Why teachers need Google Certification

Why teachers need Google Certification

Google has revolutionized the way I teach and I have never looked back. With technology like Google, you are able to save time and transform your teaching practices. But why get Google certified? To learn and teach. Being Google certified will help you have the skills to effectively use Google for Education in the classroom. Maybe you already know the basics, but taking the time to gain certification will certainly teach you a few tricks that you hadn’t discovered.

Being Google certified will also allow you to help colleagues more effectively use G Suites for Education. Most people resist change, but if you can show them how much Google simplifies the communication and collaboration process they might be willing to try something new.

Google certification will help teachers save time while lesson planning, make grading easier, and transform the learning happening. Your classroom needs you to be the best teacher you can be and adding the knowledge that comes with Google certification is guaranteed to make you a better teacher.

Some of the links in this post are affiliate links. Thank you for supporting our website. 

If you’re like me and love all things Google becoming certified is the next step. And if you’re like me and follow along with the Google Teacher Tribe podcast you already know that Kasey Bell has Google Certification courses available. Participating in a course guarantees that you will gain the skills needed to pass the exam and give you a chance to practice.

If you’re new to this idea let me breakdown each of the certifications and what you can gain from joining a course then taking the exams.

Certification levels

Level 1 Certification: For the teacher who wants to successfully integrate G Suites for Education into their teaching practices. This level covers the basics of each Google tool that can be used in the classroom.  

Level 2 Certification: For the teacher who feels comfortable using G Suites in their classroom but would like to take it to a more advanced level. A deeper dive into each of the tools.  

Google Certified Trainer: For the teacher who enjoys teaching other teachers. This certification is open to any educator who would like to share what they have learned at the first two levels with other educators.

Google Certified Innovator: For the teacher who is developing their own innovative ways to use Google in the classroom.

Why become certified?

There is more to Google certification than the badge that can be added in your email signature and social media accounts. Certification is about your own education as an educator. If anyone understands the concept of life-long learning it’s teachers. One of the reasons we continue to teach is because we enjoy being learners ourselves. In the 21st century, technology has transformed the way we present information to students and how they demonstrate their learning to us. Google is not exclusive to the classroom. Many companies use G Suites for business purposes as well. Allowing students to gain these skills before entering the workplace gives them an advantage.

Many teachers are already using G Suites in their classrooms without becoming officially certified. So why spend the time and money to work towards certification?

  1. Proficiency: Have you ever thought while planning your unit, there has to be a way for me to do this more efficiently? I know I have! Then you find yourself spending countless hours looking for the right answer. Taking the certification courses and becoming certified means you will have that answer right away. In fact, it will most likely give you new and improved ideas for delivering your content.
  2. Effectiveness: Turning a handout into a Google Doc is not what G Suites is all about. The technology is not meant to replace, it’s meant to enhance. What you will learn through the course of gaining certification will help you to better know the possibilities of each tool and how to effectively use them in the classroom.
  3. Networking: Join a large community of other certified educators who can provide you with support and help when you need it. Connecting with other educators is the best way to grow your creativity as a teacher.

Getting Google certification

Now that you’ve decided to go ahead with the process of becoming Google certified there are a few things that you may want to consider. First, consider taking one of Kasey’s courses to help you prepare for the exam. Sure, it’s possible to gather the knowledge you need from the Google training materials available. However, it will take a lot of reading and searching for answers all on your own without any help.

Taking Kasy’s course will give you exactly what you need to practice for the exam. She provides videos and documents, plus you can always ask her or the Facebook group specific questions if you’re having trouble.

Choosing a course such as these allows you to work at your own pace and on your own time schedule. Joining a scheduled Boot Camp that might be offered by your district will also give you the information you need to pass each exam. However, there is a lot to know and possibly learn. These face-to-face courses are only offered on a specific day and time so they may move too quickly for some people.

Before you make a decision about how to gain your certification take a look at Kasey’s post with frequently asked questions for more information. You will also find several resources she provides and details about each of the Google Certification courses she offers twice a year — May and November.

Don’t forget to share when you have successfully passed your exam and gained your certification. Be sure to brag in the comments.

Why you need a classroom coffee bar

Why you need a classroom coffee bar

Teachers love their coffee. Moms live for their coffee. Oh to drink a steaming mug of freshly brewed coffee. Unless it’s a long weekend, or maybe a snow day, a hot cup of coffee is rarely what teachers or moms get to drink. This is the number one reason why every teacher should have a coffee bar in their classroom.

But enjoying a nice hot mug of java is not the only reason to supply your classroom with a coffee bar. There are other benefits as well. Consider how coffee brings people together. How often do you hear someone say, “Let’s make plans to have coffee.” or “Meet me for coffee?” Even if both parties don’t actually drink coffee we all refer to sitting down with someone for a conversation as “having coffee.” This opportunity to be intentionally relational can be a focal point for your classroom.

Teacher Care

The wafting aroma of flavorful coffee coming from your classroom each morning provides a welcome invitation. Or maybe in the afternoon when all the students have gone to their Encore and teachers are needing a chance to take a breath. Your classroom coffee bar could be a place of refuge for colleagues needing to take a moment and relax. You might be the one needing to take a moment and relax. What better way than with a hot cup of coffee?

Grading papers is not usually a fun task, but a hot cup of freshly brewed coffee can give you the pep you need to power through. There is something about a hot beverage that warms the body and relaxes the muscles to make us feel ready to tackle a daunting task. As a language arts teacher, I much prefer reading a stack of essays while sipping on a good cup of coffee.

Whether needing a moment alone or willing to welcome others, a coffee bar for your classroom is a great idea.  Want a way to let others know they are welcome to join you try one of my printables. Drop your email below and I’ll send you the password to my free resource library where you can find four different coffee-related posters that you can download and use to decorate above your coffee bar.

