Are you using Google Classroom? I started using it a few years ago and I LOVE it! Fun fact: You
don’t need to be a 1:1 school to use it! I have access to a shared Chromebook cart and use Google
Classroom every day. I have embraced the power of digital learning in my classroom and you can, too.

The Basics
Google Classroom is a free web service for schools, non-profits, or anyone with a personal Google
Account. It helps educators to connect with students and can be used to encourage collaboration
between students, collaboration between teachers, and to streamline and manage assignments.
Google Classroom can also help teachers move towards a paperless environment.

Many school district’s use a G Suite for Education account. Teachers and students log in with an email address specific to the school. The school’s admin team or technology coordinator usually distributes the information needed. Very often the email addresses are not actual email addresses. Districts can choose whether or not to allow students to access the email features. You can use Google Classroom with a personal Google account, too. Make sure you check in with your district before getting started. You can find out more about G Suite for Education with a simple Google search.

Make it easy on yourself and develop a system for keeping track of the passwords. My students fill out a
password card and glue it into their student planners. I also keep a file on my computer for when a
student forgets his/her password. If you are interested in a set of the password cards click here.

Benefits
Google Classroom is super easy to implement. Sign up, create a class, add students, and go! Teachers can share information, announcements, assignments, and questions quickly and easily. Google Classroom's recent update is a game changer for organization. All students see the same information and it is centrally located. Students can see what tasks and assignments need to be completed and when they are due.


Getting Started
Are you ready? Woo hoo! Let’s get started. Head to classroom.google.com and sign in. It will look like this (without the classes you see) when you log in.


You can set up one class or multiple classes. I am a 5th grade teacher and teach all subject areas. I have a class for each subject area. To get started click on the plus sign and select Create a Class. Check out this video for step by step instructions on how to set up a class within Google Classroom. This video has been updated to show the recent changes





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    Getting ready for back to school also means getting ready for Back to School Night aka Open House. Back to School Night at my school is for parents only. It is meant to be a time for teachers to introduce themselves, the classroom expectations, and an overview of the upcoming year. Planning a successful Back to School Night can be stressful, so I am excited to share a few of my favorite tips. 

    1. Letter Home
    Send a letter home to parents and/or guardians with the date and time of the Back to School Night. Actually, send home a letter, an email reminder, and post it on your website. Making sure families know the date and time is one of the hardest parts of the whole thing. It may seem like a simple thing, but let's face it, people are busy. Thoughtful reminders can help out even the most organized family. 

    2. Sign In Spot
    Create a sign-in spot in your classroom. I place a small table by the door in my classroom. I put a container of pens and pencils, copies of handouts, and important forms on the table. As parents enter the room they grab a pen, the handouts, and forms and find a seat. (I use flexible seating, so the students do not have a specific spot.) Parents fill out the forms as everyone is getting settled. The sign-in sheet allows me to make sure that the families that were unable to attend receive the handouts. 

    3. Video Presentation
    This tip has been a lifesaver! Create your presentation and then make a video to share with parents that couldn't attend. They will get to hear and see the information you presented. Now, I know what you are thinking, you don't want to video yourself in front of the room talking. Me neither! There's an easier way. I create my presentation and then import it into Google Slides. I use the Screencastify extension in Google Chrome to record my voice going through the presentation. I do this before the actual event. I treat it like a practice run of the actual night. Then, I link the video to my website for the parents to view. You can check out my editable presentation here

    4. Contact Information
    Let your parents know how to contact you. I include this information in my presentation, but also make magnets with the information to give to families. 

    The magnets I use are 2" x 3.5". I include my email address, my class website, and the information to follow our class Instagam. Click here if you would like a free template. 

    5. Donation Station
    Designate an area to place a list of things that you would love to have donated to the classroom. There are lots of creative ways to do this. Here are a few ideas:
    • Fishing for Donations - Use fish shaped cut outs and write one item per fish. Place in a cute fishbowl or glass container.
    • Helping Hands - Use hand shapes and write one item per hand. 
    • Classroom Lifesavers - Make colorful lifesaver shapes and write one item per shape. 
    6. Parent Messages
    Ask parents and/or guardians to leave a message for students before leaving. They can write about something they liked in the classroom or write a positive message. I place sticky notes and markers near my chart paper stand. Parents write a message and stick it to the chart paper. Remember to write notes to students that didn't have a parent present. My students LOVE reading these messages. 

    Back to School Night doesn't have to be stressful. I hope you found a tip or two to try out this year. Here's to a fabulous new school year!


    Most people love when the end of April rolls around.  Warmer weather (especially if you live in New England), longer days, and the thought that the summer months are almost here.  I am here to tell you that this is NOT what teachers think about at the end of April.
    Some teacher friends have expressed frustration that they are unable to use Google Classroom because they are not in a 1:1 situation. Plot twist! You CAN use Google Classroom with one student or a group or students. The first step is to set it up so that your students have access. (You can read more about setting up classes here.) Then, the possibilities are endless. Here are some of my FAVORITE ways to use Google with small groups:

    Morning Work
    Many teachers start the day off with some type of morning work or bell ringer assignment. One way to approach this is to assign your students to a group and have a list of morning week with the week. Assign different tasks each day for each group. Have one assignment be a digital assignment in Google Classroom. Each group of students would complete it on a different day, but it would all be finished by the end of the week. 

    Math Stations
    Math stations are organized for small groups of students to complete and then move on to another station after a set amount of time. So, Google Classroom assignments are perfect for math stations! You can assign a digital activity to be completed at one of your math centers. Each group will rotate through. You can easily differentiate activities and track the completion of assignments, too! Check out some of my digital math resources here.

    Centers
    I am using "centers" as a catch all term for things like centers, daily 5 activities, or any other type of small group work that is done in a subject area. If you have a few Chromebooks, iPads, or computers you can assign a digital activity for students to complete. Writing prompts, digital task cards, or a link to a video to watch are a few possible digital center examples. 

    Fast Finishers
    We all have at least one! Set your fast finishers up with a digital assignment to complete. If time runs out before he/she can finish the assignment it's not a big deal because it will be waiting the next time the student logs in. 
    Flipped Lessons
    One way to utilize a few devices in the classroom is to create flipped lessons. This is a great way to meet the needs of all students. If students need to review a lesson or hear it again they can listen to a listen and complete an assignment. A more traditional style of flipped lessons could be done, too. Students could watch a lesson at home on Google Classroom and do the assignments in school.

    RTI/Intervention  Groups
    Google Classroom is great for intervention groups! Having an assignment for an intervention group to complete would allow the interventionist to work more closely with individual students in the group. Google Forms and Boom Cards are two digital resources that offer data collection. Data collection is a key component for intervention groups. 

    Homework
    Homework assignments can go digital. Google Classroom can be accessed on smartphones, tablets, computers, iPads, and Chromebooks. Many students could complete homework assignments digitally. Boom Cards are one of my favorite things to assign for homework. Click here to see my Boom Card resources or click here to try a 5th grade fraction set for free.

    Google Classroom has helped me in many ways and my classroom is not 1:1.  Have you used Google Classroom with groups of students? Comment below and tell me about your favorite way to use it. 


    March is the month that makes many teachers feel queasy because winter break has happened already and spring break seems so far away. Here are a few of my favorite activities to make the long month of March fly by!
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