Sunday, March 15, 2015

Google classroom ... For FIRST grade!

I love 4th quarter!  It is often referred as my "experimental" quarter.  I have taught most skills needed and just have remediation groups, and enrichment groups.  It is also the PERFECT time to try new things in the classroom.  They have already learned the minimum they need to learn in first grade-  so trying something new is WAY less scary. 

I went to an educational tech conference 2 months ago and have been "itching" to try out a couple of things.  One of those has been Google Read and Write.  Google Read and Write is an extension that you can add on to chrome.  

My school is HUGE with Google.  We use gmail- live on Google Drive (which is the most amazing way to collaborate on things!) and even some teachers have "bit the bullet" and have "Google Classrooms."  I've been to many PD sessions about Google Classroom and thought- "oh- that would be great!  I HATE grading all of those tests and seem to ALWAYS be grading- during lunch, recess, home, walking down the hallway."  However-  I know that I still read the tests to my students and I don't want to read it 3 times.  We are EXTREMELY lucky and have 10 chrome books per classroom-  but with 27 kids and test taking online-  it wouldn't really help.  So I have "brushed" the idea of ever using Google classroom under the rug.  It just seemed like another PD that we attend that is not applicable to pk-1.  We are in our own little world in pk-1.  ...That is until I learned about Google Read and Write.  (I know it is Read and Write for Google- I just love writing it my way for some reason.)

Google Read and Write is the answer to my constant first grade teaching complaints. 
  • *"They can't do online research!"  
  • *"I found a great article on time 4 kids but only half of my class can read it!"  
  • *"I can't do a real PBL because I would have to do all of the research for them!  I don't have time for that!"  
  • *"I can't use Google Classroom because I would have to read them everything!"  
  • *"I just sometimes wish I taught second grade-  so in the first month of school they could come right in and read the morning message!"

Google Read and Write is not only making my kids more independent regardless of their reading level but also making me a better person.  I have WAY less complaints.  I didn't say I don't complain anymore-  just less.  ;-)

You might ask-  okay what is it and how much does it cost?

Google Read and Write can be added to any registered Google account on chrome in less than 5 minutes. Click here to see a 3 minute intro video.

 I am not the most techy person out there and I could easily figure it out.  Within 5 minutes a green rectangle will appear to the right in your search bar (I had to sign out and back in for it to appear.)

If you are online and want to read the webpage-  just click the green rectangle and a toolbar will pop up.  

Press the "play" button and the entire page will be highlighted and will be read to you.  There are many other options like taking away pictures so it is less distracting with just the text, changing voice type, voice speed, highlighting material and even a writing tool that has word suggestions pop up similar to my iPhone does when I'm typing plus much much more!  Reading items is just a small part of what this extension actually does.  

Now back to my Google Classroom complaint, "It isn't possible for first grade."  Boy-  was I ever wrong!  

All of my students have my classroom website bookmarked on their Google accounts.  All I did was add an easy to find clickable link to go to the Google classroom sign up page.  Students clicked the link.  Then clicked- "join classroom" and finally hit the plus sign at the top.  They entered in my class code- and were instantly enrolled into my Google classroom.  (My classroom took 5 minutes to set up on my end.)

On my teacher end I created a simple Google form with multiple choice answers that took 2 minutes to create.  I got the "link" for the form and entered it on my Google classroom page- (only taking 30 seconds.). I pressed "send" and it was sent out to my students.  (Well my one "guinea pig" student.)  This is similar to looking at a facebook wall.  There is a feed and if someone has a link-  it will appear under it.  (I HIGHLY recommend watching the Google Classroom overview that is located at the bottom of this blog post.)
With the Google Read and Write extension- all my students have to do is open up the test.  Then they click on the green rectangle to bring up the tool bar.  Then press play to have the test read to them.  They can pause it or go back and have it repeat sections.  My students can now take tests independently.  It doesn't have to be the same time and it even makes differentiating assessments faster.  I can just send specific tests to specific kids or create a test that advances you to a more difficult question if correct.  The possibilities are endless.  The best part-  with Flubaroo (a Google extension). It grades the assessment for you!!!!!  To communicate scores to parents- we just send home a quarter sheet paper where we circle their score or skill they need to work on.
Now  about the cost which is a HUGE factor!  There is good news and bad news.  The good news is that you get the reading feature for free to read Google Forms/ Docs.  The bad news is that the awesome web reading and other fun features are for the pay version.  You do however get the "premium" version free for a few days after signing up.  You can choose if that is something worth it for you.  I kinda want at least my teacher version to be premium (which you can get for free now) so kids can read their research for projects right on the computer.  
This week I am making a Google form version of our weekly Journeys comprehension assessment and going to try it out!  The Google classroom test form that we did last week worked so well!  I just need to make a quarter sheet p├órent communication form to send home regarding the student test results.  
Hopefully if you have been on the edge of Google Classroom you have been inspired to give it a try thanks to Google Read and Write!  

Here are more great informational videos:
*About Google docs (this was BEFORE classroom!)
*This is about how to set-up Google Classroom and capabilities on teacher and student side (This is a fast version- there are plenty of long tutorials out there- I REALLY like this one!)
*This is about how to create a Google form (This is what I use to create assessments that I add to the Google Classroom.)
***If only they gave me some free premium versions for singing their praises!  If you have that power and are reading this.  I will gladly accept some premium versions for free.  :). ***
Anyone else "experiment" 4th quarter?  What are you doing?  I need more projects to try!  :)


Sunday, March 1, 2015

Read Across America Comprehension FREEBIE

We have a lot of fun things planned all week for Read Across America.  We will have literacy night with bedtime stories and fun activities all week.  

These are 2 organizers that we will be using this week with Dr. Seuss books.   

Click to go to my TPT to download these comprehension organizers.

Have a great week!