Build Student Relationships

Another great use for a classroom coffee bar is to attract students. This was the motivation for starting my Black Coffee Fridays. For the thirty minutes before students needed to be in homeroom classrooms, I invited any student or staff member to come and talk about books. During our conversations, I offered a hot beverage and sometimes even a doughnut. I loaded up on the fancy cappuccino K-cups and hot chocolate for the kids. The last thing most middle schoolers need is caffeine!

Inviting students to come chat gave me an open door to establishing a solid relationship. We mostly talked about books, but the conversations would often also veer to a more personal nature for the students. Our conversations established trust and they felt comfortable in my classroom. Most of the kids who showed up regularly were friends with each other and there were times that they would be fighting with each other. Those moments gave me an opportunity to teach conflict resolution. So many teachable moments on lessons that don’t need to take place in a scheduled class.

Fundraising Opportunity

Are you a club advisor without a budget? Have a charity you’d like your class or school to support? Using a coffee bar can be one way to generate small funds. My husband, a computer science high school teacher, needed a way to generate a small budget for their robotics team. Starting a coffee bar he calls The Wired Cafe in his classroom has helped his team make the extra funds for robot building.

His cafe has grown so popular that they started selling donuts on Wednesdays as well. The robotic students run the register so it’s not one more thing he has to do each morning. It’s grown into a major operation. He started with a few Kuerig machines and a hot water pot.

The basic set up allows students to come in and make their own drink. He provides creamers and other accessories like marshmallows and whipped cream. (There is a small fridge in the room as well.) Each item has a cost so he created a page with barcodes to make it quick and easy. The barcodes are also tracked in a spreadsheet. (This is why he teaches computer science!) He’s able to print the spreadsheet and give a copy to the treasurer making sure it’s all legit.

Building Your Coffee Bar

Hearing about my husband enjoying delicious hot coffee each morning made me want to have my own coffee bar. My first problem was where to put it. I had maxed out my countertop and the last thing I wanted was to add any clutter. My classroom did have a spot that would fit my no longer needed changing table! Repurposing my changing table was perfect for setting up a coffee bar and providing me with more storage.

My husband found a great deal on a used Kuerig that came with a few cups. I brought in a few flavored syrups, creamers, a variety of other K-cups, mugs and some to-go cups with lids. The bar continually grows and evolves with flavors and users.

One of those coffee flavors is made by the Ladies Coffee Company. Their coffee has a great flavor that you can enjoy hot or cold. There are a ton of great blends to try and with teacher appreciation around the corner, you might want to check out Teacher Fuel. You can even use my TeacherMomcoffee discount code to receive 10% off your total purchase.

Share in the comments all the coffee accessories you’d want on your classroom coffee bar.

Classroom coffee bars are the perfect way to keep you caffeinated all day. But they can also help with teacher self care, building student relationships, and helping you make it through those really tough school days.
6 Test prep ideas to use in your classroom

6 Test prep ideas to use in your classroom

State testing season is officially upon us. A time of year that every teacher would prefer to be eliminated from the calendar, but the reality is that it’s part of our job. I’m going to tell you what I tell my students: this is not a defining moment. Sure, these tests are used for defining us as teachers and they are used for defining our students, but we are not the total sum calculated in that score.

Standardized testing season can be stressful for students and teachers. Use these 6 ideas to help ease that test prep stress in every classroom.

Does that give us permission to blow off the test? No, because the reality is that this state test is not going to miraculously disappear. We aren’t going to wake up one morning and hear that the governor has declared all state testing canceled. As much as we all would love for this to be the scenario!

So if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em!

Did you know that I sat on the Ohio AIR content advisory committee?

If I couldn’t make the test go away then I needed a way to understand it better. Once Ohio ditched the PARCC they started new teacher advisory committees to piece together the AIR test. Apparently, this is always the process of curating a standardized test.

A small committee of about 20 -25 teachers who have at least five years of teaching experience in that grade level work to decide on content. Teachers are chosen from a variety of districts around the state to represent the different demographic areas as well. All of the teachers chosen must apply for the committee.

The job of the committee is to ensure that test questions are aligned with grade level standards. Each question is presented as an assessment for a specific standard and if we feel the question doesn’t do that it can be rejected. There would have to be what’s called a “fatal flaw” within the question for that to happen. Most of the time a simple revision can fix a question.

Being an active participant and hearing this process helped me better understand assessments. It didn’t sway my opinion of how our state chooses to use these tests in determining teacher effectiveness, although not much would change my opinion on that. When it comes to state testing it’s too simplistic to say you agree or disagree with it. There is a need for evaluating student knowledge based on state standards and until there is a better way I will do what I can to help my students be better test takers.

Many students will have to sit for exams in order to further their careers so I like to look at test prep as if it’s a reading genre. Ultimately, every test is a reading test. Determine what they want you to show that you know and find the right answer. In my slide presentation on preparing for the Ohio AIR test, I go into specific detail about how students can use this to their advantage. You can also read more about lesson ideas I use for test prep here.

There are also environmental aspects to consider when preparing for a state test that can help students have a greater advantage. Here are six ideas for preparing your classroom for testing season.

1. Scent: Did you know that cinnamon helps to awaken the brain? In a brain science professional development we learned this little tidbit of information.  The presenter did mention that it can’t be fake cinnamon like a plug-in or spray or even melted wax. Her suggestion was to sprinkle a little on a few plates and place those around the room.

2. Look: Most states mandate that any posters come off the wall if they could help the students. Plan to do this a week in advance so students aren’t throw off by the “new” look of your room on the day of testing. This could also make for a good review. Ask students to recall where anchor charts hung and what was on them.

