Friday, February 27, 2015

Google Classroom Custom Headers

Today's guest post comes to us from Suzanne Barker, Learning Liaison at Colleyville Middle School.  You can follow Suzanne on Twitter @Mrs_BarkerCMS or on her blog 

I have felt fairly limited with the options for the Theme Image in my Google Classroom. However, that all changed today!  Google listened to feedback and made some great changes.  First, they added additional themes; there are now 50 Classroom Theme Images to choose from. 

In addition to adding more themes, you can now also select colored patterns.  If you have a class color, this may be the quickest way to distinguish your classrooms.

Sometimes, though, we want to be creative and design our own.  This is when Canva comes to the rescue!  With Canva, you can design your own custom theme image.  First, you will want to select "Use Custom Dimensions" and select 800 x 200 px
Once your dimensions have been set, you are ready to create!  You can choose a layout and upload multiple pictures to create a class collage Theme Image, choose background colors, select cool font themes, the options seem almost unlimited! Once your creation is complete and downloaded as an image, you are ready to shift to Google Classroom to set your Theme Image.  Simply select "Upload photo" and navigate to where it is saved on your computer.

VoilĂ !  You have a new custom Theme Image for your Google Classroom!

Interested in learning more and seeing a custom image in Canva created and posted to Google Classroom from start to finish in just 3 minutes, watch this tutorial video!

Happy creating!

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Snip - Free Screenshot + Annotation Software for Mac

Taking screenshots on your Mac is easy... just hold down Command+Shift+4 and then drag a square around what you want to screenshot.  An image name "screenshot" will then be saved to your desktop.  There are other keystrokes you can use depending on whether you want the whole screen, a specific window or just want the image copied to the clipboard.  Learn more here: 

Sometimes, however, you want to take that screenshot and add annotations to it.  That's where a free application called Snip can come in handy.

With Snip, you can draw squares, circles, arrows and lines or type text directly onto your screenshot.  Then, when your image is ready, click the download icon (the last icon on the toolbar) to save the image to your desktop.  

The Snip homepage has lots of helpful tips for learning the software.  Just scroll down to the FAQ section:

Monday, February 23, 2015

NewsELA - Differentiate Reading for Your Students

NewsELA - Differentiate Reading for Your Students

Today's guest post come to us from Evan Payne, GCISD Instructional Coach.  You can follow Evan on Twitter @EvanPayneGCISD or on his blog  

I started to explore NewsELA this past summer after a colleague of mine (Laura Koehler) told me about this site.  I am very impressed with what this website has to offer and what it could do to help teachers bring in current events through text that is leveled.  During a few summer trainings and occasionally throughout the year, I have been sharing this tool and helping teachers get connected to it to use in their classroom.  It is a free site, easy to use, and doesn't take long for a teacher to become comfortable with how to use it.  The website is - and the following are some of the big ideas I have pulled from NewsELA:

  • A free website for teachers and educators
  • Nonfiction literacy and current events – pulls news stories into the classroom.
  • These are stories that have been picked and then rewritten to help teachers differentiate in their classroom.
  • Basic features – War & Peace, Money, Kids, Science, Law Health, Arts and the new category - Sports.  Articles are written with four to five levels.
  • The text is based on a lexile score – teachers and students can choose the level of the text to help them comprehend what is happening in today's news.
  • Mainly for grades 3-12
  • Teachers sign-up for the site and then receive a code.  The teachers can them give the code to their students so they have access to the site by being added to the teacher’s class (building your class is easy!). 
  • Some stories have comprehension quizzes to assess learning.  The teacher can then view how students scored.  The teacher can see what sections the students are highlighting.
  • Quizzes can be performed on iPads and computers at this time.  They are currently working to make them compatible with Android tablets.
  • The Stories are high interest nonfiction news articles.
  • The teacher dashboard gives teachers information about how their students are understanding the text they are reading.
  • Teachers could use this in reading groups or even in a flip classroom situation where students read certain articles at home and come back to the classroom to discuss it further.

It is possible that some material covers information that might not be recommended for some students – so teacher and parent discretion is advised. 

These are few YouTube videos to help you learn more about the site:

  1. This video shows the features of changing the lexile levels of the text:
  2. This video shows how the teacher can set up a classroom, how the students can connect to this class, how the quizzes work for students, and then how the teacher would be able to see the results of student quizzing:

A blog that I found recently that helps blend this site with Google is titled "NewsELA + Google Docs = Differentiated, Collaborative Reading!" - check it out too!

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Number Frames App

Number Frames

Number Frames is a free app from the same company that makes Geoboard, Number Pieces Basic, Number Line and Number Rack.  It's perfect for creating 10 frame models for math problems.

Students can use premade 5, 10, 20 and 100 frames (or custom sizes!) to model number sentences.  There is a wide variety of counters to choose from and students can use the drawing tools to annotate.  

Check out the other free math apps from the Math Learning Center here:

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