Got Questions?: A Quick Fix Inspired by my PLN

First, a huge shoutout to my #EduMatch family for helping me figure this one out.  Many thanks to you all for your amazing tips.

Update: One thing I forgot to add is that my class is taught in the computer lab, so this is more so a fix for classrooms that have access to technology (computer lab, 1:1, BYOD, etc.).  However, the steps focus heavily on Google Forms.  My friend in EduMatch (as stated below) had a great idea, that works well for schools with limited tech.

The Scenario:

I recently moved to teach at the high school level, and I must say, I am loving it!  The students are amazing, as are my coworkers, the administration, and the parents.  This is a wonderful experience.

Each of my six classes has its own culture.  The only constant is me, and even I try to adapt for each period.  Over these past four weeks, I’ve enjoyed learning about my students.  I have one particular period that is full of hard-working and sweet students, who tend to ask for a lot of help during independent time.

Questions are great!  I love them, but I would prefer that students help each other, because the best way to learn something is by teaching it.  Also, it often helps to learn from a peer.  Finally, there is only one of me, and about 30 of them, so sometimes it’s hard to keep straight who had a question, and in what order.  I know it must be frustrating to wait several minutes, and to be quite honest, my short-term memory isn’t the best, so people are occasionally skipped by mistake.

I posed this question in the #EduMatch Voxer group, and got some fantastic responses.  One of my fellow Edumatchers suggested that students put their names on the board, and that would solve my problem.  Someone else agreed, but said that some students may feel shy about doing so, and suggested QR codes going to a Google Form as a solution.  There was even an app proposed, similar to the system used at the Department of Motor Vehicles.  I downloaded it, but couldn’t figure out how to use it in the classroom, without creating paper tickets.

The Fix

Friday morning, I woke up inspired as it all came together.  All three of these suggestions had something to them, so I decided to synthesize them.  The result was a Google Form that I whipped up and beta tested in first period with upperclassmen.

Ms. Thomas, Help Me!

Here’s how I did it.

  1. Create a simple Google Form.
    1. If your school is GAFE, you can have it automatically collect the username of your students while they are signed into the domain.
    2. Make sure to put something along the lines of “ask 3 before you ask me,” or any variation of that in the description, as a gentle reminder that their classmates are also available to help.
  2. Add questions, such as “Your Name” (optional, if you already did 1.1), and “The Nature of Your Question.”  Feel free to add more if you wish.  I suggest the multiple choice format.  More on that later.
    1. I have three categories: about the assignment, need a pass, or other.
  3. Design it however you would like.  I didn’t do much with it, since it served a very basic purpose, and we were just trying it out.
  4. Copy the link and make it into a bit.ly with something easy to remember. (Mine is bit.ly/thomashelpme)
  5. Open the “View Responses” form.
  6. Apply conditional formatting to make every multiple choice option turn a different color.
    1. I picked multiple choice, because it is guaranteed to populate the responses exactly how you set it up, without being affected by punctuation, spacing, spelling, etc.
    2. Multiple choice is also great because students can add their own “Other” category, if it’s not listed as an option.  You can see at one glance what the student needs.
    3. Conditional formatting will allow you to take all the kids who don’t understand the assignment at once, and explain it to them.  This is a huge time-saver.
  7. Project the spreadsheet so that the students can all see it.  You may have to resize your window if you want to split your screen.  When students can see where they fall in the queue, they won’t get frustrated, because they will see that you are not ignoring them.

I’m so excited to try this out with the class in question.  I think it will go over well, as it has in my other classes.  The key will be to stick to protocol, but once we have it down, then it should work.  Please let me know if you have any tweaks or suggestions.

Week 1 Retrospective

Hello, friends!  I’ve been in high school (part two) for a full week now, and it’s better than I could ever have imagined.  Although it is a whole new ballgame, it takes elements from the two worlds that I’ve been living in for the past few years (middle school and professional learning), and splits them right down the middle.  I’ll keep this short and sweet, because I have to jet, but need to blog.  Here goes.

