Be Omnibox Omnipotent!


So, report cards are written and it’s almost Spring Break. Your minds are stretching forwards to those long hours of lying on the beach or gardening or reading or skiing….whatever you plan to do this break. Not really the ideal time for a serious blog post – so here’s some light reading!

You know the long, rectangular box at the top of a web browser? Well, if you are using Google Chrome as your web browser, that box is called the “omnibox” or “omnibar”. It combines the functions of a search engine and an address bar. Right about now you’re likely thinking “d’uh…even my kid knows that!” Very likely true….but do you know all the cool things the Google Omnibox can do?

Want to know the meaning of a word? Type dictionary followed by the word you want  to look up (eg. dictionary shark) and boom! You get the meaning, along with translations, word origin and more meanings.

Want to know the weather somewhere? Type weather followed by the postal code, zip code or city.

Want to set a timer for the 10 minute quiz you’re about to give? Type “timer 10 minutes” and Google will start the time for you. Want to time how fast it takes your class to clean up at the end of the day? Type “stopwatch” and Google will provide one!

Not sure how many litres are in a gallon? Type “litres to gallon” and get a conversion box, ready for you to use. This works with all kinds of conversions, including all kinds of measurements as well as money.

Can’t remember if fenetre is a masculine or feminine noun? Type “the window in French” into the omnibox and up it comes! BTW, it’s feminine.

Need a calculator? Type your equation into the omnibox and get the answer! Use the * for multiplication and the / for division.

Want to see what other people are searching for? Try typing in a search lead, like “Rey’s father is” or “Winter is” and Google will show you the most searched phrases using that.

Okay, so, as advertised, not an earth shattering post. But I hope you enjoyed it anyway! Have a great Spring Break and see you back in two weeks with a post on assessing coding and computational thinking!


Meet the Micro:bit!

microsoft blok

About a year ago, my friend and colleague Keith Rispin and I both found something online about a new tech “toy” called the Micro:bit. We were instantly hooked and began to look into what we could do to get our hands on one. Sadly, at that time, importing one from England, where the BBC was making them, to Canada, was almost impossible.

Fast forward to the fall of 2017 and the Micro:bit had started to make its presence known on this side of the Atlantic. Yahoo! I got my first one at the BCERAC conference in November and I’ve since managed to collect 4 more!

So, what is the Micro:bit? Basically, it is a little (half the size of a credit card) codeable computer with a built in accelerometer (motion detector) and compass, 25 programmable LED lights, several buttons and 5 spots to add on “extras” like speakers, sensors and alarms. Here’s what it looks like:


The Micro:bit was developed by BBC and partners as a way to get school-age kids interested in creating things with coding (okay, am I the only one who sees an almost perfect fit with the new ADST curriculum and makerspaces?)

Students can use coding languages like Microsoft Block, Javascript and Python to build code on their device that can then be downloaded to the Micro:bit via a supplied micro-usb or Bluetooth. The Micro:bit can be connected to other “bits” like sensors, as well as the Raspberry Pi, Arduino and Little Bits to really challenge students and expand the learning.

Yeah, yeah….sounds interesting but what can you do with it? Well, a few weeks ago I worked with a group of Grade 7s who had never seen the Micro:bit before. I challenged them to write code that would turn the Micro:bit into a slightly-less-cool Fitbit, so we could track our steps (kind of like the Micro:bit version of “Hello world”). Using the site (great site where you can actually test out your code before downloading it to the Micro:bit), the kids fairly quickly figured out the code needed. They downloaded it to the Micro:bit, plugged in the battery and, using some duct tape created a wristband. Some of them even figured out how to hack the code so that they could arrive at the required 10,000 steps more quickly! Totally fun and a great start to using the Micro:bit to create something using code and design!

There is lots of information for teachers on the Micro:bit website, there’s a facebook page, and if you google Micro:bit challenges or Micro:bit lesson plans you’ll find lots of resources, many of them from England.The “official” Canadian partner for Micro:bit is Fair Chance Learning. You can buy Micro:bits from their website but you can also get them here in BC from Agata at Robotix. And in a market where most coding tools cost hundreds of dollars, the Micro:bit is about $25.00 each. Why not get one or two, set them up in your classroom as a “spare time” activity, provide a few challenges and see what happens!


Google and The Shoes That Fit!

