Friday, April 10, 2020

Remote Learning Reflections

On Reflection

John Dewey said that you don't always learn from experience, rather, you learn from REFLECTING on your experiences.

I learned an important lesson last week. 

I led an online workshop and attempted to do my Primarily Google session (one I have done 130+ times in the past six years) the exact same way I have always done it.

The session wasn’t a complete bomb, but about 10 minutes into the hour-long session, I recognized that it needed to change, dramatically.

A lot of teachers right now are trying to recreate their classrooms in this new online format and having varying levels of success. Don’t get me wrong - teachers everywhere are doing the best they can with the circumstances they have. And so, so, so many teachers are ROCKING this!

Remote (online/distance) teaching and learning is not the same. It can't be the same. And in trying to do things the way we've always done them, kids are anxious and overwhelmed, parents are overwhelmed, and TEACHERS are anxious and overwhelmed.

Hey teachers: You are SUPERHEROES!

AND it's time to give yourself a break.

I'm starting to witness examples of how places which are normally sources of inspiration for teachers, such as Teachers Pay Teachers and the various Edu-Facebook communities, are giving some teachers anxiety about all the cutesy things they "should" be doing.

There are certainly a lot of teachers out there creating amazingly innovative resources... so many rockstar teachers who create and share their work for others to use, for free. It has been marvelous to witness how various teacher communities are flourishing with collaboration and generosity. 

Unfortunately, it all has a dark side. Some educators are feeling pressured to try and “keep up with the teacher next door.” This causes insecurities and inadequacy complexes. It reminds me of the Pinterest mom-fails, right? Education is not a contest. And really, not all that cute stuff you see online is of any quality, whatsoever. Stop. Evaluate. Now more than ever, be critical consumers of the resources and content you push out to your students.

Your kids need to learn, and sure, we’re having to switch it up a lot right now. Priority one though - your kids need YOU! They might like that cute Seesaw activity or $80 remote learning activity package you can purchase from TpT. But before any of that, your kids need YOU and they need each other.

It's okay to take a different path. You don’t have to reinvent wheels to try and emulate your traditional classroom in this new remote setting. It won't be the same, and that's okay. The activities might look different. The pacing and timelines might look different. 

It’s okay.

Give yourself a little grace.

And maybe when we get back to the traditional learning environment, we'll pick back up some of those tried and true practices we've used for years.

And MAYBE we'll end up leaving some of those practices in the past, having leveled-up in ways that are more efficient, more effective, and more engaging for kids. When it’s over, hopefully we can REFLECT on this experience and walk away with important lessons:

  • Efficiency matters. One thing teachers can’t have enough of is TIME. How might we leverage technology to make our teaching lives as efficient as possible?
  • Effectiveness matters. We’re still trying to foster literate, critical thinkers who can communicate their thoughts and collaborate with others to accomplish creative, meaningful tasks!
  • Engagement matters. When learners are offered opportunities to deeply explore their own curiosities and wonders, the learning sticks. 


I am SUPER STOKED to be revamping Primarily Google this weekend to be ready to deliver to SO MANY AWESOME Canadian educators next week!

What Can our Littlest Learners Create... Remotely?

Coming soon!

Saturday, March 28, 2020

Google's Jamboard in the Primary Grades!

Earlier this past week, I had the opportunity to explore Google Jamboard with some of my teachers. Like many schools around the world, we have recently taken the leap to distance learning and are exploring some additional ways for students to interact and collaborate in this new learning environment.

What is Jamboard?

Jamboard is an interactive whiteboard! It works much like many other Google creations and saves to Google Drive. The file can be shared to individuals and groups. Jamboards can be distributed to students in Google Classroom Assignments like most Google Docs - either collaboratively on a single Jamboard, or in a way that each student gets their own copy. Teachers can view their students' assignments live.

Learn more about Jamboard in the Google for Education Teacher Center.

Why Jamboard?

There are a number of awesome interactive tools available that work well with young learners. One perk of Jamboard is that it's a part of the Google Suite, which means that if your Google administrator has switched Jamboard on, your students already have it! No new programs or accounts or logins necessary. 

In reality, many of the activities below could also be created in Google Slides. I'm finding that objects on a Jamboard seem to slide around easier. Sometimes young learners struggle with the process of "click-and-drag" in some Google tools. And while they CAN be trained to move those items around a Google Slide, moving objects on a Jamboard is just easy! 

Also, Jamboard is simple. Slides are fabulous, but they have a lot of extra buttons! I am really enjoying exploring Google Jamboard as a simple interactive tool for young learners.

Check out some K-2 uses of Google's Jamboard: 

Word Families

Silent E

Sorting Numbers

Pattern Building

Math Modeling

Text Annotation

Writing Prompt

So much potential!

Jamboards can be a single frame (page), or additional frames can be added.

To kick it up a notch, you can pair Jamboard with Screencastify or another screen-recording tool to have students record and explain their thinking while completing their Jamboard tasks.

Jamboard can be used in the Chrome browser, Chromebooks, and can also be used on tables or iPads as an app. The app versions of Jamboard have additional features that aren't available in the Google Chrome version.

Jamboards can exported as a PDF or image. 

Get your own copy of the K-12 Jamboard samples shared above.

Learn more about K-2 Uses of the Google Suite at PrimarilyGoogle.Rocks

Monday, November 25, 2019

Putting it ALL Together: Second Grade Harvest Holidays Hyperdoc

What is a Hyperdoc? 

It's a fantastic way to deliver digital lessons! It's a way to curate resources and develop lessons that allow students to explore and engage with content, and then create and share their learning. The term "Hyperdoc" was coined by an amazing trio of educators, Lisa Highfil, Sarah Landis, and Kelly Hilton. You can find their book, The Hyperdoc Handbook, on Amazon.

Check out this Hyperdoc on Harvest Holidays designed for second or third grade students.

Get your own copy of this Hyperdoc here. Please adapt to meet the needs of your students. Remember, some of the resources listed require subscriptions! Personalize this activity so it fits your students' needs, your learning environment, and the tools and resources you have available.

Breaking it Down

In this activity, students read text about a variety of harvest holidays from around the world. They fill out a Google Docs graphic organizer noting key details from the text.
Then, students create a collaborative set of Google Slides about the various harvest holidays they read about. They use their Slides and Seesaw (including the Seesaw Reflect extension) to compare and contrast one of the world harvest holidays to our familiar harvest holiday, Thanksgiving. 

After, they continue researching other world holidays from different times of the year. They create and share a collaborative MyMap with facts and images that inform others about the various world holidays they researched.  

Beyond the Basics

Something to note: This activity has many moving parts! It IS NOT designed to be the very first Google/technology-based activity you do with students. This activity is an example of what students can do to respond to and analyze text, create, and share once all the pieces are in place!

Technical skills necessary for students:
  • Navigate Google Classroom (where the Hyperdoc will be found.)
  • Use the Google Docs Hyperdoc to open files, add text, and open links.
  • Use Google Slides - insert images and text.
  • Share to Seesaw using the Seesaw Reflect Extension.
  • Login and navigate to digital reading resources including Epic Books and Pebble Go!
  • Create a collaborative MyMap.

Digital Resources accessed:
  • Google Classroom/Docs/Slides/MyMaps - Free With GSuite for Education
  • Seesaw - Free/Freemium (Great free resource, but wait there's more if you pay!)
  • Seesaw Reflect Extension (Free)
  • Texts from Epic Books (Free for teachers and students in classrooms)
  • Information from Pebble Go! (Paid resource)
  • Texts from Reading A to Z (Paid resource)

Where do I even begin?

Connect your students to the digital platform that makes the most sense for you. Google Classroom is a good place to start, but if it isn't an option, use what you have. That might be Seesaw, or that might be some other LMS (Learning Management System) your school uses such as Canvas or Blackboard.

Start by pushing out links and docs on your chosen digital platform. Get your young learners familiar with opening, editing and submitting the digital resources. Add one skill at a time so they can build up their digital fluency! It might take a few tries to get it right! Once they are comfortable, you open up a world of creative, meaningful learning with endless possibilities.

Learn more about Hyperdocs at

Learn more about using Google tools with young learners at PrimarilyGoogle.Rocks.

Monday, November 18, 2019

Thanksgiving Resources for Elementary Learners

It's a busy busy time of year in schools! With the upcoming rush of holidays, it can be a challenge to keep learners on-task and engaged. It's a good time of year to take a dive into new, creative activities! 

As a Teacher on Special Assignment (TOSA), I collect and curate resources for the teachers I support. A couple years ago, I created this Thanksgiving Google Site, loaded with videos, games, and activities for this busy, THANKFUL holiday time. I was inspired by a similar website by the Tech TOSAs at Union School District in California. Google Sites is an awesome way to package resources and make them accessible to students! 

On several of the pages, I have embedded Padlet activities. I love how Padlet adds the opportunity for collaboration across my schools. I have the Padlets moderated, which means all posts have to be approved by ME before other students can see them.

Additionally, I share a Google Doc to all of the teachers that lists several Seesaw, Epic, and Googley activities. These are all resources that teachers can find on their own, but I like to keep a running list so they are easy to access and don't take a ton of time for teachers to access. 

Access the document here. Please feel free to copy and share! 

For additional Fall-themed resources, this Pumpkin Time collection has interactive graphing and creative pumpkin activities appropriate for grades K-3. Press the blue USE TEMPLATE button to get your own copy.

Wednesday, October 16, 2019

K-2 Can Be Good Digital Citizens Too!

It's California Digital Citizenship Week and we are learning how to be safe, respectful, and responsible online in First Grade!

Today we watched a video from Common Sense Education about what it means to be a good Digital Citizen and then created our own Google Drawings Digital Citizenship poster:

If you aren't familiar, Common Sense Education has an entire K-12 Digital Citizenship curriculum. The resources are FREE and so easy to use. Sign in with a free account and you have access to the lessons, videos, teaching slides, student activities, parent resources, and more!

I especially love the K-2 resources at Common Sense Education. They take big ideas like internet safety, media balance, and creative credit and present them in ways that are relevant and meaningful to even very young children. These are big conversations! It is so wonderful that Common Sense has prepared meaningful resources about this important topic. Some of the K-2 lesson titles include:
  • Safety in my Online Neighborhood
  • Internet Traffic Light
  • We the Digital Citizens
  • Pause for People
Short on time? This article shares a brief list of some K-2 Digital Citizenship videos that are are only 2-3 minutes each and are designed especially with young learners in mind. Each video also has a connected discussion question. 

Showing what they know! 

In this poster, students can type their name, insert an image, and add a quote about digital citizenship. After we watched the video, we brainstormed some ideas about digital citizenship together. With the first graders, I offered the sentence frame "I am a good digital citizen because..." This provided a scaffold for the task for the learners who are still struggling with making complete sentences.

Get your own copy of the Google Drawings Digital Citizenship Poster. Open the file and then choose the "Use Template" button in the upper right-hand corner. Be sure to assign in Google Classroom so that every student gets their own copy! 

If your learners use iPads instead of Chromebooks or laptops, you'll need the file as a Google Slide instead of the Google Drawing. Here's a template for you.

Tips for little learners:

  • If your students have never used the camera in Google Drawings before, there will be a pop-up that asks for permission to use it. The students will have choices to ALLOW or BLOCK camera use. Make sure you show them to ALLOW the camera on this tool. They should only have to do this the very first time they use it on that device. If for some reason a student hits the wrong button, it's an easy fix. In the Chrome browser, You can re-enable the camera from the far right end of the URL bar. This often requires a refresh to work. 
  • It is important that you model how to use a CURSOR to move around a text box, and how to BACKSPACE to clear text from the template.
  • Teach kids to insert images by using the mountain icon, and then the camera button. Model how to move and resize images.
  • Don't forget the OOPS button, UNDO! Show how if they make a mistake, they can quickly fix it on their own!

Learn how to make these and other great Google activities for young learners in the Primarily Google Online Course with EdTechTeam Online!

Find more K-2 Google resources at

Tuesday, September 3, 2019

Name Typing Practice

The first few weeks of kindergarten and first grade have some challenges! 

Is this your life?

In a previous post, I shared ways to keep it simple when first getting started with Google Docs and Google Classroom in the primary grades. 

Check out this Name Typing Practice Page you can share to Google Classroom as a way for young students to start becoming familiar with the Google Classroom environment! 

Starting on the very first day of school, Pre-K and Kindergarten students build early keyboard familiarity through practicing a word they will need to write again and again throughout their educational career and beyond... THEIR NAME! They can use this simple name-typing template to begin learning to recognize upper and lower case letters and finding them on a keyboard. Typing a simple, familiar word is a great starting point.

In this activity, they will also be able to practice how to click on the page to place a cursor, which will allow them to intentionally type text in a specific location on the document. It’s important not to be afraid to use computer vocabulary such as CURSOR with even very young students!

Adding the extra element of the capital letter brings in the SHIFT key, which will help students transfer the essential skill of letter case into their digital work. This will ensure proper use of language rules such as starting sentences correctly as well as help them correctly write other proper nouns. 

Get your own copy of the name typing template! 

Preview the template here.
Click "use template" in the upper right hand corner.

Assign in Google Classroom so that each student gets their own copy.


Rainbow Typing Template 
Letter L Practice - Credit to S. Haller

More like this - make a copy of each for yourself!

Learn how to make these and other great Google activities for young learners in the Primarily Google Online Course with EdTechTeam Online!