Password Saver

As the school year winds down, one of the most important things to do before summer begins is to write down all my passwords! It is inevitable that after a long break I won't remember them all. It's also inevitable that every year I use more sites, and I need to remember more passwords. I usually stick them on the end of my list of passwords, and it gets more and more difficult to find them. This year, I made my password saver on a google spreadsheet so that I could sort the names of the sites by column to keep them in alphabetical order, even as I add more sites to the list. In the google sheet, there are also hyperlinks to each site to make them easy to find. I added a place where I can keep track of which sites are paid, whether it is web-based, an app or both, and a place to write notes.
I also added a page for my students' usernames and passwords. I give each student a device (chromebook, computer, or iPad) at the beginning of the year that is numbered 1 - 30. They use the same device all year long. This helps me make students responsible for taking care of that device, and it saves their username so it's easier to log in on the same device. If new students come throughout the year, I just add them to one of the higher numbers. Also, when I create student accounts, there are times they can't use the same username because someone else already has it. We may have to add a number to their typical username, which is what the "other" column is for. I can record which site may have a different username or password for each student.
I also added a page just for notes. Sometimes I need to keep track of an account number, a special phone number or part number, or just a reminder to myself to renew a subscription. I wanted a place to keep track of this information for reference in the same place, so it's all part of one google spreadsheet. 

It is a simple idea, but one that saves A LOT of time at the beginning of the next school year. If you would like some help organizing your passwords, you can download this spreadsheet here as an excel document on Teacher Sherpa. It includes the link to the google spreadsheet. I prefer the google spreadsheet not only because it has the live links to all the websites, but because it saves in the cloud and I can open it on any device. I don't want to worry about which version is most up-to-date. Good luck on wrapping up the school year! Enjoy!

Top 3 Folktales that Integrate STEAM

Long ago (back in 2011), when I was a second grade teacher, I wrote this post called Fairytales and Fables Unit.  In this post I focused on how to teach students the structure of fairytales and fables so that they could understand how those stories worked and use the structure to write their own fairytale or fable. It included lots of great mentor texts, ideas for aligning literacy centers, and a celebration to wrap it up–a fairytale ball! While that post is a bit dated, the idea of teaching the structural elements of these stories is still a good one that aligns with Common Core State Standards. Folktales are still a focus of the CCSS in 2nd and 3rd grade:
RL.2.2 Recount stories, including fables and folktales from diverse cultures, and determine their central message, lesson, or moral. 
RL.3.2 Recount stories, including fables, folktales, and myths from diverse cultures; determine the central message, lesson, or moral and explain how it is conveyed through key details in the text. 

Studying the structural elements of a story is also a standard in 2nd, 4th, and 5th grade:
RL2.5 Describe the overall structure of a story, including describing how the beginning introduces the story and the ending concludes the action. 
RL.4.5 Explain major differences between poems, drama, and prose, and refer to the structural elements of poems (e.g. verse, rhythm, meter) and drama (eg. casts of characters, settings, descriptions, dialogue, stage directions) when writing or speaking about a text.
RL5.5 Explain how a series of chapters, scenes, or stanzas fits together to provide the overall structure of a particular story, drama, or poem.

I love connecting STEAM (science, technology, engineering, art, math) and literacy in the classroom, so I'm going to use some of the same teaching points as the original post I wrote in 2011 with some modern updates using 3 of the best fractured folktales I have come across that highlight engineering and the design process.


1. The Little Red Fort by Brenda Maier

This story is based on the classic fable The Little Red Hen, but in this story, Ruby is a little girl who wants to build a fort. She asks her brothers for help, but they laugh at her and tell her she can't build. Just like the original fable, Ruby works through the steps it takes to build her fort (following most of the steps in the engineering design process) while asking her brothers for help each step of the way, but they're always too busy, or just not interested until they see the fort that she made herself. 
I love that this story has diverse characters and an emphasis on STEAM! 

ELA lesson: Linda Dorn outlined the structures of different kinds of texts in her book Teaching For Deep Comprehension: A Reading Workshop Approach. Fill out the Structures of a Fable text map based on Linda Dorn's work after reading the original version of The Little Red Hen with your class. Next read The Little Red Fort. The google doc above is an example of how you might fill out the Structures of  a Fable text map for this book.