3. Feel: Suggest to your students that they wear their brightest color clothing! Bright colors evoke positive feelings and stimulate the brain. It’s also better to wear clothing that it’s too comfortable. Sweat pants and sweatshirts can make a person feel too relaxed and sleepy. I like to talk about the idea of dressing for the job you want, only I change it to dressing for the score you want.

4. Taste: Peppermint is a flavor that helps to awaken the brain and senses. We buy or PTO donates bags of the peppermint hard candies for students to suck on while testing. Cinnamon gum can also have the same effect. What you eat can also make a difference. Don’t forget to tell your students the importance of a high protein breakfast the morning of each test. High protein – low sugar. Protein allows energy that is prolonged, while sugar will give them a jolt then crash before testing is even over!

5. Sound: Silence can be deafening for some kids. They need opportunities to practice prolonged silence. Extended silent reading is great practice. Even a computer task without headphones. These are especially important if the norm in your classroom is background music and headphones during independent work time.

6. Emotion: One final tip that could help your students make a personal and emotional connection to a very impersonal assessment. Test dedications: it’s the same concept as athletes dedicating their performance or the dedication page at the start of every novel. Ask students to think about someone who has helped or encouraged their education. Have them write a small paragraph about why they deserve this honor then paste their picture next to it. Have students hang their dedication where they can see it while testing.

If you’d like a free downloadable test dedication printable simply add your email below. You’ll get access to this and many other free printables in our growing resource library.



Do you have other ways to help students prepare or feel ready for the test? Share your best test-taking strategies in the comments!

Hack Instructional Design

Hack Instructional Design

When I first began my career as a teacher I’d landed a job in Kannapolis, North Carolina. It was the absolute best place to start a career because this was a middle school that truly represented a staff that lived like family and educated students as if they were their own children.

Apart of that staff was a lively couple, Michael and Elizabeth Fisher. They were a two person teaching team that impressed me greatly. I marveled at the innovative ideas and teaching methods they used and shared with staff.

Since then we have all moved on in our careers and where we call home, but Mike and Liz, as I know them, have continued their journey as innovative educators. Read on as they share their latest adventure as teacher authors.

Some of the links in this post are affiliate links. Thank you for supporting our website. 

We are so excited to be able to share our newest book, Hacking Instructional Design: 33 Extraordinary Ways to Create a Contemporary Curriculum.

This book has been a labor of love as we have taken more than two decades of experiences working with children and teachers, along with an array of experience from experts in the field of curriculum and instructional design and created a one-stop shop of ideas to create a contemporary curriculum!

What we’ve written is meant to help teachers with the students that they currently have in the classrooms as well as all the future students coming through their doors.

As part of the Hack Learning Series of books, this installment follows the same formulaic structure. We identify a problem, a solution, and then step-by-step instructions for improving. Each problem and solution scenario is called a “Hack” and over the course of writing the book, specific themes emerged. We grouped those hacks together into categories we call “Hacktions.”

Each Hacktion represents a facet of a teacher’s instructional design decisions. Foundational hacktions represent what teachers will do BEFORE a student comes into the room. This is where they familiarize themselves with standards, instructional ideas to meet the standards, and goal / target setting for students.

Instructional Hacktions, along with Engagement and Contemporary Hacktions, address design ideas that will impact students when they’re in the room. This includes a multitude of ideas around inquiry design, lesson experiences, creativity and motivation, and new opportunities for engaging contemporary students with what matters to them.

Finally, we address Blueprint Hacktions. The blueprints are where the rubber meets the road; where the teacher and the teacher’s colleagues make agreed-upon decisions for how the curriculum will be documented.

Ultimately, we want teachers to create a thriving curriculum ecosystem where all the interconnected parts are harmonious. This includes giving students voices and choices about the ways in which they learn best.

As a thank you to Carly and the readers of Teach.Mom.Repeat., we’d love to share a BONUS BOOK that includes an additional chapter, a study guide, and templates / organizing tools for your own instructional design endeavors!

CLICK HERE TO ACCESS BONUS MATERIALS

Cheers to an awesome 2019!

Michael and Elizabeth Fisher


Michael Fisher is an author, instructional coach, and educational consultant specializing in the intersection between instructional technology and curriculum design. He works with districts in the United States and Canada to help teachers and schools maximize available technology, software, and web-based resources while attending to curriculum design, instructional practices, and assessments. This is his second book in the Hack Learning Series, following 2016’s Hacking the Common Core. You can contact him via Twitter @fisher1000 or by visiting his website at www.digigogy.com.

Elizabeth Fisher is an instructional coach and educational consultant specializing in literacy, English Language Arts, and curriculum design. She works with teachers and administrators across Western New York to help them improve their professional practices. You can contact her via Twitter @elizabethfisher.

Together, Michael and Elizabeth have been educating students and teachers for more than two decades. This is their first full-length book together, following co-created journal articles and professional development around parent involvement, brain-based learning, and differentiated instruction. They have two children, Lily and Charlotte, members of both Generations Z and Alpha, respectively, who keep them on their toes.

How to plan and pack healthy teacher lunches

How to plan and pack healthy teacher lunches

In all my years as a teacher, packing lunch has never been a priority. I never know what to pack for lunch outside of leftovers. Lately, my go-to lunch has been salad kits. They are super easy but then I’m left eating salad every single day at lunch and I’m not a big fan of the same food every day. Plus a salad isn’t as filling and then I’m more susceptible to saying yes when there are other treats available. If I could make healthy, filling lunches each day it would save me time and calories. That’s why I’ve asked my friend and wellness coach, Marija Crosson, to share some of her best tips for packing healthy lunches for school.

Some of the links in this post are affiliate links. Thank you for supporting our website. 

