Google Earth Starter Kit for Teachers is our new 11-page guide to take you and your class on virtual field trips, starting today! We designed this guide for teachers wanting to find some quality examples of Google Earth trips, to create their own, or to give students new and engaging ways to share learning. If this sounds like you, sign up on the left-hand side of our page (we promise to never ever spam or share your info–you’ll just receive occasional email updates from us)! We also list the best of HGU printables and how-to’s on the confirmation page as an extra thank-you for joining our learning community!
Our new kit is packed with practical how-to tips, links to rich virtual field trips, and ways for students to harness Google Earth’s potential for discovery and sharing.
Leave the Classroom Behind with Google Earth
Landforms Virtual Field Trip (using subfolders of placemarks)
Amazon Rainforest Virtual Field Trip (using the tour-guided feature)
Ancient Civilizations (using outlines)
Make Your Virtual Field Trip Today
9 tips for making your own trip
Descriptions of the different tools to try in Google Earth
How to use simple codes for clean, neat description boxes
How to save & share your trip
Suggestions for Student Creations
10 fun ideas for student creations in Google Earth
Have you ever felt parent teacher conferences become a blur of shallow compliments and trite suggestions? Have you ever worried about the quality of students’ involvement? Do you want parents to gain more meaningful insight on how their children spend 7 hours a day, 5 days a week? Then consider shifting to student led conferences!
After a couple years of traditional parent teacher conferences, I began to doubt their value. Attendance was patchy, and the bulk of meetings that did take place often felt inconsequential. Given the vast expenditure of time and energy in preparations, conferences generally seemed to yield trivial returns–goals quickly forgotten, behavior largely unchanged, and work samples simply discarded. All that changed when my school introduced student-led conferences.
Note that this is geared toward upper-elementary. However, it can easily be adapted for younger and older students–our entire school adopted student-led conferences.
Stage #1: Introduce Student-Led Conferences to Students (Estimated time: 30 min)
Give a labeled folder to each student to keep conference materials organized.
Give students their report cards, progress reports, and/or other records that are to be shared during conferences. Let them know they need to be familiar with everything on it, so to ask for clarification as needed.
Stage #2: Make Goals (Estimated time: 45 min.)
Brainstorm as a class possible areas for improvement in math, reading, writing, and behavior.
Teach class about writing goals according to your school or grade level standards. Our team used SMART goals (s=specific, m=measurable, a=attainable, r=relevant, t=time-bound). I also like Kath Murdoch’s idea of 1-word goal-making.
Have them write 1 goal for each subject area on the brainstorming sheet and turn them in.
Give back to students to write their final goals after you have reviewed them.
Stage #3: Meet with each student (est. time: 5 min. per student)
Make sure their conference folder has all required items in order (I gave each student this list to organize their work. I also post it on the whiteboard, and have students sign up to meet with me once their folders are completely ready).
Double-check the finalized goals.
If your grading system has a “social skills” or behavior field, consider having the student self-grade with you. Have a discussion on what each grade means (ie, 4 means “I rarely need reminders or help in this area,” 3 means “I sometimes need reminders and I could work on this area,” etc.). Not only have I found that students are often harder on themselves than I am, but the increased ownership better prepares them for sometimes tough conversations with their parents.
Go over the “During Conference” checklist together. Discuss any questions on how to present each area.
Have students practice going over their checklist with a classmate (tell them they can leave out sensitive items like their report cards). Use a stopwatch to give them a realistic idea of the timeframe.
Make copies of student goals for teacher, parents, and student
Student and Parent Response
After each conference, I surveyed parents and students. Below is some of the feedback I frequently received.
Removing the frightening anticipation of grown-ups discussing unknown issues during conferences (avoiding situations such as the one on the right).
The opportunity to “show off” some of the things they were most proud of.
How professional they felt as they took the lead.
How knowledgeable students were about their own progress and responsibilities.
Students taking the lead with the teacher helping where needed.
How students explained their report cards themselves.
The pride and ownership students took in showing their work.
Pitfalls to Avoid
Time allocations: Make sure there’s plenty of time for parents to ask questions and have further, informative discussions as needed!
Inadequate student practice: Let students practice at least 2 times in class. This will help them with both confidence and purposeful time management.
Inadequate student organization: Use the conference folder items list to go through every item as an entire class one more time right before conferences start.
Hesitation to Jump In: One parent voiced concern that problems were sugar-coated, and that she could not speak freely because of the student’s presence. Let your students know beforehand that in order for conferences to be effective, everyone needs to be 100% on the same page, and that you will redirect the conversation if necessary.