Studying fractured fables, different versions of a classic fable, gives students a great opportunity to compare and contrast texts by analyzing stories with the same structure:
RL.2.9 Compare and contrast two or more versions of the same story (e.g., Cinderella stories) by different authors or from different cultures.
RL.3.9 Compare and contrast the themes, settings, and plots of stories written by the same author about the same or similar characters (e.g., in books from a series).
RL.4.9 Compare and contrast the treatment of similar themes and topics (e.g., opposition of good and evil) and patterns of events (e.g., the quest) in stories, myths, and traditional literature from different cultures.
RL.5.9 Compare and contrast stories in the same genre (e.g., mysteries and adventure stories) on their approaches to similar themes and topics.
Using the digital interactive notebook pages shown above, you can show students that the characters, the problem, and the solution are different, or fractured in The Little Red Fort. Instead of using animals, the main characters are human. Instead of baking bread, Ruby wants to build a fort. In the end, Ruby doesn't let her brothers play in the fort since they didn't help, but the story doesn't end there. Instead, they find ways to improve the fort, and Ruby lets them join her for a celebration inside. You can compare and contrast these stories with a double bubble map if you use Thinking Maps, or a Venn Diagram.

Engineering: This book is a great example for modeling how the Engineering Design Process works, which aligns with ISTE standard 4a: Students know and use a deliberate design process for generating ideas, testing theories, creating innovative artifacts or solving authentic problems.
According to Engineering in Elementary, to solve engineering problems, engineers follow a series of steps called the "Engineering Design Process."

ASK: What is the problem? How have others approached it? What are your constraints?
IMAGINE: What are some solutions? Brainstorm ideas. Choose the best one.
PLAN: Draw a diagram. Make lists of materials you will need.
CREATE: Follow your plan and create something. Test it out!
IMPROVE: What works? What doesn't? What could work better? Modify your design to make it better. Test it out!
In this story, Ruby asks herself and her brothers what she can build using the boards she finds (the constraints). Her brothers also tell her that she doesn't know how to build anything so she learns how (answering the question, how have others approached it?). We have to infer that she went through the imagine stage when she decided to build a fort because it is not directly stated. She plans her fort and creates it all by herself. Her brothers help her improve her fort by adding a mailbox, flowers, and painting it fire-engine red. At the end of the story, there are suggestions for building a fort of their own: a sofa fort, a kitchen chair fort, a snow fort, or a bunk-bed fort. Have students use the Engineering Design Process sheet to build a fort as homework. Using a program like Seesaw, students could even add pictures, video, and voice to illustrate how they used the Engineering Design Process to build their own fort at home.


2. The Three Little Pigs: An Architectural Tale by Steven Guarnaccia

This fractured folktale is a version of the classic Three Little Pigs, but their homes are made of scraps, glass, and stone and concrete. The house designs are inspired by 3 famous architects: Frank Gehry, Phillip Johnson, and Frank Lloyd Wright. Many more world-renowned designers' work is featured throughout the story, which makes this a perfect book to make a STEAM connection.

ELA lesson: This is another great story to compare and contrast to the original version of the Three Little Pigs. The Structures of a Folktale text map (above) is an example of what the structure of The Three Little Pigs: An Architectural Tale might look like. The digital interactive notebook pages show how students might compare the structures of these folktales.

This story also gives students a great opportunity for research on the 3 famous architects highlighted in this story: Frank Gehry, Phillip Johnson, and Frank Lloyd Wright. By researching the type of structures these architects create, students can get a sense for the design and artistry behind thearchitecture. 

Engineering: Now it's the students' turn to build! Using the engineering design process, have students become an architect that was hired to design a house for the three little pigs. Students must begin the Engineering Design Process by asking themselves: What will be strong enough to keep the big bad wolf from blowing it down? Is it beautiful? Using the influence of the architect they like best, students must make a plan and  create a model of their design. Give them a variety of materials to use such as cardboard, plastic cardboard screws, clear plastic bottles, and legos. Let students know that just because the concrete house in the story was the one the wolf couldn't blow down, it doesn't mean that it is the one they have to build. If they build it well, it will remain standing.