What makes for a great lunch

Lunch is the meal that has to sustain us the longest throughout the day.  I use the following ratio as a guide to make that happen:

  • I always start with 50% veggies to make me full. I shoot for 2-3 cups of greens and/or raw/roasted veggies. For greens, try arugula, kale, mesclun, and spinach. For roasted veggies, try broccoli or cauliflower. For raw veggies, try bell peppers, cherry tomatoes, or cucumber.
  • Then, I incorporate 25% protein to help keep me full longer. I shoot for a ½-1 cup of eggs and dairy, chicken, turkey, beef, pork, game, seafood, or plant-based protein. For meat and fish, try shredded chicken, ground turkey, baked salmon, or canned tuna.
  • The last 25% of my plate is fiber-filled carbohydrates to give me sustained energy. I shoot for ½-1 cup starchy veggies, beans, and legumes, or whole grains. For starchy veggies, try roasting acorn squash, butternut squash, or sweet potatoes. For beans and legumes, try black beans, garbanzo beans, or lentils. For whole grains, try brown rice, farro, whole grain pasta, or quinoa. When choosing processed and packaged carbohydrates, look for at least 1 gram fiber for every 10 g total carbs
  • Then I add in 1-2 accessories to make the meal pop with flavor. I shoot for 2-4 T of healthy fats/dressing/sauce/condiments. Try avocado, cheese, nuts, seeds, or vinaigrette.

Salads, bowls, and stir-frys fit this approach really well. You can use the above ratio to create your own combos but if you prefer to cook from a recipe, my favorite meal prep lunches come from the following food blogs: Ambitious Kitchen, Eating Bird Food, Fit Foodie Finds, Love Leaf Co, and Our Balanced Bowl. I think it’s helpful to build up a master list of recipes you’d like to try so then each week, the research is already done for you.

I used to organize my recipes in a Pinterest board but found it cumbersome to cook from. Recently, I’ve fallen in love with the Paprika Recipe Manager. It’s the best $4.99 that I’ve ever spent on an app. You can store, categorize and rate recipes, create shopping lists directly from a given recipe and also map out what meals you’re eating on which day. But even more than that, I love how each recipe has an ingredients tab and a directions tab, making it a breeze to keep track of where you are while you cook.

Big picture planning

I’ve learned that a little bit of strategy before jumping into this process goes a long way.  

When it comes to planning, ask yourself:

“Would I rather eat the same thing every day?” → {choose one recipe} or

“Would I rather mix things up?” → {choose 2-3 recipes to alternate across the week}.

When it comes to prepping, ask yourself:

“Would I rather have a bigger prep once? –> {on Saturday/Sunday/Monday for the week} or “Would I rather have a smaller prep twice {on Sat/Sun for the next 2-3 days and then mid-week for the last 2-3 days}

Having the right gear also makes this process a lot easier.  There is nothing worse than a lunch that spills all over your bag. And after my fair share of tests (and ruined bags), here are my favorites:

Option 1: Ball mason jars

  • I like using the wide mouth quart sized mason jars for salads and bowls

Option 2: Snapware glass containers or Sterlite Ultra-Seal plastic containers

  • I like using the 2 cup rectangular container for plain Greek yogurt + fruit or quinoa salad
  • I like using the 4 cup square container for stir-fry, salads, and bowls

When trying to decide how many to buy, a question worth asking yourself is:

“Would I rather save time and energy?” → {Buy multiple containers so you can pack them at one time} or

“Would I rather save money?” → Buy one container and keep the prepped ingredients separate in the fridge to assemble the night before.

Weekly Planning

On Thursday or Friday, I look at my weekend and what we have going on, then block out three chunks of time into my schedule.  During the first block, I sit down to plan out my meals for the week by looking at my master list of recipes and deciding what I want to eat that week.  I then make my grocery list by cross-checking the ingredient list with the items I already have in my kitchen.

During the second block, I go grocery shopping or place my order online. Did you know that if you are an Amazon Prime member, you get free 2-hour delivery through Whole Foods?  Check to see if they deliver in your area. It has helped us save a lot of time. Another good option is Instacart – they partner with local grocery stores to also deliver your groceries. Most local grocery stores now have a delivery or order online with pick up service.

During the third block, I cook the recipes and portion them out into my lunch containers. Each night, I pack everything (silverware included) into my lunchbox and put it into the fridge. Then it’s super easy to grab and go in the morning!

Benefits of packing

Incorporating even just a few of these meal planning and prepping tips will help you save money, time, and mental energy.  It will also help you increase your energy so that you can thrive throughout the school day. How good would it feel to simplify nutrition so that you can focus on what matters most?


Marija Crosson lives in Philadelphia with her husband Michael and son Owen. She is a literacy coach who supports K-3rd grade teachers with curriculum and instruction. She is also a virtual health and wellness coach who helps high performing women feel good from the inside out. Find more tips and tricks follow her on Instagram and join the conversation on Facebook If you would like to participate in one of her boot camps or have questions, contact Marija at marijacrossonwellness@gmail.com

How to Build Solid Student Relationships in the Holiday Season

How to Build Solid Student Relationships in the Holiday Season

Google has revolutionized the way I teach and I have never looked back. With technology like Google, you are able to save time and transform your teaching practices. But why get Google certified? To learn and teach. Being Google certified will help you have the skills to effectively use Google for Education in the classroom. Maybe you already know the basics, but taking the time to gain certification will certainly teach you a few tricks that you hadn’t discovered.

Being Google certified will also allow you to help colleagues more effectively use G Suites for Education. Most people resist change, but if you can show them how much Google simplifies the communication and collaboration process they might be willing to try something new.