Unengaging Parent Homework: At first, we assigned parents to write a letter to their children reflecting on their feelings about the conference. However, very few parents completed the assignment. We switched to emailing a Google Form survey for them to share feedback on conferences. Some of the questions we asked included:
What made you feel proud?
Do you feel your student’s goals match the areas in which he/she can improve? If not, what are additional areas in which you feel he/she can improve?
How can you help your student remember and succeed at his/her goals at home?
Veteran’s Day is observed on November 11 each year, the anniversary of the day World War I ended. Help your students to truly appreciate our veterans’ sacrifices by selecting one or more of the ideas listed here.
#1: Gallery Wall of Veteran Photos
On Veteran’s Day, ask your students to bring a photo of a veteran they know. It could be a parent, aunt, cousin, great-grandfather, or even a neighbor. Have students bring the following:
An 8×10 copy of their veteran’s photo
An index card with information that includes:
Student’s name & relationship to veteran
Term of service
Branch of service and rank
Country for which the veteran served
Any notable information about the service
Keep the photos posted in your halls for a few weeks–not only does this beautifully honor those who have served, but it also is perfect to renew the feelings of gratitude that we seek to magnify throughout the Thanksgiving season.
#2: Poppies & Poetry
Poppies are a classic, but not all your students may be aware of their significance. Choose a way to share “In Flanders Fields” with your students, whether you simply read the text and background, watch a video, or show a picture book. (Alternatively, share Cheryl Dyson’s poem for a piece suited for very young audiences). Then, ask students to find meaningful ways they can express their understanding and appreciation for this poem:
Have students write letters expressing gratitude to a soldier. Mail these to soldiers at your closest military base or visit websites like Operation Gratitude. Students could also share their pieces created in the above Poppies & Poetry activity.
This project was started by Congress in 2000, and is sponsored by AARP. The goal is to “collect, preserve, and make accessible the personal accounts of American war veterans so that future generations may hear directly from veterans and better understand the realities of war.” As a class, you could:
Register for the VHP RSS feed (and add to your class blog if you have one!)
Locate a veteran to interview (either a student’s family member or someone found in a local veterans service organization), then hold the interview in class if he or she can make it, or by phone.
While volunteer student interviewers must be 10th graders or older, younger students can participate in interviewing family members. Additionally, donations are welcome, so your class could alternatively hold a fundraiser for the project!
The long term effects of learning to study can stretch much further than than the average high school sophomore may think.
When Bart started school with a half-tuition scholarship that would renew yearly pending his GPA performance, his college career future looked bright. Once classes began, however, he says he “blew off” his classes and lost the scholarship after two semesters. This required him to get a part time job on campus, and eventually a full time job–ultimately extending the time until graduation as he had to cut back on classes in order to function. He hadn’t realized the thousands of dollars he could lose–beyond just the scholarship itself–until it was too late.
Declining Studying Stats
Bart’s story is becoming an increasingly familiar one for college students. Research shows a significant decline in time students are devoting to their studies. Until the 1960’s, undergraduates spent about 40 hours per week academically. Today, that number is down to 27 hours each week–which includes both class time and studying. The time spent on studying alone is comparable; in 1961, it was 25 hours per week–by 2003, it had whittled down to 13 hours.
The Math and Money of Study Time
Bart urges other students to carefully examine the monetary value of their time spent studying. Below are some figures to consider:
$19 per hour: studying 13 hours per week over a 16-week, $4,000 tuition semester
$10 per hour: studying 25 hours per week over a 16-week, $4,000 tuition semester
$67 per hour: studying 13 hours per week over a 16-week, $14,000 tuition semester
$35 per hour: studying 25 hours per week over a 16-week, $14,000 tuition semester
Whatever the tuition rate, the value of time spent studying to keep up grades and scholarships is worth more than the $7.25 minimum wage jobs students would otherwise need to work.
Genuine Preparation for the Future
Informing our students of the numbers listed above is just one small step in preparing them for the realities of college and beyond. We believe that it is paramount that students cultivate intrinsic motivation if we hope they will dedicate every effort required to succeed in their desired field as adults. What do the child who has always been denied sugar and the student who always been denied opportunities for self-directed learning have in common? Both are likely to spend their time and resources unwisely the moment they gain autonomy.
That said, we also find value in encouraging “college and career readiness” strategies to help students view the long term effects of developing study skills. An example might be teaching a third grader to develop stamina in reading a book without distraction.
