Teacher Stuff for You Newsletter #2: Bitmoji Mania

The 2nd edition of the Teacher Stuff for You Newsletter is ready! The theme of this newsletter is Bitmoji Mania. Click the picture to visit the live links. Use the arrow in the slide show to see the previous Newsletter. Enjoy!

Teacher Stuff for you Newsletter #1: Use for Remote & In-Person Learning

Thanks to the virtual class I took at #twtcon2020 from tech integration & innovation specialist Traci Piltz, I have decided to try making my own visual newsletter! You should definitely check hers out - it's amazing! I'm switching districts this coming year, and this is a way that we can stay connected! I will be creating themed newsletters. The first theme is: Use for remote or in-person learning. Click on the picture to access the links. I'll let you know when the next one is ready! As suggested by Traci, these newsletters will be on a continuous google slide. I will continue adding to the same google slideshow so you can always go back to find past tips and tricks. I hope you find this helpful!

Get Organized for #DistanceLearning: Sub Plans in Google Drive

No one knows exactly what school will look like in August yet, but there are a few things that we can do to get organized in the meantime. This series of blog posts called, "Getting Organized for #DistanceLearning" is full of tips that will be useful whether you're teaching online or face to face. So be sure to check back for all the tips in this series! 

Tip #1 was Password Saver
Here is your last tip in this series, tip #4 . . . 

Plan Ahead for a Sub

So this is one of the aspects about next year that feels the most unknown to me. What if we do get sick? Whether we are sick with the common cold or COVID-19, this is going to have a huge impact next year. There will be no more, "I'm not THAT sick, so I'll just work through it." We've all done that –worked even when we didn't feel great because it's easier sometimes than making sub plans. I'm guessing those days are over. I'm trying not to worry about the fact that I don't have 14 days of sick leave (I'm starting in a new district this coming year), so if I were to get sick, how would I stay home for 14 days AFTER my symptoms were gone?

So without worrying about how the details will play out yet, we obviously need a plan. I'm not talking about full blown lesson plans for the day. I've seen people do that and it seems to be successful, but I'm not a huge fan of writing the actual plans now. I'd rather have students work on what we're actually doing in class if I'm gone rather than something totally different. Although in an emergency, I can see the need for that. Today, I'm talking about organizing a template in google drive.

Sub Plans in Google Drive

If you don't write your lesson plans in google drive already, now is the time. Ditch the Word document or paper. It is inefficient. You need a template that you can easily fill out with boxes that remind you of what you need when you're not thinking clearly. Most importantly, you need to be able to share your plans easily with your sub, your team, and the office. You will probably not be allowed back inside the building if you are sick, so in google drive you just hit share. Forgot to add something to your lesson plans? No problem! You can change or add something, and they see your changes immediately. You can even link websites and videos inside your plans. So here are the things you can set up right now:

  1. Master class list: Create a table, type in your students first and last names, and leave notes that will be important for the sub to know. Who is in special ed? Who is a second language learner? Who has allergies? You can print this list for the sub, but it's easy to make changes to your master list if you get a new student or one moves away. 
  2. Attendance page: Copy and paste those first and last names into an attendance sheet that can be printed and sent to the office. I take attendance on the computer, but the sub doesn't have the ability to do that. Sometimes they're stuck sending a scrap of paper to the office, and that is not efficient for anyone. If you have a list made with your class name and grade, a place for the date, and the student names already typed in, your sub only needs to put a check mark next to any students that are absent. 

 3. Daily Schedule: Believe it or not, this is the number one thing I hear subs say they do not receive–the daily schedule! This is pretty important. Have a separate page that outlines your typical day. In a pinch your team can throw together some plans for you, but you will need to have your daily schedule ready to share.
    4. Helpful Info: When subs travel from one building to the next, they may not know your room number, your extension, or even the name of your principal. Having this info ready for your sub can really help out. If a student pukes in class, the sub will need to know how to reach the janitor and your room number. If your sub has a question, it would be really nice to have the name and extensions of your teammates and the office manager. This is one of those pages you only have to fill out once for the year, but it can come in really handy for your sub. 
    5. Classroom Procedures: This is another page that only needs to be filled out and printed once, but it's really important for the sub to have. Each teacher does things just a little bit differently in his/her own classroom, so share your procedure for the bathroom, snack time, and classroom rewards. 

