A SPRINKLE OF TECHNOLOGY
Are you looking for some fun holiday activities for your students? Google just might have you covered with Santa's Village!
This nifty webpage is full of fun, interactive games including coding, critical thinking puzzles, translating common holiday phrases in multiple languages, and even information on holiday traditions around the world. And, it looks like they will be adding a new game each day until Christmas!
Here are some details about some of my favorite games in Santa's Village so far:
In this game, users must manipulate different gadgets, such as springs and conveyor belts to make the present drop into Santa's bag. Each level has a specific number of items that can be used and the puzzles become more difficult as the levels increase.
This would be great for critical thinking, problem solving, and teamwork in the classroom!
It's important that students understand that different cultures have different holiday traditions. Click on various locations around the world and learn about their special holiday customs.
3. Code Lab
This game is another great way to practice simple coding in the classroom! Users must use the designated code blocks to maneuver the elf to the present. Each square in the grid requires one move or block. Hit the play button at the bottom to watch your code play out.
This an interactive canvas FULL of creative options! Students can create images with backgrounds, digital markers, spray paint, jingle bells, and falling snow! After finishing their project, users can download the image and print it out.
Ideas for the classroom:
1. Code Boogie
There are two versions to this game - Dance class and Dance freestyle.
Dance Freestyle allows users to create their own moves and then share their creation through a link or on social media.
"In fifteen years we’ll be teaching programming just like reading and writing . . . and wondering why we didn’t do it sooner."
The Hour of Code is a global movement to teach kids all over the world about computer science. The goal in doing this is to help break stereotypes and leave students feeling empowered. The fundamental theme behind this movement is that ANYONE can code and ANYONE can learn.
The idea of coding can be intimidating, which is why many teachers avoid it. However, there are many programs and resources out there that can make the beginning process incredibly easy and FUN! Most programs start off very simple and then increase in difficulty as you go and there are resources available for K-12 classrooms.
Below are 4 of my favorite resources for introducing coding to your students.
If you are interested in The Hour of Code, hourofcode.com is a great place to start. It has promotion ideas & resources, student-guided tutorials and linked activities for all grade levels - including pre-reader all the way to high school.
Students can filter activities based on technology, topics, coding language and more.
3. Swift Playground (iOS app for iPads)
Swift Playground is an app specifically for iPads that turns learning to code into a fun, interactive set of games called "Playgrounds". Students will solve interactive puzzles in order to learn the core concepts and language of coding.
Using a drag/drop feature at first, students will work their way through the levels writing single lines of code to control a character with specific commands. For example, the task in a beginning level could be as simple as moving the character from one square to another. After creating the code, students can immediately try it out to see how it will play out. The immediate feedback helps facilitate engagement and excitement!
2. Made w/Code by Google
According to the Made w/Code website, 74% of girls in the United States express interest in STEM in middle school; however, by high school, only 0.4% of teen girls plan to pursue or major in Computer Science. Made w/Code by Google was started to encourage teen girls to follow their passion for science and technology.
There are many projects to check out on the website, but Wonder Woman is a fun way to get started. Students will work to create sequences to help Wonder Woman escape the scene. As the levels increase, so does the difficulty. Within in a few levels students will be exposed to variables, sequences, loops, and conditionals!
According to their website, Cord.org is a non-profit organization dedicated to expanding access to computer science and increasing participation with girls and underrepresented minorities. If you are interested in trying out simple coding for yourself or your students - this is the place to start!
There are lots of FREE games, courses and resources (including posters, handouts, and videos) to help you promote coding or Hour of Code in your school or district.
The Hour of Code page has resources for all ages and students can choose a game that interests them. Here are a few places to start:
Star Wars - Build a Galaxy with Code
Use code to join Anna and Elsa as they explore the magic and beauty of ice! The game starts out with a video to engage and tell students a little bit about coding before they begin.
An Hour of Code classic! Use the Angry Birds characters to try out the basics of computer science and coding.
As a teacher, there are lots of times that I want my students to visit a specific webpage, but having students type in a URL is not always possible. Sometimes the link is 57 characters long and nearly impossible to type out. Other times, I have a group of students who, for many reasons, CAN'T type out the address.
QR codes can be a very quick an easy solution to any of these problems.
First, here are 2 main things that you need to know about QR codes:
1. QR codes are connected to URLs or data on the web.
A QR code can be connected to a specific URL. So, whenever someone scans a QR code, the connected URL will automatically open on the mobile device without the user having to type or search anything!
2. Users must have a QR Reader app installed on a mobile device to "read" the QR code.
Think about this like the scanner at the grocery store - the checker scans the bar codes to determine the price of each item. QR codes work in a similar way, except your phone or tablet is the scanner and the QR code will take you to a specific URL.
There are tons of QR reader apps in the app store - search for "QR reader". Choose a reader that is FREE and has high ratings.
Once the app is installed, users can find a QR code, scan it and wait for the corresponding URL to open on the device! It's that easy!
QR Code Creators
There are a lot of QR code creators, but I find that I use the goo.gl extension most often. With this extension, users can get a QR code for any webpage with just a single click of the mouse.
First, you'll need to make sure that you are in the Chrome browser. Then, go to the Chrome Web Store and search for goo.gl. Click the blue Add to Chrome button and add the extension.
All installed extensions will display between the omnibox and the Chrome menu.
Note: You only need to install this extension once - it will stay on your device until you remove it.
Creating a QR Code
Now, let's get to the good stuff - creating the QR code! First, go to a link or URL that you would like to share with others. For this example, I am going to share the link to a Google Form.
Once you are at the correct URL, click the goo.gl extension icon and select QR Code.
If you want to place this QR code in a document, you can right click and save it or copy it. If you save it, be sure to name it appropriately so that you can identify it later.
If you want students to scan the QR code directly from the screen, simply click on the QR code to open it in its own window.
If you want to enlarge the QR code, hold the CTRL key and press the + sign until the QR code is the desired size.
That's all there is to it! Once the QR code is made anyone with a QR reader app can scan to code and go directly to the attached webpage!
QR Code Ideas
Listening Station - Students scan the QR code and they are taken to a video of a book being read out loud.
Number Writing Station - Students scan the QR code to a video explaining how to write numbers or letters.
Teacher Pay Teachers - Check out more free QR code ideas HERE!
Sticky Notes are fabulous - most of us use them every day. But, did you know that you can actually use your PRINTER to print things on the notes, too?! Check out this easy tutorial for how to make it happen!
Now, this same thing can be done using PowerPoint, but if you know anything about me, you already know that I will be using Google Slides instead! So, open a new Google Slides presentation in your Drive.
You'll need to change the slide size to accommodate the sticky notes. Go to File > Page Set Up. Then, select Custom and change the size of each slide to 7.5 x 7.5 inches. The slides should now appear to be a square rather than a rectangle.
Now, put whatever you would like to be on the sticky note on each slide. You can insert images, insert text & shapes - anything you want! For this example, so that all of my notes will be the same, I created a check list for problem solving to put on each student's desk. But remember, each slide does not have to be identical! Experiment and put something different on each slide! For example, put names, classroom jobs/chores, vocabulary, characters in a novel, site words - the sky is the limit!
If you do decide to put the same thing on each slide, once the original slide is complete, hover over it and right click. Then, select Duplicate Slide. Do this 5 times so that you have a total of 6 slides. If you are putting something different on each slide, add as many slides as you need.
Now you are ready to print! Go to File > Print settings and preview. Select Handout - 6 slides per page. You can print in landscape or portrait - either will work. Then, hit the print button!
Once it has printed, put a sticky note over each slide on the paper. The notes should line up with the squares on the paper almost perfectly. Then, put your new sticky-note-loaded paper in to the printer and print again! VIOLA! Printed sticky notes!
I have tried this method using generic sticky notes on both laser jet and inkjet printers with no issues. There are sticky notes that are used specifically for printers, so if you are nervous about jamming or damaging your printer, you might want to invest in those.
