Google Classroom: Guardians

One of the biggest pitfalls of Google Classroom, in the beginning, was that parents and/or guardians didn’t have access. This meant they didn’t know what about missing work, class activity, or upcoming work. That all changed this school year when Google announced the option to sign Guardians up in Google Classroom. Now, once Guardians are signed up, they will receive a weekly email summary. Read for more information for Guardians.

Teachers, take advantage of this and add another way to connect with your families.

Go to your Classroom and select the middle tab option marked ‘Students’. Then select the ‘Invite Guardian’ option next to each student.


To invite the guardian(s), type their email address to invite them. If there is more than 1 guardian needing the information, no problem, simply choose the ‘Add Another’ choice before selecting ‘Invite’.


Guardians will receive an email inviting them to receive weekly emails. They will have 120 days to accept the invitation. Guardians can read more about it here.

After ‘experimenting’ with one parent, the student commented in class that his mom saw his work and liked what he had written. As a guardian, the parent couldn’t access the student account so the student signed in to show the parent his work. However, this was a great opportunity to have a meaningful conversation about what he did in school that week!

Google Docs: Emojis

Last week, my students were writing an essay in their Google Docs. In the middle of writing, one student asked, “Hey, Ms. N., did you know you can insert emojis in docs?”

I was surprised and answered, “Wait, what? No? Really? Cool. Show me how.” So I went over to her table and she showed me. Pretty cool!emoji-1

So how’d she do it?

Start by going to ‘Insert’ in the menu options





Choose the desired emoji and viola! You have an emoji in your doc. Now, what if we had students summarizing stories with just emojis?!

Thank you to my student, Johanna, for spreading her knowledge!


Ninja Selfies

screen-shot-2016-10-16-at-6-31-33-pmLate last week we had CELDT testing for some students. This meant that I had several students who were NOT being tested. This meant that I really couldn’t start something new as too many students would be out. Okay, so what to do? Well, make Ninja Selfies of course!

Taking a page out of Tracy Walker‘s book, I had my students create Ninjas. My partner in crime, – in podcast crime – Nancy Minicozzi, created a tutorial on how we created our Ninjas as our logo for T.L.C. – Tech. Learn. Coffee podcast. It was a BIG hit.

It was not only fun, but they learned a trick or two. Check out their creations. I had 2 classes do this. And with their permission here are their Ninjas:

No Rules!

Last week was the first day of school for my district. I went through many of the first day rituals: greeting my students, introducing myself, identifying specific areas in the classroom, you know, all the usual. In the past, I have given the students the power to create classroom rules. But not this year! This year I allowed them to create Classroom Norms. I know, not so different. This year, I was completely hands off. I tasked them with working as a table group (I have 5) to list 2-3 norms they wanted for the year. I was happy to see that most were positive: listen to others, help, raise your hand, etc.

After a few minutes, I had the students sharing out what their table came up with. THEN, I asked each table to choose their favorite. They then created an illustration in Google Draw of their Norm. This was a sneaky way of me registering my students into a specific Google Classroom.

I split each table in half so that I would have 2 illustrations of each Classroom Norm. I then only allowed 2 people at each table to use their computers to create the illustrations. The results?

Draw Norm (beginning of year) Through this process, I was able to monitor relations, collaborative skills, leadership skills, attitudes, creativity, computer skills, and so much more. Now we have these great posters hanging in our room. It truly is their classroom!

Breakdown of the Process:

  1. Work in table groups to create 2-3 norms for the classroom for the year.
  2. Share out with class.
  3. Have each table group choose their #1 norm.
  4. Write down all #1 ideas on board.
  5. Split each group into smaller groups (in 1/2).
  6. Using Google Draw, the smaller groups (2-3 students) then create 1 illustration of their norm.

The teacher’s only role is to monitor students and print out the results.

Homework: We STILL Hate It

homework [url=][img][/img][/url][url=]”I like a teacher who gives you something to take home to think about besides homework.” – Author Unknown[/url] by [url=]Brian Metcalfe[/url], on Flickr


I’ve been thinking more about Homework and why I hate it so much. Then, I began to look at it from different standpoints: teacher, student, parent.

Why Teachers Hate Homework

No, I do NOT speak for all teachers. In fact, I know several teachers who advocate homework. This is a collection of reasons I have heard several teachers make:

  • The parents end up doing it for the kids.
  • We have to take time out of our learning day to correct it.
  • The same kids consistently DON’T complete the homework. It becomes a (losing) battle.
  • If we don’t correct it together, I have to take time out to do this menial task.
  • [at middle school] One kid does the homework and their friends copy it before school starts.
  • [at middle school] The kids stopped hiding the fact that they copy it.
  • The kids who need the practice either don’t do it or do it wrong.
  • The kids who don’t need the practice do it – what a waste of time for them.