Please note that I am reposting this from a previous blog I had. It’s report card week and I am up to my eyeballs in report writing so I hope people don’t mind that I am reposting! If your school district has yet to “go Google” then maybe this blog will convince you to jump in!

Reposted from 2016

A little while ago I was preparing to give a presentation to parents about GAFE and how it is being used in the district. I wanted to find a way to let parents understand the historical lead-up to our adoption and how much of an impact GAFE is having. I needed some sort of a visual cue. While on a long walk with my dog, I came up with the image of running shoes and GAFE. Before you stop reading in the mistaken illusion that I am crazy, let me explain!


Here’s what the pre-GAFE, pre BYOD days looked like in our district. Schools all had laptop carts for student use. The carts were filled with 15 to 30 PCs, all with the same operating systems running the same software. From a device management perspective things were easy. Learn how to use one device and you can use them all. Our district was at the digital forefront and there was lots of great learning going on. For teachers who were not very techie, they could at least feel that if they knew how to use the programs that the laptops had they were doing okay. Everyone wearing the same shoes was safe and it worked. But ultimately it wasn’t going to last.

Of course, before long, kids started asking if they could bring their own devices in. They were tired of the clunky old district devices and wanted to use their own personal devices. This led to the growth of our BYOD movement, which now encompasses all of our schools in some way. With BYOD, the range of devices was astounding! Everything from a generic tablet a family got when they opened a new bank account to a 15 inch state-of-the-art MacBook Air.



As a teacher, this can be very intimidating and even time consuming! I distinctly remember one assignment I gave my students on creating climagraphs to compare the climates in ancient Persia, Egypt and Greece with Vancouver. I spent a whole weekend creating how-to videos for Excel, Numbers and Google Sheets, to make sure all the students in my class, no matter what spreadsheet program they had, could be successful. Crazy! Being a teacher in a pre-GAFE BYOD classroom required an awful lot of digital flexibility. When everyone is wearing different shoes it’s exciting but it can be overwhelming.



Enter GAFE. In the fall of 2014 we began a slow adoption of GAFE, starting with teachers who were willing to be early adopters. Almost right away we noticed a change. Because Google is platform agnostic, GAFE provided teachers and students with tools that worked with all devices. Management became easier and teachers only had to know Google. Yes, there is a bit of a difference if you are using a laptop or an iPad but it’s minor and easy to get used to. The speed with which GAFE is being accepted and used by our teachers and students is a real indication that we’ve finally found the right shoes!

A Little Hollywood Magic!


Do you remember the first time you realized that the ships in Star Wars were actually plastic models filmed in front of a green screen? Or the time that you realized the weather person on the news does not really stand in front of a giant tv screen showing the local weather? I do. I was blown away – it’s like magic! At one time, that magic was something that only big Hollywood production companies or television studios could afford. That’s no longer the case! Now, with just a few supplies, you and your students can create the same Hollywood magic at school!

How? Green screen technology! You only need three supplies: a green background, an iPad 2 or better and an app called Green Screen by Do Ink. (There are other ways to do this, but for elementary school, this is the easiest and it works really well!)

The first thing you need is a green screen, or green background. You can buy inexpensive green screens for use in a school, you could paint a wall green if it’s something your school is going to do often or, easiest of all, just pin up a couple of large pieces of green bulletin board paper up on a wall. Whatever you choose, you want the background to be as flat and wrinkle free as possible. Oh yes, remind the kids not to wear green clothes when being filmed, too (although it is kind of fun to see what happens when someone does wear green!) And, if possible, film in a tucked away corner of the school where you will not have as many interruptions or noises to content with.

The only other piece of equipment you need is an iPad (Gen 2 or higher) loaded with the Do Ink app ($3.99 CAD). A tripod for the iPad is a nice addition, as is an extra external mike, but neither is necessary.

Before I get into using the app, I will say that the first time I do this with kids, we do it for fun. No marks, no assignment. Let them experiment and learn what they are doing without the added pressure of assessment. I often have them do a mock newscast. A few weeks ago I worked with a whole school and the kids used a set script, as follows:

  • Student One: Hi, my name is _______ and this is the Vancouver News for __________, 2018.
  • Student Two: The weather today will be ______________.
  • Student Three: In sports, the Canucks beat the ________, 3 to 1
  • Student Four: And finally, in entertainment news, Alessia Cara won best new artist at the Grammys.

