Friday, January 24, 2014

Division One Students Using Google Slides

Google Slides in Division One

I definitely favour Google Slides/Presentation out of all the Google Apps for use with my grade twos. A few months ago I shared some activities I have done with grade two students and Google Slides at a Community of Practice. Here is the presentation.

Friday, January 17, 2014

Creating Interactive "Text" For Content Areas Problems and Solutions

Bandwidth Woes and Possible Solutions


So this week I was inspired and motivated to try using Read and Write For Google to help make the reading in my science lesson more UDL. Unfortunately, my school has been regularly maxing out its bandwidth. As Read and Write For Google is Internet based, this put an extra strain on the bandwidth issue. As a result the activity had a lot of delays and issues.

Solution Idea

So, the next day I had students work on science centres. My students rotated around four stations, one of which was the online reading station. This reduced the strain on our bandwidth. It also also allowed me to problem solve with a small group of students as required rather than the whole class. I demonstrated to each small group how to change the pace of the reading, how to use the dictionary and the picture dictionary. 

Read and Write For Google Hiccup and Possible Solutions


One problem I encountered that I thought would be minor was that Read and Write for Google will read the footnote number at the end of the sentence. This ended up being quite distracting for my some of my students

Solution Idea

I think being a role model for good digital citizenship is important. So I kept the footnotes but I did not keep them right next to the image. Instead I moved them all to the end of the document and put them together so the flow of the reading would not be disrupted.

Next Activity To Try

Learning About Insulation

This week we did two great hands on activities around animal insulation: the Walrus Mitt and the Polar Bear Blanket. I want students to get familiar with more animal insulation so we can better "identify materials that are used by humans for the same purpose". The reading material available for the wide range of reading levels in my class is limited on this topic. So I decided to try my online text experiment again. 

I took the write up materials from the EPSB brown book on Hot and Cold Temperatures and typed it into a Google Doc. As before, I added pictures. I also added links to Fact Monster definitions to extend the document to those students who need enrichment and extension. 

Wait! Maybe I Should Use Presentation!

Then I got thinking that an alternate way for making this activity be more UDL would be to add videos from my Hot and Cold playlist. So I thought I'd try making a Google Presentation as you cannot embed videos into a Google Document. It means that the Read and Write for Google will not be accessible for this activity. I think I have kept the text simple enough that it should not be problematic, except for the first slide. I plan to read that to the whole class as the set for the activity. As before, students will need to fill in a worksheet that demonstrates they have learned the concept. I have the Google Document to use for any students I think benefit from the Read and Write For Google.

Wish me luck!

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Creating My Own "Online" Textbook

Anytime Content For Everyone
Blythe's post about using videos in the classroom not only inspired me to do the same, but it also inspired me to try something I heard about last year - using teacher created Google Documents in combination with Read And Write for Google to create more accessible reading/research materials for students. I like this idea because it is online, so like the videos, it can also be reviewed by families at home and by students who are away. The learning material becomes something they can go back to anytime. 

Science Example
It has been many years since I taught grade two science. So when I came across the outcomes about how local buildings are heated, I looked to Edmonton Public School's "Brown Book" for an idea. It provided fact pages to read with students. Not particularly exciting, nor particularly UDL. That said, I didn't have a better idea that day. So I thought it would be a good match for trying my idea of teacher created Google Documents for research.

Don't Reinvent the Wheel
I took the text provided by the brown book almost verbatim. Perhaps in future years I will modify it. I called it Heating Buildings and added it to my class website

How Is It UDL (Universal Design for Learning)?
The basic tenet of UDL, as I understand it, is to make learning accessible for all students in your classroom. For my word smart students, they can simply read the text as it is. For my students who struggle with reading but not with comprehension, I have given them the ability to not only have the text read to them, but to select the passages they want to hear again. Whereas if this were done as a whole class activity, they have no control over how the passage is read to them. For my English Language Learner students, I have provided images for the keywords. They can also use the picture dictionary from Read and Write to assist them. 

What? A Worksheet?
I wanted a simple way for students to have to use the information they read. The knowledge outcome stated they needed to:

  • identify the energy source/fuel, 
  • recognize that most buildings are heated by circulating hot air or hot water,
  • describe how heat is circulated through the school building and through their own homes.
So I created a worksheet that I felt addressed the outcome. 

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Follow Up from the Flipped Classroom Presentation: using Google Forms for Assessment in Grade One

Here is another idea to follow up on the use of the Flipped Classroom model.  I used the same setup as the videos I used to introduce the concept of showing numbers with base ten blocks.  I used a digital camera to take photos, then used the photos in a Google Form.  Each picture corresponds to an assessment question where the students respond either by multiple choice or numerical reponse to show what number is being represented. 

The students liked using the Google Form and completing assessment online.  I liked having all of the answers compiled in a Google Spreadsheet. And the parents liked doing the assessment afterwards at home with this child. 

Friday, January 3, 2014

A Review: SpellingCity (Free version)

A Summary of SpellingCity

The free version of SpellingCity is a game-based way to learn spelling and vocabulary. There were more free activities a few years ago that have since been moved over to the premium side. 

It has a user-created database of 50,000 words. There is a mobile app which is free for the iPad. The Android app requires a mobile pass for $1.99 or premium membership to access user made lists. 

I have used SpellingCity for a number of years in a grade two classroom. I like the fact that it does not require a great deal of time to create weekly lists. If you use the same or similar lists each year, it is easy to reuse and modify your lists. You can use the definitions and sentences in the database or you can create your own. 

It also gives you a homepage of sorts that you can use to direct your students to your class lists. 

Suggested Grade Levels

SpellingCity advertises itself as a K-12 site. I would not recommend this for regular use in a kindergarten classroom. 

Curriculum Connections

Language arts is the most obvious use for SpellingCity. However, you could also use it to introduce or review vocabulary for subject areas like science and social studies.  

Suggested Uses


I like using SpellingCity as a centre. Once a week students have the opportunity to practice their spelling words with it. At the beginning of the year I teach a few whole class lessons on how to use SpellingCity and my expectations when they use it. 
  1. I instruct them to use the "teach me" tool first. This is where they click on the word and the word is said aloud, spelled aloud and then read in a sentence aloud. 
  2. Then they must do the "spelling test" tool. Again the word is read aloud and in a sentence for them. Once they have spelled all of the words, it tells them how many correct they have. 
  3. Finally, they get to "play a game" and they can select any of the six spelling activities (under free)


If you are doing a "flipped" classroom, you may want to use SpellingCity as a way to provide your students with an opportunity to work on their spelling words at home. I provide a link off my class website that goes directly to my SpellingCity homepage

Differentiated Instruction

I like that it provides three ways to learn spelling:

  1. Auditory: hear the word and hear the word spelled out
  2. Visual: seeing the word
  3. Kinesthetic: they have to type the word

Also, if you have student working on different spelling lists, SpellingCity is a way that they could still do the same activities but be assigned/select different lists. 

Skills Needed Prior to Use


Students will need to know how to use the mouse/trackpad on the device they are using. 


For this to be effective, students should be able to navigate a keyboard relatively effectively. It is also a good way to help them develop their keyboarding skills. 

Area of Concern

Like any free site, ads are something to be aware of with SpellingCity. In general, I find that my students are not distracted by the ads when using SpellingCity. Often I have them using it on netbooks, so the smaller screen will only permit them to see the game/activity they are using.


I highly recommend SpellingCity as an easy and effective way to have students practice their spelling words at school/home. Students enjoy using it.