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Wednesday, April 26, 2017

S.T.E.A.M. Themed Breakout

YOUR MISSION, IF YOU CHOOSE TO ACCEPT IT: Use the clues and supplies given to you to successfully break out of the locked boxes using teamwork and engineering!

  This breakout activity is a fun and engaging way to get both students and parents working together to solve riddles, clues, and puzzles, to successfully break out of the locked boxes. Keep reading for a FREEBIE of the entire breakout for you to use!

 Currently, our school is a designated STEAM school. This means that as a staff, we strive to incorporate Science, Technology, Engineering, the Arts, and Mathematics into our lessons to encourage the study of those fields, as well as engaging all learners and learning styles in their learning.

  Each year our school holds a STEAM Night, where students can bring their families to school to experience a snapshot of what we have been doing throughout the year. This year my amazing teammate, @elementaryescapades (Instagram), put on a fabulous STEAM Night in which families had passports, and traveled to different grade levels to participate in STEAM activities together. They were also able to check out displays about different STEAM related careers, experience live demonstrations of technology in use and cooking demonstrations, and meet community members who have jobs in these fields. This is a great opportunity for parents to not just come and “see” what is being done in the classroom, but actually experience it firsthand.

  In sixth grade we have been experimenting with using breakout boxes in our classes. We currently own a BreakoutEDU kit, but found that it can be quite expensive to buy enough of those kits to complete breakouts with classes of thirty. Instead, we gathered all the things that come in a kit and made our own homemade version. We were able to purchase toolboxes that have a spot for a lock as well as padlocks with keys at the Dollar Tree. We then ordered invisible ink pens, keychain black lights, directional locks, and word locks from Amazon. Then, for a fraction of the price, we had enough kits to run multiple breakouts at once!

   For our class’ STEAM Night activity, I put together a STEAM themed breakout activity for the kids and families to participate in together. I had five different sets going at once, so small groups were able to come in and start whenever they made it to my room. I could also easily refill and reset the boxes when a group was done for the next group.

   Parents and students had a great time working on this activity together, and I saw great perseverance from all teams. It was great to see the bonding taking place between families while completing the tasks and the big smiles stretching across their faces as they broke out. 

   We even had signs and certificates to use to pose for pictures after. If your school has a Twitter or Instagram account, this a great thing to use to have parents post pictures and tag the school to tell your school’s story.

   If you are interested in the breakout I created, I have posted it in my Teachers Pay Teachers store, Mrs. Dessert, as a freebie for you to use! All the directions for where to buy the materials, set up the breakout, and celebrate at the end are included. This activity is not just for STEAM Nights, but could also be used in your classroom as a team bonding activity at any point in the year. Although the theme is based around STEAM, there is no specific knowledge set needed to enjoy this breakout. So check it out here!

Sunday, September 18, 2016

Organizing Your Google Forms Answers

A few months ago I posted about preparing students for computer based testing with Google forms, and promised a follow-up about how I organize their answers into easy to read and grade individual answer sheets. After a few months of figuring out motherhood, I'm back and ready to help you get organized for the new school year.
   The first step is creating a Google form for your students to fill out. The process I am going to teach you can work when using a passage and questions, or for any Google form. For example, applying for classroom jobs, reading response journals, or anything you can dream up that needs a response.
    After creating the form, you will need to open up the Google sheets response form that is automatically created when you finish your form. From there you will go to "add-ons" and then search for "autoCrat."

    Once this add-on is loaded, you will need to make a template for your responses. Your template could look a variety of ways, but I like to make mine in a table form so that each response is clearly separated.
    Make your template in a Google document and then name it so you can easily find it when using autoCrat. Here is an example of the template I created for my form from the previous post.
  I chose to use the entire question in each of my boxes as the tag so that I can easily link them up when using the add-on, but the key is to enclose the key words with two less than and greater than signs << >>. 

   Once your template is made, head back into your Google sheets where the responses are being compiled and make sure that the autoCrat add-on is open. Then begin a "New Merge Job."

From here you will choose the template you made from your drive to sync up with your merge.   


     Once you have chosen your template, name the merge job, and we're almost there!

     Your template should now be merged with your form, and you will just need to be sure that each of the tags on your template (shown on the left) match up with a question from your form (shown on the right). 