Once I move onto a serious project, I make sure the kids have spent a fair amount of time in the planning and storyboarding and scripting stages.

Once you’re actually ready to start, I would recommend working in small “chunks”. Film a bit, add it to the app, edit and then film again. Trying to do it all in one “take” can be stressful and difficult, especially for younger students. While you can film and take pictures from within the app, I find it easier to do all my camera work before opening the app.

Do Ink is relatively easy to use. Here is what the interface looks like:


And here’s an explanation of what you’re seeing:


For the bottom (background) layer, kids can add still images or video or even, if you also have the Do Ink Animation and Drawing app, animations.You add by clicking the bottom plus sign and then choosing the source. The middle (video) layer is where you add the “green screen” video you’ve taken. The top layer is for further animations or images you want to add in. When I start working with kids, I tell them not to use this layer for at least their first project – no point in getting too complicated right away.

Here is a how-to video:

Here is a little “cheat sheet” I created to walk you through the first few times (Green Screen with Do Ink!) and here is a link to Do Ink’s Instruction page on their website.

Once you have finished the project, you can save it to the camera roll and export it or, take it even further by uploading the video to iMovie where you can add titles, transitions, credits and sound affects!

So, how could you use this? A million ways! Create a documentary about an animal and its life cycle. Illustrate one of the human body systems. Have students dress up in pioneer clothes and pretend to be settlers talking about what it was like to travel across Canada, or be gold miners talking about the Gold Rush. Be space explorers looking for habitable planets. Really, whatever your imagination can dream up you can probably do!

If you have camera-shy students, or students whose parents would rather they not get filmed, there are other ways to use the green screen. For instance, if the students are talking about ocean exploration, they could draw or build a model submarine which you could then hang in front of the green screen (use a green painted string or a see-through fishing line to suspend the sub). Students could still read out their script but do it off-camera. Or, if you have puppets, you could have students sitting down, holding the puppets up in front of the green screen. They can still use their voices and you won’t see their faces.

So, what do you think? Is it time to add a little Hollywood magic to your class?

Graphing the Winter Olympics!

IMG_3115I have a confession to make. I’m really more of a Summer Olympics person that a Winter Olympics person. Yeah, when the Olympics were here in 2010, I went as nuts as the rest of us (I had to go outside for the last few minutes of the men’s gold medal hockey game – I was so nervous and excited I thought I was going to throw up!) and I love watching Canadian athletes succeed! But let’s face it – the Winter Olympics happen during the school year, so I have very little time to watch. And they usually happen when report cards are looming, so I am a little pre-occupied.

But when I really think about it, the Olympics provide so many awesome teaching opportunities, and the Winter Olympics are great just because they DO happen during the school year!

The other day I was chatting with Sara Bell, one of the great vps here in our district. We got to chatting about learning resources and she showed me the website Power of Ten (awesome site – thanks Trevor Calkins!) and the free Winter Olympics Math resource – Sports as a Teachable Moment – updated and includes the 2018 Olympic Games on the site. That got me to thinking….sports statistics! What an fantastic real world way to talk about data and graphing and to build number and time sense! Just how much faster did that Canadian skier go down the hill? How many degrees did the snowboarder rotate if they did a backside triple cork? Which country has the worst record for penalty minutes in an Olympic hockey game?

Power of Ten’s Winter Olympic resource is aimed at Grades K to 8, with lots of great information as well as charts where information from past Olympics is recorded, with a place to put the information from this Winter Olympics as well! You can use the charts as is, or better yet, start creating graphs!

For K to 2 students, this is something I would likely do as a class. You can, of course, go old school and use paper for the graphs or you can go digital.

Apple’s Numbers app is a spreadsheet app that can quite quickly make simple graphs from a spreadsheet. Here is a quick tutorial.

There are a few graphing apps specifically made for elementary students and, while I can’t say I’ve tried them all, some of them don’t look that great. However, Teaching Graphs is made by the company Little Monkey Apps and their Math apps all seem pretty well thought out. The Teaching Graph app is not perfect but it does let kids make some pretty great looking graphs quite quickly. Finished graphs can be saved to the Picture gallery. Here’s a graph I made quickly:

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Although I have not used this app with primary students, I would think that Grade 2 and 3 students would be able to use it quite easily after a little modelling.

For students from Grade 4 to 8 we have access to Google Sheets. Like many spreadsheet programs, Sheets can seems a bit intimidating at first. There are certainly lots of bells and whistles! However, it can also be used for simple graphing.

Here is an image of the Gold Medal data I used for the previous graph, put into Sheets.

Screen Shot 2018-02-12 at 5.36.42 PM

To create a graph or chart from the data, I simply highlight the data and click Insert then Chart. Google will build the chart it thinks work best and you can then go in and change or customize the graph or chart.

Screen Shot 2018-02-12 at 5.37.03 PMScreen Shot 2018-02-12 at 5.38.23 PM

Once you’re happy with what you’ve done, you can save it as an image by clicking the three vertical dots in the top right corner.

With all of the information coming at us on a daily basis, teaching kids to read, interpret and represent data is an important part of numerical literacy. Being able to use real-life statistics from something cool like the Winter Olympics makes this a more enjoyable task for both the teacher and the students!

K to 7 Robotics?! YES!


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If you had asked me, a year and a half ago, if I could find a way to “teach Robotics” to all the students in an elementary school….I would have said yes (because I am almost incapable of saying no to a challenge). And then I would have gone home, sat on my bed, put my head in my hands and thought, “You’ve done it now, Wilson! Talk about a recipe for disaster – how will you deliver on this one?!”

Well, happily, I can say that today marked the first day of my fourth “robots in school” foray and things are going just fine! Isaac Asimov, Data and R2D2 would all be happy (nerd references – look ‘em up!)

Before I explain how I pulled off this incredible feat, let me say this: I have not done it alone, nor could I have done it alone. Charity Cantlie, Aron Campbell and Michelle Davis provided the initial spark and support. Since then, Jessica Richardson and Kristi Yorke have joined in and I am so grateful to all of them for being willing to go along on this wild ride!

So…you’re thinking…get on with it! How exactly did you teach robotics to a whole school of K to 7 students?! Simply put – stations. No school that I work with has enough of any one kind of robot to keep a whole class occupied, but many schools have a few of this and a bit of that. As it turns out, that’s just enough! Oh yes, it also helps to have a Learning Commons area or open space in a library or gym.

In all cases, we started by looking at the resources we had at hand. A few Spheros, a set of Cubelets, a couple of Dash bots, some Lego….what can we do with that? If you know that only 7 students will be using the Spheros at any given time, you need fewer resources than you would think! It is important to make sure you have enough iPads for some of the stations (like Dash and Sphero) and to make sure that the iPads and bots are compatible.

Once we knew what resources we had, we planned the stations and set up a schedule. In each school, we made sure that we created a schedule that allowed all students to experience all the stations for their age group. Ideally, you organize the schedule so that when the class comes to the learning area, their teacher comes with them and learns alongside them. In one school, the only way we could arrange things was for the kids to come to the learning area while their teacher had prep and that wasn’t ideal as the teacher then missed out on seeing their students explore and learn in new ways.

Over the course of 4 schools, we’ve had to come up with a variety of stations for a variety of ages. In each case, we used 4 to 6 stations, with 3 to 7 students in each group. Here are the stations:

Sphero for Kindies – For this station I marked out an obstacle course with masking tape and the kindies worked on “driving” the Spheros through the course – forwards and backwards. No coding. They loved it!

Sphero for Grades 1 to 3 – For this age group we used the Edu app and students worked through a few challenges using basic block coding. If they finished the challenges, they could “drive” the obstacle course!


Sphero for Grade 4 to 7 – Again, using the Edu app, students work through a series of challenges by coding the Sphero.

Dough-bots – This one is Michelle Davies’ brain-child. Ziploc bags full of colourful homemade modelling dough, lots of nuts, bolts, screws, beads, buttons and bits and a challenge to create a robot to help you in your everyday life – the perfect recipe for a station that all the kids loved! The only hard part was taking the robots apart at the end of each rotation!

Recycled-bots – Much like the above station but using a variety of boxes, cardboard, milk cartons, tape, chopsticks, and what-have-you. Kids created amazing robots at this station.


Lego-bots – As above but done with an assortment of Lego bricks. Great if you have a couple of tubs of bricks, wheels, and Lego paraphernalia! This station was not a Lego Mindstorms station – these bots were imaginative, not functional!