3. The 3 Pigs and the Scientific Wolf by Mary Fetzner

This fractured folktale is about the daughters of the 3 Little Pigs and the Big Bad Wolf's son. "He, like most children, was sure he was wiser and more clever than his father. He just knew that he could figure out an easier way to catch those delightful piglets." So the scientific wolf tries to use simple machines to catch the 3 little pigs. At the first house made of straw, he uses a pulley to try to get in. At the second house made of sticks, he tries riding a bicycle up an incline plane, and at the third house made of bricks he uses a crowbar as a lever. When that doesn't work he tries lifting the house with a corkscrew jack. He never figures out a way to get into the pigs' houses, so he decides to become a vegetarian. 

Disclaimer: I think it's important to know that this book is not a traditional book. The pictures inside the book are not in color, and pages 32 - 64 are student activity pages that outline a unit about simple machines. This book was published in 2000, and the activities at the end are not rigorous enough or hands-on enough for me, personally. I loved the idea of the wolf using simple machines so much, however, that I thought it was worth it to have the story! It opens the door for some great STEAM possibilities!

ELA lesson: Like the first two stories, fill out the Structures of a Folktale text map for this story and compare and contrast it to the original Three Little Pigs using the double bubble map or the Venn Diagram from the digital interactive notebook pages.

Engineering: Using this story and The Three Little Pigs: An Architectural Tale would be a great opportunity to create PBL unit about simple machines. 



Inclined Planes

Wheels and Axles

Simple Machine: The Screw

Once students have learned about simple machines, they will be hired as part of a security team to make sure that the houses they designed for the Three Little Pigs (created in The Three Little Pigs: An Architectural Tale) are safe from the scientific wolf. Their job is to try to break into their model house using simple machines just like the scientific wolf.  They will make improvements to their design until it is safe from at least 3 different attacks by the wolf. Then they will create a presentation for the 3 pigs that shows how they secured the house from 3 different simple machines that the wolf might use to get into the house. When creating their presentations, they could use iMovie, the Doink Green Screen app, or the Stop Motion Animation app. There are a lot of possibilities!

Another great connection to a simple machines unit is St. Patrick's Day STEM Challenge: Build a Leprechaun Trap with Simple Machines

After your students have designed and engineered forts, houses, and simple machines, they can use the Structures of a Fable or Folktale to create their own fractured story that includes some engineering! Maybe Jack can use simple machines to break into the giant's house, or Goldilocks gets community service for breaking into the 3 bears house, and she has to redesign the inside of their house like an episode of Fixer Upper. With lots of opportunities for hands-on learning, I'm sure the students creativity will amaze you!

The text maps, digital interactive notebooks, engineering design process sheet, and all the movies embedded in this post are available for download here on Teacher Sherpa

Get Credit for Designing Your Own Professional Learning This Summer

"A program is not about the number of hours of formal learning, but about the nature of the learning itself. It may be informal or formal, but it must include application, analysis, reflection, coaching, refinement, and evaluation of effectiveness to produce results for educators and students." J Killion

It's baaaaccckkk!
It's time to sign up to receive 2 - 6 university credits for the planning that you do over the summer! Dominican University believes that the most valuable professional development is the kind that you design yourself.

 EDUX 9972: Innovative Professional Learning is a course that EVERY teacher needs to take! Whether you're learning a new curriculum, designing a new lesson, or investigating new technology tools for the classroom, you can receive university credit for the work you do.

I have many things that I am planning on working on this summer, including some online and in-person conferences. They don't all have the option for university credit, so this course is perfect!  I can include them in my plan for summer learning and get credit through Dominican University.   I'm going to attend Picademy, Beyond Theory––Proven Practices in EdTech: A mindSpark Learning Institute, and a free online course called Build a Makerspace for Young People. I love that I can get university credit for it. What will you learn this summer?

Who Needs Smartboards When the Whole Class is Engaged?

