Tuesday, October 17, 2017

5 Steps to Creating Student Documentaries in Middle School

This year my students read books about the impact of Hurricane Katrina using digital lit circles.  Upon completion of their books/lit circles, students worked together to make documentaries on how the storm impacted different groups of people that experienced this catastrophe.  

I recently had the opportunity to share this process and five tips that I found to be crucial for students to successfully create documentaries in middle school on one of my favorite educational websites, WeAreTeachers.  This website is a great resource for classroom ideas and strategies, and I was honored to have a blog post featured.  

Check out my post on 5 Steps to Creating Student Documentaries in Middle School.  You won't want to miss the FREEBIE that's included!!

Source- WeAreTeachers

Sunday, September 24, 2017

Using Flipgrid in the Classroom

I'm constantly on the lookout for new ways to incorporate technology and other digital resources.  You can read about some of my favorites here.  With the start of each school year, I find myself searching for digital tools that I haven't tried before.  This year, I feel like I hit the jack pot!  For those of you who are just hearing about the amazing Flipgrid for the first time, boy are you in for a treat!!!

Flipgrid is a video response platform where educators can have online video discussions with their students or other educators.  Teachers can provide feedback to their students once they have posted their video response, and students can also give feedback to one another.  There are endless opportunities to take advantage of Flipgrid in the classroom.

My students recently completed a hyperdoc where they reviewed the parts of speech.  The last activity in the hyperdoc was to reflect on and summarize what they had learned.  This is where Flipgrid came in! They shared their reflections using Flipgrid, and I was able to provide fast and easy feedback to each student.  You can provide written feedback, or you can click on a heart, light bulb, or any of the other emoji choices available if you're looking to do it quickly.  You can see a couple action shots from my students below.

So what are some other ways teachers can use Flipgrid in the classroom???  Here are 10 ideas to get you started:

  • Book Recommendations- Have your students share recommendations on books that they have read.  You can create a topic that's titled, "Book Recommendations."  When students are looking for books to read, they can head over to Flipgrid, and check out all of the books that have been recommended.
  • Formative Assessments- Have students discuss a particular skill that they have been learning in class.  This will show you how much they have (or haven't) learned.
  • Exit Tickets- Similar to a formative assessment, students can post a short video discussing the material they learned in class that day.
  • Student (AND Teacher) Introductions- At the start of a new year, students can use Flipgrid to introduce themselves to the teacher and the rest of the class.  The teacher can do the same.
  • Hyperdoc Activity- If you're using Hyperdocs (which is the greatest digital invention EVER), using Flipgrids would be a great addition to include!  As I shared above, it's the perfect way to wrap up all of the activities by having students reflect on all of the skills that have been covered.
  • Turning Point- Discuss the turning point or climax of a story or event.
  • Connect w/ other Flipgrid Users- Find other teachers who use Flipgrid and make plans to connect your classes.  You could possibly focus on the same topic or skill, and then ask questions, share responses, etc.  This could even be done with classes in other countries!
  • Watch & Respond- With Flipgrid, you can link a Youtube video or video you create.  Have students view the video and then post a response.
  • Stating Claim/Responding with Evidence- When I'm teaching my students the Argumentative Essay Writing process, they have to be able to clearly state their claim and prove it with supporting evidence.  Have them do this orally using Flipgrid. 
  • Oral Reading Responses- Rather than writing or typing answers to reading response questions, have them respond orally on Flipgrid.

There are 2 different options to choose from when creating an account:  Flipgrid One, the free version, and Flipgrid Classroom, which is the paid option that is $65/yr.  With the free version, you get 1 grid with unlimited topics and unlimited student videos.  Teachers can also provide individual student feedback.  With Classroom Flipgrid, in addition to all that comes w/ the free account, you also receive unlimited grids and unlimited student replies to responses.  Learn more about this here.  If you would like to learn more about how to get started, check out the videos Flipgrid posted on Twitter.

Have you used Flipgrid with your students?  If so, I'd love to hear all about it in the comments below!

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Bonus Sale on Lit with Lyns Resources

I wanted to let you know that for today only, you can get 25% off of all of my resources using the code BTSBONUS at checkout!

This is a great time to stock up and make your life a little easier as you head back to school. I have added several new activities that will help you out as you get started here.  Enjoy and I hope you all have a wonderful year!!!

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

ELA Live Series- August, 2017

Want to make this year your BEST YEAR EVER!?!  Let us help you make that happen!  We have 15 experienced ELA teachers who will be coming to you LIVE each night on Facebook, beginning August 1- August 15th!  We will share our tried and true tips and teaching strategies to help make this school year the most successful yet!  Check out our schedule below, and make plans to head over to each educator's Facebook page at the specified time.

Aug. 1st at 9 pm EST
"Project Based Learning for Secondary English Classrooms" with Mud & Ink Teaching

Aug. 2nd at 9 pm EST
"Strategies for Writing Commentary for Literary Analysis" with Bespoke ELA

Aug. 3rd at 9 pm EST
"Ideas and Strategies to Incorporate Choice Reading" with Doc Cop

Aug. 4th at 9 pm EST
"Pinpoint the Source of Most Reading Problems in Five Minutes" with Reading Simplified

Aug. 5th at 9 pm EST
"How to Teach Students to Elaborate on their Thinking" with English, Oh My! 

Aug. 6th at 9 pm EST
"How to Run a Book Club" with The Reading and Writing Haven

Aug. 7th at 9 pm EST
"Encourage Independent Reading in Reluctant Learners" with Samson's Shoppe

Aug. 8th at 9 pm EST
"Using Showcase Projects to Increase Engagement" with Spark Creativity

Aug. 9th at 4 pm EST
"How to Publish Student Writing Online and Create E-Portfolios" with Amanda Write Now

Aug. 10th at 9 pm EST
"5 Hidden Gems (books!) that Both Teachers and Students will Love with 2 Lifelong Teachers

Aug. 11th at 9 pm EST
"Starting on the Right Track with Struggling Secondary (Dependent) Learners" with Secondary Urban Legends

Aug. 12th at 9 pm EST
"Back to School Digital Escape Room" with Lit with Lyns

Aug. 13th at 9 pm EST
"Conferring with Student Writers" with Wild Child Designs

Aug. 14th at 9 pm EST
"Giving Meaningful Feedback to Writers" with Read it. Write it. Learn It. 

Aug. 15th at 9 pm EST
"Grammar Manipulations: Holding Language" with Language Arts Classroom.

I hope that these tips and strategies help you have a smooth start to the new school year!  What advice do you have to help other teachers get their school year off to a good start?  I'd love to hear about it in the comments below.

Monday, July 24, 2017

Back to School- Digital Escape Room

You all know it's coming....wait for it....BACK TO SCHOOL time is just around the corner!  All good things must come to an end, right??  That being said, I started thinking about important items that I wanted to cover with my students over the first couple weeks of school.  My classroom is almost 100% paperless, so I knew that I wanted to introduce my students to technology almost immediately. Keeping that in mind, I decided to create a Back to School Breakout- Digital Escape Room.  I became obsessed with using Digital Breakouts over the last year and shared this with you when I used an escape room for ELA Test Prep.

If your students have never completed a breakout before, you may want to explain what this is. Digital Breakouts are based on escape rooms and involve students trying to use clues to crack multiple codes in a certain amount of time.  I'm usually pretty flexible with the time, but they can typically take about 45-60 minutes in my experience.

The Back to School Breakout includes the following:

  • A student survey, which will allow you to get to know them better
  • Tips that help students to be successful throughout the school year
  • Explains the importance of setting SMART Goals
To begin, students will go to a Google Form, where they will complete the Beginning of the Year Student Survey.  Students will be asked a series of questions which will allow you to get to know their interests, likes, dislikes, how well they understand and can use technology, etc.  Then once they get to the last question, they will be required to click on a link, which will take them to a jigsaw puzzle.  Here, they must put the puzzle together correctly, and once they do, they will see the code. They will be directed to enter the code on the Google Form.  Once they enter it in correctly, they will be taken to the second escape "room." 

In the 2nd escape room, they will be given a link to a video on tips for having a successful school year.  At the end of the video, they will be given the next code that must be entered in order to move on to escape room 3.  

The final challenge is to watch a video on setting SMART Goals.  I love introducing this at the beginning of the year, because this is something I refer to often.  My students update their SMART goals every quarter and modify them as necessary.  At the end of the video, they are directed to go to the Google Form and follow the directions in order to proceed.  On the Google Form, they are told to click a link in order to figure out what the code is.  The link will take them to a fake plane ticket. On the plane ticket, they are directed to look for a *hint that will help them with the final code.  Once they figure the code out and enter correctly, a "CONGRATULATIONS" message is displayed.  

This is a great way to get your students thinking right off the bat, while also being able to learn more about them, as well.  The best part about using Google Forms to have students input information about themselves is that it automatically saves to your Google Drive in a spreadsheet!  Each question is displayed, along with the students' names and their answers.  That means that you can refer to the info gathered at anytime throughout the year.  

What are your back to school staples?  I'd love to hear about them in the comments!

Monday, June 26, 2017

Google Classroom- Showing Students How to Access & Use

A while back I blogged about how to add assignments in Google Classroom.  Today I posted a video that I plan to show my students at the beginning of the school year on how to access and submit assignments on Google Classroom.  I thought I would share with you, so that you'll have it to use if you would like, as well.

Saturday, April 29, 2017

Digital Escape Room- ELA Test Prep

Escape Rooms have been the latest buzz in education.  I kept hearing teachers talk about them on social media, and then I had students come to school talking about how much fun they had going to them over the weekend.  Since I try to keep my classroom paperless, I decided to combine the two and create a Digital Escape Room for ELA Test Prep!  Kids dread nothing more than end of year testing...so why not make reviewing for these dreaded assessments something the kids will remember??!?  And how perfect that they can remember skills we need them to know for the test!!!

I watched several tutorials on setting this up digitally (Breakout EDU has some great info by the way), and this is what I came up with.

There are a couple of ways you can have your students complete the Digital Escape Room:
  • You can put students into groups.  Share the link to the Google Form via Google Classroom, on your class website, in an email, etc. with only the group leaders.  Then the group leader can share it w/ the other members.  That way they can all work on it together as a group, but still use their own device.  I would suggest no more than 4 students per group. 
  • Assign to every student. 
To begin, you will share the link to the Digital Escape Room Google Form with your students.  This is what students will see when they click on the link:
Here they will enter their name(s), and then click "next."  Once they click next, they will be taken to the screen below:

Next, they will click the link provided and will be taken to the first escape room-- a figurative language drag-and-drop matching activity.  They are required to match the correct definition w/ the appropriate word.  They will need to enter the first letter of  the word in that phrase. For example, the first box listed is the term “figurative language.” They would need to find the definition to figurative language, which is “writing that is not to be taken literally.”  The first letter in this definition is a w.  Therefore, the first letter in the code would be a w (they already have the first answer as I give them this in the directions).  Since there are 8 total examples, the code will have 8 letters.  When they enter the code, all letters must be lower cased.  If they enter the code incorrectly, it will say "Still locked!!"  Then they have to go back and see what they missed until they break the code.  Once they get it correct, they can move on to the next room.  

The 2nd escape room reviews point of view. Students will click the following link on the form, and then complete the point of view activity.  It requires them to read the passage, and then determine what type of point of view is being used.  

In order to break out, they will need to enter the first number of the point of view listed.  For example, if #1 is 1st person point of view, then they would type a 1.  There are 12 different passages, so the code will have 12 numbers. Once they enter the code correctly, they will be taken to the next room.

The 3rd escape room reviews text structureStudents will click the link on the Google Form and will be taken to the activity.  Then they will read the passage, and determine what type of text structure is represented.  

The 4th and last escape room covers main idea. Students will click the link on the Google Form and will be taken to the activity.  Once there, they will be given a link to a Times 4 Kids article that they will read.  After reading the article, they will answer 5 multiple choice questions.  In order to break the code, they will need to enter each answer choice.  There are 5 questions, so they will have 5 total letters.  For example– if #1 is a, then this is the first letter in the code.

Once they enter the correct code, they will see the "Congratulations! image!
My students completed this right before our state testing, and they absolutely loved it!  It proved to be a great way to prepare and cover the areas that were important skills to review beforehand.  If you would like to have your students enjoy some pre-assessment fun, while also getting a terrific review in, check this out here!

Sunday, March 26, 2017

Digital Differentiation Using Hyperdocs

I recently had the pleasure of being a guest blogger for Performing in Education.  If you haven't ever checked it out, it's a terrific blog that focuses on project-based learning, hands-on activities, and ideas on how to keep your students engaged.  My guest blog discussed differentiating with hyperdocs.  If you haven't ever used these before, they're AMAZING and have totally transformed the way I teach.  Check out my blog post below:

*Before I even begin to get into Hyperdocs and how they work, I first have to say that they have totally changed the way I teach...and for the better!  This process has completely transformed my class into a blend learning environment, where my students are more engaged and ready to learn than ever before!  This "shift" integrated many of the 21st century strategies that we're constantly being told to use in the classroom, and it was done almost effortlessly...with planning, of course.  I'm so thankful for The Hyperdoc Girls who developed this strategy!* 

According to The Hyperdoc Girls, "Hyperdocs are a transformative, interactive Google Doc that replaces the worksheet method of delivering instruction." Hyperdocs allow students to work at their own pace while completing each of the activities and take the focus away from the teacher, promoting student-centered learning.  To give you a better idea of how to implement this, I'm going to go through the process I use when creating my hyperdoc resources.

How to Plan with Hyperdocs
  • Look at the standards that you need to teach, and then determine what methods you want to use in order to ensure students master these skills.  I determine what skills my students should know by the time they complete the hyperdoc activities.
  • I follow the Engage, Explore, Explain, & Apply structure when creating my hyperdoc resource.  Using this model, I typically include approximately 6 activities total.
  1. Engage- I start by engaging students at the beginning of the lesson with a link to a video that introduces the topic that will be discussed.  For example, if I wanted my students to understand point of view and how different points of view can change a story, I may include a video here that simply provides a brief intro about each type of point of view.
  2. Explore- This is where you include links to articles, videos, infographics, etc. that allow students to explore the topic. Sticking w/ the point of view topic, this is where I would pull from a variety of different online texts and tools, where students would be exposed to different points of view.  I may also include questions on the Hyperdoc that I create to go along with the text, and they answer the questions directly on their doc.  That way, I can keep track and provide feedback as they complete each task.
  3. Explain- At this point in the lesson, students will take a more in-depth look at the skills they are learning.  To further explain point of view, I would post a link to Edpuzzle.com where they watch a video and answer questions, which requires them to identify the different types of point of view that's used throughout the video.  I may also have students use digital task cards, where they would read an excerpt from a text, and then identify the point of view that's being used.
  4. Apply- To apply what they have learned, I might have students to create a collaborative story that shows their understanding of point of view, using a tool such as Piclits or Slidestory.  Both websites allow students to create stories using pictures.  Slidestory even allows you to narrate in your own voice.
Implementing Hyperdocs
My class recently started a unit we call, "Washed Away," which is based around realistic fiction novels about Hurricane Katrina.  Within this unit, students would be reading a realistic fiction novel called, Upside Down in the Middle of Nowhere by Julie T. Lamana, which is about a family who experienced Hurricane Katrina.  I knew that my students, being 11 and 12 yr olds, weren't very familiar with the impact that this hurricane had on those that went through it.  With this in mind, I decided to begin the unit with informational texts that addressed this.  It was also a way for me to include nonfiction articles, since the novel they would be reading was fiction.  This is a great way to promote critical thinking skills, and they were able to work through each activity at their own pace.  You may also choose to let students work in pairs or groups.  Since hyperdocs are normally done on Google Docs or Slides, 1 student can share the doc with the other group members.  That way they're all working on the same document.

I typically assign the hyperdoc activities through Google Classroom.  However, you can also share this with students via your Google Drive account, Edmodo, by posting a link to your website, or using another digital program.  You can access a FREE video on how to assign in Google Classroom here.

Here's a sample of my Nonfiction Hurricane Unit:

I hope this post encourages you to try hyperdocs or another 21st century learning tool!  This has totally adapted the way I teach.  It also shows that even after 13 years of teaching, there are always ways to grow and learn as an educator.  To see more of my tips and resources, visit my blog, Lit with Lyns!

Monday, January 30, 2017

Differentiating with Google Classroom

As I shared in a previous post, my students have been working in digital literature circles with the books we're currently reading.  I typically allow them to work on their assigned reading/jobs about 3 days a week for approximately 20-30 minutes.  There are a couple groups who have finished their work early, and this is where the new Google Classroom feature comes in-- assigning work to individual students.

I can't tell you how excited I was when I found out that we could now assign work to individuals, groups, etc. without assigning activities to the whole class!  This makes differentiation a breeze!  Now, when I have early finishers, I have them choose from a couple of these Digital Reading Activities that work for ANY novel or short stories.

To assign work to individuals in Google Classroom, follow these easy steps:

For those of you who use Google Classroom, how do you plan to differentiate using this new feature?  I'd love to hear all about it in the comments below!

Saturday, January 28, 2017

Digital Literature Circles

I have been so excited about how well the Digital Literature Circles went in my classroom, that I had to share them here with you!  It turned out better than I could have ever anticipated.  

For anyone who's new to lit circles, they are a collaborative and student-centered way to get students involved in the book they are reading.  Students are put into groups, based on the book they have been assigned or have chosen (whichever way you choose to do it).  Then, each student is given a job for the week. The ones I use are:  Discussion Director, Vocab Finder, Character Catcher, Main Idea Maniac, and Figurative Language Finder (if you happen to have 5 to a group).  

Doing these activities digitally is a great way to incorporate 21st century learning!  Every aspect takes place online through Google Classroom or whatever learning management program you use, except for the reading (unless they have the books on their own devices).   That also means no paper!  Everything from the tracking of the page numbers and jobs, grading of the activities, etc. is done virtually!  Now that Google Classroom has the new feature that allows you to assign work to individual students, groups, etc. it makes it EXTREMELY easy to assign digital lit. circle groups!  I LOVE THIS!!!  It makes differentiation a breeze!!!

This is how the lit circles are ran in my classroom:

When putting my students into groups, I  make sure that each group has 4, but no more than 5 members.  On the first day, I tell my students how many days they will have to read the book, and try to allow for approximately 20 minutes of literacy circle work each day.  Of course, this doesn’t always work out, so I also let them know that if our schedule changes (we don’t have class due to testing, school event, etc.) that I will add a day to the agreed upon days.  For example, if on Jan. 1st, I tell them they have until Jan. 31st to complete the book, that gives them approx. 20 class periods to complete the book.  If our schedule is interrupted and they lose a day for whatever reason, I add the day back and allow them to have until Feb. 1st to complete the book. 

On day 1, they are to see how many pages are in their novel, and then divide that number by the number of days they are given to complete the book.  This tells them how many pages should be read each day.  

At my school, I usually only have just enough books for each class to use, so this means they have to do all the reading at school and can’t take books however, if a student doesn’t get finished w/ the reading that day in class, they can come back to me at the end of the day and check a book out, as long as they bring it back first thing the following morning.  I also remind them that they may also want to try and check it out from the library or download on their personal device if they have one (just in case their aren’t enough books available for them to check one out that day).

One thing I have learned in doing these for several years, is that all directions HAVE to be EXTREMELY clear.  Students have to know exactly what it is that they’re expected to do.  Before we actually get started, I go over each “job” that they will have to complete at some point while reading the assigned book.  For the first week, I assign the jobs, mainly because I want to be the one to choose the discussion director--who serves as group leader-- for the first week.  Then I typically allow the students to decide who will do what job in the following weeks.

It’s also very important that they complete the Tracking Sheet (slide 1), because this tells me who is doing what, what pages they’re supposed to read, etc.  Then, when I go in to check their work, this allows me to see who was supposed to complete the discussion director, vocab finder, etc. jobs.

Since students are completing their jobs digitally, on the first day, I have the discussion director for each group pull up the file, which I have posted in Google Classroom., but you can share the link via whatever digital program you use..  Then I instruct the discussion director to share the document with each group member by clicking the “share” button, and then enter each group members’ email.  This way they are all collaborating/working on the same file.  Next, I instruct the discussion director to also make at least 4 duplicates of each slide.  This is so each person can have a copy of each slide when it is their turn to perform the job.  This is also why it’s EXTREMELY important for the group to accurately complete the Tracking Sheet each week, because again, this shows me who is completing each job that week, when I go in to check their work (see p. 17 for example).

Weekly Lit. Circle Meeting

Each week, usually Friday, the groups have their weekly meeting.  This is where each group member shares the information they were required to find for their assigned job.  This is also where it’s very important for students to follow directions and stay on task.  Otherwise, these meetings tend to not go as planned.  With this in mind—in addition to seeing what other experienced teachers do– I have my students follow a script that I have created and included on pages 18-19.  The script is also included for students in the slides on p. 2-3.   The script is used by the Discussion Director, who also serves as the group leader for that week.    At the end of the meeting, I make sure that each group has determined who is doing each job for the next week, and I also make sure everyone is aware of what pages they are to read.  I require that they document all of this on the tracking sheet before the meeting is over.

These activities also cover several of the Common Core Standards:
Cite textual evidence to support analysis of what the text says explicitly as well as inferences drawn from the text.
Determine a theme or central idea of a text and how it is conveyed through particular details; provide a summary of the text distinct from personal opinions or judgments.
Describe how a particular story's or drama's plot unfolds in a series of episodes as well as how the characters respond or change as the plot moves toward a resolution.
Determine the meaning of words and phrases as they are used in a text, including figurative and connotative meanings; analyze the impact of a specific word choice on meaning and tone
Analyze how a particular sentence, chapter, scene, or stanza fits into the overall structure of a text and contributes to the development of the theme, setting, or plot.

Check my Digital Lit. Circles out here to use these digital activities with your students!  If you would like to see how to assign activities in Google Classroom, check out this blog post.