If you’re like me and love all things Google becoming certified is the next step. And if you’re like me and follow along with the Google Teacher Tribe podcast you already know that Kasey Bell has Google Certification courses available. Participating in a course guarantees that you will gain the skills needed to pass the exam and give you a chance to practice.

If you’re new to this idea let me breakdown each of the certifications and what you can gain from joining a course then taking the exams.

Certification levels

Level 1 Certification: For the teacher who wants to successfully integrate G Suites for Education into their teaching practices. This level covers the basics of each Google tool that can be used in the classroom.  

Level 2 Certification: For the teacher who feels comfortable using G Suites in their classroom but would like to take it to a more advanced level. A deeper dive into each of the tools.  

Google Certified Trainer: For the teacher who enjoys teaching other teachers. This certification is open to any educator who would like to share what they have learned at the first two levels with other educators.

Google Certified Innovator: For the teacher who is developing their own innovative ways to use Google in the classroom.

Why become certified?

There is more to Google certification than the badge that can be added in your email signature and social media accounts. Certification is about your own education as an educator. If anyone understands the concept of life-long learning it’s teachers. One of the reasons we continue to teach is because we enjoy being learners ourselves. In the 21st century, technology has transformed the way we present information to students and how they demonstrate their learning to us. Google is not exclusive to the classroom. Many companies use G Suites for business purposes as well. Allowing students to gain these skills before entering the workplace gives them an advantage.

Many teachers are already using G Suites in their classrooms without becoming officially certified. So why spend the time and money to work towards certification?

1. Proficiency: Have you ever thought while planning your unit, there has to be a way for me to do this more efficiently? I know I have! Then you find yourself spending countless hours looking for the right answer. Taking the certification courses and becoming certified means you will have that answer right away. In fact, it will most likely give you new and improved ideas for delivering your content.

2. Effectiveness: Turning a handout into a Google Doc is not what G Suites is all about. The technology is not meant to replace, it’s meant to enhance. What you will learn through the course of gaining certification will help you to better know the possibilities of each tool and how to effectively use them in the classroom.

3. Networking: Join a large community of other certified educators who can provide you with support and help when you need it. Connecting with other educators is the best way to grow your creativity as a teacher.

 

Getting certified

Now that you’ve decided to go ahead with the process of becoming Google certified there are a few things that you may want to consider. First, consider taking one of Kasey’s courses to help you prepare for the exam. Sure, it’s possible to gather the knowledge you need from the Google training materials available. However, it will take a lot of reading and searching for answers all on your own without any help.

Taking Kasy’s course will give you exactly what you need to practice for the exam. She provides videos and documents, plus you can always ask her or the Facebook group specific questions if you’re having trouble.

Choosing a course such as these allows you to work at your own pace and on your own time schedule. Joining a scheduled Boot Camp that might be offered by your district will also give you the information you need to pass each exam. However, there is a lot to know and possibly learn. These face-to-face courses are only offered on a specific day and time so they may move too quickly for some people.

Before you make a decision about how to gain your certification take a look at Kasey’s post with frequently asked questions for more information. You will also find several resources she provides and details about each of the Google Certification courses she offers twice a year — May and November.

When you have successfully passed your exam and gained your certification be sure to brag in the comments.

Why You Need a Class Blog

Why You Need a Class Blog

Papers. Papers. And more papers. Sometimes it can feel like teachers are drowning in papers. With the addition of technology that allows us to communicate digitally, we can significantly decrease our use of paper and single-handedly save the trees. Using digital communication is also going straight to the source. Not to mention, less of a chance students aren’t handing parents that super important paper you spent time typing and then will spend more time fielding phone calls from the parents who didn’t know. A class blog can save you from all of this! 

A class blog can give you back time. Have you heard of the “asked and answered” technique for answering questions? Basically, you respond with “asked and answered” any time a student or child continues to ask you the same question. With a class blog, you can now direct students and parents to the place that contains all the answers. Here are 5 specific ways that you can use a class blog to save you time and many headaches.

Share syllabus or unit details

Most of the time we write type these up for students to keep track of their learning and assignments, but how many times have you needed to make extra copies for students who miss place them? All too often. Place these documents on a class blog and students, as well as parents, will have a place to find the information anytime they need it.

By using a class blog for this you will also have the opportunity to include links. Send students to their Google Classroom, an assessment site, articles you need them to read or any other website and document needed. By including this on the class blog you also allow parents access. As a middle school teacher, I find that the more I can include parents in what we are learning the more invested students are in the learning.

Classroom Procedures & Expectations

At the start of each new quarter, I find it necessary to remind middle school students of our classroom expectations. Sometimes a particular class begins to struggle with a specific expectation, like checking books out through our system. Typing it out and making it available to students and parents will give you a place to send students who may need to be reminded of the boundaries you’ve set for the class. Having it available to parents will allow you to inform them of all your expectations so that if their child crosses the line you can be sure the lines were explained.

If you have specific procedures in your classroom for things like book check-in and out, or a weekly assignment that students may need reminding about or may need a step-by-step for a while. This can also be very helpful when a new student joins your class. You can send them to the blog and you will be less likely to forget telling them an important piece of information.

Replace the Newsletter

Does your building send out a newsletter each month? Ours does. Inevitably I end up losing track of time and miss the submission deadline. Even when I do remember there is only so much room in the building newsletter to include what our class is up to for the month. With a class blog, I can write as much as I need to so that parents have all the details about our upcoming projects. A class blog newsletter also allows me to include photographs or videos of student work.

Highlight Student Work

One of my favorite ways to create community in our classroom is with my weekly precept awards. Each Monday I present a new precept and by Thursday students vote for the student who has lived out that precept. Sharing this with parents can help give the students more confidence and give parents insight about their kids at school.