Ten or fifteen years ago I got my first smartboard in my classroom. It was the coolest technology available at the time, and I would spend hours creating (and selling) my smartboard lessons. The software was not very user friendly, but because it was unlike anything we had available at the time, I gladly put in the extra hours so that I could use it with my students.

Now fast-forward 10 or 15 years, and not much has really changed with the Smartboard. They’ve made improvements and upgrades in the software, but they now charge $129 YEARLY for EVERY TEACHER (which would be over $8000 A YEAR for all the teachers in my school). They’ve also come out with boards that allow more than one touch at a time IF you can afford to drop another $3000 per classroom (at least) for a new board. That's $75,000 JUST for the classroom teachers in my school, not counting the $8000 for the software to run it, of course. I couldn’t believe that they would start charging teachers, one of their biggest customers, an astronomical rate when the education budget was being cut across the country. So a few years ago, we had to take a hard look at whether or not we should continue to funnel money into smartboards.

If we look at best teaching practices today, we see technology used to leverage creativity and discovery. Students are the ones doing the work and using technology as a tool to connect learning in deeper, more meaningful ways. It's no longer the teacher spending hours creating lessons that they present to the class. The students are getting the valuable experience through the process of creation. There are also MANY programs to choose from that are simpler to use than smart notebook software, and they allow more students to be actively engaged. With programs like PearDeck and Nearpod, every student has the ability to interact and give feedback during a presentation. With options like Quizziz and Kahoot, you can quickly gauge the understanding of every student in a fun, interactive way. And with tools such as SeeSaw, students can document their learning process for themselves, their teachers and their parents by capturing their learning in a digital portfolio. A smartboard can't do any of that.

The bottom line is, smartboards are a very expensive presentation tool. Although it is interactive, the one who interacts with it the most tends to be the teacher when only one person at a time can touch it. Even when students are the ones using the smartboard, it's one student at a time while the rest of the class watches. And while it’s handy to be able to touch the board instead of your computer during a lesson, that doesn’t really impact student learning. If we had $75,000 to spend, or even if we just had $8000, I'd rather spend it on more student devices and subscriptions that would give students the opportunity to have more authentic learning interactions where they become active learners.

That doesn't mean that we don't need to present information to the whole class or give explicit instruction sometimes, but I think there are cheaper ways to do that. For example, digital interactive notebooks are a great way to facilitate classroom discussions while still allowing every student a chance to interact and respond to the lesson. I created Observing Weather: A Digital Interactive Science Notebook using google slides (which is free!).  A copy of this digital interactive notebook can be shared with each student and used to start a discussion about weather. There are 6 circle maps included for defining different types of weather. After discussing what students know about the different weather terms listed, they can share their background knowledge by typing words or inserting pictures into the circle map.

There are also 3 different kinds of interactive weather graphs students can use to graph the weather for the week.

A pictograph:

A line plot:

And a bar graph:

As the culminating activity in this digital interactive notebook, students become a meteorologist and create their own weather forecast. I provided a short script for students to use or they can write their own.

They can use the green screen app by Doink to insert a background with a map like the meteorologists on the news, or they can pretend they are reporting on site in the middle of a storm. Here are some examples:

They can also use the app Telestory to create animated backgrounds for their weather forecast:

To create this digital interactive notebook, I created the backgrounds on powerpoint and saved them as jpegs. I inserted each picture as the background image so students don't accidentally delete it.

I made the movable pieces for the pictograph and bar graph by using this cool little trick from Alice Keeler –Google Slides: Make a Draggable Slide. I also used this tip from Nuts and Bolts Speed Training – Powerpoint Animations: Making Objects Appear and Disappear On–Click.

You can also download this Observing Weather: A Digital Interactive Science Notebook here.

I haven't found anything yet from the smartboard lessons that I used to create that I can't recreate in powerpoint or google slides.  And now I can update those lessons by sharing them with students and  including less content so students have the opportunity to do it themselves. Now it's your turn! Ditch those smartboard lessonso and try a digital interactive notebook instead!

5 Ways to Start Your Day With STE(A)M

This post contains affiliate links for your convenience, and at no cost to you. 

