Thursday, January 29, 2015

How to Go Paperless with Elementary School Assessments

I love systems like Socrative and Kahoot, but they aren't as conducive for younger students who can't read as well or as quickly as some of my older students.

Luckily, Poll Everywhere has a cool, unique feature that is SO helpful in assessing the little ones. It's called the "clickable image" feature. (Poll Everywhere has lots of options and is free to use, so I definitely recommend signing up for an account!)

When you start a new poll, Poll Everywhere lets you choose how you want that poll to look. Just select the "clickable image" button to utilize this feature.

After that, you can upload your image and get started:

For this example, I just uploaded a picture from Google of 5 lessons from Dr. Seuss. Of course, you can use any picture you want (or make a collage). After the image is uploaded, click on it to set parameters for the answers. So in the picture below, you can see the translucent white box around "1. Today you are you, that is truer than true. There is no one alive who is youer than you" -- that means that portion is a potential answer for voters. Set as many parameters as you want and adjust the size of each. If someone taking this poll clicks anywhere within the translucent box shown below, their answer will be counted for life lesson number one.

After you set answer parameters, move on to the poll display page. It might look a little something like the picture below (notice I changed the question so it fits the image now!):

If you look at the row of icons on the right side of my picture, you'll see 7 options of things you can do with your poll at this point. Here is what each icon means:

  • Paintbrush: change the color scheme of the poll
  • 2nd button from the top: activate the poll and "push" it to student devices
  • Eye with a slash: toggle whether or not the question parameters are seen
  • Green pin: toggle whether or not the green pins are shown when people click answers (as students touch the screen to answer, a green pin will appear on their screen where they clicked)
  • Stop sign: stop the poll
  • File cabinet: clear the answers from this poll
  • 4 arrows: display the poll in full screen
There are even more customization options in the blue boxes to the right of all the icons -- I'll let you explore those for yourself.  

In the picture above, you can see a URL displayed right under the question; students can use that URL to quickly participate in the poll from any device with a browser, so this is perfect for the BYOD classroom. If anyone visits this URL before the poll has been activated, they'll just see a picture of a pie. Not sure why that's the chosen icon, but it definitely makes it easy for students to recognize when they're at the correct page. :) 

For a weather poll for my kindergarten students, I displayed this while they were working:

I didn't make this collage myself (I found it on a free flipchart I got from Promethean Planet), but it's easy to do so with a photo-editing tool or in PowerPoint.

You can string several questions together so that students can take a multi-question quiz; this is what I did for the kindergarten weather poll. I believe Poll Everywhere gives teachers the option for students to have an account so you know who is answering in which way, but there was something that kept me from activating that option... I can't remember if it's because it costs money to do that, or if it's because my students are too young to have e-mail accounts or register for something like this. Or both. ;) In any case, walking the room while students are answering is a quick fix to being able to see which answers below to which students. They can only vote once, so that green pin will stay on the screen until you clear it or move on to the next question.

Here's an example of what students see on their screen:

Below is a collage I quickly made in PowerPoint to use as a warm-up for my 4th graders when we did a matter investigation involving water content of fruit:

I wanted them to be able to see the fruit as they chose the answer, so the clickable image worked well for my 4th graders in this instance.

The possibilities are really endless with this clickable image option! How would you use this in your class (or would you)?

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Saturday, January 3, 2015

How to Use Google Forms

There are a plethora of uses for Google forms in the classroom. Two super-simple ways I use them in the classroom are for letting students register for Science Fair and for letting students sign in to the recycling club meetings. This post will focus on exactly how to set up a Google form so as to gain information from your students.

1. Sign up for a Google account if you don't already have one. {If you do have one, just sign in.}

2. Go to
If you see a screen like this:

just click "go to Google Drive."

3.  This is my dashboard:

Yours will look a bit different, depending on how much/what you have in your drive and whether or not you've updated to the newest version of Google Drive {I have not}.

Click "create" in the top, left corner:

4. Click "form" in the drop-down menu that appears after you click "create."

FYI: The arrow going up -- to the right of the "create" button -- means that you are going to upload a non-Google document to your drive. So, for instance, you could upload any Microsoft Office {Word, PowerPoint, Excel, Publisher, etc.} document to your drive. The fonts may not look the same after upload, especially if you used any non-default fonts {which may throw the spacing off a bit}, but everything else should remain intact. I typically only upload PDFs for the reasons mentioned above.

 More FYIs:
  • Clicking "folder" lets you create a new folder -- just like you would on your computer
  • Clicking "document" lets you create a word document -- much like Microsoft Word
  • A Google presentation is a lot like Microsoft PowerPoint
  • A Google spreadsheet is similar to Microsoft Excel
  • You may not have any other options after "form," depending on what apps you have added to your drive

5. You should see a screen like this:
This is your blank Google form, and now you get to personalize it. There are lots of things you could do, so I'm just going to show you the basics and let you play with it on your own to find the rest. :)

Title the form. This helps others know what your form's topic is, as well as helps you organize your forms in your Google cloud drive.

Add a description. Tell others what your form is about. This is totally optional but sometimes comes in handy!

Type your question in the "title" bar. You can add optional help text, which acts like notes to your readers. 

Change the question type. If you look at the picture above, you can see a button that says "multiple choice." If you click on that, you'll see a drop-down menu that shows you all the kinds of questions you can ask. This can come in handy if you need a certain answer from your audience. For instance, When I needed students to tell me the name of their homeroom teacher upon registering for the science fair, I chose the "choose from a list" option. This way, all homeroom teachers would be identified by their last name only, and all names would be spelled correctly so that I could sort the answers later.

Choose what participants will see when they submit your form. Click in the text box to change the words "Your response has been recorded." For instance, for the science fair form, I included my school e-mail address and encouraged participants to e-mail me by x date if they still had not received their entry number. Below, you'll see I have "Show link to submit another response" checked. This comes in handy when lots of people are going to use the same device to access the form. For instance, I check this box in my recycling club sign in form, because all the kids use my laptop to record their attendance.

Use the gray buttons in the top of each question to edit the question, duplicate it, or delete it altogether.

Require questions if you want. Requiring a question means that a user must answer it before they are allowed to submit the form. I use this for agreements. For instance, when parents sign their students up for my recycling club, I have a "question" that says something like, "I give the school permission to administer medical attention if needed and release the school of all liability. I understand that pick up is at 3:20 by the east doors." I make the question a "check box" type and make it required. I also make questions required when I need contact information.

Click "send form" when you're ready to publish it. When you click that button, it tells you how to share the link with others.

Other information:  click the "change theme" button on the top, left of the screen to change the appearance of the form. You can view what your live form looks like at any time by clicking "view" and "live form."

View the responses. After you publish your form, Google automatically generates a spreadsheet for that form with responses. The first row in the spreadsheet is filled with your questions, and each person's answers are put into the appropriate columns.

Set up notifications. This is one of the first things I do when I set up a new Google form. I go into the responses, click "tools," and then click "notification rules." From there, you can make sure that Google e-mails you when you get new responses to the document. For something where you expect a lot of responses, you can choose to just get a daily digest of the newest updates. If you are setting up a Google form that you don't plan to check immediately or every day {for instance, it's for a sign up -- not a class assignment}, I recommend setting up the notifications.

Sort information. Do this by hovering your mouse over the top of any column with information in it {for instance, in the above-picture, I could hover over column A or B}. An arrow will appear in the right corner of that box; if you click it, the spreadsheet will be sorted according to information in that column. I used this to sort students by teacher name or by grade level when I was getting ready for science fair.

Download responses. If you need a paper copy of the responses and want to make sure it prints okay, you can download a copy of the responses before printing. My top two choices for download would be as an Excel spreadsheet or a PDF, but there are 4 other download options you can utilize if you want.

Edit if you need to. You can always go back into your original Google form to edit, or you can edit it from the response page by going to "form" and then "edit form." You can edit a Google form at any time -- even after you've published it.

Ways to Use Google Forms in the Classroom:
  1. Beginning of the year contact information -- it would be great to give the link or let parents scan a QR code to the form during "meet the teacher." You could gather information about parent contacts, student birthdays, language(s) spoken at home, etc. without the need for index cards
  2. Beginning of the year, getting-to-know-you questionnaire for students
  3. Bellringer assignment: students must answer a particular question upon entering and record their response in the Google form
  4. Sign up form for parent/teacher conference times -- parents could request a couple of days and times that work for them, and you could follow up with a confirmation call
  5. Registering for a club or event
  6. Signing in to a club meeting or tutoring session. {Each entry is automatically time stamped for your convenience -- you don't have to make that a question.}
  7. Assessment
  8. Exit ticket
  9. Bully/abuse report -- kids can fill in the form anonymously to report bullying or abuse
  10. Reading log {kids fill in a Google form instead of recording their minutes on paper}
  11. Rubric/project/science fair entry/presentation scoring {you wouldn't share the link, but you'd have a spreadsheet of answers when you're finished}
  12. Peer assessment for projects/presentations
  13. Record management information: student infractions, binder signs, parent phone calls, office visits, etc. 
  14. Voting form for classroom positions {president, secretary, StuCo, etc.} or even for staging a mock voting booth during election years
What other uses can you think of for Google Forms in your class?

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