The Change

The opportunity to go to high school, after seven amazing years in my K-8 came along.  I realized that I had become good at what I did, but if I were to continue to grow, I’d need to try something new.  After making this creepily foreshadowing video nine days before I even knew about the opportunity:

I decided to go for it, with a little nudge from my PLN, as well as my family.

First Week with Staff

When I arrived at the first day back for staff, I was immediately struck by the happy realization that I left one familial environment, only to join another.  This was a huge relief, as I was going through major anxiety the night before, as evidenced by this blog post I wrote to process what was going on (lol…hey, we’re all human).

The entire staff was so welcoming, and I was happy to see many familiar faces: parents of former students, spouses of former co-workers, people who I’d been following on Twitter for years, and folks I had met through county workshops and conferences like ISTE.  I probably knew a good third of the folks there already, so this helped a lot.

My team was also on point.  I learned so much from them in the first few days, and am continuing to learn.  It was from our department chair that I got my first explanation of how 3D printers work, something I’ve wanted to learn forever and a day.  Everyone on the team brings the heat in his or her own way, and I’m so proud to be part of this.

The atmosphere was very high-energy and supportive, but it was still a major change for me.  At one point I started to doubt myself a little bit.  However, our final assembly of the week was all about how important we all are to students, and about moonshot thinking.  After watching an inspirational video and hearing the principal’s speech, I felt renewed and ready for Monday.

Time to Meet the Students

Sunday night, surprisingly I slept like a baby.  I woke up early to work out, which I incorporated into my daily routine before school (we have to be there at 9 a.m.).  I found that it helps me focus, and I’m in an overall better mood.

Monday was Freshman Orientation, and they stayed in each class for about 30 minutes to meet all of their teachers from both days (block scheduling).  In our class, we introduced ourselves, then played a game of Kahoot to go over expectations.  In it, there were questions specific to the course itself, the school culture, and random trivia about me to keep them on their toes.

The day went by fast.  Tuesday was the real first day, with the freshmen and upperclassmen at school.

Day One

Since we are on block scheduling, we have A Days and B Days.  So, this will be a culmination of both days.  I teach three different classes, but the first five days of each class is roughly the same.

Warm-Up

The students did a survey that I whipped up on Google Forms, which included info about their strengths, goals, and an anonymous gamer tag for our leaderboard.  When they were done, they signed up for EverFi Ignition, a free self-paced digital citizenship resource, and began completing the activities.

Class Time

After warm-up, I told students how important storytelling is, and how we each have a story and something to bring to the table.  I challenged them to prepare a presentation of no more than five minutes about themselves to introduce themselves to the class, and modeled what this could look like through an ignite(ish) speech of my own.

Afterwards, we played Kahoot again, because most students were not present on Monday.  Lastly, we went over class expectations.  On the last slide, there was a link to an activity, which we didn’t get to until Day Two.

Day Two

Warm-Up:

On the second day of class, students began the day with their EverFi warm-up, except for those who hadn’t yet completed the survey.  On Friday (B-Day #2), students were invited to vote for their favorite class more from the 3rd period A-Day class.  We have a new class showcased every day, and the public is invited to vote as well.

Class Overview:

I explained the routine to students, that we would reconvene after warm-ups to go over the leaderboard, as well as any relevant announcements.  By this time, I had updated the leaderboard with their pseudonyms and points earned on Day One, so then I told them about the items they could “purchase” with their points in the Swag Shop.

Next, we moved on to the Class Activity for the day, Balloon Cars!  (The site where the activity is described is hyperlinked on the last slide of Day One’s course overview.)  This was a great group work activity where the kids were able to get out of their seats and work together on the design process.

Some groups got it on the first try, and many more had to try and try again. Overall, it was a great learning experience.  I was really touched when groups who had success split off to help their classmates experience the same success.

In some classes, we were able to get started setting up reflective blogs via Blogger (thanks to the EduMatch crew for the sugestion).  In others, we jotted down notes for later blogging.

Homework

I’m not very big on homework, especially in a class pretty much rooted in PBL.  However, I am a huge proponent of flipping.  My school happens to have a 1:1 Chromebook initiative, so this will make flipping easy.  In addition, most students do have cell phones.  I took full advantage of this knowledge to craft my first 360 degree flipped video via my Ricoh Theta camera, to show students what is possible:

FYI, this video may not work properly in some browsers, but I had lots of success on my phone in the YouTube app, as well as on the YouTube site itself, where there is a directional control pad located in the top left of the window.

Reflections

I know I promised to be short and sweet, but I got carried away.  Here are a few take-aways that will drive me into next week:

  1. Find some comfortable shoes.  I’m not feeling heels.
  2. Stick to the model of one reading/writing day and one lab day.  This will help get students ready for the college model.
  3. Implement “Figure It Out” Fridays, where we all get together to…well…figure something out lol.
  4. Get the blogs up and running ASAP, so that students can reflect and comment on each other’s musings.

I’d love to hear what everyone else has going on the first week of school.  Please drop a comment below.  Thanks for reading!

Day 10 – Clubbin’

Today, we took the SRI.  Nothing to report.  Almost everybody finished.  Most of Third Period got through it a little too quickly for my taste.  I asked them if they checked their work and they assured me they did.  A lot of kids said it was “easy.”  The scores will speak for themselves.

In Fourth Period, the kids took a little longer.  For some reason, this made me feel a little better.  I think (hope) they were careful.  There are about five students who need more time tomororrow, which is fine.

The big excitement for the kids today was turning in their club pre-authorization forms.  I lead five different technology clubs for the students.  That may sound like a lot, but really, it’s helping everybody in the long run.  The kids learn some cool skills that they can bust out later in life, and I get some help and don’t lose my mind.  These are our five clubs:

  1. A/V: Sets up and breaks down equipment, and runs the sound board during chorus concerts and plays.
  2. Photography:  Captures special moments at our school through photos and videos.
  3. Morning Announcements: Produces and edits our morning announcements in the school, via Google Sites (see video below).
  4. Yearbook Committee: Open to eighth graders only.  My right hand, helping me plan fundraisers and design the school yearbook.
  5. Repair Squad: Helps teachers with basic troubleshooting.  Also designs websites, logos, etc. for our special events.

The eighth graders have first dibs.  They are super-excited, because they paid their dues last year and took all the sloppy seconds.  Poor seventh graders, last year there were no sixth grade slots left for them.  This year, I’ll try to keep this in mind, and save a few spots for the underclassmen (and underclasswomen lol).  Most groups will have seven slots, four for eighth graders, two for seventh, and one for sixth.  This will be first come, first-served.  With Yearbook, though, all seven slots will be filled with eighth graders.

One year, we even had a Music Production squad.  The eighth graders of two years ago were incredibly musical, and a student approached me with that idea, so we did it.  Last year, I was stretched really thin, especially coaching basketball.  Plus, the students were more into sports than anything else, so it worked out.  One seventh grader asked me to do a Drama Club, but I really couldn’t fit it into the schedule.  Maybe we’ll try it this year.  We might try a Ted-Ed Club later in the year, since I’m freed up a little bit, but I don’t want to bite off too much.

Anyway, I was bombarded by students for signatures, ever since the papers came out.  When they turned in their pre-authorization forms with all of the teacher signatures, I passed out permission slips for them and their parents to sign.  Hopefully we will get clubs underway shortly.  The sooner, the better.

On another note, I explained to students about the self-assessment for the collaborative work that I talked about yesterday.  I actually developed a Google Form, and asked students to fill it in tonight.  The evening is still young, so we shall see what they report back to me.  So far, a couple of students have filled it out, and the comments are very fair.  One said to divide the points for his/her group evenly, and that the assignment was challenging, but s/he appreciated the teamwork dynamic.  Another assigned points based on contribution, and had similar feedback about the process.

One last thing…as a team, we came up with a way to hold people responsible for checking out the shared iPads via QR Codes linking to a Google Form.  I played with the customization.  Here it is.

Tomorrow: Genius Day, because it’s my birthday and we’ll be smart if we want to!  Woohooooo!!!  Adios.