Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Google Drawing

Are you looking to have your students classify or sort information into categories? Look no further... Google Drawing to the rescue!

Background Information
I have been very successful in implementing this in my grade 1 class. First, I found Google Drawing to be fairly simple for students using technology for the first time. It's easy for students to manipulate objects and drag objects. It helped build up my students' confidence in using technology. I found it to be easier for younger students to engage in these activities using an actual mouse rather than a keypad on a laptop or Chromebook. I use this as a quick assessment tool.

Teaching the Skills
First off, I wanted students to be able to get on the activities quickly. I had created a Google Drawing template, created a copy for each of my students and shared it with them. It's a bit tedious, but well worth it. That way, all the students would have to do is login to Google Drive and click "Shared With Me" and it should be the first link that pops up.

However, I learned recently that it will be easier sharing the template using the Doctopus add-on (Thanks, Colette!).

One of the easiest activities is to just have students to click and drag objects into categories. For example, I had students sort animal coverings into four categories: fur, scales, shell, and feathers. Alternatively, students could come up with their own ideas and find their own pictures using the research tool. In Google Drawing, you can find this under "Tools" --> "Research".

The next challenge is having students create their own shapes using the shape tool.

They were to create shapes and put them into the appropriate headings/categories. The students had little difficulty creating the shapes. The instructions were to find the shape that they wanted and click and drag. In my template, I had them double click into the text box to add their own numbers. Here's an example of this type of activity.

The last type of activity that I have explored involves students using the line tool.

I had them focus on using the polyline. The students didn't have too much trouble figuring this one out. The trick is to ensure the shape they are making is CLOSED. After that, Google shades the shape in automatically and the kids love to see that! Of course, they are welcome to change the colours.

Here are other examples of Google Drawing assignments/projects that I have or another teacher had done.

2D Shapes

Grade 3 Election Poster

Mother's Day Acrostic Poem (Thanks, Shelly!)

There are so many possibilities on using Google Drawing in the classroom! You can find the links to the templates here.

Sorting 1 (Vertices)

You can also find them on the Div1 Collaboration Site for Educational Technology here: https://sites.google.com/a/epsb.ca/division-one-collaboration-site-for-educational-technology/

Thanks for reading!

Monday, May 26, 2014

Research with Read and Write for Google

My Grade One students have been successful at researching our class pet using Read and Write for Google. The students are always a buzz about our Chilean rose hair tarantula and they want to share information about her with others. Each students added the extension from the Chrome App Store. First the students practiced using the features in their own Google Doc. They could listen to their own writing to help with revising and editing. Then we started doing research and looking information on the web; the students were familiar with the extension already and were able to use it to listen to information on websites. Now they are creating their own information about tarantulas in a Google Doc.
Read and Write for Google allows for increased access to information that previously would have been inaccessible due to reading level. Now written information can be accessed, created and share with anyone.

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Discoveries on Twitter or, why my colleagues would love this tool.


This past year, Twitter has been a great resource for learning and connecting with fellow educators. Through Twitter I have been able to:

  1. Learn about fabulous picture books from librarians passionate about good literature. This website: Watch. Connect. Read.  by K to 5 Librarian @Mr.SchuReads, introduced me to delightful wordless books: Chalk and Fossil by Bill Thompson. Great inspiration for writing!

  1. Discover and participate in global events that engage students with kids around the world. The Global Read Aloud, is an event I am considering for the next school year.  If your students have participated in the past, I’d be interested in hearing about your experience.

  1. Discover science projects that give students a chance to participate in meaningful research and the opportunity to contribute their data to a project with the Canadian Space Agency, through, Tomatoshere,.

  1. Learn about professional texts such as: Inquiry Circles in Action Comprehension and Collaboration by Stephanie Harvey and Harvey Daniels.  A teacher in Ontario, @avivaloca, mentioned  this worthwhile read.

  1. Learn how others are using apps for the ipad. A gem of a discovery was an easy to  use app called: Explain Everything.  With parental support my grade ones used this app to create videos for the 100th day of school. Students have also used this to demonstrate math problems, and science projects.

What's Next?

Now that I use Twitter, I am considering how I might use it with my students. Could Twitter be a tool to support learning, innovation and the creation of knowledge? Recently I met @MissAHoeksema who has a class Twitter account. Her grade three students tweet to share learning and to tell about their day. I am curious to hear from other teachers who have class Twitter accounts. The effective use of technology tools is part of our broader understanding literacy.

So consider using Twitter if you have not done so. Develop a PLN, Professional Learning Network, of fellow educators who learn and share by connecting with teachers around the world, across Canada, and right here in our district.