       Name the final merged document one final time so your students' answers will be easy to find in a folder in your drive that will be created, and then save this work.  

    Finally, this will take you back to the autoCrat add-on home screen and you should see your template loaded into the list. Be sure your template is chosen, and then hit "Run Merge" when all your students' responses have been gathered and you're ready to create your final document. You can continue to do this as responses come in, but I find it easier to complete this step just once so you have all your documents ready to go at once. 

    When the merge is complete you should be able to go back into your drive and find a folder with all of the responses in templates, on separate pages for your easy grading convenience. 

I quickly filled out the form (with incomplete answers) but you can see how the answers are compiled and then organized into a sheet for each student that looks like the template you created. 

   You can get much more creative with your templates, or keep it simple, but I have found that this format is much easier to read, comment on, and return to students with a grade, as opposed to looking at the answers in Google Sheets. 

    Hopefully this will help organize your form answers and save you some time giving feedback to your students. 

Monday, August 15, 2016

Become an Official Coach and Teach Product Tester

   Welcome fellow teaching teammates! If this is your first time visiting my page, please take a few minutes to get to know me and check out some of my most popular posts. If you're a returning visitor, welcome back!
    I've been M.I.A. recently due to the addition of our son to our family back in May. He is a complete joy and our family has been soaking up every minute with him. But, it's time to get back to work (during nap times) for this mom!
    I'm excited today to open up an opportunity for a few lucky teachers to become official "Coach and Teach Product Testers." I'm looking for two teachers per grade level, 4th-7th, that would be willing to use my products in their classrooms, provide me with feedback, and then give others the opportunity to hear about these products and use them in their classrooms through posts on your blog, Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, or other social media accounts.
     If you are interested in receiving FREE products and willing to helps spread the word, please fill out the form in the link. If you are chosen, I will send you an email with more details and get some free products coming your way!
                                          Product Tester Application
     I'm looking forward to working with you!

Monday, February 15, 2016

Preparing Kids for Computer Based State Testing

   As the dreaded testing season draws closer, we teachers are always looking for ways to give our students a leg up and allow them to enter the testing session calm, confident, and fully prepared. The truth of the matter is, even in today's technology enhanced world, many students still aren't prepared for taking a test on the computer and lack basic skills that could hinder them from showing their true knowledge. I mean honestly, how many 3rd graders are really ready to type full responses on assessments? However, we can do a more comprehensive job of preparing our students for these tests with a few easy to implement techniques starting now.

Get Them Typing! 

  Although time is always the enemy during our school day, we must make it a priority to get students into the computer lab or bring the mobile lab to our classroom to get them practicing their keyboarding skills. Would we expect kids to show us what they know on a paper and pencil test without teaching them to write first?! We need to ensure they have these basic skills before entering the computer lab on testing day, so they can feel confident that the only thing being tested is their knowledge, and not their computer literacy and typing skills.

  A few great FREE resources: Dance Mat Typing    Typing.com    Keybr

  If your school wants to buy a subscription, I highly recommend: All The Right Type

 Expose Students Used to Reading Text Online and Typing Their Answers

  Although there are many great resources to find fiction and non-fiction text online with accompanying multiple choice questions, the truth is that students are no longer required to just click on an answer. Now students must actually type more in-depth and comprehensive answers. While we are all doing an awesome job teaching the standards in the classroom, we must give students an opportunity to practice typing their responses in a format that looks similar to what they will see come test day.
   My current favorite go- to format is using Google Forms. I will walk you through the steps to creating a Google Form for your students that includes a text, images, videos, and questions. In my next post I will then show you how to easily format the answers so they are easy for you to see, correct, and share for feedback.

Step by Step: Creating a Google Form 

   First of all, you will need a Google account and will then need to open your Google Drive.

    From there you will select: New: More: Google Forms.

    You now will have the option to format your form however you see fit for the needs of your classroom. For this example I have chosen to use a current events news article about the New Hampshire primaries. You can find great articles on NewsELA , Tween Tribune,  Time for Kids, and many others!

    To start I titled my form so that I can easily find it in my Google Drive, as well as easily find the results when students start to respond. Try to be specific, so that when you have multiple forms created they aren't all labeled, "Test Prep."

