Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Google My Maps in the Primary Classroom

All of the Google Geo tools have countless meaningful uses for learners of any age! So many of our students don’t have opportunities to experience the world outside of their community. Exploring the world using Google’s Geo tools gives students a peek into life beyond the four walls of their classroom. We empower our learners then we offer them a global perspective.

Many teachers underestimate the potential of these tools with our littlest learners. Some fear that it’s too difficult for primary aged students, and others just don’t know where to begin! They can do it though! #K2CanToo!

One simple tool that is especially useful to get our youngest students creating and connecting themselves to the world is Google My Maps, which is available right from your students’ Google Drive.

Primary Uses for Google My Maps:

Kindergarten students can learn about their community, state, country, and world!

You can map the cultural heritage of the students in the class, offering a visual representation for students to begin exploring similarities and differences.

Marjorie Priceman. Dragonfly Books, 1996

Summarize literature by retelling places visited by characters in a story. In this story read in first grade, the main character soars around the world collecting ingredients to make an apple pie. She visits Vermont to pick apples, and Jamaica to gather sugar cane.

Summarize biographies by showing where an important person has lived. This second grade sample follows the life of President Barack Obama on his way to the White House.

Little Learner Tips:

In the beginning, model, model, model! The first few might be done as whole-class activities. One example of this is a first grade class that uses My Maps every time they read a text that mentions location. By the end of the school year, they had visited 86 places through reading!

Have younger students draft their entries on a post-it, and then an adult can type in the content, until the kiddos have the process down! Don't rely on this option for too long - give them a chance, because they can do it! #K2CanToo!

For classroom collaborative maps that have each student adding their own entry on a single shared map, post an editable link in your Google Classroom. In the sharing settings of the map, choose  “anyone with the link can edit,” or limit it to anyone in your domain.

Another collaborative option might have students fill out their information on a simple simple Google Form that has some basic short answer questions,  such as name and location.

You can then import the form’s spreadsheet data as a layer on a map. Here’s a YouTube tutorial on how to do this by Richard Byrne.

Google My Maps - A Beginner's Guide

A number of beginning My Maps tutorials can be found on YouTube to help you get started.  I hope you enjoy using Google My Maps with your primary-aged students. Please share what they create!

Monday, July 11, 2016

Screencasting in Kindergarten

Teachers of all subjects and grade levels are impressed when they see this video of a kindergartener making a screencast of himself reading:

And this is a kindergartener in October! Any teacher with Kindergarten experience can tell you that this is very different from a kindergartener in May. In the video, he makes the screencast independently. 

When we give students access to modern tools, when we stop being afraid of what they might do and focus on what they CAN do, we empower our littlest learners by giving them opportunities to become creators!

So why would a teacher want a recording of their students reading? To begin, what a great way to begin addressing the CCSS ELA Speaking and Listening standards?!?! These are often forgotten and non-prioritized in many classrooms.

Other reasons to Screencast:
  • Fluency practice
  • Articulation and intonation
  • Anecdotal evidence
  • Sharing with parents and other family members
  • Taking running records for progress monitoring or assessment
  • Supporting Language Learners and Language Acquisition 
  • Sharing with peers and beyond!

Another example - My own daughter made this recording in her Kindergarten class. 

After listening to it, we had a conversation about fluency and intonation in reading. Right after, she asked, "Can I record it AGAIN to make it better, Mommie?"

My answer? "Yes my love, you CAN."

These videos were made using the Screencastify extension in the Chrome web browser, which has been added to all of the students' Google Apps for Education accounts. is up and running!

As a former K-2 teacher, I have a passion for getting modern tools into the hands of our littlest learners. So many folks underestimate what our youngest students can do with technology. And so many teachers want to get started, but struggle to find resources that are appropriate for primary-aged students.

I have been so fortunate to have the opportunity share my Primarily Google sessions with over a thousand teachers at various conferences and Google Summits across the country. At these events, people often ask if I have a website or blog where I share this work. 

To answer this call, I've added resources including slide decks and student samples at We're just getting started, and I can't wait to continue this work - creating, sharing, and learning with others!

Feel free to use, share, and modify anything you find!