties and an end-of-year wrap-up, this post is highlighting some of my favorite tools and how I use them in the classroom. Without further ado…
Flipgrid has stayed at the top of my list for a few years now. If you are not familiar with this tool, it is a platform that embraces and empowers student voice via individual recordings. Flipgrid embraces what I want to nurture most in my students: finding confidence, expressing their creativity, and positive encouragement among peers to become a more cohesive, accepting, and inclusive community.
While many EdTech tools have become more user-friendly and visually appealing, nothing rivals Flipgrid when it comes to reliability. The glitch-free experience only makes me love it more, especially on days when I switch directions to pick up the pace and promote student creativity. Once again, my many thanks, Flipgrid!
This collection of videos (available on YouTube or via 1 jour 1 question, France TV’s website) is specifically for French teachers. Young French students submit questions to France TV, who then summarizes a response that are accompanied by appealing animations. The questions range from “How long has Barbie existed?” to “What is terrorism?” prompting rich discussion. It won’t be long until your students are reciting the intro. It’s quite catchy!
Also see 1 jour 1 actu for print resources pertaining to culture and current events at a student reading level.
While Class Dojo is predominantly used in elementary schools, this EdTech tool changed my speaking world. I assign points based on a student’s oral participation in French or Franglais, or take away points for speaking in English. The sound of a positive “DING!” or overwhelmingly ominous sound often puts students into competition mode, whether with classmates or to reclaim points lost.
Quizlet has been around for years, with good reason. Many teachers and students use it in its most traditional form – housing vocabulary lists and reviewing flashcards – but let’s take it to the next level.
I have abandoned the textbook for a few years now, meaning that I rely on resources that let my students create and collaborate with ease. I create a collaborative class set where students add their chosen vocabulary based on a brainstorming session of sub-themes. Once the list has been created, I cut up the words for OWL Language-like activities. There are a host of activities within Quizlet itself – tests, smart studying of words consistently missed – and of course, a little fun. My favorite way to Quizlet? Students do a Quizlet Live Relay, with one student facing all devices while their teammates wait their turns on the other side of the table. Once the student has answered, the next person rotates into the game.
Quizizz is another competitive EdTech tool that is extremely user-friendly. My two favorite aspects of Quizizz are my ability to give individualized attention to each student as well as the reports that follow each game. The report provides specific data on how students performed, displayed in a visually appealing graph of red and green. The graph immediately draws your attention to questions that need to be reviewed in red. If I take a Quizizz for a grade, I can find the student’s percentage score in my reports. The students love the memes, and I love the fact that I can walk around to help students as it is self-paced. Oh, and did I mention the calming, meditative music? The tone is immediately set for learning once the game has begun.
I love G Suite and how easily everything talks to each other and to other EdTech tools. (For example, post your Padlet directly to Google Classroom under the “Share” menu.) Google Images makes for easy speaking prompts at the beginning of class or for inspirational Chindogu examples. Make sure to censor them before you spontaneously do an image search!
Ever wanted to ensure that students watch the entire video and also have accountability questions? Edpuzzle makes that happen. While I’ve come across a few glitches in students being organized into the proper class, the activities you can assign are well worth it. Make sure to add the Google Chrome Extension to directly edit within YouTube!
Organization made easy and efficient. Period. I teach four different levels across seven periods every day. That means I have a lot of different resources coming from various sources. Wakelet allows me to organize my collections so that opening what I need is just one click away.
Last, but not least, there is music. Whether you are streaming from Spotify or search for a (Francophone) artist on YouTube (always censor it first!), music motivates, makes your students move, and can help center their focus. There are a number of benefits to the brain besides the good spirit it will create in your classroom. Check out my recent post, Learning Through Song (The Curious Creator Blog) for ideas of how to use music in the classroom.
If you are not already on holiday break, you’re almost there! Enjoy the season with family, friends, and I will see you next year!
Choice boards: the project that simultaneously accounted for all language skills as well as differentiation. It was also the answer to my Thursdays in a hectic year.
What is a choice board?
Choice boards are exactly as they sound: The Bingo-like board give students varying options in regards to content theme and what platform they will present out for the end project. Here is what I drafted on a plane, which was eventually transferred to a Google Doc.
How it works: a breakdown
As you can see, I separated the project areas into reading, writing, listening, speaking, and cultural comprehension. I assign via the “Make a copy” option under Google Classroom so that students can edit the document. Students have the freedom to choose a box (their project), that could last anywhere from two to four weeks, depending upon the student’s own pacing. I require at least one project to be completed within a six-weeks marking period, but students can move onto another box as soon as they finish the previous. Here are my set guidelines:
Choose wisely! If you start a box, you must finish all three levels.
When you finish a box, change the color to show that it is complete.
Turn in your project via the “Turn it in” Google Classroom option. (Some students directly pasted links, etc., in the box of the chosen project.)
All projects must be in French.
Online translators are not permitted under any circumstances.
All writing must be completed in class, not at home.
Have an outside the box idea? Run it by Mme Gatewood!
Within each box are three levels, all of which must be completed before moving onto another project (another box). Students must complete “L1” (level one) before moving onto the other two levels. Here are more examples for the choice board given to French 1-3:
Thursday takeaways – keep these in mind
Check in for progress and accountability: While this is intended to be a self-paced project every Thursday, certain students certainly require more attention than others. Thursdays are also when I conduct weekly speaking assessments so, at first, I was not as actively monitoring the students’ progress on their choice board project. I am now mindful to check in during their speaking assessment to see their progress and help tease out ideas for their project.
Don’t wait until the end to grade! I felt like I had made a rookie mistake when I collected a majority of the projects all at the same time, coinciding with the end of the marking period. (Talk about a nightmare.) I strongly suggest giving students a grade for each level as the projects come in, staggering your workload. I use Middlebury Writing and Speaking Rubrics.
And most importantly…student enjoyment: Students had the option to choose their project, not set to a specific theme or grammar area. I had favorable feedback from students who enjoyed their opportunity to express creativity in varying forms. Whether they were designing French t-shirts and accessories for their store’s Google Site or planning an itinerary for the perfect trip to their chosen destination, students walked in on Thursdays with ideas in hand, ready to show off their creation to classmates.
This was an answer to a prayer of differentiating even further while peaking student interest. After all…it’s all about student engagement, isn’t it?