    Don't forget this next step! Add a question by using the button with a circle and plus in it, that says "Name" and change the response to "Short Answer Text." Without this step it will be very hard for you to determine whose response is whose.

    Next, use the double "TT" button to add a title and description. It will be in this box that you will add the text that you have chosen. Copy and paste the text you have chosen into this box. You will probably have to go through and format the text to show paragraph breaks and add spacing, but this area should give you plenty of room to upload a full text for students to read. Add the text where it says "Description" and add directions where it says "Title".

    After the text has been uploaded, you can then begin to add questions to check for understanding. To do this use the same button with the circle and plus sign to "Add Question" and use the format you would like. I like to label mine with the standard that is being assessed just to make it easier when I grade them. Be sure to change the response to "Paragraph Text" so that students have more room to type their response. If you are looking for some great Common Core question stems that address both literature and informational text, check out this website: Question Stems and use the bookmarks for your grade level. 

     If you choose to use a passage from a site that provides a multiple choice quiz at the end, don't be afraid to use those question to sprinkle into your form as well. They are already written and students will still be asked multiple choice questions on the test! 

     Many times students are asked to read charts or it may be helpful to have a picture accompany the text. Adding this is simple! Just save a copy of the chart or picture to your computer, and then use the "Add Image" button on the right to upload it to your form. You can give the picture a title or use this space to provide directions for what you want the students to do. Then, if you would like to ask a question about the picture, you can just add a new question below the picture. Simple as that!

     Finally, students must also become familiar with using video media in the upper grades as a source to gather information from. Adding this to your form is simple as well! Just choose the "Add Video" icon, where you will be directed to YouTube and you can find a video that fits your needs, or you can add a video using a URL. After your video is loaded, you can just add questions below as well. I chose to use the format of "Check Boxes" so students can practice the ever form of "Choose ALL that apply."

    Don't forget, you can always rearrange the text, questions, pictures, or videos by dragging and moving them using the six dot array that appears when you hover over a question.

   Now that your form is complete, you need to make sure it will collect the data you want and archive it for you. You should go up to the top where you can choose "Questions/Responses" and click on "Responses." Click on the three dot array and choose "Select Response Destination" from the choices. Choose to "Create a New Spreadsheet" and then name it similarly to what your form is called so you can easily find the responses in your drive. Click "Create" and the responses will automatically be linked to the spreadsheet which you can find in your drive.

    The last step is sharing the form with your students. By clicking the "Send" button you have multiple choices to share with your students. You could send them each an email, get a live link, or embed the HTML into a website.
    I personally always use the link and click the option to shorten the URL. I then just copy this link and post it for my students to type into their browser themselves. (Be sure students know that letters are case sensitive otherwise they may have a hard time being directed to the right page.)

     From here, the students can read the text, practice typing their answers, and be better prepared for testing on the computer and answering in this format when the times comes around.

     Stay tuned for my next post where I will explain how to take the huge spreadsheet of data and format it into easy to read, student by student, full page printouts using an easy Google Add-on!

Monday, February 8, 2016

The Power of Persuasion


      These past few weeks my class has embarked on an exciting journey as I started a Schoology group that is hosting six different classes of sixth graders from around the nation. Each weekend I have chosen a different writing prompt and all the students write and respond to each other on that prompt.
       Last week I chose a NewsELA article about raising the legal tobacco buying age. Every student read the same passage, at their level, we then had a lively classroom discussion and then students wrote their responses. They spent so much time on these and were so thoughtful in responding to their new online classmates.

      This week, in honor of the Super Bowl, I have chosen to focus on persuasive writing and the techniques many writers and advertisers use to hook consumers. Being that these students are 6th graders, and the target market for many of the products advertised, this seemed to be a great way to grab their attention and buy-in for this prompt and introduce persuasive techniques in writing.
      As they came in this morning I just posted the simple question, "What was your favorite Super Bowl commercial?" Of course we had everything from Puppy Monkey Baby to the Doritos ultrasound baby. It was great to hear some of their favorites, since those were a few of the ones I had targeted for this assignment. If you're interested in a similar writing prompt, here are some of the resources and quick links to the commercials I chose.
  Persuasive Techniques
          To get the conversation going, we first discussed what a target market is and what different types of products are marketed to different target markets. We watched a few commercials and decided on the target market for each.
          After that, we discussed the three types of appeals advertisers use to appeal to their target market.

