Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Develop Executive Functioning Skills with Habitica

Many of our students struggling with executive functioning skills, such as planning, organizing, emotional control, and task management. There are a variety of techniques and tools to help students with this challenge. I was recently made aware of a free iOS and Android App called Habitica, which takes a gamified approach to task management.

Why use Habitica?

Habitica takes a gamified approach, where you build the health of an avatar through your performance. There are several different tasks, which can help you form positive habits. Your habits influence your experience points and health of your avatar.

The App provides a To-Do section, where you can set tasks and due dates. Every time that you complete a task, you are provide experience points, which impact the health of your avatar.

The Dailies section is for time-sensitive tasks, which need to be one on a regular schedule.

The Habits section provides you with tools to build positive habits or improve negative habits. Every time that you do a habit, you can tap a plus sign to award yourself with gold or a minus sign to take it away.

Items to Note

Habitica does require a login, which may pose challenges for students under the age of 13. You can link your Google or Facebook account to it. Habitica is free with limited features, but does offer a paid subscription with more features.

What are your favorite tools for executive functioning? Leave a comment below!

Monday, September 18, 2017

5 Ideas for Using Google Slides as a Portfolio

I work with many talented teachers, who use technology in creative and innovative ways. With the increased emphasis on Project-Based Learning (PBL) and standards mastery, it is important to help students find creative ways to showcase what they have learned. A portfolio may be a viable option for students to show progress and growth throughout the year. Many teachers turn to website programs (i.e., Google Sites, Weebly, Wix, etc.), Apps like SeeSaw, and web tools like LiveBinders.

Although they are good tools, it can be tricky to navigate privacy agreements and the skillsets of students under the age of 13. One of our teachers has created a portfolio using Google Slides! How might this work in your classroom? Here are some ideas:

1. Create a Google Slide Template for All of Your Students

Create a Google Slide Show template for students, including spaces for their name, goals, likes, dislikes, pieces of work, standards they have mastered, etc. Make it colorful and customizable, but also provide a basic structure too!

2. Show What They Know in Different Ways

The beauty of G Suite is that it provides students with different vehicles for showcasing knowledge. Here are just a few ideas:

  • Students can take a picture of an image, import it into Google Drawings, and add labels. 
  • Share a writing piece from Google Docs with a link
  • Showcase the different steps of an experiment by uploading images to your presentation
  • Record yourself reading text, upload it to Google Drive, and share the link. Add another recording several weeks or months later to show growth. 

3. Make a Copy of Your Template for Each Student

Placing your Google Slides template on Google Classroom is a good way to manage workflow and create a copy for each student.

Unfortunately, not everyone has the opportunity to use Classroom. If you would like to force students to make a copy of any Google Doc, Slide, Sheet, etc., just use this simple trick. 

4. Have Students Present Their Portfolios

Have students present their portfolios several times throughout the year, as a way to review content, showcase knowledge, and demonstrate growth. Whether it is sharing with a partner, small group, or in a teacher conference, students need opportunities to share what they have learned.

5. Use it as a Study Guide

The teacher that I had mentioned earlier uses this as a tool to get ready for state testing. It is a great way for students to reflect on what they have learned, see how things fit together and have the confidence that they have mastered a particular concept.


Do you have any other creative ways of using Google Slides? I'd love to hear them. Please leave a comment below.

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Create Your Own Teacher Games for Students with Smart Lab

If you are a Smart Notebook user, then you might have seen the Smart Labs feature. Smart Labs allows teachers to create your own customized interactive games for students to play on their SmartBoard or on a device. How does it work? Check out my video below:

Friday, September 8, 2017

Start with a Journey from Recap

Recap is an excellent tool for pre and post-assessments. If you want more information about Recap, please see my blog post.  The Start with a Journey is another great feature for students to use.

What is the Start With a Journey feature? 

The Start With a Journey feature is a pre-made storyline built around a topic of your choice. You can create your own journey or browse journeys made by other educators.

How Do I Use Start With a Journey?

Creating a journey is very easy!

  • First, you will want to login to Recap, create a Queue, and then click on "Start With a Journey." 

  • Next, you will want to choose "Create a Journey"

  • Then, create a guiding question and video introduction for your students. This guiding question can be used to help students understand the purpose for learning the content. 