Cubelets – In all cases we made this station strictly exploratory. Put the cubes together and see what they can do! Kids really enjoy this station. The kindies were the funniest – they spent most of their time just pulling the cubes apart and putting them back together. Who knew magnets would be so much fun!?

Dash for K to 3 – We used the Wonder app and students either did the Challenges in Scroll Quest or just played in Free Play (depending on the group)

Dash for 4 to 7 – In some cases we used the Wonder Blockly app and students used Block based coding to work through the puzzles. In other cases they did the same challenges as the younger students and then had time for Free Play.

Scratch Jr – In all the schools I worked with we had this in our “back pockets” as a station we could use in case another station wasn’t working. Even the older kids enjoy playing with Scratch Jr.

Storybird – We used this with Intermediate students. Their task was to create a children’s picture book about robots on the Storybird site. By the way, if you’ve never checked out Storybird – do yourself a favour – it’s awesome!

Robot Stories – This was a station filled with fiction picture books about robots as well as non-fiction books about robots. Pull up a comfy bean bag chair and read. We organized it so this station came after a busy station and students seemed quite happy to settle into a quieter activity for a bit!

Robot Rules – This was a bit of an ethics and philosophy station, with a nod to Isaac Asimov. The question put to students was “If you had to create 3 rules that all robots had to follow, no matter what job they do, what would the rules be?” There were many interesting discussions at this station, as students had to agree on the rules and then design a logo that reflected all of the rules.

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Vex IQ Bots – We tried setting this up. Once. It didn’t work. Not because the bots aren’t awesome – they are! Mostly because kids need more time to work with these complex build-a-bot kits. We did, this year, figure out a way to use them very successfully with Grade 6 and 7 students, but that’s a different blog post!

Micro:bits – This is a new station we just launched today and only with the Intermediate students. The students were challenged to try creating the code that would “teach” their Micro:bit to play “Rock, Paper, Scissors”. In the group that did this station today, two students managed to figure it out and boy, were they proud! It should be noted that this station required laptops with usb ports – we are fortunate in that our students all bring their own devices so this was not an issue.

So…..after doing this 4 times, do I have any advice for you? Yes. First, train some competent senior students to be helpers and beg their teacher to let them come help with the primary students. It makes a world of difference if you can swing it!

Second, be prepared! Inevitably something will go wrong! We’ve had Spheros that didn’t charge, apps that needed last minute updating, Cubelets that weren’t working and pencils that went missing. Have back-up stations that are either low-tech (like Scratch Jr) or no-tech like the books and Lego so that if things go wrong (and they will) you are prepared!

Third, think of some form of self-assessment the students can fill out, either as they go through the stations or after they have finished them. While everything is happening you will be too busy taking pictures and joining in on the fun to assess what is happening.

Finally, have clear, written instructions for stations so that students can be as independent as possible. That frees you up to run around and help/guide/trouble-shoot.

So, if someone approaches you one day and asks you to “teach robots” to a whole school…take heart! It can be done!


Literacy for Our Littlest Learners


I must admit that even though I love technology, I am always a little cautious when people ask me about using technology with the littlest students. There are so many things that need to be learned in those early school years (self-regulation, early literacy, number sense, interpersonal relations and a love of curiosity and learning) and many of those things are really best learned face to face and through direct intervention. Am I suggesting we therefore shouldn’t use technology in the primary years? Good grief, no! Don’t throw the baby out with the bath water. But… is important to limit screen time for our smallest learners and we therefore need to be very selective about what we use with them.

My first choices will always be apps or technology that allow creation, like BookCreator or iMovie. My second choice will always be well-crafted, engaging yet rigorous apps, like those put out by Duck, Duck Moose, Motion Math and Dragonbox Math (totally not an exhaustive list – that’s for another blog!) Many of these apps focus on Math, not so many focus on literacy.

Enter Squiggle Park. Squiggle Park is Canadian and it runs on both iPads and laptops (the Android version is coming out soon). It is  an early literacy program designed to help students master reading skills such as phonemes, phonemic awareness, word work, and spelling. At the time, Squiggle Park is designed to be used for students from Pre-K to Grade 2. However, there is nothing to say that older ELL students or students with learning disabilities wouldn’t also be able to use it effectively.

Squiggle Park allows teachers to set up a classroom, add and delete students and access student progress through the dashboard. When you first set up the classroom, you choose the grade level of your students and Squiggle Park “suggests” a world for them to start with. There are currently 25 worlds and as a teacher, you can set the world your students start with, even if it is not the one suggested. Squiggle Park provides teachers with a PDF that shows exactly what skills are covered in each world.

Within each world, cute little monsters guide the students through matching, sorting, ordering, listening and collecting games that are designed to teach them, without ever “preaching” to them (kids have fun, learning happens, it’s a win-win). Students can earn stars by doing well and lose lives by not answering correctly. By the way, you would think this whole “losing lives” thing would be de-motivating, but the players I watched all seemed to accept this as a logical, given part of game-universe! You can only lose two lives in any stage of a world and once you’ve lost all 5 of your lives you go back to the start of that level to play again. Once you have achieved 80% mastery of a level, you are moved up to the next level.

The people at Squiggle Park have made student log-in easy, with picture codes rather than passwords. They recognize that Squiggle Park could be very useful for ELL students and their families and they have provided teachers with informational letters to send home, in a variety of languages. On the teacher section of their website they have also added lesson plans, printable monster pictures, certificates, Valentines and a bunch of other things teachers and students can use. Squiggle Park also has a variety of teacher “tutorial” videos on their website, to help teachers set up and use Squiggle Park.

The creators of Squiggle Park claim that with 30 minutes of play a week, students can master reading skills up to 5x faster than with direct instruction alone and that ELL learners can catch up with their peers in as little as 10 weeks of play. I can’t vouch for the accuracy of these claims but I can vouch for the fact that if a game is engaging, kids will play. And if they play, they will learn.
If you are a primary teacher in West Vancouver School district, please contact your administrator or Cari Wilson (me) for information about our extended trial of Squiggle Park. If you are outside of our district, Squiggle Park is offering time limited free trials – just click here.

Digital Citizenship – Be Internet Awesome!


During the course of the year, I often come across new sites and apps. Some are awesome (my favourite this year is Quizlet) and some are so-so but I try to take the time to check them all out and at least “kick the tires” to see what they do. A few months ago I stumbled across this digital citizenship and safety offering from Google. (I have previously written about internet safety, here and here).

The site is called Be Internet Awesome. Google has created a straight-forward curriculum guide for teachers, based on their 5 fundamental tenets of digital citizenship and safety:

  • Share with Care (Be Internet Smart)
  • Don’t Fall for Fake (Be Internet Alert)
  • Secure Your Secrets (Be Internet Strong)
  • It’s Cool to Be Kind (Be Internet Kind)
  • When in Doubt, Talk It Out (Be Internet Brave)

The curriculum is aimed at students in Grade 3 to 5, which is a great age to really delve into these topics. Many children at this age are beginning to interact with one another on the internet, either through social media or online gaming. Helping them learn good digital citizenship skills at this age will pay off as they get older.

The curriculum is organized into the 5 sections above and includes easy to organize discussion activities, games and vocabulary. This is all well and good (and certainly helpful for many teachers who struggle with knowing what to say to kids when it comes to these topics) but for kids, the best part is that the culmination of 4 of the units is a chance to put what they’ve learned to practice by playing “Interland”, Google’s online digital citizenship game, designed to compliment the curriculum. In Interland, you become a colourful Internaut who battles hackers, oversharers, phishers and cyberbullies by using the skills you’ve learned.

Players work their way through Tower of Treasure (where they learn about keeping things secure), Kind Kingdom (where they battle cyberbullies and build up other characters with kindness), Reality River (where they learn to spot fake), and Mindful Mountain (where they learn to “share with care”). The graphic interface is bright and geometric and the characters are generically cute or scary. Kids do not need to create an account and it works well on both laptops and iPads.

Teaching kids good digital citizenship skills is an “it takes a village” kind of thing. In its teacher resource package Google includes an information letter you can send home to parents and there is also a safety pledge that kids can sign with their families. In addition, you can print off posters, badges and certificates.

I have to say, I think Google has hit a home run with this one and if I were teaching Grade 3 to 5 students, this would definitely be a part of my year plan!






Play Games – Learn Stuff! (Kahoot and Quizlet)

When I was a student, some of my favourite classes were the ones where the teacher played games with us. Bingo, 7-Up, spelling bees, Jeopardy – I loved all of them. Fast forward a few years and guess what? My students love playing games, too. Even better? If I choose the games correctly, they end up learning without even realizing it! Even even better? There’s some awesome technology to help me do this! Today, let’s have a look at Kahoot and Quizlet.