    6. Sub Plans: I recommend having a template for this. A box for each section of the day with a header for the time and subject, and a checklist at the end for materials the sub will need for that subject. This will help your sub, but it will make it SO much easier for you too. When you're putting things together for your sub, you can check the list of materials at the end to make sure you have gathered what you need. I have a plastic envelope for each subject that I put materials into. It makes things more organized for the sub, but it also helps me when I need to put things away once I get back.
    7. Feedback: We always want to know how things went, so have a feedback form available for the sub. Nothing fancy, just make sure you leave room for what you need to know.

Taking the time to get organized for a sub will be worth it. I did this last year, and I got SO much positive feedback from the subs in my classroom. They were all happy to come back and sub for me, and that makes a big difference. We have had a sub shortage in my district for a few years, and there have been many times that we had to split our classes or pull an intervention teacher to cover the class. Next year it is going to be imperative to have good subs available, so we need to take care of them. 

If you don't want to make your own template, I do have all the pages you see in this post available in my TpT store as an editable google doc. You can find it here.

I hope these tips help you get started organizing for #DistanceLearning. Don't forget to check out all the tips in this series. It's a good place to start:

There are a lot of unknowns, which can cause some anxiety, but it's going to be okay. We'll figure it out! Take some time to just relax this summer, and good luck this coming school year!

Getting Organized for #DistanceLearning: Organize Your Google Drive

No one knows exactly what school will look like in August yet, but there are a few things that we can do to get organized in the meantime. This series of blog posts called, "Getting Organized for #DistanceLearning" is full of tips that will be useful whether you're teaching online or face to face. So be sure to check back for all the tips in this series! 
Tip #1 was Password Saver
Here is tip #3 . . . 

Organize Your Google Drive

Google drive is our 21st century filing cabinet, so there is no need to have 2 or 3 filing cabinets in your classroom anymore–save your master copies virtually. This will allow you to access everything you have from home and assign it virtually if necessary. It is SO much easier to keep track of what you have in your filing cabinet when it's a digital copy. And you will want an organized google drive next year–trust me! We'll all be using more digital resources (like it or not). I am a google certified educator level 1 and 2,  and I have a few tips to make organizing your google drive so much easier!

Folders in Google Drive

Image from Gyazo
How to create a new folder in Google Drive:

First, if you haven't created folders in your google drive, that is the place to start.  Click: new–folder. Just like you would in a metal filing cabinet, you can organize your files by subject. Then you can create folders inside folders to continue to organize your files. For example, I have a Balanced Literacy folder. Inside that folder, I have a folder for Comprehension, Read Aloud, Word Study, Conferring/Guided Reading, Shared Reading, and Writing. In my math folder, I have folders for each standard: Number and Quantity, Algebra and Functions, Data, Statistics & Probability, and Geometry. If I use a specific curriculum for any subject, I also create a folder it, i.e. Lucy Calkins Units of Study, or Bridges Math. 

Once you have your files organized into folders, they will show up in alphabetical order. You can number your folders to reorder them in the order you want. Years ago, I learned this cool tip from Ladybug's Teacher Files. You can use https://www.copypastecharacter.com/numerals to give your numbered folders a sleeker look by copying and pasting their numbers in the name of your folders. You can use emojis and pictures too. Check out her original post from 2016 here: Color Code and Organize your google Drive

Image from Gyazo
How to change the color of your google drive folders:
Right click on the folder–go down to 'change color'

Next, I color-coded my folders in google drive to match the same colors I use in the classroom: red = literacy, blue = writing, green = math, yellow = science, orange = social studies. This helps me visually organize subjects. Just right click on the folder and go down to 'change color.' 