I was VERY sad when Google disabled the Research tool within Docs. This tool was one of my favorite things to show teachers and students - it was pretty much guaranteed to get a "Google can do WHAT?!" reaction. But, over the summer, Google changed the Research feature to Explore and disabled the citation feature. Users could still search for a topic through the Google search engine while in the document, but the automatic citation feature was no longer available.
Luckily, Google listens to its users! After receiving feedback from teachers and students when this citation feature was taken away, Google has now officially added it back into Docs! It looks a little bit different, but it is still basically the same process.
First, open a new Google Doc in your Drive.
Let's pretend that you are writing a research paper over William Shakespeare. You can conduct a Google search over Shakespeare without ever leaving the Google Doc! First, select Tools > Explore. A search box will appear on the right side of the screen. Now, type in the topic that you want to search. This will generate a Google search with live links related to the search request. You can click on any of the links and the page will open in a new tab!
Once you've searched and found the information that you want, you can automatically site the website(s) as a footnote! First, place the cursor where you would like for the citation to be and then hover over the link that needs to be cited. Look for a large " symbol to the right of the link and CLICK IT! The link will be cited AUTOMATICALLY!
The default citation format will be MLA, but maybe you need it in Chicago? Or APA? NO PROBLEM! Scroll up to the top of the search menu and click the three dots on the right side. Click on the format that you would like to use for the citation!
Collecting digital work from students can be overwhelming. Many teachers ask that students share the assignments through email, but a teacher can receive hundreds of emails from students and it can be difficult to organize and keep all of the assignments straight.
Try creating a digital dropbox through Google Forms! Teachers can create a single Google Form and have students use the same link all year to turn in assignments. Then, at the end of the year, the teacher has a single spreadsheet that contains links to every assignment students have turned in along with a timestamp showing when each assignment was submitted! The best part? It's REALLY EASY TO DO!
First, open your Google Drive. To access your Google Drive, go to www.drive.google.com and log in.
Then, create a new Form. Click the blue New button and select Google Forms.
Title the form and make sure that the first question requires students to put their name. After you type "Name:" in the question blank, Google should automatically change the format to short answer! You could also add a question for class period if you have multiple classes.
Create a question that allows students to select the assignment they are turning in. You can choose to make this a drop down menu and add different assignments as the year progresses. Any time you add items to the list throughout the year, the link for the form will automatically update - it is a true working document!
Include one more question that requires students to paste the direct link to the assignment in the form. Most digital assignments will have a link that can be shared to access the project or assignment.
Now your form is ready to be shared with students! Click the preview icon in the top right corner (it looks like an eye) to see the form as students will see it. There are several ways to share the form, but my favorite way is to create a customized shortened URL so that students can memorize the link and can go to it quickly throughout the year. You can also have the link posted somewhere in your room or/and in Google Classroom.
My favorite customized URL creator is the Bit.ly extension. Click HERE to download it now. Once the extension is installed, you will need to create a free account. After you have created that account, you can quickly click the extension icon while visiting a webpage and it will allow you to create a customized URL for easy sharing!
Now, anytime a student goes to bit.ly/sprinkdropbox (no need for www. or .com) the student will automatically be taken to my dropbox form! Then, all of the assignments submitted are thrown into a single spreadsheet for me to access in my Drive!
Thanksgiving is in less than 2 weeks! Below are a few fun online Thanksgiving games that can be used on interactive boards, in small group, or in the computer lab. I've also included a few non-technology resources, too! Have fun!
Thanksgiving Challenge (ABCya!)
This game involves critical thinking and categorizing. Players must place family members at the Thanksgiving table based on specific likes and dislikes.
Thanksgiving Sodoku (Primary Games)
Sodoku with a Thanksgiving twist! This will definitely call for critical thinking and strategy!
Unscramble the letters to form a phrase about turkeys.
Thanksgiving Word Search (ABCya!)
Players have the option of choosing a small board with smaller words or a larger grid with bigger words so it works for K-5! The puzzles can be printed or played online.