Why Students Hate Homework

Yes, there are some students who like homework.

  • It’s boring
  • Who wants to do a worksheet?
  • It’s too hard and there is no one at home to help them.
  • They are in charge of younger siblings.
  • They may have several responsibilities to do once they get home.
  • They’d rather be playing (wouldn’t we all?)
  • It’s not meaningful.

Some other points I thought of:

  • Not all students have a home to complete their work.
  • Not all homes have a quiet space to complete work.
  • This is an intrusion on family time. As a teacher, I get upset when a parent tries to intrude in my area (classroom).
  • If I were to work all day, like the students do, and then were asked to go home and do more work on my time, I’d be a bit put-out.

Why Parents Hate Homework

Yes, there are some parents who request more (and I have my own thoughts on that).

  • It becomes a nightly battle.
  • There is yelling, screaming, and crying. Who wants that in their home?
  • It can take ‘forever’
  • Everyone is tired when they get home.
  • You have to find the ‘right’ time to do homework.
  • There is always something to do – ballet, baseball, etc.
  • It’s frustrating
  • The higher kids get more homework

Thank you to Amy (Jenkins) Shwartzhoff for her insight from the parent perspective.



Homework: We All HATE It!

Yes, it’s true, even teachers hate homework. We all know that kids hate homework and really, who can blame them? I mean they are in school all day working and then have to come home and do MORE work. Parents hate it – many find it a nightly struggle to get their child to do it. Whether the child has difficulty or wants to play outside, or both, homework is creating friction in homes. And finally, teachers hate it. First of all, we have to check it. Many times it’s done quickly and with many mistakes. This is painful for us! Secondly, we have to ‘get on’ those students who don’t complete it or complete it haphazardly. Again, painful and a losing battle.

I could go on and on about why homework is wrong on so many levels, but I’ll save that for another post. I’ve decided that next school year, I’m NOT giving homework! Instead, I’m giving activities that can be done at home. I know what you’re thinking, “Isn’t that homework?”

The answer is, “NO!” and here’s why:

  • I want it to be fun.
  • I want it to be low pressure.
  • I want the students to have a choice.
  • It would be super awesome if the whole family got involved in some of the activities.
  • The students have the option to do it with their friends. For example, if one activity they choose is to learn a dance and teach it to the class, why NOT have a few students learning the same dance to teach to everyone?
  • If a student doesn’t do it, I’m not going to freak out.

So here’s my proposal: Create a ‘Home Activities‘ choice list where students choose 2 activities to complete during a month. At first, I was going to have the students do one each week, but quickly realized I was creating way to much work for myself. Definitely, NOT what I like to do. Since this is my first attempt, I am sure that it will evolve. I also welcome feedback. While this first ‘choice list’ has few digital choices, I plan to create another with more – create a video, take artistic photos, podcasting, etc. I can also incorporate more digital choices into this list as well. However, many of my students come from lower income families and don’t yet have a strong sense of digital citizenship. These are things that will need to be taught before I ask them to do several digitally related tasks.

At the end of the month, the students can showcase what they’ve been working on. Not sure how this would work. Maybe as they complete an activity they share it with the class. That way there won’t be 30 projects to present in one day. As I’ve said, the kinks are still being worked out.

So, here’s my first attempt. Feel free to take and amend to fit your needs. Please remember to share out! We’re all in this together.

HomeActivities1 (PDF)

Screen Shot 2016-07-02 at 4.15.15 PM

My Teacher Training Failed Me

IMG_1964.JPGWell, it didn’t totally fail me. I did go through all my methods courses, learned how to create meaningful and engaging lessons, and even practiced in several classrooms before I was let loose on my own.

It failed me in other ways, and most of us too, I’d guess. It failed to teach me how to deal with:

  • The first grader who was molested by mommy’s ‘friend’.
  • The child who was dropped off at school by mom, who then walked to the nearest crack house.
  • The boy who was being beaten at home.
  • The girl who lived in a tent, in the woods, with her mother.
  • The child who is raising themselves because the ‘adult’ in the home is unreliable.
  • The girl whose mother was murdered, by her father.
  • The boy who came to school hungry, every day, and most likely took classroom food home with him.

Or the 10-year-old girl who lost her mother 2 1/2 months ago. The girl who had to sit and listen to a great opportunity to come to classes and have bonding experiences ‘with your mom’. The girl who wanted to go and bravely asked, “What if you don’t have a mom?” The girl who was eyed, sympathetically, by all the other girls in the room. The girl who has to figure out a new normal at a young age.

These are the ways in which teacher training failed me.