You Are Invited
Join Twitter to participate in twitter chats on topics of interest. You are invited to join a twitter chat on May 28th at 5 pm MST. Follow #leadepsb to explore, learn and share with EPSB colleagues.  See you there!

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Chromebooks in Div 1...NO WAY???


So often, teachers of grade one students hesitate to have their students use technology. After all, they reason (with perfect truth), my kids can’t find the letters on the keyboard and they can’t spell their names, much less use a password.
However, many of our students are now coming to us with an innate understanding of technology. They are familiar with (or have used) smartphones, tablets, gaming systems, and computers. Those who have not had the means or opportunity to use technology in their homes are disadvantaged, and so need even more to be introduced to technology to create some equity between the haves and have nots.


Younger students CAN use technology...and it’s easier than you think!

Enter Chromebooks: cheap, efficient and, after some initial set up, easy for younger students to use.

Set up:

    1. The district gives students these lovely passwords like baxdr24, difficult for adults to remember, nevermind students. Have your students think of simple, spellable words or phrases. My favourite is to pair their favourite colour with a simple animal and include a pair of numbers (such as your room number), remembering to ensure that you have eight characters: bluedog23, redcat23, yellowbird23. This allows for innumerable password combinations.
    2. For younger students, the teacher can change their passwords by logging into Schoolzone as that student. Grade three students can usually change their own.

First Login: This is best done with an older ‘buddy’
    1. Click on ‘Add User’ and then enter the student’s @share.epsb.ca address and new password.
    2. The buddy can then help the student take their picture for the login screen.
    3. Open Chrome and click on the three bars in the top right-hand side of the screen, scroll down to Settings and click ‘Always show Bookmarks Bar’.
    4. Have the buddies enter any website you wish your students to access regularly, and drag them to the bookmarks bar.


Record the number of the Chromebook each student is on. Now that you have set up the Chromebooks, it becomes much easier for students to log in. The opening log in screen shows the profile pictures of the last 18 students to log into that Chromebook. Students now need to only look for their picture and type in their password. In order to facilitate this, have your students assigned to certain Chromebooks, so they always get the same one. 
photo (3).png

Give students a way to manage their passwords themselves.


Part Two: Symbaloo!

What if you have many more sites for your students that will fit on the Bookmarks Bar? Enter Symbaloo, a bookmarking site that seems designed for younger students. It is designed so that all the bookmarks are on coloured tiles that carry the name and symbol of websites, making it easier for students to find the site needed. Sites can be placed on different coloured tiles. The screenshot below shows a Symbaloo with Language Arts sites on orange tiles and Math sites on green. Now, students need only remember one site address, or have only one site listed on their Bookmarks Bar.

Room20   Symbaloo.png

Symbaloo is an easy site to use, and FREE! You can search for Symbaloos that have already been created by grade level or subject and use those, or create your own. 

Grade 1 Grade 2 Math                 Grade 3       National Geographic eBooks

See this tutorial on how to set Symbaloo up and enjoy! It is easier than you think!!! Let us know how you have used Symbaloo or Chromebooks in your class!

Website Review: Discover Water

A Review of Discover Water


Discover Water is a website developed by Project Water Education for Teachers. "Project WET’s mission is to reach children, parents, teachers and community members of the world with water education that promotes awareness of water and empowers community action to solve complex water issues."

Discover Water provides information about the Earth's water in a fun and informative way by combining text with games, quizzes, activities and videos. 

Suggested Grade Levels

This would be a great website for grades two to six. Some of the content is advanced for grade twos and threes, but many of the information sections have an option to have the text read to the viewer.

Curriculum Connections 

This website is great for science research. 
  • Grade Two: Exploring Liquids
  • Grade Four: Waste and Our World
  • Grade Five: Weather Watch

Suggested Uses

This could easily be used as a centre for reading or for science. I had my students do a semi-guided research activity. I provided them with a jot notes form that had some guiding questions. Students were allowed to work independently or with another partner. It took two science lessons.

I demonstrated:
  • how the website was set up
  • how to have the introductions read aloud
  • one activity (reminded them to do each activity ONCE)
  • one quiz, these are called What Did I Learn (5 questions each)
  • a jot note from the activities done together in the Blue Planet section

Skills Needed Prior to Use

Students will need to know how to get to websites (I had it linked from my class website). They will need to know how to manage the volume to not disrupt others (we use head phones). 

Area of Concern

Students may get overly focussed on the games/activities on the site versus learning about water. Monitoring student work as they use the website should remedy that.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Reading Response and Forms

Reading Centres

I use reading centres in my class. One group reads with me and three to four other groups are working independently. I'm always looking for engaging reading activities that hold my students accountable and that are easy to manage. 