Sharing student work or allowing students to write a post on behalf of the class can also be a great confidence booster. Give students ownership if you need their buy-in. You could even tap into their competitive nature and make posting a contest.

Provide Solutions

Inevitably every year a parent asks me how they can help their child be a better reader. This usually leads to me writing down some information and trying to think of all the best answers. Now I just email them a link to my blog post. I’ve also had parents ask about our online grade book system and what are the best books for their child to read that will keep them reading. All of these questions can now be answered with a detailed blog post. The best part is that I’m no longer providing solutions for one parent at a time. Now I can give solutions for parents who may not even think to ask. Adding it to the class blog gives me a place to send them and helps me to give specific detailed information.

The best part about the class blog is that once I’ve spent the time to write out each post I don’t have to spend the time the following year doing the same. I can go into the class blog and unpublish posts then republish them during the right time of the school year. For the posts that help provide parents solutions I usually keep those in one category so parents can always find them.

If you want to start your own class blog I have the perfect step-by-step free email course that will have you ready to blog in 5 days. Add your email below then check your inbox. Each day I will walk you through the setup process and make sure you know how to navigate the WordPress platform.

How to Blog with Students in All Subjects

How to Blog with Students in All Subjects

After just one school year of weekly blogging in the classroom, I’m convinced that this is the best way to engage students in writing. Blogging has also been a fantastic way to build relationships with my students. The most beneficial classroom management tool for any teacher is having a positive relationship with their students. However, we all know that making time to cultivate these positive relationships with each and every student is time-consuming. That’s where blogging in the classroom can help! Consider how a student who writes a blog post about their favorite novel character gives you insight into their reading habits, interests, and their general outlook on life. Maybe they share a particularly difficult math concept the finally mastered. Perhaps they take photos of a recent piece of artwork and write about the process. Blogging is the perfect opportunity to assign writing for every grade level and every subject area.

As a blogger it’s customary to write with a  conversational tone, making this an easy writing style for kids. My students were almost always more willing to write a blog post than to author an essay. But this activity is not just for English teachers, let me share why and how any educator can use blogging in the classroom.

Class blogs are a great way to keep parents informed and students engaged. Help your students master writing in any subject area and grade level through student blogs. Find ideas and resources to help you get started today.

Let’s start with a list of benefits (just in case you need to convince anyone blogging in the classroom is the right activity for you).

  1. Improved Literacy Skills:  This is more of a byproduct of blogging. When you set specific expectations for what blogging looks like in your classroom and provide timely feedback to students their writing is going to improve. Of course, this could be said for any writing program. Blogging adds engagement for students through an authentic, global audience. When they are able to hear feedback from classmates, parents or anyone else who reads their public posts, students begin to write with a higher quality.
  2. Digital Citizenship: Blogs are now a part of nearly every brand with a website. Showing students what this concept looks like through a quality blogging program in your classroom will help them see the future job opportunities they could pursue. If you choose to include images with blog posts you’ll need to teach them about copyright laws. You are also showing them how to appropriately communicate online through posts and comments. This would hopefully transfer to their social media presence, as well.  We have the opportunity to teach them how they can use their platforms for leadership opportunities rather than engaging in negative interactions.
  3. Authentic Writing Audience: We are always telling kids how important written communication will be for them and blogging is a great way to practice. The real world skills of writing for an actual audience, who is not a teacher giving them a grade, will help them see the fruits of their writing. Through comments, students can hear how people interpret their writing and how it helped them. There are several places teachers have joined together in sharing blogs and solicit comments. A special hashtag, #comments4kids, has been established and is frequently used by teachers who blog with students.
  4.  Connect Home & School: Blogs are a great way to keep parents up to date on what their child is learning. Parents can tangibly see their child’s growth and progress that’s not an indistinct letter grade. Using the class blog to keep parents informed of the happening of each quarter or monthly learning can be helpful. We all know the school newsletter often goes from mailbox to trashcan. Whereas a blog might be more convenient for them to check from work or home and may provide more relevant, timely information for their child.
  5. Metacognition: A high level of thinking defined as “thinking about what you think.” Blogging takes on an editorial style of writing where students can share their opinions and thinking processes that took place on the way to establishing this opinion. Commenting on peer blog posts is another way to get kids thinking critically. They should learn how to make a connection and add something new to the topic in their comment. They will also need to learn the etiquette of disagreement.

These may have convinced you that blogging is a great idea, but it’s writing and you may not be a writing teacher. Let me share how every school subject could use blogging as a way to enhance their curriculum.

Science

Students could write blog posts that share an in-class lab. They could write in a step by step format so that other classes could replicate this lab. As a teacher, you’ll need to assess their knowledge so you could ask them to write a reaction to the outcomes of their lab. This could be preparation for students competing in Science Fair.

Social Studies

Rather than asking students to read about an event or person in a textbook they could each find research and documents to share within a blog. They could then make connections to how that aspect of history has played a role in today’s society. Students could even think through alternate historical outcomes and how that could have affected their lives. Let them become local historians and collect stories from the community to document on a blog.

Math 

Students are always asking, “How am I going to use this one day?” Make this the focus of your blog and have students figure out how that math concept is used in the real world. Students could write tutorials as a way of providing homework help.

Music

Sharing videos of student choirs would be a wonderful way to showcase student talent. Students in Music Theory type classes could write informational blog posts about famous musicians, styles, and instruments.

Physical Education and Health

Students can blog about the history of different sports. They could invent their own sport or activity and provide details for playing. If there is a major sporting event taking place, like the Olympics, students could profile an athlete or sport. Students could write posts that could help their peers find support when dealing with difficult situations, and include resources for finding professional help. There might be a need for writing step-by-step instructions or a top ten list that other students would find helpful.