        Ethos- an appeal to credibility or character
                 Advertisers use this type of appeal to show that their company is more reliable or credible than others. Often times they use a reliable source such as a study, doctor, or celebrity endorsement to make this point. 

        Logos- an appeal to logic or reason
                 Using this type of appeal, advertisers aim to show consumers the facts and evidence about what their product does. They try to be clear in presenting their facts to convince you. 

         Pathos- an appeal to emotion
                   Pathos is used to appeal to the consumers' emotions. Advertisers often show people being extremely happy using their product, or aim to show a sad situation in order to appeal to their emotion and gain a call to action.

   After discussing these three types, we came up with different companies, commercials, or ads that use each of these three appeals. (Trust me, the kids were at no loss for examples!)

       After that, we discussed different specific strategies that advertisers use. Here are the examples we looked at.

       Avante Guarde-  The idea that using this product will put you ahead of the times.

       Weasel Words-  Using words such as "virtually" spotless and "most" of the time. Giving the illusion of a guarantee, while not actually guaranteeing anything.

       Patriotism- Instilling the idea that buying or using this product will make you more American or patriotic to your country.

       Transfer- Using positive ideas, images, and words to imply that the product is also positive.

       Plain Folks- Showing that the product is used and needed by regular people and families.

       Snob Appeal- Suggesting that using this product will move you to a more elite status.

       Bribery- Offers you something "extra".

       Band Wagon- This technique suggests you should join the crowd in buying this product so you aren't the only one without it.

       Slogan- Having a catchy phrase that people will remember.

       Repetition- Repeating your slogan, an idea, or saying over and over with the hopes it will stick with people and they will remember your product.

       Testimonial- Using a satisfied customer to give their experiences with the product to convince others.

       Celebrity Endorsement- Having a celebrity use, advertise, and endorse your product. If they use it, so should you!

Super Bowl 50 Commercials
  After discussing each of the techniques and coming up with examples, we looked at the Super Bowl 50 commercials. Here are some of the more "kid appropriate" ads that I found. 

 FitBit               Jeep                Coca- Cola              Taco Bell                     
  Hyundai                Heinz          Honda

   After watching each commercial, the kids wrote down the major type of appeal that the advertisers used, and then the more specific technique they used to target their product.

   Finally, after all the prep work we got to our weekly question.

       "Which Super Bowl ad appealed most to you, and why? Which appealed least to you and why? Describe the different appeals and techniques that were used in each of the commercials you chose and how that played into your decision."

    This could be anywhere from a quick paragraph to a full on five paragraph essay. 

    We will use this a springboard to go into a larger persuasive writing project. Now that students understand that there are multiple ways to persuade others, they can tap into these techniques in their own writing. 

    I would love to hear how you implement this lesson or something similar. What will your students write about after learning about these techniques? I'd love to hear your ideas in the comments below!

Saturday, October 3, 2015

Back to School Whip and Nae Nae: PBIS Song

       As we were heading back to school this year, we all couldn't escape the viral song that is "Watch Me" AKA the Whip and Nae Nae. With a title like that, I figured it was a perfect song to make into a PBIS song to encourage good behavior and remind students of the expectations at the beginning of the year.
     With this in mind, I went to work rewriting the words for a staff song and dance. I had a great time brainstorming the words, and then having my brother come over to record our version. (This was a whole family project with my brother, his girlfriend, my husband, and myself all on the track- many laughs throughout the recording night.)
       When school started, we got the staff together to teach them the dance moves and then presented to the students at our first Golden Awards assembly. The video is below, although the quality isn't a great. (I guess that's what you get from a 6th grader...) The students loved seeing their teachers make a fool of themselves and left school singing and dancing that day.

     After posting this video to my Instagram account, I got many requests for the words and a clearer track of the song. Although the song was written to our school specifically, it's pretty easy to still use the song and just skip through that part. Here are the words and the soundtrack:

                                                               Watch Me Lyrics

   Enjoy! Happy Dancing!