I was introduced to Kahoot a few years ago at a conference and I loved it right away. First off, it’s free. Really free – not freemium free (you know – the kind of site where the basic stuff is free but the really cool stuff costs money?) Secondly, with Kahoot, I am the only person in the class who needs an account. As an intermediate teacher, I want to keep the number of accounts my students have to a reasonable number, so this also makes me happy.

So…how does it work? Once you’ve created your teacher account, you can build your first “kahoot” by creating a multiple choice “quiz” for your students. Or, you can choose a kahoot that someone else has built! Once you have the kahoot you want, project your device and start the game. Your kids can play individually (on any internet enabled device) or in teams (one device per team). They go to, enter the code you’re given and then sign in with their first name.

The question and answers show up on the teacher’s device – the kids choose a colour-coded answer.

Your computer will project the question, with 4 colour-coded possible answers. The kid’s devices will just show the four colour choices. As quickly as they can, they choose the correct answer and lock in their choice. When the time is up, the screen will show the correct choice as well as the top scorers (based on a combination of speed and correct answer). And it’s on to the next question!

You can access the results afterwards, if you want. I don’t tend to use Kahoot as actual assessment but more as a way to practice what we’re learning, so I don’t use the assessment side of the site.

Recently Kahoot added the ability to assign Kahoots as homework. I haven’t used this feature yet, but it looks promising. Here’s a blog post from Kahoot that explains it.

My kids love to play Kahoot. They get super excited and motivated. The only criticism I have is that the timed aspect of it can be intimidating for some students.

On to Quizlet. Quizlet has a large variety of applications, from flashcards to a collaborative classroom game. The base version is free and the upgraded version is $35 USD a year. I have the free version and it works fine for me.

Using Quizlet, you can create flashcards for your class, or use sets that have already been created by other teachers. Once you’ve created the basic flashcards, Quizlet automatically create 7 different ways that students can quiz themselves on the material, as well as a Quizlet Live game. You can create a class on Quizlet and invite your students to be a part of it or you can just send students a link to your quizlet and they can use it without signing up for anything. There is even an ability to add the Quizlet to your Google Classroom (I haven’t tried this yet but it looks like it works well!)

All of the applications of Quizlet are great but the one your kids will likely enjoy the most is Quizlet Live. When you use Quizlet Live, students go to, enter a code you give them and then enter their names. Quizlet will put them into random teams. (You need more than 4 kids to play). Kids then need to move and sit together in their teams and the game can begin. In the game, each student has some but not all of the information needed, so the students need to work together to be the first team to reach 12 correct answers. Getting a wrong answer resets your team’s score to 0, so students really have to collaborate and communicate.

quizlet progress
The teacher’s device shows team progress!


quizlet kids
Each student has some of the answers, but only one student in each group has the right answer to any given question.

Students can play on any internet enabled device. The teacher’s device shows team progress. One of the things I like about Quizlet is the flexibility. I can create a French vocabulary Study Set and my kids can use it independently to study their vocab in a variety of ways but they can also use it collaboratively to play a game in class. And by the way….playing Quizlet Live uses a number of the Core Competencies! (just sayin’!)

Playing games in class can be both fun and educational! Enjoy!

Using Google Forms for Quizzes!


Happy New Year everyone!

My last blog post was about using Google Forms to track student reading. I recently launched it with my own students and it’s going really well!

Google Forms is basically a spreadsheet. It can be used for all the regular spreadsheet things – tracking expenses, creating budgets – even wedding planning! But it can be used for other things, too!

Aside from the aforementioned Reading Tracker, you could use forms as a questionnaire or survey for parents or students. Our district Pro-D committee uses it as a way to gather information for upcoming events. Here’s a link to an awesome slide deck by Graham Attwell, outlining 79 interesting ways to use Google Forms!

And….drum roll please….you can also use Google Forms as a way to give and mark tests, too! Yep, you heard me right…forms will even mark the tests if you set them up right!

Here’s a great video showing you the basics:

So, if you give frequent quizzes in your classroom, or you are looking for a different way to do exit tickets, maybe you’ll consider giving Google Forms a try? Next week’s post will highlight a number of other sites and apps that can be used for in class quizzes and games. Enjoy!