  • Next, add your step by step instructions. You can add text and links for students to access content. Many teachers use links to share videos, have students take quizzes via Google Forms, or simply read an article. I like the fact that students can check off when they have completed a step. This is a great tool for increasing student accountability. 


There are many reasons why I like this feature. First, if you are not familiar with Journeys, you can access another educator's. It is a great way to learn! Second, I like the fact that students can check off each step that they have completed. This is a great tool for accountability and organization. Finally, this is a great way to provide students with structured online activities. Whether you are in a 1:1 environment, hybrid learning environment, or have students participating in stations, it is a great tool for learning.

Friday, August 25, 2017

3 Tips to Make Navigation Easy in a Google Doc

Navigating through Google Docs can be easy or a challenge for students and adults alike. Here are three different ways to quickly navigate and access resources in a Google Doc.

1. Use Bookmarks

You can bookmark different parts of your document to hyperlink to. A bookmark is simply a placeholder in a document. You can hyperlink to this placeholder in just a few steps. How does this work?

  • First, create your Bookmark by highlight the text that you want to hyperlink to, choose the Insert Menu, and select Bookmark. A Bookmark icon will appear in the column of your Doc. 

  • Next, think about where you will need to create a hyperlink, which will take you to this bookmark. Simply highlight your text, choose hyperlinks and click on "Bookmarks." 

2. Create a Table of Contents

You can create a Table of Contents in Google Docs to hyperlink to different parts of your document. You need to make sure that the text that you want to appear in your table of contents is in Heading 1, 2, 3, etc. format.

Check out my blog post or video below for more information!

3. Use the Outline Feature

The outline view is a great feature to help anyone navigate your document. It provides you with a panel (in the left-margin of your screen) listing all of the headings appearing in your document. Click on any heading in this panel and you will automatically be hyperlinked to that section in your document. This is a great way to navigate long documents. Only text in the Heading format will appear in your room. How can you turn this feature on? Visit the Tools menu and select Document Outline. 

Thursday, August 24, 2017

Create Your Own Google Custom Search Engine!

Do you have your students search for information on the Internet? Many educators have their students filter through thousands of resources to find information, yet many students still cite Wikipedia as a primary source.

Creating a Google Custom Search (GCS) engine may be a good strategy to scaffold the research process for students who struggle with finding information. A GCS creates your own Google search engine, searching through only the websites you provide. For instance, if you require students to search through CNN, Fox, and CNBC's website, your search engine will only search through these websites. No Wikipedia!

How do you do this? 

Simply visit Google Custom Search and sign in with your Google account.

Next, click "Add" and begin adding the sites you would like in your search engine.

Then, hit "Create" at the bottom of your page and give your search engine a name!

Finally, get the code to embed on your class website or get the public URL to share the link with your students.


This is the perfect resource for providing students with scaffolding for research. The best part, is that you can continue to add to the search engine throughout the year.

 Happy searching!

Sunday, August 20, 2017

3 Easy Steps to Go to Section Upon Answer in Google Forms

There are many great features in Google Forms. Going to a page based on an answer is one of my favorites. This is the perfect way to differentiate assignments, review correct and incorrect answers, and more! How do you use this valuable feature? Let me show you how!

Step 1: Create Your Form

Visit Google Forms and create your first question. In order to go to a page based on an answer, I recommend creating a multiple choice question.

Step 2: Create a New Section 

In order to go to a "page based on answer," you will need to create a "section" to redirect your audience. In this example, I will create one section, which will be used to help my correct my audience and help them understand the correct answer to my question.

How do you do this? Simply use the toolbar on the right-side of your screen and choose "Add Section" (icon with two rectangles).

When you create this new section, you will probably want to name it something that you will remember. It may be helpful to add text, videos, pictures, and / or links to help get your point across.

Step 3: Set-up "Go to Section Upon Answer"

Select your original multiple choice question. In the bottom right-hand corner, you will notice three dots. Click on the three dots and choose "Go to Section Upon Answer."

You will notice that a drop-down box appears next to each multiple choice question. You can select a section where your students will go based upon their answer.


This is the perfect tool for helping students learn from their mistakes, differentiating assignments, etc. You can get very creative with how you use this awesome feature! Need a video tutorial to learn how to do this? Check out my video below: