I did a training a few weeks ago and someone asked me what my “favorite” tools were. I thought it was a great question, so here’s what I can’t live without on a daily basis.
Tab Resize Extension. It takes two tabs and puts them side by side. You can also use Tab Scissors. I just like the option Tab Resize of four windows for the days when my work life needs four tabs.
Google Keep– I keep lists of everything in this. I keep pictures. I share them with my friends. And I set myself reminders so I don’t forget to do things like call the vet to get my itchy dog his medicine renewed. I cleared my desk of all stickies with Google Keep.
Snagit– I saw this demonstrated last year at ISTE and I couldn’t buy it fast enough. If you take a lot of screenshots, this is for you. The features are amazing and what I like best is that once you take the screenshot, you can edit it several times and change it. You can also make a screencast and turn it into a .gif. It’s super useful.
Trello– Trello is my to do list. I create a “list” and add “cards” to it. I can add documents and link to docs in my Google Drive. I can make a check off list for any task. I can forward emails and make them part of my to do list. This is where I start my day- with my to do list. When I’ve got a million things to get done, I start with Trello and prioritize and start working down my lists.
Feedly– Feedly helps me keep up with everything in the world. Every morning I swipe through blogs and articles from around the world. I have different feeds- from EdTech, News, Languages, etc.
My 5 Step (Mostly) No Fail Method for Dealing with Challenging Situations.
I step away from the email. I am trying to live by the mantra do not email angry. This is a continual struggle.
I find someone who knows more than me to give me advice. I have a list of colleagues and friends I consult about different subjects. If the challenging situation is about being a manager or managing employees, I call my dad. He’s got great advice because he was a manager for 27 years. And I’m pretty sure he’s never emailed angry. If it’s about an administrative/school issue I go to my colleague KP. She knows everything because she’s been a teacher and an administrator. She’s also who I consult if I have a challenging grammar question because she’s the only person I know who is as interested in grammar and words as I am. If it’s about a French question, I consult the Internet. On any general topic, I am 100% certain that I am not the first person to have thought or had the problem and more than likely somewhere on the Internet someone has an answer or lesson I can use.
I continue to stay away from the email. (Très important!)
I confront/deal with the situation following the advice I sought out.
I reflect on what happened. Why did this situation arise? Was there anything I could have done to prevent it? Could I have handled the confrontation or dealt with the person in a different more effective manner? Then I take steps to implement any changes that need to be made.
Google announced a new feature and I am ecstatic. You now can add videos directly from your Google Drive! They don’t have to be on YouTube!!! (If you’re on a school Google account, this feature may not be available just yet depending on how your administrator has set up for rolling out new features. Just give it a week or two. You’ll know because when you click on Insert>Video there will be a choice that says Google Drive.)
This means we can add listening or speaking activities to our Google Slides via videos!!
Create a video using a device. This might be easiest on a phone, but you can use any device. (I did the example on my phone. I covered up the camera, but you can also just point to a nice picture.)
Upload this to your Google Drive. (You’ll need the Google Drive app on your phone.) Make sure you set the permissions to anyone with the link can view – not sure if this will automatically fix itself if you share in Google Classroom, but why take a chance.
Create your slide and insert it.
Why would we want to do this? Endless awesome reasons.
Differentiation- Give students different slightly different directions or a slightly different task. Give a baseline version and a challenge version. Example for clothes- have a #authres of some clothes choices. In different videos ask them what they would wear to a party, to the beach, for a wedding. Or describe what someone has chosen to wear to one of those places and ask the students if it was an appropriate choice and to explain. Or give them a different amount to spend and have them say what they would buy. They can write their answers or discuss.
Choice- Students love choices for tasks.
Working with a story? Put some images and then tell different stories and have students move the images around to match what you’re saying. Or change the story slightly and have them react.
If you school is like mine, Valentine’s day is a difficult day to get anything done with the constant interruptions of singing grams and Valentine’s deliveries and no one can see because one kid has a bouquet of balloons that covers half of the class and half the class is all hopped up on chocolates or grumpy because they don’t have a balloon, singing gram or chocolates.
This is a super simple Valentine’s activity you can use in all levels.
Labels (enough for each student to have at least 2, but ideally several). Run, don’t walk to the phone and call the secretary in charge of supplies and ask if s/he has any old ones for the dot matrix printer or that have something printed on them that they don’t use. You could also use stickies and tape.
On each of the labels students write in the target language at least one positive, complimentary sentence about their partner and at least one positive, complimentary sentence about someone else in the class. The more the better. In lower levels this might just be: You are nice or You are funny. In higher levels they can write why: You are nice because you always say hello or you are nice because you helped me with my homework. In lower levels you may want to brainstorm a list of adjectives first. You might also want to model by making sentences for the principal or a team teacher. They should try to be a specific as their language level allows.
(Teacher step) Walk around and make sure that there wasn’t a knucklehead who wrote: you smell or equivalent. Also be prepared with several labels of your own for students who may not get as many labels as other students.
Students stand up and walk around and place the label gently (important direction for possible knucklehead-ness) on the back of the student to whom it belongs and say what it is.
Once all labels have been distributed, students return to their original partner who removes the labels and puts them on the heart paper. If you use stickies, tape them down during this step.
Et voilà, each student has a nice Valentine’s day heart with lovely sentences about them. I had students who would keep this in the front of the binder for the rest of the year.
I’ve been working on a presentation on reading strategies and updated my “Open Mind” Template for Google Slides. An “Open Mind” activity is pretty simple. Students insert words or images into the mind of a character or person they’ve been reading about. (For example for Romeo Montague a student could put a heart and say that Romeo is in love.) This works particularly well for language learners because they can insert an image and then talk about why they chose that image. Since it’s a Google slide, you could also have students do it collaboratively- two working on it at the same time or even put several in a slide deck and ask students to fill in for different characters and then students could guess which character was which or explain to each other why they think those particular images were chosen. Students can justify their answer in the speaker notes portion of the slides.
I’ve included two templates in the slide deck. One is a basic open mind and the second is a “says, does, and thinks” where students separate out what the character says, does and thinks. I also like this one for language learners because it gives them practice using structures like “he thinks that…” “she says that…” If you were working on the subjunctive you could also use for wants and wishes. So much fun!
I thought this prompt of free tools was intriguing and I encourage you to read Musicuentos.com post, “Supporting the Community.”
My absolute favorite free web tool is Google Image Search. It revolutionized my lessons- being able to pull in images on anything at any given time. But that’s not a very interesting or unique tool. (However, if it went away I would cry.)
My real free tool is Edpuzzle.com. This has also revolutionized my lessons. Edpuzzle allows me to add questions to video, either uploaded by me or pulled from any number of sources, including YouTube. I can have students watch a video at home and ask them comprehension questions about it. I can differentiate the same video and have a challenge version. It links to my Google Classroom so all of my students are enrolled and I can see who has or hasn’t watched the video. I can make it so they can’t skip ahead; I can make it so they can. I love the versatility of Edpuzzle.com to add in authentic videos with questions.