Not everything has to be about Technology! Honestly, the strongest memories that I have of elementary school are the holiday crafts that we made each year! Of course, that might be because my mother saved every holiday craft my brother and I ever made in school and brings them out each year as she decorates her house. That is definitely something that I plan to do with my children, too!
15 Craft Ideas (Woman's Day)
Woman's Day posted an article with links to 15 different craft ideas and activities to do with kids around Thanksgiving. My favorite is number 16 - creating a Thanksgiving bracelet! Kids use a pipe cleaner and colored beads to retell the story of the first Thanksgiving - SO CUTE!
Free Thanksgiving Printables (Teachers Pay Teacher)
Teachers Pay Teachers has loads of great FREE printable activities to use for the holidays. Some of my favorites are Shopping for Thanksgiving Dinner - A Math Activity and Thanksgiving I Have...Who Has? loop game.
I can hardly believe that CHRISTMAS IS RIGHT AROUND THE CORNER!
Recently, as I prepared for a presentation over apps that can be used to improve or monitor behavior, I came across an interesting app. To be honest, I wasn't sure I felt about it at first. But, I've decided that the power of using it for GOOD (and not evil) makes it worth a share.
The A Call from Santa! app brings a little magic to your device. The app allows users to send and receive personalized phone calls from the big man himself - Santa Claus! Users open the app, and have the option to call Santa immediately or request a call back at a specified time.
When calling Santa, users will reach Santa's voicemail and can then choose from 7 options including sending Santa a Christmas wishlist, putting someone on the naughty or nice list, and checking the weather at the North Pole.
Users can also request a call back from Santa. In this option, users select the child's age, gender, the reason that Santa is calling, and when the call should be sent. Users can choose from options such as "Put on nice list because...", "Check if still behaving", or "Ensure that Santa is real". There are other options, but I would encourage you to use this app to praise positive behavior!
Click HERE to download for Android.
Click HERE to download for iOS.
Want to see the app in action? Check out the quick video below!
OpenDyslexic is a new open source font that was created to increase readability for readers with dyslexia! You can download the font for FREE for both commercial and personal use at opendyslexic.org.
Not only can you download the font to use in documents, but they have also created a FREE EXTENSION that can be used in the Chrome browser! Once the extension is turned on, it will automatically override all fonts on any webpage with the OpenDyslexic font for easier readability!
The overview of the OpenDyslexic extension in the Chrome Web Store explains the reasoning behind the font:
"Your brain can sometimes do funny things to letters. OpenDyslexic tries to help prevent some of these things from happening. Letters have heavy weighted bottoms to add a kind of "gravity" to each letter. You are able to quickly figure out which part of the letter is down because of this feature. It aids in recognizing the correct letter, and sometimes helps to keep your brain from rotating them around. Consistently weighted bottoms can also help reinforce the line of text. The unique shapes of each letter can help prevent confusion through flipping and swapping."
Check out the extension in action below.
WEBPAGE WITHOUT OPENDYSLEXIC EXTENSION
WEBSITE WITH OPENDYSLEXIC EXTENSION
To add the extension to a computer, first download the extension in the Chrome Web Store. Then, once it has been added to the toolbar, be sure to click the extension icon to make sure that it is turned ON. Afterwards, every webpage will automatically format with the OpenDyslexic font!
Are you interested in learning another language? Duolingo is a website (app available for iOS and Android) that allows users to learn English, Spanish, French, German, Italian and more FOR FREE! And, if you create an account, the site or app will track your progress as you go! You can also set daily goals for yourself and change the goals at any time.
The lessons start off very basic and increase in difficulty. Check out Lesson 1 for Spanish below.
I would definitely encourage anyone to give this resource a try. It is fun, easy, and FREE! Teachers, think about using it as a station in your classroom - Students (and their parents) would love it!
I am a teacher, Digital Learning Specialist, presenter, wife, mom, Google nerd, and life long learner. I am dedicated to finding and sharing easy, quick, and engaging resources for use in every classroom!