Comprehension Books

I started out as a grade three teacher, so I used comprehension books as one of my centres to help prepare students for the standardized reading test at the end of the year. I continued to use them in grade two because they involved reading, were easy to monitor and easy to assess. However, they are not engaging. 

Reading Response in Google Forms

As a replacement for my comprehension books, I decided to try Google Forms. That way it was still easy to monitor student progress but I could base the questions on real books, which are more engaging. Giving students choice on what to work on also adds to engagement. So I selected five books that I had mulitple copies of and put them in a "reading tub". On one day students read books from that bin for their centre work. On the next day, they log into Google Apps and select one of the books answer questions about. By using Flubaroo on the questions that are not long answer, I get a quick way to check student's comprehension. Flubaroo is a script you add to the Responses Sheet that is produced when you create a form. You can control which answers are graded and which are not.

SchoolZone Hiccup

To make it easy for my students to access, I put the links to the forms on SchoolZone (under homework). I had the setting done so their username is automatically collected. However, students need to go into their Google Drive to "log into" Google Apps. Then they can access the forms. My students handled this step very well, but it can delay them if they forget.


Remember to select "automaticall collect respondent's EPS username" or make it a required question for students to type in their names!

Worked Great... But It Is A Great Deal of Work

I recently read a blog post that compared Educational Technology to a marathon. Using actual books in combination with Google Forms is going to be a marathon task. It'll be worth it but it'll be slow going. Creating a form for each book takes time. Again, here is where I think collaboration will help. So I've posted all the forms I've made for books on the Division One Collaboration Site For Educational Technology.

Next Steps

I am going to be teaching an integrated science (about insects and the like) and language arts unit soon. I've been working on creating a number of forms to go with animal book sets. 

Friday, May 9, 2014

Virtual Lego??? Grade 1 Science-Building Things

Grade 1's love the Science unit, "Building Things". This year I tried Lego building with a twist of technology. Through google apps I found a Lego Builder app. It is a great app that allows students to use their imagination in a new way. My end goal was to have each child build a structure that had a purpose. I wanted it to be open ended to allow for students choice.

To begin I had to get the app on each of my students users. This was labour intensive for me and my EA because I did this in October when they were still learning the basics of logging on. In hind site I would have had older buddies in to help or requested a few parents to help with this  or possibly log on for them and add it for them ahead of time. You decide what works best for your school community. When they were finally on I told them to explore and try to figure out how to build. It is not easy if you have a high percentage of students without experience with basic computer skills. In my case I found that my students were not willing to take a risk and try so this first lesson did not go well.

Attempt two with the Lego Builder App,  I decided to start by doing a demo on the Smartboard.  I reviewed how to find the app on the Chromebook, then I modelled the basics of how to choose, place, turn the bricks. Off we went and this went significantly better. Everyone was able to build and some took risks this time and figured out how to change the colours of the bricks. I followed this lesson with four or five exploration/ practice times.

The next step was to have our grade 3 buddies join us for building a structure for the first time. The grade 3's had not used this app so it was a great opportunity for the grade 1's to teach the basic skills to older students and then the grade 3's helped them plan a structure that had a purpose. They built bridges, cars, houses, castles, boats and an ice rink. This time I had a few partners discover that they could turn their structure to see it from all angles.

Finally we were at the point where the grade 1's were going to build independently! I added a little more motivation by letting them know that I was not the only one who was going to see their work. We were going to make a YouTube movie showing their work and recording them describing their structure. Now we added the complication of needing to save their work so they could go back over a number of classes. This became a bit of a challenge. Students need to go to sign in to Publish your design. To do this students go to the top right of the Lego Builder App where it says sign in. They then have to enter their G-mail and password. They then click sign in with Google and are prompted to enter it all again. It is a bit tedious but most of my students were able to follow step by step and complete this independently. They then will need to hit save periodically as I found with all of the students working at the same time it would freeze and they would lose their work. They learned quickly to save every couple of minutes.

The products they built were creative and when making the movie we found a lot of them had created a story that went with their structure. To make the You Tube video I used the You Tube Capture App on my phone and recorded each child's segment. They had their structure on the Chrome book and then they manipulated to show what they made and what it's purpose was. Some described what it was and how they made it. Some told a story about what was happening. Some reflected on what they liked the most and what challenges they had while using the app. I then had Chrome books set up at the Celebration of Learning and parents watched the video of their child's work.

To improve this project for next year I would have limited the speaking time for each student as the final product had to split into two parts. I would have provided time for them to practice speaking to a partner about their structures so they had louder voices.

What I loved about making this movie as their presentation of their learning, is that students who would not have been able to reflect in a written form were provided success. All students were excited and engaged in trying their best. This open ended task resulted in some traditional looking structures and some very creative structures and this allowed for greater success.

I have shared a link to part 1 of Grade 1 Builds below.


Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Math Problem Solving Using Google Docs

Math Problem Solving In Google Docs With Grade Twos

This is a follow up post for Reflection on: Google Apps to Redefine Your Classroom. I was inspired to try math problem solving in Google Docs and I did!  


I saw James Peterson at the Google Apps for Education Summit in February. He is a secondary teacher from Ontario in a 1-to-1 setting. He uses a daily math problem using Google Forms and Blogger. Students are also encouraged to make their own daily math problems. You can see his presentation at: From Google Apps to Redefine Your Classroom. James talked about Dan Meyer who has been advocating for changing how problem solving is taught. Dan Meyer is a secondary math teacher but it is worth listening to his ideas about problem solving!

Why Use Technology? The Curriculum

MP.pngIn my opinion, traditional "word problems" already typically address three mathematical processes: communication, connections and problem solving. Depending on the problem being solved, they may include other processes as well.

Why add technology into the mix? As the Alberta curriculum states: "Technology contributes to the learning of a wide range of mathematical outcomes and enables students to explore and create patterns, examine relationships, test conjectures and solve problems." 

I like how the Learning and Technology Policy Framework explains why technology needs to be integrated into learning experiences: 

Research from the learning sciences, psychology and neuroscience provides a sound basis for shifting the focus of schools to the student through personalization and authentic learning experiences. The research is clear—students learn best when they:
  • learn in the context of the real world, where their academic studies help them make sense of the real world
  • are self-directed in their learning
  • learn collaboratively
  • exercise some choice in their learning
  • exercise some control in the pace of their learning
  • receive immediate feedback targeted to scaffold their learning
  • build on their prior knowledge base
  • learn with instructional multimedia that is interactive and expertly designed 
  • are taught by teachers who personalize their learning to address personal interests, meet personal needs and offer novelty and variety in learning
Most of these research findings are difficult to scale to all students without technology, and most are not possible to accomplish routinely without technology. The technology enables student-centred learning focused on new competencies. In turn, studies show a connection between the teaching of higher order thinking in classrooms with a region’s economic viability.

Another Reason To Move to Google Docs: Struggling Readers

I'm sure it's not just division one teachers who are challenged to find ways to support struggling readers during problem solving. We want the focus to be on math, but often the ability to read the material confidently, independently and correctly impedes this process for some students.

Using a program like Read and Write for Google takes decoding out of the equation and moves the focus back onto problem solving. It also is empowering for students as they do not have to rely on the teacher or a peer to read it to them a first or second time. They are put in control, can listen/read it as many times as necessary.

Using Read and Write for Google is also why I decided to use Google Docs rather than forms, Blogger or another of the Google Apps. 

Why Change? Potential!

One of the things I have learned about Google Apps is that you might start out at the substitution stage on the SAMR model, but the more you use Google Apps, the more likely you are to find augmentations and modifications to enhance and improve the learning experience. 

What are some of the potential changes I currently see happening as I continue to use Google Docs with math problems?

  • Students could possibly collaborate on more challenging math problems on Google Document. 
  • Activities could be provided on a class website or Schoolzone, so it could flip the classroom and/or provide activities for students who are away for extended periods of time. 
  • Inserting videos and colour photos could potentially enhance the experience. 
  • Students could receive different tasks. 
  • Students could write their own problems and share them with their peers or with peers in other schools using Blogger.
  • Students could take pictures and videos that they use to write their own problems. 
Certainly many of these things could happen without technology. Technology makes them easier and therefore more likely to happen. Technology 

Tip: Small Group First

Modelling on the Smartboard while students work is a useful strategy for both small groups and large group instruction.

Starting with small group work not only minimizes bandwidth strain but allows the teacher to problem solve easier, as is often the case when technology is used for the first time in a new way.

Doing small group work with laptops, chromebooks or netbooks is also a way to maximize limited resources. 

Useful Add-On: Doctopus

Doctopus used to be a script. It is now an add-on. It is a handy tool because it shares files to the students for you, documents go into students’ Shared With Me portion of Google Drive. You do the sharing by creating a spreadsheet. The spreadsheet will have a link to all the students’ documents. 

One Problem? Resources!

There are certainly no shortage of word problems use. What is harder to find and harder to create are photos and videos to use along with math problems. This is one of the reasons I believe collaboration is more important than ever! And collaboration is easier than ever before with Google Apps!  

Here is my attempt at using pictures I took!
I'd love to build up resources, so please leave links and ideas in the comments!