Art

This is another great way to showcase student talent and allow them to describe their process for creating the art. Students might write a profile for a famous artist, or better yet a local artist.

Foreign Language 

Blogging would be a great way for students to write about the countries where the language they are learning is spoken. They could even partner with a classroom in those countries and write collaboration pieces. For the truly advanced students, they could write posts in the foreign language.

For any subject and grade level writing is always a great way to ask students to perform a summative assessment. You could create a prompt that asks them to share what they learned. For example: Pretend your table partner was absent, explain to them what knowledge they missed today. There are a number of ways to ask students to write. Providing students with an authentic writing experience, even when it may be for assessment purposes, gives them motivation for more thorough writing.

Still feeling overwhelmed? Let me help! I’ve created a Blogging with Students course that will walk you through each step for setting up a class blog and student blogs. I give you lesson ideas, video tutorials, and a full curriculum to get you through the school year. Go to the course site here for more information. Drop your email to stay updated on all things blogging with students.

Want to give blogging a try for yourself first? Start with a class blog. Sign up for my free 5-day email course.  Each day I will walk you through the process of setting up a powerful class blog that parents will love and students will appreciate. You will get to see firsthand what blogging can do for your classroom.

Hold a Speech Contest with Scrooge

Hold a Speech Contest with Scrooge

A Christmas Carol is arguably the most widely known Dickens story of all time. Made into movie after made-for-TV movie, this story has been told over and over again. Each year the 7th-grade language arts teachers dust off our textbooks and read this play with students. We all know that as much as we may love a story it can become boring eventually. Here is an idea to breathe some life back into teaching A Christmas Carol plus teach students the art of persuasion.

A Christmas Carol is a popular story for middle school teachers to use during the holiday season. Here is an idea for using the story of Ebenezer Scrooge to teach students generosity along with speech skills and persuasion. Blend fiction with nonfiction in this simple Christmas time lesson plan.

Before they changed our standards and took away persuasive writing it was a staple writing assignment essay. I enjoyed teaching students about the techniques of persuasion and we usually did this in the form of a letter to parents. We would write parents a letter persuading them to buy a particular item for Christmas. Some of you may have just cringed at that last sentence.

YES, with more experience as a classroom teacher I started to see how this assignment was troublesome. Many students came from homes where Christmas was not celebrated or presents were not part of the budget or the requested gift was simply out of the question. So I needed to take a different approach. That’s when I created the Scrooge Speech Contest.

The new assignment was to convince Scrooge that the charity of your choice should receive his donation this Christmas season. Click To Tweet

We always read A Christmas Carol at the start of December. Sometimes the play version from our textbook or the Scope Magazine version. In the years I had advanced students we read the actual text. In the years I was scheduled for co-taught classes we read a shorter, illustrated version. Either way, every version shares the story of how Scrooge changes from a tight-fisted miser to a man who celebrated Christmas with all his heart. At the end of the story, we learn that he did give money to the men who asked for donations and he became a benefactor to the Cratchit family. This was the perfect opportunity to change our persuasion writing assignment.

The new assignment was to convince Scrooge that the charity of your choice should receive his donation this Christmas season. A chance to teach writing and speaking skills all in one.

The Assignment

Students started by choosing a charity. The first year I let this be a free for all. That was a huge mistake! Students had a terrible time researching and we ended up with 20 speeches about the Humane Society. I must have had a lot of animal lovers that year. The problem was students weren’t branching out to see what charities were even possible they just went with what they knew.

The next year I created a list. This list has grown since spending time with a number of charities through my World Race mission trip. The list also became an opportunity for me to share the work I did overseas. The list, which is a Google Doc of links to the charity websites, helped for the most part. I still had students choosing what they knew. This is not necessarily a problem, however, on the day of speeches, it’s hard for the class to sit through the same speech over and over again. That’s when I initiated a draft day.

Students were given access to the list of charity links and they had 10 minutes to investigate their options. This also gave me the chance to strike up a conversation with an individual student and help them choose a charity that might fit with their passions. I could steer the animal lovers to other charities like the World Wild Life Fund or Puppies Behind Bars. Once students found a charity they connected with they would type their name in the shared spreadsheet. I kept the spreadsheet for all 3 of my classes so that no student had the same. This made the speech day more bearable for me. There are enough charities in the world so why not learn about as many as possible?

Research and Writing

The next few days students learned a few basic research skills for navigating a website. Check off any digital literacy standards you have for that day. They would keep track of their research in these Digital Notecards I designed. Once they had a full picture of the charity they began working on their presentation. Most organizations these days have very detailed websites. Students can usually find all they need for the presentation on the one website.

It’s important to take this opportunity to teach students the proper etiquette for giving a speech with a slide presentation. Middle schoolers tend to write everything they want to say on the slides and then proceed to read those slides to the audience. As we all know this is poor form. I would model for them what a presentation should look like by presenting my favorite charity Remember Nhu. Sharing this charity allowed me to present personal testimony from working with this organization and the impact it made on my own life. When students see this they tend to want a personal connection to the charity they picked. That is a beautiful moment! One year a student shared how Wyld Life changed things for them and gave them hope for a better future.

Presentation Day

One-by-one students present their charity to the class. Sharing an overview of the charity, who are impacted by the organization, a major project currently taking place, and how Scrooge’s contribution will make a difference. If the charity has a short introduction video that students can use for the overview section I do allow them to share the video. I also make stipulations that they can only include 1 video and the whole presentation cannot exceed 5 minutes. As students present, I find it easiest to assess their speech in a pre-made Google Form. This allows me to give them a point value for each section and provide feedback. It also makes entering final scores from the spreadsheet super quick.

