Google+ and Google Drive to Use Digital Resources in the Classroom

So you want to start incorporating digital products into your classroom, cutting back on paper, and giving your students some contemporary and new assignments…but you don’t have Google Classroom?

No problem!

You can see my initial post on digital resources and creating a shared Google account for you and your students. This is probably the easiest method, and I would recommend giving it a try. But- if you don’t want to create a shared account, and you strongly prefer that every student has their own account, then you’re in the right place!

First start off by creating a new Google account. This account will be for your classroom use only,  so consider that when creating your user name.

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Your students will also need their Google accounts. Before they make theirs, I have two suggestions:

  1. Ask your students if they already have one that they are using in another class that they can also use for your class.
  2. Give students the option to create an account that is for school use only instead of using their personal one so they can stay more focused (imagine logging in to your personal email in the middle of a lesson- easy distractions!)

If your students need to make an account, remind them to keep it simple and school related. For example: JaneDoeWHS (name and school). Their passwords should also be simple and you can opt to have them write it down in a safe place where you can keep track in case they forget.

Once they create their account, they will need to search for you under your school Google account and follow you. This done using Google+.  Creating Circles (groups) on Google+ is a good way to organize your students. You can also use Google+ to communicate to specific circles/classes using Google+, like reminding them when an assignment is due or sharing an article.

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Once the students are in Google+, they just need to search for your Google account name and follow you. You will also need to follow them back. Be sure they follow you first, because it will be much easier to find all your students!

Go to Google+, select People from the left hand menu, then FOLLOWERS. When you see your students’ names under followers, be sure to follow them back!

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Now that everyone is following each other, you’ll need to create groups to organize them. On Google these are called circles.

In the People menu, click on FOLLOWING. Scroll to the bottom and create a new circle for each class that you are using Google Drive with. Once these circles are made, you’ll be able to add each student to the circle accordingly.

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Click on each student’s name and add them to the circle. 

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The last step before sharing is to create a shared folder for each class. This is done using Google Drive. (Be sure to use your Google account that you’ve created for school use).

In Google Drive, create a new folder using the blue NEW button. It will prompt you for a name. You could name it by class to start and add more folders to it later if you wanted to get more specific.

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Then, share the folder by going to share and selecting “Advanced”.

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Then, select the Google+ icon.
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Click on “Share to Google+”.

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You will first be prompted to share publicly. Do not share publicly.

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When your student logs in to his or her school Google account, they should go to Google+ to see the shared folder. This is what they will see on their Google+ page:

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This folder is key, because from now on you can add any assignments to the folder and they will have access. *Note:  You could skip this step and share it with them by typing in their email addresses instead, but I find this to be much less time consuming and like I said, it’s nice to have the Google+ option as a way to communicate with the students, too! This link takes them straight to their Google Drive, where they can see it under “Shared with me.”

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That shared folder will remain in their Drive- now all you need to do is add assignments to it and have students get to work! You can also add subfolders to it to stay organized.  Any documents you add to the folder will automatically show up on their end since this is a shared folder. But remember- the assignment you add must be VIEW ONLY – have students make a copy of it in their drive. If you’d like to read more on this next step, you can read about in my blog post titled “How  to Assign Digital Activities using Google Drive” (coming soon!)

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Tips for Starting Interactive Notebooks in Your Classroom

Interactive notebooks are designed to enable students to be creative, independent thinkers and writers. Interactive notebooks could also be used for class notes or for activities where the student will be asked to express his/her own ideas and process the information presented in class. Requirements vary from teacher to teacher, there is no one right way to implement them.

Some teachers have a love-hate relationship with interactive notebooks (love because it invites student pride and hands on learning; hate because it requires gluing), some teachers are intimidated by them, some teachers could not imagine their classrooms without them.

If you’ve heard the hype, but are still unsure, here are some tips to adjust the learning curve so that you ease into interactive notebooks.

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Tip #1) To use the composition notebook or not to use the composition notebook? If you are intimidated by the change, you can skip the composition notebook at first and start with a binder that contains loose leaf paper. This leaves room for traditional classwork as well as INB activities so that you can slowly incorporate.

Tip #2) Left, Right, Left, Right- Right? In a traditional interactive notebook, the left and right sides are categorized.
Typically, the left page is for the student to personalize with some guidance from the teacher. This is referred to as the output side. Examples: pre-assessments, quick writes, KWLs, demonstrations used to provoke student thought, post reflections, summaries, student made diagrams or charts). A quick way to remember this is the left side LOVES creativity. Students may need guidance with the left hand side the first couple months of school. As they get used to it, they will become more independent.

The right side of the INB is the information side (notes, vocabulary, lab procedures and data, concept maps). This is typically referred to as the input side. A quick way to remember this is the Right side is Restricted- only information given by the teacher belongs on the right side.

The right side is traditional. The left side gives it that interactive feel.

Tip #3) Assigning Sides vs. Sequential- If the left and right pages seem challenging for your students, or if you are unsure if you’d like to start off with this design, you can certainly implement the INB using the sequential method. This simply means that students add content as it is received. This is a good method to start with if you’re biggest hurdle is assigning “sides”. You can omit them completely and just assign each page to whichever activity, quiz, or set of notes you happen to be on. You can always switch to left-right sides once you’re more familiar.

Tip #4) Always keep a table of contents no matter if you are using a binder or a composition notebook or using left-right pages or sequential pages. Have students number their pages. You should leave room at the beginning of the notebook for their table of contents (about 4-5 pages worth).

Tip #5) Simple templates with high academic value- If you haven’s used foldables or INBs in your class before, I recommend starting out with foldables that are simple in design but offer high academic value.  I offer more info about this in my newsletter. 

Tip #6) Students should help out with materials – Ask students to provide their own markers, glue sticks, scissors, rulers, and colored pencils/markers and to be responsible for their materials (but have some backup materials of course). You can also have students keep post it notes for the left side of their notebook.

Tip #7) Encourage students to make it their own! Encourage students to use color on the personal side of their notebook. Color can help organize thoughts and information.

Tip #8) Grading Notebooks- Some of the notebook components can be peer-graded to help you save time. You can do random or announced notebook checks. A common practice is to fold the upper corner of the page you left off at to mark the grade. This way you know where you left off.

Tip #10) Rough Drafts and Master Copies – If you want to give INBs a try next year, spend a few minutes each day as you teach creating a rough draft of what you want your interactive notebook to look like for the following school year. This. is. HUGE. If you have not done an interactive notebook before, it’s helpful (and sane) to have a general guide of what it will look like. This can be your rough draft for ideas, questions, general layout of pages, etc. And as you go along, you can create a master copy of your interactive notebook. This will be a useful tool for not only yourself to use for years to come, but for students, too! Feeling ambitious? Have the first unit of your INB in a master copy before the first day of school.  But however you’re feeling, have a rough draft at the very least ready to go before you jump in feet first.

One final additional tip- if you are using composition notebooks, and you found a really great worksheet or foldable that wasn’t designed for interactive notebooks, you can change your printer settings to adjust the size to 80-90% of the original. This will make it fit better!

The only right way to do interactive notebooks is the way that works in your classroom!  Each year you can make changes as needed as some ideas work and some do not.  My newsletter offers lots of advice- from taking sick days to implementing INBs. Subscribe to find out more.

If you’re still not sure if you want to take the plunge- do some additional research. I recommend taking the interactive notebook plunge published by the California Science Teachers Association to help address some of your concerns. Good luck!

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Tips for interactive notebooks | Tips for starting interactive notebooks in your classroom