We've all seen the morning work or bell ringers that many teachers use to start the day. It usually consists of a packet of worksheets designed for independent practice. But independent practice doesn't have to mean more worksheets to print and more papers to grade.  In fact, it can be more rigorous, engaging, authentic, and open-ended if you start your day with STEAM instead!

In her article STE(A)M for Young Learners, Dr. Rebecca Palacios says:

Here’s another way to think about STEAM:
  • S(cience): A way of thinking
  • T(echnology): A way of doing
  • E(ngineering): A way of building
  • A(rts): A way of creating
  • M(athematics): A way of measuring

With this framework in mind, see how students respond when they get to start their day thinking, doing, building, creating, and measuring! This year, my school is beginning the day with a soft start. As students arrive at school (no more than 20 minutes before school starts), they can get breakfast and go straight to their classrooms. Whether you have students trickling in or you begin with the bell, starting with STEAM is a great way to get students excited about starting their school day! You can take attendance, lunch count, and turn in homework while students are engaged in authentic, open-ended, hands-on problem solving. Here are 5 ideas to get you started:

1. Science + Art: Let students record their observations of things found in nature.
Bring in bones, skulls, birds nests, snake skins, rocks, shells–whatever you can find. Challenge students to find things in nature too and bring it in to add to the science station. Let students touch it, study it, and observe it. Georgia O'Keefe was a famous artist who loved to draw things she found in nature like stones, flowers, and bones. Students can draw the items in the science station from different angles like Georgia O'Keefe or take pictures of the items and try to determine what they are and where they came from. Use a tool like SeeSaw that will allow students to take pictures, draw, and record their voice to explain what they see and design experiments to discover more about the items in the science station. 

To keep it novel, you can have themes in your science center that align with different units you teach. For example, when you are studying animals, display the bones, shells, and bird nests in the science station. Have design questions for students to focus on, such as: How are structure and function related in living things? Why is it shaped that way? When you study rocks, sand, and silt, add a variety of rocks to your science station. Younger students can sort rocks by attributes, and older students can sort them by igneous, metamorphic, and sedimentary. They can even design experiments to determine what type of rock they have. 

2. Technology + MathBased on an idea from math guru Marilyn Burns in her book Math and Literature, students can calculate the number of feet that are in The Napping House. 


After listening to the story The Napping House by Audrey Wood, pose this question to the students: How many feet are in the napping house? Students can create a math story problem to figure out how many feet they would find in the napping house using addition or multiplication to answer the question. Integrate technology by using a program such as Storyboard That, Paper 53, or Pic Collage to illustrate their thinking. Here is an example  using Storyboard That:

You can continue the investigation by asking students to illustrate a math problem that shows how many feet are in THEIR house. For a more advanced option, you could have students create their own math riddles for their classmates to solve. For example, my riddle could be: There are 14 feet in my house. Who do you think lives in my house? The other students can illustrate the possibilities of who could live in my house based on the total number of feet. It could be a mom, a dad, a kid, and 2 dogs, or it could be a mom, a grandma, a kid, a baby, a bird, and a dog. What other possibilities are there?

You can also use the following books for more investigations that involve similar problem solving strategies when calculating how many animals are in the story:

3. Engineering + Coding: Don't Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus! Unless you give him driving lessons . . . 

We all know that the Pigeon isn't supposed to drive the bus, but he really wants to! After reading the story Don't Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus by Mo Willams, propose this idea to the students: What if we give the Pigeon driving lessons so he can drive the bus? In this variation of the K'nex Chariot Challege  activity from the Sphero EDU website, students will need to build a sturdy "bus" for the pigeon to drive that will be powered by a sphero. The bus can be made out of Kinex, similar to the chariot design challenge, or it can be made with paper tubes and popsicle sticks like The Flinstones activity found on the Sphero EDU website.  Let the students be creative with the supplies you have on hand!
Once students have created a sphero-powered bus, they need to create a driver's ed course on which they will drive the bus. Make sure to include crosswalks and bus stops! Next, code the sphero to drive through your driver's ed course stopping at all the bus stops along way.