As we empower students to develop such motivation and skills, our expectations of them should remain high–not out of pressure-inducing fear that they could otherwise fail in the “real world,” but out of belief in their ability succeed. This is key in fostering the kind of love of learning now that will truly prepare them prepare them for the future.
What are some ways you prepare students for the future while still encouraging them to live and learn with passion now? Share in comments below!
When you barely have time to suck down occasional gulps of air amid swells of paperwork, it’s understandable to lose some perspective. Unfortunately, this is a condition many teachers face when it comes to approaching formative versus summative assessments.
Opportunity for impact?
But how important is it, really, to keep track of such minute details on student progress? Well, Google defines formative as, “serving to form something, especially having a profound and lasting influence on a person’s development.” Black and Wiliam found “that innovations which include strengthening the practice of formative assessment produce significant, and often substantial, learning gains.” And we have discovered teacher-student relationships become elevated as students recognize just how invested teachers are in their daily progress–not just in what they produce at the end of units.
The nature of the beast
Formative assessments do not cast the intimidating shadow of their summative counterparts. They are so authentically woven into the day, it can feel almost spontaneous as you uncover quiet learning moments, pinpointing students’ true understanding. Meanwhile, summatives are not only highly concrete and measurable, but they’re also accompanied by pressure for results–pressure that may come from administrators, parents, politicians, and even sometimes teachers themselves.
Educator’s catch 22
And so, we run into the classic teacher dilemma: on the one hand, we know part of the value of formative assessments lies their authentic, unassuming quality; on the other, it is precisely that quality that makes it easy for them to slip under the radar. The key is to make a plan for a record-keeping strategy that works for you. This sounds easy enough, but it does take a little trial and error as you find one or more methods that feel comfortable and easily accessible in the flow of your classroom. Below are a few personal favorites, all of which have functioned well in various contexts.
This is the Mary Poppins carpet bag of education apps. No matter how full I’d pack in anecdotal notes for each student, it stayed organized and easy to navigate. It was also easy to share with parents during parent-teacher conferences. Some details I appreciated include:
The option to sort notes in practical ways, including by student names, groups, and feedback.
A design in that’s conducive to appropriate feedback with fields like “strength,” “teaching point,” and “next step”–great to remind teachers to look for what’s going well along with what needs work.
The ability to apply one note to multiple students simultaneously–and the fact that it saves a previously-used note so you don’t have to type out the same phrase again.
The color coded flags to remind you who currently needs some extra support.
Note: At first, some students were unsure about my typing on my phone during our discussions–they worried I was texting, or otherwise distracted. Be sure to introduce this method of note-taking to your whole class, telling them exactly how you are using your phone during your conferences.
2. Notecard Waterfalls
This one is a bit old-school, but I found it especially handy for reading groups. I would write each student’s name on one notecard, sort them into their groups, and then tape them into a waterfall on half a piece of laminated cardstock per group. (see photos below) I found this to be the perfect place to keep tallies for simplified running records and reading notes. After a student would read aloud, I would say something like this:
“Ok, I’m writing that you are rocking your punctuation expression. You paused appropriately at every comma and period! I’m also writing that we’re working on paying attention to the endings of words, since you left off -ing and -s a couple times as you read. Do you want me to add anything else for us to remember next time we work on reading together?”
This kind of feedback was quick and simple, but extremely effective as it kept us both on the same page. Another bonus: when a card would fill up, I could easily throw it in the student’s file and pop in another one.
3. Status of the Class
Status of the Class is the perfect tool to keep track of student-driven projects or independent work time. Simply call out each student’s name, and then jot down their selected task on a class list. This works well for long-term processes involving steps, stages, or centers with which the students are already familiar, such as the Writer’s Workshop, the scientific method, or math or literacy stations. Some advantages include:
Stay informed of where you can coach students in their individual processes.
Teach students metacognition as you require them to give a brief statement explaining both the what and the why of their choice. (I would periodically model how that would sound right before taking Status of the Class to remind them how to explain their choice. For example: “I’m working on illustrating because I want to better visualize how to describe my characters,” or “I’m going to read to myself because I just got to a cliff-hanger in my book.”
Keep track of students who seem to be stuck in one place.
Maintain accountability for students who may get off-task during independent learning time.
If appropriate, give on-the-spot feedback as you help students learn to spend independent time wisely (ie, “I see you’ve chosen that 3 times in a row here. How else could you spend your time to help you grow?”)
