Fun Teaching and Learning Tools

Photo by Sharon McCutcheon on

This morning as I was reading through my Shipley PLN Lower & Middle School edition, I found so many things I wanted to share with you I almost didn’t know where to start. I had to rearrange my tabs to get them organized and ready I was so excited (I need to get out more).

The first thing I am sharing is so cool, I think you are going to LOVE it! Insert Learning might be the coolest Chrome extension. I first read about it from Catlin Tucker. It turns any webpage into an interactive experience/lesson for your students (and you if you choose to try my links that follow) and allows you to insert learning in the form of sticky notes with videos from you, questions, discussion prompts, as well as be able to see what your students are highlighting too (a la making their thinking visible). The above post explains it nicely and includes screenshots. I was so intrigued I popped over the the Chrome store and added it so I could try it out. I used their resource page as the example and when you make your way over there, you will see there are even lessons created and shared by other teachers that you can assign to your own students. You can view the lesson I created as a teacher to see how it works by installing the extension, then clicking on this link; or view it as a student by clicking on this one (a caveat: to view as a student, you need to be enrolled in my class and have the extension so if you would like to try it out, let me know, I’ll add you as a student). For those that use Google Classroom, assigning/sharing lessons with your students is super easy, you just click the Classroom icon then select your class, you can also share it as a link as I did. When I shared this news with my colleague Wendy she mentioned that the Hypothesis extension worked similarly. I did not know about that one yet so took a peek and checked out their article, 10 Ways to Annotate with Students. Pretty, pretty cool as Larry David would say.

In last week’s post, I shared a set of PBS lessons with Lin Manuel-Miranda discussing how he turned history lessons about Alexander Hamilton and the founding of the United States into the musical Hamilton. Today I am sharing a Visions of Education podcast that discusses ways you can teach with Hamilton that includes, along with the podcast, several links to books, articles, related podcasts, close-reading activities, and hip-hop based education resources to name just a few of the many.

Speaking of teaching with a musical, how about teaching concepts, subjects, and topics with tv and movie clips? This morning, my colleague Lucie asked me about finding a math clip from a tv show to share with her students as she was making a playlist of these. I knew the site but could not remember the name so I quickly did a search and landed on Teach With Movies where I instantly searched the snippets and shorts by subject matter and sent off the results. Teach with Movies has full-length, shorts, snippets, and clips from tv and movies, and has lesson plans you can use as well for most school subjects. Class Hook is another way to engage, or “hook” your students using clips from TV and movies. Your free account will allow you to search by grade level (K through college), clip length, and series (there are hundreds). They have premade playlists on all sorts of subjects and topics from writer’s craft and phonics to digital citizenship, US history, and social-emotional learning, and you can add to them or create your own.

While some of us may enjoy being creative and making new things, others of us may not enjoy reinventing the wheel which is why we look for templates. Today I have two sets of templates to share with you. First is a link I got from Matt Miller. Paula Martinez, creator of the FREE SlidesMania templates for Google Slides and PowerPoint wrote this guest post where she shares 20 free templates for you to use in your presentations. This is only one-eighth of the number of FREE templates she has on her SlidesMania site. And guess what, teaching and being creative is not even her regular day job (or even her temporary day job), she is in finance! The next is a FREE fake Instagram template to use for Google Slides and it comes from Carly Black who wrote a guest post on the Shake Up Learning website. With many students being all over social media, having them turn what they like to do into an educational purpose makes sense. That’s what Tara Martin did when she figured out how to turn the fun of using Snapchat into the very popular #BookSnaps to which I can attest, kids love to create.

Who does not enjoy playing games? Well, some of you might not but your kids will. Educandy is a free site (currently in beta) for taking your words or questions and turning them in to a game like hangman, word search, crosswords, memory and others or quiz. All you need to do is create your free account, click the type of game you want to create (words, matching pairs, or quiz questions), enter your words or questions, then Educandy turns them into the games and activities. Here is one I just made. It literally took me about 3 minutes and there are now three games to play with my words. There is no log in to play, just the link or the game code. So fun!

A Handful of Spring Sharing

6393548853It has been quite a busy six weeks and unfortunately, my blogging had to take a backseat. While I did share my learning from a recent Coursera course, I have not shared any tips, tricks, or articles since February. My apologies. Time to move on!

As per usual, I have numerous tabs open so here we go:

#1. A great post from Rick Wormeli (I have recently referenced him here) titled, “43 Things We Need to Stop Doing in Schools” .  This list is certainly not exhaustive. I feel pretty strongly about #s 2, 3, 5, 13, 18, 26, & 30; how about you?

#2 This next piece is fun, one you and your students will enjoy being creative with and sharing learning, and it uses something you probably already have. Intrigued? Many kids (and grown-ups) love making stop motion animation but did you know you could do it in Google Slides? This video shared by Daniel Kaufman to our Google Education Group shows how you can use Google Slides to make Stop Motion animation video. Kaufman shows how to solve an algebra problem and uses 88 slides to do it. I played around and made one using just 10 (see below). The key as you will see in his video, is to use the “duplicate slide” option.


#3 Since we are talking about things you can do with Google Slides, I thought I would remind you of two Chrome extensions I posted about before- Save to Drive and Drive Slides. You can combine the capabilities of these the Drive Slides extension with the Stop Motion capability of Slides for one really cool presentation. #ThingsThatMakeYouGoHmmm

#4 I have shared my excitement about HyperDocs in previous posts so when I saw this Padlet of HyperDocs posted on Twitter, I knew I needed to share it with you. I am certain there will be something you can use/modify in your classroom, then you can visit the teachers give teachers site for more inspiration! Click here to learn even more about HyperDocs.

#5 Think you are a smarty pants? How about your students? What about Smarty Pins? This next share is about another favorite of mine– Google– and it is “21 Google Tools That You Probably Never Heard Of”. OK, maybe you know that you can search for a stopwatch and Google will pull up their stopwatch function, or maybe you knew that you could type in an algebraic equation and Google would solve it for you and show the interactive graph (#3); perhaps you even knew you could do a reverse image search (#4), and create a story using Story Builder (#9); but did you know about Smarty Pins, an interactive mapping search game (#7) or Spell Up, a spelling game (#18)? Check out this post to see what else you can do with Google.

#6 Last but certainly not least is a great tool for making student learning visible. Flipgrid is simple, easy-to-use, and made for teachers and students from elementary school through high school. You can sign up, set up, and begin using your Flipgrid in about five minutes. I recently used Flipgrid to have my students reflect on a Tynker coding project they did and the responses were fantastic and honest. You can use it to have a whole class respond to text prompt or quote, share their strategies to solving a math problem, reflect on their work, and so much more. Flipgrid gives every student a chance to share their voice and respond, not just the ones who like to speak out in class. You can make your Flipgrids private or public, and you can moderate your topic so that students cannot see each other’s responses until you have viewed them.

For more great articles, videos, and tools, you can read this week’s Shipley PLN Lower & Middle School Edition.

Happy Spring!