4. Engineering + Art: Let students make their own mech-animals that are both useful and beautiful.

Gather all the odds and ends you can find: screws, nuts, bolts, washers, wire, and pipe cleaners–whatever you can find–and let students sculpt their own Mech-animal masterpieces like in the story Mechanimals by Chris Tougas. For inspiration, check out this sculpture of a T-Rex made out of scrap metal by South Dakota Sculptor John Lopez:
In the book, each animal performed a special job to keep the farm running. Challenge students to design their Mech-animal to perform a useful job on the farm too. 
For another variation on this project, students can use the iPad app Faces iMake to create their Mech-animal. Here is my example of the rooster clock whose job it is to wake you up in the morning:
 Whichever version your students use to create their Mech-animal, they can use a program like Seesaw to take pictures and record their thinking and reasoning behind their design.

5. Science + Technology: Take students on a scavenger hunt as they do research to learn about animals of the rainforest.

The Great Kapok Tree by Lynne Cherry is an excellent introduction to animals of the rainforest. Send students on a research scavenger hunt to learn more about the animals that appear under the Great Kapok Tree with the app Goose Chase EDU. It is a fun and easy-to-use program that allows students to work cooperatively as they collect answers for a mission that you can create:
I have created a Goose Chase for The Great Kapok Tree that you can use with your students. Click here to get started. In this scavenger hunt, students should do research in order to answer the questions correctly or risk losing points if they get it wrong. Some of my favorite research websites for elementary students are Kids National Geographic, Pebble Go, and Britannica School. Students can use these websites or books to find and submit their answers. You can track their progress and assign points for their answers as they work their way through the scavenger hunt.

Goose Chase is easy to set up and organize, and it can be created for any subject. This could be a fun way to introduce a new unit, show students how to find facts, or teach students the importance of checking their facts. The sky is the limit!

Have fun starting your day with STEAM in the classroom!

Introducing Close Reading Strategies at the Beginning of the Year

This post contains affiliate links for your convenience, for which I do receive commissions if a purchase is made, but at no cost to you.

According to Beth Burke, NBCT, “Close reading is thoughtful, critical analysis of a text that focuses on significant details or patterns in order to develop a deep, precise understanding of the text’s form, craft, meanings, etc. It is a key requirement of the Common Core State Standards and directs the reader’s attention to the text itself.”  She also says that texts used for close readings should be short, they should be discussed in large or small groups, and they need to be deliberately reread at least 3 times. 
With those key points in mind, short films and wordless picture books are a great way to introduce the strategies involved in close reading. Like wordless picture books, there are short films that have no words, but the content is definitely discussion worthy. Taking out the decoding to focus on the content and thoughtful discussion will allow every student to be able to access the content and practice the strategies involved in close reading. 

The short film For the Birds by Pixar is a great place to start. It addresses the subject of bullying, which is a great discussion to have at the beginning of the year. 

First Read
When doing a close read, students focus on what the text says first by identifying what the story is mostly about. They can look for the main idea, summarize, or find the theme. If your students are identifying a theme, remember that the subject and the theme aren't the same thing. Bullying, for example, is not a theme. it's a subject.  A universal theme about bullying might be Overcoming Adversity; someone overcomes the problems they face with bullies. Another common theme might include Man vs. Society. The reason someone might bully another person could be from peer pressure, and they are trying to fit in by joining in the bullying. Students can come up with their own theme too by giving an opinion about the subject, such as: bullies always get their pay backs. This video helps introduce how to find a theme:

Second Read
On the second read, students focus on how the text works by looking at text
structures and text features. They might also focus on the author's craft or
what the text says by looking at vocabulary or word choice. 

Still using the short film For the Birds, have students think about what words
they would use to describe the birds. Have them use evidence from the film to 
support their thinking. Here is the video again, but with comments embedded to
help students think about the birds character traits :

Third Read
Students focus on a deeper understanding of what the text means 
by inferring, analyzing, and evaluating the text on the third read. They might
compare it to another text or connect it to the larger world with text to self 
connections, text to text, text to media, or text to world connections. 

With this short film, on the third read have students make a connection to your
classroom. How can you address bullying in your classroom? You can also 
compare this short film to the wordless picture Bluebird by Bob Staake. Just like
the short film, this picture book has no words, but it is definitely discussion
worthy. Every student will be able to access the content and deep thinking, and 
this book is intense. The story is a very sad one that includes death, so you may
want to preview it first to make sure it is not too intense for your class. I am 
including the book trailer for this book, but a video does not do it justice, so 
you'll want to look at a copy of this powerful wordless picture book yourself. 

You can download this lesson on Teacher Sherpa. It includes QR codes and links to all the videos in this post so you can use it with iPads or laptops/chromebooks. It also includes the text dependent questions for the first read, the second read, and 2 options for the third read, along with blank pages to use with your own books and/or videos. 

How do you introduce close reading in your classroom? I hope you'll consider using short films and wordless picture books to kick it off in your classroom. They're a great tool that will allow you to have deep conversations regardless of a students' reading level. Enjoy!

New School Year Resolution: Organizing Parent Communication Tutorial

It's summer time, and that means it is time for teacher's to make their New School Year's Resolution! We do it every summer . . . we say, "Now that I have time to do it, THIS year I'm going to . . . " and for me, the end of that sentence usually has something to do with organization. 

As a technology specialist, I want to give you some ways that technology can help you get more organized than ever and save you a ton of time in the process! Who doesn't need to save time?! At the beginning of the year, there is a lot of information we need to collect from parents. I've created some pretty lists for you in a few different color schemes:
If you are afraid of technology and you are perfectly happy printing out your word doc and sticking it in a binder, you can download these as a word doc. I have a set of each of these lists that you can choose in all of these colors, and while it's nice to have a pretty checklist, that doesn't exactly save you a lot of time or paper and ink. 

When you download these lists, there are also links available that allow you to make your own copy as a google doc. Google docs will save automatically and allow you to share the lists with subs or other staff members. They can see all the changes live, so no need to send a new copy when you have to add a new student to list. Google docs also give you the option of going paperless. No need to upload, download and upload again to save your changes and print them out. Seriously. You can stop doing all of those extra steps!

Google forms is the trick that will save you the most time. By sending a google form to parents, THEY do all of the work for you! They fill out all of their information, and everything is automatically saved on one google spreadsheet. 
Here is how to see the responses:

1. When you click on the link included in the download, it will ask you to make a copy of the form.
2. Click on "responses" on the top, and you will see the responses from all parents when they have filled out the form.
3. If you click on the little picture of the spreadsheet in the corner, it will put all the responses on a google spreadsheet for you. It's not as pretty as the form I created, but it is a quick way to get all the info you need in one place!

The picture below shows you how to do it step by step:

I've created the forms for you and included them in the download as well, so all you have to do is share it with the parents and you're done! 

Not sure how to get these forms to parents? There are 2 easy ways. 

First, you can email it to parents. 
1. Click on send
2. Click on the link icon in the middle.
3. I usually click on the url shortener in the corner so that the link is shorter.
4. Click "copy" and paste the link into an email. Although you can send it as an email straight from the form, you have to type in each email by hand. If I copy the link, I can send it to the group I have set up in my email. 

The picture below shows you how to do it step by step.

But what if you don't have an email list for parents set up yet?

Make a QR code! That might sound a little scary, but it's not. I promise! After you copy the link following the steps above, go to
1. Paste the link in the box. It will automatically create a QR code on the right hand side.
2. Click on "download QR code." You don't even have to set up an account to do it!
3. Now print the QR code. During open house, ask parents to scan the form and fill it out. Done!

The forms included in Organizing Parent Communication ask for parent email addresses, phone numbers, and a detailed volunteer questionnaire of how parents might like to offer their help from donating supplies for the classroom to volunteering every week. There is also a form for parents to sign up for helping with classroom parties. You can send the spreadsheet of responses to your room parent with the names, email addresses, and phone numbers of the parents who would like to help and what they are willing to bring. Another task crossed off the list!

You can find all of these docs and forms as a free download here on Teacher Sherpa.

Happy New School Year! Enjoy!

You may also like Notes from the Staff Meeting: