Author - Nancy Minicozzi

Tips for Connecting with Your Students via Natalie Priester

Natalie Priester with lots of books

Whether you are a brand new teacher or one with a bit more “seasoning,” you know that connecting with your students is key to a successful school year. Natalie Priester, a CUE member from southern California, recently attended a training where she got to meet middle school teachers from across the country. She asked them for their best advice on how to connect and build relationships with their students, then shared their responses in a quick video. While Natalie asked specifically about middle schoolers, the advice from these teachers can be applied to kids of almost any age.

You can see the video below, and we know you will come away with some great ideas to implement right away. You will also want to check out her channel, where Natalie posts videos about many topics of interest to teachers, including reading, blended learning, building relationships, and being a teacher and a mom.

TLC Ninja: Judy Blakeney, Tricia Hyun, and Strength-Based Education

Strength-based education is an approach which begins with and builds upon the strengths of students, teachers, parents, and the community. Nancy and Lisa chat with Judy Blakeney and  Tricia Hyun to find out how easy it is to empower your students to be more successful. You can visit their website at Strengthbasededu.com.

Many of the mentioned resources are also included on their episode page on the TLC Ninja website.

Light a Spark

hand holding sparkler

Adobe Spark is not a new tool, but if you haven’t checked it out lately, you don’t know Spark. In April, Adobe announced that they would make this creation tool free for students and teachers, and they would throw in all the premium features to boot. All you need is a little help from your friendly neighborhood IT manager to get it set up and you are off and running, even with students under 13.

The Swiss Army knife of creation tools, Spark has three easy to use “utensils” that even the littlest learners can master:

  • Post: This graphic design software lets students work with images. They can upload their own or select from Creative Commons licensed media inside the app from providers like Unsplash and Pixabay. Curricular uses could include creating book cover designs, billboards promoting one of the original colonies, and social media posts from historical or literary figures.
  • Page: This tool allows you to create a very attractive one page website. Students can include text, images, videos, and links. Use as a digital portfolio, to deliver a report, or include images from class events.
  • Video: As its name implies, this is a video creation tool. Students can upload images or select from Creative Commons licensed photographs (automatically credited at the end of the video), add music, and even record voiceover narration. They can also upload video clips. Spark Video can be used to create historical documentaries, highlight themes or other aspects of a novel, summarize a concept, explain vocabulary, document science experiments, or provide a background image for a story or poem that they read aloud.

Students who are unsure of their design skills may choose from the design themes and templates available in all Adobe Spark tools while others can build from scratch. Creations can be shared publicly or privately.

Access Adobe Spark from a computer at spark.adobe.com. There are also iOS apps (one for each tool, to keep them from being too bulky). Android users only have the option to use Post at this time. Content syncs automatically between the web and mobile apps, so you can start your work in one place and finish in another.

To learn more, visit this page with an overview and examples of the tools. There is also a teacher guide you can download. They even have nine suggestions for assignments to start the school year off “on a Spark-ly note.”

By the way, the image for this blog post was made in Spark.

TLC Ninja: Tammy Lind Brings Makerspaces into the Classroom

Tammy Lind believes that maker is an innovative mindset that both teachers and students should have, and she prefers having the makerspace in the classroom instead of in the library or a specialized room. She explains why and talks about her district began using classroom makerspaces in the latest episode of TLC Ninja with Lisa and Nancy.

Find Tammy online on TwitterInstagram (private, but just ask to follow and she will accept your request), or Google Plus.

So you think you know Slides?

child on slide

Everyone loves Google Slides. They are free, device agnostic, and easy to use for a variety of purposes. They have all the collaborative power of Google. You can even add to the default theme options by importing free themes from Slidescarnival.com or similar sites. Of course, you can use Slides to make slideshows, but you may not know just how many creative options they offer.

Enter Tony Vincent. He recently posted this article on Getting Creative with Google Slides explaining how you can go easily go beyond the basics and make the most of this application. From finding and customizing images to new uses for drop shadow formatting to creating flow charts and printing your own custom sticky notes, you won’t believe how much you can do with this presentation tool.

Can’t find an icon you like? Create your own from an image. Want to choose your own adventure? Slides is the perfect tool. Looking to publish a newsletter? Feel like making an animated GIF out of your slides? Tony will show you how. One of our favorite ideas was using the custom gradient tool to fill in shapes or create unique backgrounds with the colors of your choice. Tony suggests using the uiGradients visualizer to see what various color combinations will look like (and wisely cautions against gradient overuse).

So avoid summer slide (see what we did there?) and check out Tony’s article, Getting Creative with Google Slides. You’ll be glad you did.

TLC Ninja: Jen Roberts shares her secrets

Jen Roberts, author of Power Up: Making the Shift to 1:1 Teaching and Learning, tells Lisa and Nancy about the secret ways she leverages tech to keep an eye on how her students are reading in her 9th grade English class. In fact, her methods are so secret, she won’t even publish them on her blog, so you’ll have to listen to find out. Hint: It’s not a reading log.

Connect with Jen on Twitter, Instagram, or Google Plus.

Meme Yourself – Create Custom Memes in Quizizz

success kid meme

There are many online quiz platforms out there, and Quizizz is one of our favorites. Free and easy to use, you can search for a quiz to give as is, modify, or create your own in a flash. Students don’t need accounts, and they can play live on any device or use Homework Mode to participate asynchronously. Grading is done “automagically” so you save time. (Keep your reports in the dashboard on the website or download the spreadsheets.) Use Quizizz as part of the Fast and Curious eduprotocol, and your kids will achieve mastery in practically no time.