Saturday, August 1, 2015

Back to School Technology Tips

   Welcome to Coach and Teach, a space I have dedicated to help teachers lighten the load. Although we are all fresh off summer vacation and full of energy and excitement for our new students as they walk through the door, we have to remember we can't all do it alone and we need to help each other with ideas, lessons, and encouragement. So, just as we encourage our students to create community and rely on their classmates this year, please join me in a teaching community to do the same for ourselves. Feel free to peruse my blog for ideas, but please feel free to leave feedback or your own ideas in the comments as well.

   To get you started thinking about heading back to the classroom and creating the best learning environment possible, I am dedicating this post to some of the ways I incorporate technology into my classroom. I am lucky enough to be in a district where every student has a Google account and I also have access to 15 iPads. However, I'm going to share a few ways that you can use technology even if you only have access to a few devices, or you allow your students to use their own devices- because they have them, we might as well use them for a good purpose!

   This past year I made it my goal to keep parents better informed about the happenings of our classroom on a more consistent basis. In order to do this, I started by creating a Twitter account for my classroom. At the end of each day, as a closing activity, we gathered to discuss our learning for the day and see how we could best summarize our learning in 140 characters. This not only helped students to work on the important skill of summarizing, but also updated parents daily on the most important happenings and learning of our day. As the year went on, I chose a weekly "Tweeter" to update our Twitter account. This was a highly sought after position, plus it's always nice to turn over some of our tasks to the students to keep our "Teacher To-Do List" to a minimum if possible.
Here are a few examples of our classroom Tweets. Feel free to follow our class if you're interested.
Grab this Back to School Time Capsule activity here! 

   In order to get parents on board, I created a classroom Twitter board on my door that actually had two purposes. First, it was a way for parents to quickly scan a QR code that led them to our account so they could follow us, and secondly, I used it as a quick and easy "Ticket out the Door" assessment for daily lessons. Each student received their own Twitter bubble, and at the end of the lesson I would ask a summative question to check for understanding. Each student would then use a post-it note to answer the question, and hang it on their bubble. This was a great organizational tool for me as well, because I could easily see which students had completed the task and which hadn't with a quick glance. It was also very simple for me to check their understanding without having to gather up papers, store them on my desk, and then grade them at a later time. Just a quick glance with my clipboard and we were good to go! Small groups could easily be made for reteach or extra support that day or the next.  

   Today just happens to be your lucky day as well, because as a FREEBIE you can upload my Twitter Board to use in your classroom as well! Just click here for your own copy! (Available for free through August 5th) I would love to see how you use it in your classroom as well, so be sure to take pictures and use the hashtag #CoachandTeachInAction to showcase your class on Instagram or Twitter.

    Many of you may already be aware of this classroom management system, but if you haven't, you definitely need to give it a try. I was a little skeptical at first having a class of 6th graders, but they absolutely bought into it and would keep me accountable for using it if I ever happened to forget.
    Any teacher can sign up for a free account at www.classdojo.com and create their class account from there. The site will generate an access code and you can have students sign up for their own account. The kids at that point have full access to change their avatar, check their points, and even communicate with the teacher. The best part is that parents can also sign up for an account that is linked to their child, where they can receive daily or weekly updates about how their child is behaving in class, taking out the middle step of you having to email parents daily or weekly.

Here is an example of how the program will send home reports to families. 

The report below shows an example of a daily, weekly, or monthly chart that can pulled for the whole class or individual students to track specific behaviors.  

     The basis of the management system is that the teacher can either give positive points, or take points away for various positive and negative behaviors. This is highly effective when parents want to know what their child is doing well or can work on, because you can easily look up their personal account and note things such as, talking out, participating in discussion, off- task, etc.

     For students to keep themselves accountable and on task, you can easily project the scores along with their points, or to keep it more private you can just use the sound option. This is my favorite because when a positive point is awarded, the program makes a happy dinging sound and without a doubt the students get smiles on their faces and wonder if it was them that received the point. The same goes with the negative sound, without the teacher pointing out the negative behavior and drawing attention to the student, the negative sound is heard and all students (unsure if it's them or not) strive to work harder in hopes to gain more positive points. I love that you can easily deter negative behavior without having to say a word or give the "teacher look" to anyone. Less time wasted on behavior management= more instructional time!

