Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Partner Acrostic Planning and Writing on Google Drawing - Successes And An Oops

Collaboration Time

I wanted to begin to use the collaboration aspects of Google Apps for Education (GAFE) with my grade twos. Until now, most of the work they have done with GAFE has been individual. Part of the reason they have not collaborated with GAFE is skill development. I wanted to build their skills as technology users before adding another complicating factor. 

The Plan

I made a Google Drawing template for each pair to work on based on the bubble maps we have done in class. I also made an acrostic on Google Drawing for each pair.

I shared each Drawing with one student in the pair only. I wanted to extend the skill of "Sharing". Students in my class are already skilled at sharing with me. 

I assigned partners, keeping in mind technology and problem solving skill levels. I also made sure they were not sitting by one another.

I modeled the activity on the Smartboard, with one of my students as my partner. We discussed shared work etiquette, such as do not work where you see your partner's cursor. I also suggested that the person who was being shared WITH help the student doing the sharing by standing by them as they enter the username. We discussed about deciding who would do which 'boxes' to avoid confusion, one person could do the top three, the other could do the bottom three. We also discussed that it was okay to add to your partner's work.

The Oops

I used Doctopus to share the Drawings. The problem was that the students are not the owners of the Drawings (I am) and only the owners can Share. So I quickly opened up the 13 Drawings and made the students the owner of their copies. I had to do that with both activities.

Good Practice That Came In Handy

In general, when I try a new technology skill or activity for the first time, I try to build in extra time to allow for issues or problems. Because I had given my lesson a cushion of time, I was able to deal with the sharing issue and still have most students finish the activity.  

Why Two Activities?

Repetition is important when learning any skill. I wanted the students to go through the process twice, which is why I planned two relatively short activities within the same lesson.

Students/pairs worked on the brainstorm. Then, when most pairs were done, I had them come back to the Smartboard. Once again I modeled the activity on the Smartboard, with one of my students as my partner. We also reviewed good collaboration etiquette.


Students enjoyed the task. They were able to work successfully with their partners. Some partners were able to add an image and move it to the background, with my support. We did not do any editing or revising as this was just a lesson in learning technology and collaboration skills.


Students are going to do the same lesson, with different partner. Instead of "spring" they will do March. The goal will to have ALL pairs get to the insert an image as a background stage.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Graphic Organizers on Google Documents

Question: How Can I Use Graphic Organizers on Google Docs?

Graphic organizers are a great tool for division one writing. As a Balanced Literacy trained teacher, I have used them in my writing program for years. As more and more of my students' writing moves onto Google Documents and Presentation, I have repeatedly wondered how can I use graphic organizers on Google Docs?

Value In Paper Planning

I still see the value of using paper copies of graphic organizers and teaching students how to use them, especially with younger students. However, once they have experienced that strategy a few times I want them to sometimes compose straight onto a Google Document, with support. Using Google Document, or Word for that matter, shouldn't always be for typing a "good copy".

My First Attempt

Please note that my students have a lot of experience on Google Docs.
  1. I created a Google Document that used the idea of a sequence organizer as inspiration. My students had used a paper sequence organizer a few times this year and I had an example of one posted in our writing area.
  2. I created a comment that is intended to give instructions for how to use the template (see how this worked in my reflection below).
  3. I used Doctopus to share the template with all my students. 
  4. I had my students brainstorm, as a class, an event (we did St. Patrick's Day) in the form of a flow chart. I did this the day before the writing.
  5. As a class, we discussed some possible introduction and conclusion sentences.
  6. I walked my students through the steps of how to use the template I shared with them.
    1. Once in Drive, go to Shared With Me
    2. Find the document St. Patrick's Day
    3. Rename the document
    4. Write an introduction. **
    5. Use the strong words to start sentences
    6. Write a conclusion. ++
  7. I allowed student writing time. 
  8. I stopped the class for a movement break and reminded them before they say "I'm finished", they need to revise for adjectives. We discussed some possible adjectives for the current writing activity.
  9. I allowed student more writing time.
  10. After class, I read my students' writing and gave each student two stars and a wish.
  11. I had my students read the feedback. Students were given time to finish/revise their work and then could select "resolve" on the comment I left them. 
  12. I printed/published student work depending on the format of the final product.  Some of my students chose to do letters, some of my students chose to send emails.

Reflection On My First Attempt

I was really pleased with how it worked. Students used the strong sequence words in their writing correctly. I circulated and made sure everyone had an introduction. Some students used a capital letter to start the word after the strong word (First We went..), but that often happened when I did paper sequence writing on a sequence organizer as well. The one hiccup was that the comment I made in my template about how to use the "Google Organizer" did not transfer when I used Doctopus to create each student their own document. It wasn't really needed as I also went over the steps in person.

Added Bonus

I had two students away during our first writing session. I shared their Google Document with their families and invited them to work on as much of it at home as they were able to so that the student did not have too much to catch up on. One of the students was able to get the middle section completed so that all she had to do during the next writing session was the introduction and conclusion. 

Question: Will Other Organizers Work As Well?

I'll let you know what I try out and what works! Please post a comment if you have suggestions or ideas!

Saturday, March 1, 2014

Reflection on: A Different View of Google Sites: Using Google Sites to Create Websites with Pizzazz, Flair, and Dynamic Design

I moved my class website over to Google Sites this year after making a staff start page using Google Sites last spring. After about a year of using Google Sites, I feel comfortable with the basics and was inspired by Ken Shelton's session at the Alberta Summit to now extend that learning. He models simple design and easy to access information on his own Google Site about Site Design(ed). A useful resource!

His session (A Different View of Google Sites: Using Google Sites to Create Websites with Pizzazz, Flair, and Dynamic Design) explained simple ways to personalize a Google Site so that your website does not look like all the other websites that use the set templates provided by Google. 

Key Tips

There were a few tips that stood out for me:
1. Two Clicks
2. Colour
3. Font
4. Simple

New Website

Prior to the session, I had just begun migrating a website of teacher resources that I maintain over to Sites from Wordpress. It seemed like perfect timing to practice what I learned with something I will actually use on something that is not yet "live". I plan to then implement the changes on my class website as well. 

Tip One: Two Clicks

A user should be able to get to any content on your page in two clicks or less.  The best way to accomplish this is to use drop down menus. 

He also encouraged site designers to decrease the amount of scrolling needed to reach content. By using two column or three column layouts, you can minimize users getting frustrated with finding the content they are seeking. 

Check out Ken's page on navigation and look for more tips and resources. 

Tip Two: Colour

He pointed out that colour can say a lot about you. He gave some great resources for planning and creating a colour scheme for a Google Site so that you are not using one of the set templates. He also reminded us that in general, a darker background with lighter font is easier to read for web-based text and a lighter background with darker font is easier to read for paper based text. 

Colour Resources:
  • PikNik Color Picker - a simple website that you can use to select a colour you like and then get the hex value of the hue you selected. 
  • Color Scheme Designer - a site that helps you create a colour scheme or palate to use in
    your site design. Lots of cool features, including an option to preview how your choices would look if you used a light or dark background. 
  • ColourLovers - a site that allows you to create colours, palettes and patterns. Sign up is free. You can use the palettes and/or patterns you devise to create a banner/header image for your site. If you find a colour that no one else has used on the site before, you get to name
    it! Fun. Warning, the site can be addictive. 
  • Check out Ken's page on colour  for more tips and resources. 

Tip Three: Font

Font can say a lot about you as well. One theme at the Alberta Summit was the use of Comic Sans. As one presenter said: Friends don't let friends use Comic Sans. When choosing a font, it is useful to consider truetype fonts, such as Helvetica (as used in this post), as these fonts will look same no matter the device the website is being viewed on.

Check out Ken's resources page for more tips and resources on typeface. 

 Tip Four: Simple

Keep the overall layout and colour choices simple. 

Check out Ken's page on navigation and look for more tips and resources. Check out the home page on his site for an example of simple!

Division One Classroom Applications?

Unless you are doing ePortfolios, I do not currently see the value of teaching K-3 students Google Sites. Those schools/teachers doing ePortfolios may want to introduce one or two aspects of individualizing the layout of an ePortfolio in grade three. However, as things with Google Apps for Education evolve, you never know...

For a long time I have recommended having a classroom website. I think the tips Ken gave will help make my class website easier  for my students to use