#Hashtags and Shortcuts

Image from Gyazo
Add hashtags to the file description when the file fits in more than one category:
click on the file–3 dots in the corner–details–pencil under description

Are you ready to take your google drive organization up a notch? Try #hashtags! I got this idea from Shake Up Learning. She has 13 Tips to Organize Your Google Drive that you can check out. The one that was new for me was adding descriptions to my folders in google drive using hashtags. This is really helpful when I have a file that I could put in more than one place. For example, I use a lot of poems during shared reading. This poem fits in the categories #Poetry #SharedReading #WordStudy #SightWords #Fall #Halloween.  If I click on my poem and click on the 3 dots, click details, and click on the pencil under description, I can use all those hashtag labels to describe this file. Then, when I am planning for fall activities, I can type in #Fall in the Google Drive search bar. Anything I labeled with #Fall will pull up in the search no matter which folder I stored it in. Super helpful and easy!

Image from Gyazo
How to add a file shortcut to another folder:
right click on file–add shortcut to drive–choose folder in google drive to add it to

In March 2020, google came out with a new update, 'add shortcut to google drive', that has been especially handy if you create and share teacher resources on a platform like Teachers Pay Teachers or Teacher Sherpa. I keep the teacher resources that I create in a separate folder instead of mixing them into my Google Drive teacher files. However, with the 'add shortcut to google drive' option, now I can add it to my personal files! For example, I created this 1G Power Words Sticker Book. I keep it in my folder of resources that I sell. But now I right click on that resource, click on 'add shortcut to drive', click on the folder in my google drive where I would use that resource, and now it lives in 2 places. Then I can see it in my teacher files when I'm planning, and I don't have to try to remember what I have.

I'm switching school districts this coming school year, and my big project this summer is organizing my google drive. You may already know that if you have a google account through a school district, anything owned by that account in google drive will disappear when they delete your account. Unfortunately, you cannot change ownership to your personal google drive because it will not allow ownership change outside of your organization. So now what? Apparently I have not paid attention to whether I created things with my personal google drive or my school google drive, so I have stuff all over the place! Here is a blog post that shares how to save everything in your school google drive account so you can transfer it to a new account: http://techtips-ccsd.blogspot.com/2015/05/tuesday-tech-tip-taking-it-with-you.html

These are the tips I'm using to organize my google drive this summer, and I hope you find them helpful too! Don't forget to check back next week for more tips. If you haven't seen the other tips in this blog series yet, make sure to go back and check out tip #1: Password Saver and tip #2: Lesson Plan Templates and Hyperlinks.

Getting Organized for #DistanceLearning: Lesson Plan Templates and Hyperlinks

No one knows exactly what school will look like in August yet, but there are a few things that we can do to get organized in the meantime. This series of blog posts called, "Getting Organized for #DistanceLearning" is full of tips that will be useful whether you're teaching online or face to face. So be sure to check back for all the tips in this series! 
Tip #1 was Password Saver
Here is tip #2 . . .

Lesson Plan Templates and Hyperlinks

Image from Gyazo
Blank lesson plan template for writing


I'm really excited to share with you this efficient way to organize and access lesson plans! Whether we are teaching face to face, online, or a combination of both, creating a lesson plan template for each subject is going to save you time and create a learning routine that is more predictable for kids. Every lesson usually has a similar format – a connection or hook,  a teaching point, some modeling, guided practice, independent practice, and sharing. First, start by creating a blank template in google slides for each subject with at least one slide for each part of the lesson. You can see my blank template for writing above. This will make your lesson planning much quicker. Having a slide that names the teaching point in the same way each time (mine says "Learning Goal" and has the picture of the Pigeon) will help students tune into the teaching point when they know where to look for it. If you use Lucy Calkins Units of Study in any subject, your teaching point is the sticky note! You can see mine on the writing slide. Because the language she uses for her teaching point is usually so wordy, you can see I typed it into the notes section of the slide. That way I can still share her teaching point with fidelity, but I don't have to read it out of the book or have kids worry about a bunch of text on the slide. The sticky note focuses them on the teaching point while I still share the exact language. You can even get started on your lesson planning for the year this summer. If you have a curriculum you follow, you can make a slideshow for each lesson and plug in the teaching point or learning goal right now like in the examples above. Leave the rest blank for now so you can plan it as you go. You can even use the same slides each year and just make adjustments as needed. The big idea will already be there!  I'm using the templates created by Ashley McKenzie called Scandi Mountains. She has a lot of cute designs! If you're looking for some free templates, there are a lot out there. Some of my favorite free templates are from Slides Carnival


Google doc hyperlink page
Image from Gyazo
How to copy the link from your google slide lesson plan:
share–copy link

Image from Gyazo
How to add the link from your lesson plan to your google doc hyperlink:
highlight the lesson plan number–click on the picture of the link–paste the link–apply

Once you have a bunch of google slides lessons created, you need to be able to get to them quickly and efficiently. That's where hyperdocs come in! A hyperdoc is basically a google doc that holds a bunch of links that are part of a common theme. My school (which will be new for me next year) has a curriculum for reading, writing, and math. I created a google doc with each of those subjects (above), and I added the lesson number in each table. For example, 1.1 is unit 1, lesson 1. When I have a google slide lesson plan created, I link it to the correct lesson number. First click "share" on your google slide lesson plan and copy the link (see example above). Then highlight the lesson plan number on the google doc, click on the picture of the link, and paste the link you copied from the lesson (see the example above). That's it! Your lesson plans are now all in one place.
Image from Gyazo
How to change a link so it automatically make a copy when you click on it:
in the link, delete "edit" (and anything that comes after it)–type in "copy"

I also linked the blank lesson plan template for each subject at the top of my google doc hyperlink page. This saves me time when I am ready to create a new lesson plan. I created the link to automatically make a copy of the blank lesson plan template when I click on it. To do this, just copy the link of the google slide template (see the hyperlinks example again) and change the last part of the url that begins with /edit to the word copy (see the example above), and paste the new link to your google doc hyperlink page. Then when you click on it, it will automatically make a copy of your blank lesson plan template so you can start working on your next lesson plan. Nice and efficient!

I also have my reader's workshop rotation and math groups on google slides, which I linked to my google doc hyperlink page too. I just project the groups and rotations during workshop time, and it's easy to change as needed when it's a google slide. I also linked the standards to my google doc hyperlink page because I often need to refer to them when I am planning. That makes everything I need for my lesson plan in one spot. Perfect!


Symbaloo bookmark page

Now that everything digital you need to teach your lessons all year is linked on one page, I still have one more shortcut that will make your life easier. Have you ever used Symbaloo? It is a free bookmark tool that is saved in the cloud, so you can access your bookmarks on any device. I have my computer set up so that when I log onto the internet, my symbaloo page (above) automatically pops up and all my bookmarks are automatically at my fingertips. You can choose the color and picture for each bookmark you save. One of the really convenient things about symbaloo is that you can also bookmark a google doc, a google slide, etc. That means I can copy the link to my google doc hyperlink page and create a bookmark that will open that doc for me. (tip: when creating that bookmark, save it as a website instead of embedding it in symbaloo, and it will open the whole doc.) The picture of the target on the picture above is my google doc hyperlink page. That means whether we're teaching face to face or remotely next year, with one click, I'm ready! 

I hope you found this tip for Getting Organized for #DistanceLearning helpful! Check back next week for tips on organizing your google drive. If you haven't seen the other tips in this blog series yet, make sure to go back and check out tip #1: Password Saver

Getting Organized for #DistanceLearning: Password Saver

No one knows exactly what school will look like in August yet, but there are a few things we can do to get organized in the meantime. This upcoming series of blog posts called, "Getting Organized for #DistanceLearning" is full of tips that will be useful whether we're teaching online or face to face. So be sure to check back for all the tips in this series! Here is tip #1 . . .

Password Saver

As teachers, we have a lot of websites and programs that we use, and each one usually requires an account. Keeping track of them all, plus usernames and passwords for each is tough. Remembering them after taking a break over the summer is next to impossible! This password saver keeps everything you need to remember in one place. I've shared password savers before, but this is an updated version for the 20/21 school year. This is a google sheet or excel spreadsheet that has a link to each of the sites or programs listed, and it includes a short definition for each. There are also boxes with checkmarks that let you know whether it is available for free, and if it is web-based and/or an app. There is also a check box that you can use to keep track of which programs have been purchased by you or your school/district. Google forms have gone through an update, so now you can include more than one link in a box. I included some helpful videos in the notes that give you an overview of some of the sites or a tutorial for using it. There is also a page for you to keep track of your students' usernames and passwords all in one place. 

Image from Gyazo

Personally, I prefer to use a google sheet for my password saver for a few reasons. 
1. If you add more sites to the list throughout the year, you can easily resort it in alphabetical order. Just click on the arrow in the column that lists the names of the sites and click "sort sheet A-Z" (see gif above). It will automatically sort them into alphabetical order.
2. I like a google sheet because it automatically saves in my google drive so that I always have the most current version on any device I use. I don't have to upload it again when I make changes, and it's not stuck on just one computer. 
3.  I like using a google sheet as a password saver because I can add hyperlinks to each site, videos, or anything else that will help keep me organized. 

Please NoteIt is never a good idea to save passwords on a google sheet that contains your social security number, any bank information, or any sites in which you have your credit card information saved. It is not secure enough to trust that hackers could not gain access. However, saving my username and password for teaching sites in which I view or assign work seems reasonably secure to save on a document like this. Just be thoughtful about your private information!

You can download a free copy of the Password Saver 20/21 for yourself here

This will be handy whether we are teaching online next year, in person, or a combination of both by helping you keep track of all the sites and programs you use. Check back next week for another tip on Getting Organized for #DistanceLearning. It will focus on organizing your lessons!

Turning Worksheets Digital #distancelearning

As we say goodbye to our students virtually, the possibility of beginning next year the same way is a real one. As districts contemplate solutions to the social distancing issue in schools, we are looking at the possibility of half the students in-person and half the students online switching throughout the week, or continuing remote learning only. Whatever the outcome (and the problems that will come along with it), the one thing we know for sure is that schools will not look the same in August. So it's time to start planning ahead. The good news is, we don't have to start from scratch. Many of the things we were already using in our classrooms can make the switch to a virtual setting pretty easily. 
Right now, I'm focusing on worksheets that I used for students' independent practice. If we have a hybrid of in-person and remote learning time next year, I want to have a bank of independent activities for the students to do virtually. Then in-class time can be spent on formative assessments, reteaching, and small group or one on one conferencing. I already have worksheets that I used for independent practice to reinforce skills I taught in the classroom. Those are still great resources, and you don't need to ask parents to print them out at home. All you need to do is turn that worksheet into a picture, and then you can assign it through online platforms like Seesaw or Google Classroom. Are your worksheets all pdfs? Don't worry–just take a screen shot to turn it into a picture. (How to take a screen shot on a mac. How to take a screen shot on a PC. Just make sure you bought the product before snapping screen shots of copyrighted material!) Students can write on top of it, record their voice (in Seesaw) and turn it in to you. You can give them feedback virtually, and if they have any problems with the assignment, you can address it when you see them in person. During distance learning, I created multimedia video instructions on Seesaw so the students could see how to do it, then use the template provided to work on the assignment themselves. So this summer, I'm going to work on turning those worksheets into pictures that I can assign! Here are some of my favorite worksheets for independent practice online:
  • Read and Find Blends & Digraphs from Mrs. Thompson's Treasures - she has several of these that are fun for the kids to do online. Like 'I Spy' books, students read the targeted word and then find and color the picture of that word. 
  • 120 Chart Mystery Pictures from Mrs. Thompson's Treasures - she also has several versions of these – even superheroes! Students color numbers on the 120 chart that make fun pictures. Great practice for identifying numbers up to 120.
  • Color by Number Worksheets - Addition to 12 by Shanon Juneau - she has several versions of these as well. Students have to find the answer to each math problem and color the sum of the math facts a certain color to reveal the picture. 
  • Color by Code from Creating 4 the Classroom - You can also create your own color by code with these blank pictures divided into sections. You can make them math facts, sight words, etc. There are a lot of options! 
  • Differentiated Number Mazes for Each Decade (from 20 - 120) by Maria Gavin – these are fun for the kids and easy to do online. It is kind of like a cross between a maze and connect the dots. Students have to follow the numbers in order to the target number.
  • I Spy Word Search by Teacher Stuff - I have several of these as well. It is a word search modified for early emergent readers. They have to find and circle the same word 6 times on the word search game board to practice a specific sight word. There are also I spy options for a little bit more advanced readers with 6 words they must find on one game board. I found that traditional word searches were too overwhelming for my first graders, especially at the beginning of the year or if they were struggling readers. However, the practice of reading their sight words and attending to each letter was good practice, so I made the game board smaller and was very strategic in choosing sight words they needed to practice. 
  • Cooking in the Classroom by Teacher Stuff - these recipes are easy for kids to make and require no actual cooking on the stove or in the oven. While they can be done in the classroom, I have a feeling this will be a fun at-home assignment next year. Students get experience with measuring, language, and creating a hands-on healthy-ish snack, but the main learning objective is for students to write how-to directions for something that they made. There are several recipes with a how-to writing template. 
None of these resources were created for distance learning, but these are a few of my favorites that are easy to convert into digital assignments. I know there are many more that would easily convert to distance learning independent practice, so please share them in the comments! Let's work smarter, not harder, and we can use what we already have to make this work!

Now we have to organize all these assignments. I'm loving all the virtual bitmoji classrooms out there, so I had to try my own! It really is fun to make, and it's easy to link assignments, lessons, and resources. The visual platform for students to navigate assignments is going to be a game changer, especially for our little learners. They will learn quickly how to access everything they need with a well laid-out virtual classroom. One thing that became abundantly clear as a parent and a teacher during remote learning – we need kids to do their online learning with some level of independence.  Parents cannot walk them through every lesson all day, so if we have huge amounts of text for our kinder, first, and even second graders to navigate, it's not going to be independent. A virtual classroom is what I'm going to use to organize the assignments and lessons I give to students online. Even our non-readers can have some independence this way once they know the routine. The pictures will allow them to navigate the assignments and directions if we record the lesson. 

In my virtual classroom above, a video lesson for each subject is linked to each "poster" on the wall. The morning announcements are linked on the board; each book on the bookshelf is a book that supports a lesson. The star on the bookshelf is a website for independent practice created by our interventionists; the heart on the bookshelf is a social-emotional lesson created by our school mental health team; and the computer on the little table is a pdf with links to websites for independent practice, directions, and passwords. Even the clock shows the time for our daily zoom meetings, and it is a link to our zoom meeting. If you click on my bitmoji, it is a video that shows you how to navigate the virtual classroom. These cool virtual classrooms are a great way to organize assignments on any platform you are using. Here are some great tutorials on how to set up your own virtual classroom: Interactive Bitmoji tutorial | Google Classroom and Seesaw, Bitmoji Classroom Scenes & Virtual Classroom Backgrounds

These are only a few small pieces that go into distance learning, but it's a good place to start planning this summer! How are you preparing for what may come next year?