Monday, January 4, 2021

Boomwriter's Writing Bee - A Unique Creative Writing Contest for Kids

Disclosure: Boomwriter is currently an advertiser on my blog. 

Boomwriter’s Writing Bee is a free event that takes a unique approach to inspiring elementary and middle school students to participate in a creative writing project. 

A traditional student writing contest basically gives students a prompt and tells them to “go write” and then months later a few students find out that they’ve won. Boomwriter’s Writing Bee is not a traditional writing contest at all. Boomwriter’s Writing Bee provides opportunities for students to get feedback throughout the writing process and it provides you with lesson plans to support your students’ involvement in the Writing Bee.

Who Can Participate
Boomwriter’s Writing Bee starts now and runs through May. It’s open to all third through eighth grade classrooms who are registered by their teachers. To register your classroom simply head to the 2021 Writing Bee webpage and click “Create my Class Writing Bee.” You’ll find that button centered between images of Jeff Kinney and Jerry Craft.

How it Works
The Writing Bee asks students to write their own middle and end chapters to complete a story that was started by Jeff Kinney (the author of the Wimpy Kid series) or by Jerry Craft (author of the Newbery Medal-winning New Kid). Students read the story starter provided by Kinney or Craft inside of their Boomwriter online classroom, watch a short video introduction, and then start writing.

Boomwriter’s writing platform provides you with a place to see all of your students’ stories in progress and give them feedback. What’s unique about Boomwriter is that when students have finished writing their stories those stories can be read by their classmates without knowing who wrote which story. Students can read small batches of their classmates’ stories then vote for their favorite story. In the Writing Bee there is a winner for the favorite middle chapter and favorite ending chapter in each classroom. The winning authors from each classroom are then invited to the online Writing Bee finals that will take place in May 2021.

Key Points to Consider
Any third through eighth grade classroom can participate in Boomwriter’s Writing Bee. Boomwriter provides free access to their platform for the entirety of your classroom’s participation in the Writing Bee.

The Writing Bee is completely online so you can use it whether your classroom is online, in-person, or hybrid of both.

Boomwriter provides supporting materials for you to use throughout the Writing Bee. These materials include vocabulary activities, graphic organizers to help students organize their story ideas, and lesson guides. You can also check out my YouTube channel for a video overview of how the Boomwriter Writing Bee platform looks from a teacher’s perspective and from a student’s perspective.

Finally, Boomwriter provides an option for you to have your students’ writing printed as a softcover book. That’s available whether your students win the whole Writing Bee or not.


Sign-up and get your class started on the Writing Bee today. 

A Demonstration of Sworkit Kids

Just before the winter (summer) holiday break I published a short article about using Sworkit Kids to lead your students in fun brain break activities during long classes. If you missed that article, the gist of it is that Sworkit Kids provides you with short videos of dozens of exercises that you and your students can do right in your classroom for a few minutes or more. In this short video I provide a demonstration of how to use Sworkit Kids. 

How to Add a Dynamic "Latest News" Section to Google Sites

A couple of weeks ago a reader emailed me with a question about creating a Google Site that her colleagues could comment on. She wanted to have a section in her site that had tips and news for colleagues who could then ask her questions about those tips. 

The old version of Google Sites had a commenting function built into it. Unfortunately, the current version of Google Sites doesn't have a commenting function built into it. There is a work-around that can work if you're sharing your Google Site with your colleagues and or students in the same G Suite for Education domain. 

To create a news section that automatically updates in Google Sites and that your colleagues and or students can comment on, use a Google Document embedded into a page in your Google Site. To do this you'll create your Google Document then change its access permissions to allow anyone in your domain to comment on it. Then you'll embed the document into a page on your Google Site. Whenever you update the Google Document, the updated version will appear on your Google Site as well. In this short video I demonstrate the whole process of creating a dynamic news section in Google Sites. 

Saturday, January 2, 2021

How to Add an Announcement Banner to Google Sites

The "new version" of Google Sites that was released in 2016 is finally the only version that is available. And now Google seems intent on making Sites competitive with some of the more popular DIY website builders. To that end, a lot of handy little features have been added to Google Sites over the last eighteen months. One of those features is the ability to add a sticky announcement banner at the top of the pages in your Google Site. 

An announcement banner offers a good way to draw attention to something important that you don't want your students or their parents to miss when they visit your Google Site. This could be a reminder to return some paperwork, a reminder about an upcoming test, or anything else that you want to make sure they see when they visit your site. You can have an announcement banner appear on every page on your Google Site or on just the homepage of your site. In the following video I demonstrate how to add an announcement banner to your Google Site. 

Whiteboards, Drawings, and New Snow - The Week in Review

Good morning from Maine where fluffy snow is falling from the sky in the early morning hours. My kids will be excited to see it when they wake up. My oldest will want to ski on the new snow and my youngest will want to eat the snow. 

This week I took a break from writing new blog posts and republished some of the most popular posts of the year. During the week I took some time to play outside with my kids and on my own day when I headed up to my favorite mountain, Saddleback. I feel recharged and ready for school to start again next week. I hope this week treated you well too. 

These were the most popular posts of the week:
1. Five Ways to Make Whiteboard Instructional Videos in Your Web Browser
2. Draw on Your Screen in Google Meet
3. Rubrics for Assessing Videos, Podcasts, Blogs, and More
4. Five Easy Ways to Improve Your Videos
5. A Few Interesting Ways to Use Google Slides Besides Making Presentations 
6. 5 Google Classroom Tips You Might Have Overlooked or Forgotten
7. How to Make Digital Bookshelves in Google Slides

Professional Development Opportunities 
Through Practical Ed Tech I'm currently offering two on-demand learning opportunities:
Thank you for your support! 
  • More than 300 of you have participated in a Practical Ed Tech course in 2020. Those registrations help keep Free Technology for Teachers and Practical Ed Tech going. I couldn't do it without you!
  • Pixton EDU is a great tool for creating comics and storyboards. 
  • Wakelet is a great tool for making collections of resources, recording video, and more!
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  • The Practical Ed Tech Newsletter comes out every Sunday evening/ Monday morning. It features my favorite tip of the week and the week's most popular posts from Free Technology for Teachers.
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  • I've been Tweeting as @rmbyrne for thirteen years. 
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