Flipboard Magazines with Google Docs

Two years ago, our language arts class tweeted photos explaining text-to-world connections while reading The Giver. That was an eighth grade class well versed in social media. This yescreenshot_2016-12-12-23-20-47ar I teach sixth grade and though Twitter doesn’t enforce their age requirement of 13, other social networking services like Facebook, Snapchat, Pinterest, and Instagram do enforce theirs. As a result, social media is still a few years away from most of my sixth graders – I’m not complaining!

Creating a Flipboard magazine from the student tweets was simple. All I had to do was assign a unique hashtag for the assignment, search for the hashtag in Flipboard, and flip the results – simple.

It’s not so easy this time, but I’ve found a solution that I want to share.

  1. Clean up the Google doc: Things like paragraph spacing and picture placement can make the post look odd if it’s not done right. What I’ve found is that tabbiscreen-shot-2016-12-12-at-11-26-28-pmng the beginning of each paragraph and keeping pictures in line with text work best. Make sure the title of the document is the title of the article and that student last names are removed.
  2. Publish: Click ‘File’ and ‘Publish to web’. This will open a window that gives you a link to the published document. Copy and paste link to open the published document.
  3. Flip it!: To complete this step, you’ll need the Flipboard + Flip It Google Chrome extension – get it here. Once you’ve added the extension to Chrome, click the extension to add the published document to your Flipboard magazine.
  4. Enjoy: Now that your published Doc has been added to your Flipboard magazine, you can share it with your students and colleagues.

Our students wrote newspaper articles loosely based on research they had done to create a video for the worldof7billion.org student video contest. Since they submitted their articles in Schoology via Google Drive, I can make a copy of the original documents to ‘clean up’ and then publish.

 

Differentiated Writing Instruction with Google Docs (Schoology Workaround)

Quick post here – In the spring I wrote about how much I was enjoying writing instruction with Google Docs. I began this school year at a new school anxious to support my sixth graders during the writing process but hit a small hurdle when I learned that the LMS in middle school was Schoology. Schoology does have a Google Drive app that allows students to submit work from Drive. It does not, however, provide a way to collaborate on documents.

I manually went through the steps that Google Classroom automates and was happy with the results. Here are the instructions I gave students:

screen-shot-2016-09-26-at-1-28-00-pm

The document titles tell me the period, student name, and assignment name – as it would be in Google Classroom. I used five minutes in the beginning of class to get this set up. All of the files that students share with me are easy to copy and move from ‘shared with me’ to a specific folder for this assignment. This makes it simple to organize assignments by period or class and assignment.

At this point, all of the collaborative writing with synchronous feedback that I love so much is possible.

 

Differentiated Writing Instruction with Google Docs

Google Drive and its integration with Google Classroom has made a huge difference in my classroom. One of the biggest advantages I have seen so far is the opportunity to provide differentiated corrective feedback on student writing synchronously. This means I can give students (a whole class of students) comments and suggestions, and highlight errors as they write. The comments below show the range of support a teacher can provide based on the level of each student. Each comment asks the student to self-correct or clarify, though the effort required to make the correction varies in each comment, matching the ability of the student. As you look through comments, ask yourself what each comment requires the student to do to make the correction. In the past, differentiating writing feedback was a time consuming, ink-draining process that seemed to have little or no effect. Now, I feel like I can support the students appropriately while they are in the process of creating writing. Going through these processes with the teacher will help students retain what they learn.

 

Guide to Edublogs Menus

Hi guys, in this post I’ll describe how to set up the menu in your blog just the way you like it. It probably looks something like this:
basic menuThis is boring! It doesn’t give visitors to your blog an opportunity to easily explore all the great content you’ve published.

It will take a few steps get everything organized. Here they are:

  1. Add new categories: Categories are a way to organize your posts. Each time you post, you will select the most appropriate category, or create a new category.
  2. Create a menu: We will get rid of the default menu and create our own.
  3. Add categories to the menu

The categories are a bit hard to find in your dashboard. Drag the mouse over ‘posts’. This will present you with a series of options (all posts, add new, categories, and tags). Click on ‘categories’. From here you can create your categories.

categories

Add new categories for whatever you like. For most of you, you might just want to add subject specific categories like Art and Language Arts. It all depends on what you’re going to publish on your blog.

The next step is putting the categories on the actual menu that shows up at the top of your blog. First, click on ‘appearance’, then ‘menus’.

appearance1

To start, your menu editor will look like this. The first thing you want to do is remove the ‘sample page’. Click the drop-down arrow in the ‘sample page’ box, then click ‘remove’.

basicmenuNext, we’re going to add the categories you just created to the menu. On the left side, you will see pages, links, and categories. Click on ‘categories’. addcat

It’s important that you click ‘view all’. Now, check the boxes next to the new categories you’ve created and then click ‘add to menu’.

Now that we’ve added your categories to the menu, all that’s left is to organize the menu structure. If you look at the structure of our class blog below, you can see how I’ve divided up menu items and sub-items. Home, Who We Are, Gallery, Our Work, and Forums are the main menu items. These are what you see at the top of all pages within the blog. The other items here appear when the mouse is dragged over the item above it in the hierarchy. For example, if I want to see pictures from art class, I must drag my mouse over ‘Gallery’ first, then ‘Photos’, then ‘Art Class’ will appear for me to click on.

menu structure

For right now, you do not have to create a menu like this. All you need to do is remove the sample page and replace it with language arts. Here is an example of a simple menu structure and the actual menu:

simplemenusimple exampleHere you can see that dragging the mouse over ‘Language Arts’ brings up the ‘poems’ sub-item.

Once you have the menu set up the way you like it. Click ‘create menu’. Also, click the two check boxes and save it all one more time.

This is the first step in customizing your blog menu. Please ask any questions you have in class, through email, or tweet them to me @tesolwar.

Tips for using Edublogs forums

Edublogs provides a massive amount of support through its support blog, TheEdublogger. Recently, I used it as a resource when setting up my class blog. While it provided all of the information I needed, a lot of it was scattered around the site, which resulted in me searching for things within and outside the site. In this post, I will explain some of the difficulties I had, and how I worked around them to set up forums on my blog.

A few notes before I start – I used the forums plugin, which is available with Edublogs Pro only. I found that it’s much easier to work with than the forums described here.

forumsplugin

First, make sure you’ve actived the plugin, then you should see a forums label on your dashboard.

What I found most challenging while setting up forums for my class was the hierarchical structure of the forum. What I originally wanted was a menu item ‘forums’ that would drop down and show individual forums, which could house topics and replies. I also wanted a list of forums to come up just by clicking the ‘forums’ menu items as shown here.

forumslist

Initially, I tried creating a page called ‘forums’ that I could post my forums inside, but it left me with an empty page. What I learned through trial and error was that the forums plugin already has a ‘home’ for forums (in the above picture) and there is no need to create a ‘page’ that stores the forums. The forum home is located at http://yourdomain.edublogs/forums

In my case, it’s here: http://thegreateights.edublogs.org/forums. This is exactly what I unsuccessfully tried to create as a page. I found that adding a link to the blog’s main menu was much easier.

To get the forum in the blog’s main menu, you first need to add a link to the forum home. Since it’s a link, it has to be done manually. To do this, click ‘appearance’, and then ‘menus’. You’ll see options to add pages, links, and forums to the menu. First you want to add the forum link.

addlnk

You can see that I pasted the forum link into the url field and titled the link ‘Forums’. Now, when I add this to the menu structure, it will show up as ‘Forums’.

menu structure

When you drag the forum into the menu, make sure it is the placed all the way to the left and is not a sub-item of another menu item. You can see what I mean in the picture. NOTE: You will not see any sub-items in the menu structure as you see in the pic below).

Now the menu on the actual site looks like this:

menu

Since ‘gallery’, ‘our work’, and ‘forums’ have sub-items, a drop-down menu opens when the mouse is dragged over them.

Creating the actual forum that students will use is much easier than all of this. All you have to do is click on forum from your dashboard and create a new forum. In my class, we wanted students to add their own creative writing examples as replies to specific topics. To do this, I created one ‘creative writing’ forum, and then added four topics to that forum.

First, create the forum.

createforum

All I did here was give the forum a name. After this I added the topics.

edit topic

Don’t forget to add all topics to the correct forum. You can do this by clicking the drop-down menu at the top right of the page in the topic attributes section. I did this to create four topics.

Below is what the final products look like. The first picture shows what you see when you look at the topics from the dashboard; the second shows the view from the blog. topic list

tpics on page

The day before spending a class in the computer lab, we had students begin to write short stories based on prompts that gave them opportunities to practice writing the four topics in the forum. While in the lab, they were able to revise, develop, and add their stories as replies to the appropriate topic. The final product looks like this:

sensdetailes

In my next post, I’ll go over the steps we took to have all of our students join the class blog, and create their own. This is my first time using forums in edublogs and would love some feedback, positive or negative.

Storified Twitter Chain Stories

“In the depths of New York City, on top of the Empire State Building, a creature rested.” This is the first line of @ manyvoices, a Twitter story written collaboratively by 140 elementary and middle school students across 6 countries. The story began with Mr. George Mayo, a teacher in Washington D.C., and was eventually edited and published. You can find a free pdf here.

We are using a similar model in our 8th grade language arts class to begin our unit on creative writing. the major difference between @manyvoices and our assignment is that Mayo created one twitter account for all contributors to share while we are using hashtags to collect and present the story using Storify. The hashtag and Storify make it easy to publish the finished stories, but we lose 11-12 characters.

Here are the instructions we gave to students:

twitchain

 

Once all of the students tweet, it’s easy to search for, and individually drag them into the story.

storify main editing page

The above screenshot shows Storify’s main editing page. The menu on the right-hand side allows you to search for many different types of content. For our story, I clicked on the twitter icon, then typed in the the hashtag for the class I was working on.

imageedit_3_7777033612

Here you can see that my search grabbed all tweets containing the hashtag I had specified. Since the hashtags for each class are unique, the search doesn’t grab anything unrelated. From here, you can drag the posts into the main story. I think it’s easier to drag them individually since they show up with the most recent first, which is actually the final tweet of the story.

The next step is publishing the story. After clicking the publish button at the top of the page, you can change the way the story is displayed.

storify1

Clicking the template button brings up this menu. Here you can choose the way your story will be displayed. We chose the slideshow because it worked best with the way we wanted to read the finished story in class.

Here is what it looks like:

storify slideshow

Since most of the students hadn’t read their entire story, or the stories from other classes, reading them together was truly a fun experience, as you can see here:

laughing

Our next step is to do another story with the entire 8th grade. From there, we may ask other classes to join, as Mr. Mayo did. Another thing I really like about this is that we can use the tweets to focus on language. Eventually, we’ll use them to create editing exercises that we can do as a whole class or in small groups.

 

 

 

 

Informational Text teaching resources

Links for teaching informational texts:

  1. Intro to Informational Texts 
  2. Best ever literacy tips for teaching informational text structure
  3. Strategies for Teaching with Informational Texts
  4. The Ultimate Teacher’s Guide – again, long but full of good info and ideas
  5. The power of non-fiction +video