Take it up a notch

Here are a few ideas I’ve used to really take this project to the next level. Since my students are blogging in class they have turned their presentation into a blog post. Another option would be a class Google Site where students could upload their slide presentations to be shared publicly.

Another fun way to take this up a notch is to collect actual funds for the speech winner to donate to their charity. My second year implementing this project we raised $100 and we were able to donate that money in the student’s name. It certainly makes giving a very real experience. Especially if a student has never had the means to give. I set a mason jar on my desk to collect change and posted to my Facebook friends that we were doing this with a way for them to help. There are a number of ways that you could go about doing this now and possibly generate a large enough donation to allow several students to make donations in their name. It can be hard to choose just one. Another option, rather than having to choose, could be to draw from a hat or randomizer.

If you host a Scrooge Speech contest this Christmas season I’d love to hear how it goes and see any links if you decide to share. Have any other ideas for how to make this project awesome? Share them in the comments.

Professional Development Anytime, Anywhere

Professional Development Anytime, Anywhere

My first years as a teacher I loved going to professional development meetings. I have always loved to learn new things. Probably why I became a teacher. In that first year, I discovered a workshop called What’s New in Young Adult Literature? and it changed my world. I became addicted to conferences and all things professional development.

The year I traveled to Pittsburgh for the NCTE conference is hands down the best conference I’ve ever attended to date. I shook hands with Walter Dean Myers and intently listened while he shared about his own visit to Egypt. Lois Lowry was such a quiet, reserved woman that I could say nothing but a simple thank you and quietly walk away in awe. Laurie Halse Anderson held up her line to chat with me like we’d been friends for years. Sarah Weeks was a new author at the time and I’ve been a raging fan ever since. Jon Sonnenblick, also new at the time, was super funny in spite of having written a book about childhood cancer.  To me, this was a “red carpet” experience! Authors are the English teacher’s celebrity.

The next school year I immediately completed the appropriate paperwork requesting to attend NCTE again. However, that request was met with budget cuts and the opportunity to attend amazing conferences dwindled as the years went by. Working towards my Master’s degree was about all the professional development I was taking in and it wasn’t much fun any longer.

Then came the technology boom.

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In my career, I have gone from walking students to a computer lab filled with desktop computers to a Chromebook for every student. Learning how to utilize that technology in the classroom has been a major teaching overhaul for most of us in this profession. Some of us have embraced it while others prefer the traditional days of handwritten papers. Learning to use technology effectively has not been easy, so I understand the teachers who hesitate to bring it on board. However, technology is not going away anytime soon! We would be doing our students a disservice if we did not help them to navigate the world of technology.

Our building is not a one-to-one just yet, I believe it’s in the works. We did change over to a Google school and this has completely transformed my teaching and any kind of workflow I use for creating. In the beginning, I had no idea what being a Google school even meant. Then I was introduced to Kasey Bell, the author of Shake Up Learning.

My very helpful media specialist printed me a copy of Kasey’s free Google Cheat Sheet. After reading this I immediately wanted more! I went to the website signed up for her email updates and printed nearly every free resource she offers. I had to stop once I realized how much free stuff she actually has available.

One of my favorite resources was the teacher challenge. This helped me to learn so much I didn’t know existed in the world of technology for the classroom. Learning from Kasey has catapulted a domino effect in my life personally and professionally.

For starters, I am now a blogger. My students are bloggers. Which gave me the idea to help other teachers create bloggers out of their students. My world has opened up to the many possibilities that technology provides.

One of which happens to be a new way of gaining professional development without needing to travel or take a day off of school.

Webinars and online courses are the new waves in learning. In any profession, not just teaching.

Online learning provides a few things that in-person conferences can not. For starters, you can learn anywhere, anytime. If you have a device and WiFi you can learn something new. The other great part about online learning is the community built around it. Nearly every course out there also provides a Facebook group where people who have taken the course can share ideas or ask questions. The Shake Up Learning group is a wonderful place to get answers quickly or learn new ideas or teacher hacks.

The latest from Shake Up Learning is a Google Slide Master Class. Kasey often refers to Google Slides as the “Swiss Army Knife of the G Suite tools” because it is so much more than just another presentation tool. Her course is for any K-12 educator looking for new and dynamic ways to use Google Slides in the classroom. If you know how to find the Slides app and start a blank presentation this course will teach you the rest. On the other hand, if you’ve been using Slides, like I have, for a number of years you are still going to learn new and innovative ways to incorporate Slides into your classroom.

If you are looking to seriously step up your G Suite game check out the bundle option! You can purchase both the Google Slides Master Class and the Google Classroom Master Class at a discount.

In the Slides Master Class, you’ll also learn three bonus lessons.

BONUS 1: Stop Motion Animation

Save yourself valuable instructional time and that oh so elusive teacher sanity by packaging your assignments so that students have EVERYTHING they need in one place.

BONUS 2: How to Create Magnetic Poetry with Slides and Drawings

This bonus is one of the most requested resources! In this bonus, you will learn how to create interactive lessons like magnetic poetry with Google Slides AND Google Drawings.

BONUS 3: 50 Google Slides Lesson and Project Ideas

This bonus lesson is loaded with 50 ideas for using Google Slides in your classroom. There are ideas for every grade level and every skill level. Use the skills from this course to design lessons and projects for your students.

My students recently completed the Vision Board lesson idea. I taught them how to add Unspalsh photos, use text over photos, and how to download the slide as a .jpg so they could add it to their blog. I love how easy this was and what I love it, even more, is that their parents can see them and comment on them.

If you’ve never visited Shake Up Learning at the website or through Facebook I encourage you to go there now! You can also visit or tune in to the Google Teacher Tribe Podcast that Kasey co-hosts with Matt Miller from Ditch That Textbook. Free PD every Monday afternoon!

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