Tips: Use wet-erase marker to write on a laminated class list chart, such as the one pictured, and keep it posted in the room so students can also keep track of how they’ve been spending their time. Make a key for your abbreviations on the bottom.
What are some of your favorite methods for practical formative assessments?
Featured Image: Elli Pálma via Flickr Creative Commons
We were impressed by one school’s use of Twitter for a teacher-led professional development chat. We’ve written on Twitter’s potential for professional development before, so we thought it would be a great idea to share what that looks like in action! We interviewed Principal Matt Webster (@MWebster158) and teacher Laura Komos (@LauraKomos) at Martin Elementary School to find out how they did it and how you can get started, too!
Q1: What’s one new (tech or non-tech) tool or idea you’ve tried with your kids recently?
Q2: What is a tool or technique you’d like to learn more about?
Q3: How are you utilizing the Collaboration Rooms in the Husky Hub?
Q4: What are your other students doing while you meet with small groups?
Q5: What does your Target/RtI time look like?
How often does your school’s staff have PD Twitter chats?
Matt: The #martin158 chat that you saw was a specific PD session at Martin today. We have a PD Menu at our school (new this year) that is driven and created by the teachers wants and needs. One of the October sessions happened to be Twitter as Resource. Part II of this PD session was a mock twitter chat for new users to experience and learn the ins and outs of a chat on Twitter. Other PD sessions offered over the next 2 months include:
40 Book Challenge
Picture Books to reinforce Figurative Language and Comprehension Strategies
Independent Practice Time – Differentiating
How does the Twitter chat support other PD at your school?
Matt: What we plan on doing is turning the #martin158 practice chat into a monthly chat where we can post questions and discussion on PD topics that have already happened or are upcoming.
How did you initially approach PD Twitter chats with the staff?
Matt: We introduced Twitter to the whole staff last year at a staff meeting (phones were required J). Followed that up with this PD Menu session and will continue it with monthly chats using #martin158
Tell us about some of the logistics of a staff Twitter chat.
Matt: For the PD, it was all staff interested staying after school experiencing it and asking questions together. We have 100 staff (1,025 kids 3rd-5th) so not all are interested. But the interest is growing. We ask a lot of questions as admin and try really hard to follow up. So if a teacher or group of teachers say they are interested in learning, in this case, how to use Twitter as a tool, then we make sure to offer it to them. I feel very fortunate to work with a lot of great people in this profession at this school. It’s not hard to find an “expert” to lead the way on a particular topic. Those interested step up and make it happen.
What are some of the effects of the chat on your staff?
Matt: As a result of today, people left excited–a number of them stayed and asked questions based on the tweets they read. I imagine by next week a few new ideas will have been tried in classrooms because of the chat today. Martin went 1:1 in 2012 and with that came a number of changes including a new reading curriculum, new technology of course, but also a new approach to PD and teacher support. I was the assistant principal that year and became the principal the following year (2013-2014). I see my primary role as an administrator at Martin, to one of support for our teachers so they can do what they do best which is to positively impact our students.
Laura: Since the chat, I have noticed several of the participants using Twitter to connect with colleagues from other schools in our district as well as teachers from other places. I’m excited to see what the future of #martin158 brings to our professional learning!
What have been some challenges of PD Twitter chats?
Matt: We haven’t encountered any thus far that have been problematic. We have a very passionate staff that want to do what’s best for their students and utilize new resources to do so. What is comfortable for some right now is using resources and relationships on twitter to grow their practice of teaching.
What advice would you have for other school administrators and teachers to get their schools started on PD Twitter chats?
Matt: As with anything else in education the first question should always be student focused… what do we want our students to learn? And then follow that up with, what will we do when they do/don’t learn it? For us, Twitter is just another tool or resource to help us design plans and lessons in an attempt to help our students learn. For other administrators I would simply say that if there is a desire to connect to other professionals, be inspired by other ideas, and connect to other people doing great things, then give it a try. A collaborative culture is present in every highly functioning school. Twitter allows you to take that one step further and collaborate with educators all over the world.
Beginning to teach at an International Baccalaureate school can be an intimidating experience. Terminology alone, from “transdisciplinary skills” to “line of inquiry,” can be difficult to understand and incorporate into teaching, especially if you have a background that emphasizes direct instruction. However, becoming familiar with the Action Cycle, or learning cycle, can help ease that transition–whether you’re a new IB teacher and or are simply interested in cultivating a more inquiry-based, student-driven classroom.