One of the reasons students love Quizizz is that it is entertaining. After each question, students are shown a meme, a funny image like this one letting them know whether they got the question right or wrong. There are several meme sets to choose from. What makes Quizizz extra special is the ability to create your own custom memes. You can include yourself, a cartoon of yourself, your class mascot, or any images that you think your class will enjoy.

To create and use custom memes, all you need to do is create a new meme set, then add and save your images. As you upload each image, you will be able to crop it, add text, and get it just the way you want. Once you have a full set (they recommend 10 images for correct answers and 10 for incorrect ones), save it. Your meme set will then be ready for use next time you use Quizizz. Simply select it at the bottom when you are assigning the work. You can make multiple custom meme sets, so you can have different ones for different classes, sections, or content areas. If you need more help to create your custom memes, there are specific directions and some how to videos on this page.

Summer break is the ideal time to take pictures of yourself to use in custom meme sets. Have fun with them! Here are some examples I created.

custom meme examples

A Night at the (Virtual) Museum

paint palette

For many of us, summer vacations include a trip to a museum to see famous works of art. If you can’t get away, don’t like crowds, or simply can’t get enough, give Google Arts and Culture a try. With Google Arts and Culture, you and your students can visit museums, tour famous sites and landmarks, and explore world culture, right from your computer, Android, or iOS device.

Explore the Grand Canyon and Machu Picchu, then take a tour of the British Museum, and finally immerse yourself in the beauty of everyday Japanese items. Whatever your passion, you will find something here to satisfy your cultural curiosity.

Every week, different stories and themes are showcased. As of this writing, the curators are highlighting musical instruments from around the world, flamenco dancing, the Central Academy of Fine Arts museum in Beijing, the African Heritage House, Pakistani women of arts and culture, LGBTQ history, shoes, and more.

Using the Nearby tool, you can visit places close to you. What a great way to prepare students for a field trip or allow them to cement and expand on their experience after they return.

Looking for art? There are tools which let you search by artist, subject, medium, movement, place, color, and more. Save favorites to your personal collection and create your own galleries.  When looking at the exhibits, zoom in to view them in incredible detail; you can get closer than any museum guard would ever allow. Of course, art teachers will love sharing Van Gogh’s brush strokes with students, while in a math class, learners might analyze the dots of a Seurat painting. There is a wealth of resources for social studies, language arts, science, you name it. In short, no matter your content area, you’re sure to find something to incorporate into your class.

Do you like 360 degree images and videos? Google Arts and Culture has you covered. Watch the Nutcracker ballet in 360 degrees, listen to orchestral performances, or visit museum exhibits and view them from all angles. Google has also partnered with natural history museums around the world, so you can take your students on a virtual tour to explore dinosaurs and other prehistoric creatures or visit endangered and exotic animals in their natural habitat.

And let’s not forget about the famous selfie tool. On the mobile app, scroll down and look for “Search with your selfie.” You will find out what famous painting you most resemble. Or at least what famous painting Google’s AI thinks you most resemble. You may or may not agree. In any case, we urge you to visit Google Arts and Culture to take advantage of all it has to offer.

TLC Ninja: Amber Harper is Burned In

Summer is a good time to rest, recharge, and think about how we can avoid burn out next year. In this episode of TLC Ninja, Amber Harper shares the importance of being a burned in teacher with Nancy and Lisa. You can connect with Amber on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest at burnedinteacher. Her website is burnedinteacher.com and it’s chock full of resources. Maybe you will even be inspired to sign up for the Burn On Challenge here: bit.ly/BITchallenge. We hope you will stay burned in!

Going Green (Screen)

If you think incorporating video making in your class is expensive or difficult, think again. There are a variety of tools and resources available to get you started. And no green screen? No problem!

If you’re like me, you have your hands full teaching the curriculum, revising lessons, differentiating, and meeting the needs of your students. Which then begs the question, how will I fit another item on my plate? One that requires a set of new, and scary, skills. No worries. Starting with small projects is the key.

Photo by Alexander Dummer on Unsplash

Let’s first look at the classroom with Chromebooks, not necessarily 1:1. One teacher had her 1st graders write Fractured Fairy Tales, then create simple scenes and paper characters to act out their stories. Using the Screencastify Chrome Extension and the computer’s own camera, with a little help from their 5th-grade buddies, they created videos and shared on Google Classroom. No editing required. Best of all, the teachers weren’t as proficient as the students

Want to add editing into the mix? WeVideo is a great online source for teachers and students. They have an educational option. Why not give the 30-day free trial a whirl?

Another teacher had her students write, edit, direct, and create their own movie. With the help of A Tale Unfolds, the students met several learning standards in a fun and engaging manner. A few more tools and apps were needed for this. A large green screen was used. Green screens can be green plastic tablecloths from the dollar store, green fabric from your local fabric store, or complete green screen setups. Students filmed on an iPad using the Do Ink Green Screen App ($2.99) and edited in iMovie.

Then there are the news shows. Many schools are creating news shows to make morning announcements more relatable. Try TouchCast Studio, available only on iOS. This free tool allows users to record within the app, import clips from the camera roll, and insert a newsroom studio background to use. You can also upload to YouTube for easy accessibility. In addition, the students can create tutorials and so much more.

So what are you waiting for? Start creating videos in your class. It can be as simple as an announcement about an upcoming school event or as involved as creating an original movie. Go for it! And remember: YOU don’t have to know how it works, have the students learn and teach you and have fun!

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