Example of the whole class scoring view

      While some students are just intrinsically motivated to do well with the idea of earning points, I found that my 6th graders needed a little extra incentive. To do this I created a points list with my students where they would receive certain privileges when they reached set amounts of points. For example, my students decided that at 100 points they wanted to be able to use a pen for the day. At 200 points they wanted to sit by a friend, and they were even striving for 1,000 points where they would get to teach a lesson. (They suggested Teacher for a Day, and of course my principal happened to walk in right when this happened, so we settled for a lesson.) I also posted the leading boy and girl in the morning on our "Leader Board", and they loved to work to be in the spotlight.

      I believe the biggest factor in this being a success is including the students in the decisions, and also including them in the logistics of running a management system like this. I even found it effective to let one student (who proved to be exceptionally trustworthy and dependable) use my iPad to keep track of points throughout the day. Once again, one less thing for me to have to manage and it helped keep the students involved, especially during class discussions when things often move too quickly for me to facilitate the conversation and give or take points. If you haven't given it a try yet, think about adding this great FREE tool to your classroom routine this school year.


   Hands down the favorite use of technology in my class this past year was Kahoot! This does require students to have access to a device, however you could do small groups if you have limited accessibility. This is an online website where teachers can create interactive quizzes, or use ones from the pre-created test bank that other teachers have made, to quickly engage your class and get an idea of general understanding.

  Each student, or group, will start by logging into a screen that has a game pin. This is determined based on the test you have chosen. Once all students are logged in, the teacher will project for the whole class each question, and they will then be given four different choices. On their device they will choose the color and shape that corresponds with the answer they have chosen. Once all students have selected an answer, or time runs out, a bar graph will be shown so the teacher can see how many students chose each answer. The only downfall of this is that you can't see answers for each student, but you can get a general idea. The leader board is then shown, and students compete for the top spot. More points are awarded the faster they answer, and of course for accuracy. Warning: Sometimes it becomes a race to see who can just pick an answer fastest, so be sure to emphasize the importance of choosing the right answer.

   I prefer to make my own quizzes, which doesn't take too long, but if you choose to start with a pre-made test be sure to read all the questions and answers all the way through before giving the quiz. It's never fun to have the kids choosing the right answers, but the quiz is telling them they are wrong, and don't get points because of mistakes by the creator.

   This game will have your class on the edge of their seats begging for more, and you can just sit back and smile because they are begging to learn!

    Hopscotch is a great free app that can be used with students as an enrichment activity, during free time, or in small groups to practice coding. I always tell my students that when they grow up and get a high tech job that makes lots of money using coding, to remember who introduced them to coding and come back and say hi to their poor little 6th grade teacher. :)

    Whenever I have given my students a chance to code, they usually latch on immediately and pick up on the skill so quickly. This is an app they often beg to use, and I'm more than happy to let their creative minds fly with this one. While using this app they will create their own game by dragging blocks of code into place in order to create a sequence that will do what they want it to. They will need to use math and logical thinking to make it work. Making this a team project would also be a great way to incorporate a teamwork activity into your day.

      Once students have mastered this type of coding, you could introduce them many other programs that allow them to continue with their coding skills. Khan Academy has a great program that walks them through step-by-step and eventually leads them to using html code as well.

  Epic! is an app for iPads or Google that gives you access to hundreds of books for free at a variety of levels. I used this with a few of my struggling readers last year, because they could easily log in and choose books at their level without having to worry about the stigma of someone seeing them holding a thin book, or one with less words than everyone else. I also love that this program has many books that can be read aloud to the students. It doesn't matter if you are a fluent reader or struggling, everyone can benefit from hearing fluent reading at a higher level. When a student has a pair of headphones in, no one is aware of the level they are listening to. We can give students access to higher level vocabulary and content, while being able to differentiate for all our readers. This is also an app that I recommend to parents often when they struggle with buying or finding books at their child's level. Check it out!

   Hopefully this blog post inspired some ways to help you incorporate technology into your classroom this year. If you are uncomfortable or have limited access to devices, just take it slow and work it in a little at a time. Carry on  the hop over to The Learning Effect and see what amazing tips and tricks she has in store for you!