Monday, August 30, 2021

Five Ideas for Using Google Jamboard This Fall

A couple of weeks ago I published an excerpt from The Practical Ed Tech Handbook. That excerpt mentioned a couple of ways to use Google Jamboard in online and in-person classroom settings. This morning I had a reader reach out to me to ask if I had any other suggestions that she could pass along to the teachers in her middle school. Between my blog and my YouTube channel I was able to come up with five ideas for using Jamboard in your classroom this fall. 

Group Brainstorming Sessions
Jamboard can be used to host group brainstorming sessions. In larger classes I break students into smaller groups and have each group work on a specific page within the Jamboard session. At the end of the session we review the ideas from each page and put the most popular ones on a final page. Here's an overview of how to use Jamboard in Google Classroom

Map Labeling Activities
I like to use Jamboard to create templates for activities for students to complete. Last summer I made a mapping template to show a colleague how Jamboard can be used in a geography lesson. The process for using Jamboard to create mapping activities can be seen in this video.

Magnetic Poetry
This is an activity in which you create a template that has a bunch of words within little boxes made to resemble refrigerator magnets. You then distribute the template to your students for them to arrange the magnets to create poems. The process for making magnetic poetry activities can be seen here.

Philosphical Chairs
This is a use for Jamboard that was inspired by a question a reader named Chuck sent to me last fall. The idea is to have students move their avatars around the Jamboard to indicate their positions on a given discussion topic. Here's a video explanation of how the activity works.

Create Instructional Videos
Combine the use of a screencasting tool like Screencastify with a series of Jamboard pages and you can create an instructional video. The benefit of using Jamboard as your drawing tool instead of just using the built-in drawing tools in a screencasting tool is that you can distribute your Jamboard drawings and pages separately from the video if you want to. Here's how to use Screencastify and Jamboard together to make an instructional video. 

Three Short Lessons About Labor Day

Next Monday is Labor Day in the U.S. For most of us it is a three day weekend. It is the traditional "end of summer" in the minds of many of us. If you're planning to answer questions about Labor Day or teach any lessons about it, here are some short videos to add to your list of resources.

Why Do Americans and Canadians Celebrate Labor Day? is a TED-Ed Lesson about the origins of Labor Day. In addition to learning about the origin of Labor Day students can learn a bit about changes in labor regulations over time.



History of the Holidays is a series of videos from History. Each installment explains a different holiday. The Labor Day video is embedded below.



PBS Kids offers a short animated overview of the history of Labor Day. It's not nearly as detailed as the two videos I've listed above, but it's probably adequate for elementary school kids.



For more resources for teaching about Labor Day, take a look at this list compiled by Larry Ferlazzo.

Five Ways to Use Comics in Your Classroom This Fall

Disclosure: Make Beliefs Comix is a new advertiser on this site. 

Creating comics is one of my favorite creativity exercises.When I was a kid I loved flipping through books of Peanuts comics. Unfortunately, I could never draw as well as Charles Schultz. Today, thanks to tools like Make Beliefs Comix, you don’t have to be good at drawing in order to create comics.

In the classroom and in my personal life I’ve always felt that creating a comic is a fun way to illustrate a story and or make a statement. To that end, here are five ways to think about using comics in your classroom this fall.

Express Emotions and Tell Personal Stories
Adults don’t always have the right words to express what they’re feeling and kids definitely don’t have all of the right words. That’s why for years I’ve recommended having kids create comics to express their feelings and tell their stories. Make Beliefs Comix in particular is an excellent platform for students to use to create their own comics to tell their stories. In fact, the founder of Make Beliefs Comix had that in mind when he started creating these comic story starters and this daily comic diary template

Make Beliefs Comix has a few features that make it a great platform for students to use to create and tell their stories. First, students don’t have to be artists to create their own comics on Make Beliefs Comix. They simply have to select scenes and characters from a large gallery of premade drawings. After doing that students can add dialogue boxes and write their stories. Second, Make Beliefs Comix supports the use of fourteen languages. This makes it a great option for students to write in the language of their choice to tell their stories. Third, students who need a little bit of help starting their stories can avail themselves of the “All About Me” story template available in Make Beliefs Comix. 

Practice a New Language
For the new school year Make Beliefs Comix is launching a new feature that enables students and teachers to make audio recordings. (That feature will be available soon). Combined with support for writing in fourteen languages, the audio recording component of Make Beliefs Comix makes a great tool for students to practice writing and speaking in a new language.

Create Historical Fiction
When I taught U.S. History I tried to get my students to think about what life was like for ordinary people during the periods they were studying. Creating historical fiction stories is one way that I attempted to get my students to think about and write about what life was like for people living in the time periods we were studying. For example, I would ask them to think about what daily life was like for the family of an immigrant factory worker during the industrial revolution. One year, after I gave that prompt, a student asked me if he could draw characters for his story. I agreed and it turned out to be my inspiration for future classes to create historical fiction comics.

Tools like Make Beliefs Comix make it possible for anyone to create a comic even if they’re not adept at drawing. Simply pick some characters, a background scene, and speech bubbles from the design menu and then write a story.

Teach Empathy
Make Beliefs Comix has an entire section dedicated to SEL (Social Emotional Learning). In that section you will find prompts for creating comics in which students express how they’re feeling and how they feel about what they’re seeing in the world. Additionally, you can have students go beyond making simple comics and complete ebook templates offered by Make Beliefs Comix. Those ebook templates, some of which I’ve featured in the past, are full of prompts for writing about courage, dreams, and joy.

Model Behaviors
As the new school year begins, consider creating your own little comics to illustrate the behaviors that you want students to practice in your classroom. Print them out and place them in your classroom. These could be comics about lab safety procedures, how to behave in the lunchroom, or what to do when they hear someone being mean to another student.

Watch this short video (embedded below) to get started making your own comics with Make Beliefs Comix.



Key Make Beliefs Comix Features to Note
  • Students don’t need email addresses to create on Make Beliefs Comix.
  • Students can create comics with as few as three frames or as many as eighteen frames.
  • Make Beliefs Comix offers support for fourteen languages!
  • Hundreds of writing prompts are available in Make Beliefs Comix.

Sunday, August 29, 2021

Three Good Places to Find Current Events Stories for Students

Last week I wrote about using the BBC's Week in Pictures as a source of current events discussion starters. Following up on that idea, here are some other good places to find current events stories written for kids. 

For many years CNN Student News was one of my go-to resources when I was teaching current events courses. Today, CNN Student News is called CNN 10. CNN 10 provides good, short overviews of the previous day's important new stories. A written transcript accompanies every episode. 

DOGOnews is a student news site that features articles for K-8 students. DOGOnews covers current events stories in the areas of science, sports, entertainment, and variety of topics that fall under the banner of social studies. Teachers can find stories by browsing the categories, filtering by grade level, or filtering by grade level.

PBS NewsHour Extra is a good site for middle school and high school students. The site offers a searchable database of articles. A searchable database of lesson plans is also available on PBS NewsHour Extra.