I can’t believe every educator isn’t using this website already! I’m excited to share with you a website that you can start easily today and build upon all school year with your students. It’s also free! The best word the the dictionary for any teacher because when you are in brick and mortar, you already pay for enough stuff!
So when you start the school year next year, you can use the Smore as a great welcome letter to your students. Not to mention, you can impress all those parents right off the bat, that you are apart of the 21st century! Once you have your main newsletter, you can update it weekly and embed links to other newsletters that you will create for the subject(s) you teach. You can even search on google to see how other teachers have created a Smore newsletter as an introduction to class.
Once you’ve created your “About Me” page basically, you can use this for SO many things:
- Let your students see you! Add pictures of your family, vacations, hobbies, interests and become a real person to your students
- Embed your school’s Facebook page link so they can stay up to date on school events
- Include weekly announcements and reminders (like check your grade book and school email DAILY)
- Include important dates coming up (school field trips, tests, fun things that relate to your subject(s)
- Your contact information
- A brief summary about you to highlight how awesome you are
- Add pictures of the class/students during the year to highlight how awesome they are
- Include student work that you would like to highlight or classroom contests
- Bring in some international fun by becoming pen pals with another class somewhere far away to share work
- Add a survey link to Google forms for students and/or parents to leave feedback
As you can see, you can do a lot with your first newsletter and weekly newsletters from there. Here’s an example of one that I built.
Then you can also create other newsletters that target the content that you teach. I embed the links to those resources on my main page. So for the newsletters that represent your subject, I recommend to have them centered about the state objectives! This gives you focus. After all, if you’re not teaching the state objectives, you are wasting not only your time, but your students as well. Nobody has time for that.
With these newsletters, you have:
- Pictures to represent the content
- Student pictures to showcase what they have done and to engage/encourage them
- State objectives listed
- Links to videos from the web or links to videos that students have created themselves
- Songs that students have written or that you have found online
- Lab ideas for things students can do at home
- I use an incentive badge program where students can earn 8 badges during the course of the school year after they have mastered certain groups of objectives so I have the questions they need to answer to earn that badge
- I use Quizlet.com for online flash cards and embed the link for students to click on to find their flash cards. During the first part of the year, I leave the back side of the flash cards blank and towards the test, I fill in the back side so students who haven’t done them can still print out and have a chance to study before the test
- Showcase student written work for those who like to “teach” others what they have learned
- Include textbook links and textbook page numbers for students to access more information about that topic
I have to keep stopping at 10 things because the ideas are limitless. You can add comments below to share with others about what you have put on your newsletter or content newsletters below! Here is the link to show one of my content newsletters.
Now here is the best part, in my opinion, and I can’t wait to start doing this next year. I am going to have my students create their own Smore!!! What?! Yes! They are going to be so excited to share what they have learned with others, it will be a great way to keep all of their resources organized in one place, and they will have a great resource to study before the test at the end of the year. They can share with each other and I can share their links on my home page. They can leave comments for each other and suggest a video or song that they really liked and want to share. I know some students who would love to find jokes about or create a joke or comic strip about what they have learned that week.
The possibilities are endless. You could even mention to your administration to use this to keep up to date with staff. Let’s save some trees! Please comment below.
One the best and quickest ways to start bringing technology into the classroom is through https://answergarden.ch/create/. It takes a total of maybe 1 minute to set up the question and if you want to customize your options, up to 3 more minutes. As a teacher, you have very limited time so this is a great way to get students to respond without making them write down their answer with a pencil and paper…again.
So how does it work? It’s simple. You ask a question, such as “What is your favorite color?” This is a higher order thinking question right? To get them excited about using it, ask a fun question like what their favorite music artist is. You give students the link they need to answer the question and presto, all of their answers start showing up on the screen without any overlapping. You can see immediately everyone’s answer without having to look at hundred pieces of paper. Quick, easy, informal assessment!
How do I use it? Here are some ideas:
- To break the ice.
- If you’re introducing a new topic, use it as the K (what do you Know already about…).
- For warm up questions, you can ask what answer they choose and why.
- As an exit ticket, you can ask a simple out the door question.
- As a quick check for understanding during the lesson.
- As a brain break and ask a silly question.
- To find out the most popular answer (it will get bigger as a response)
- As a great way to find out more about your students and culture
- To helps students who are visual learners
- Give students who are shy or ELL a way to share
As you can see, there are endless ways to utilize this website. The best part is…it saves trees. Lots and lots of trees. The bestest part is (yes I wrote bestest)…it saves you from reading a million different pieces of paper and possible paper cuts. It’s a win/win. As you can see, there are endless ways to utilize this website.
Tell me more you say? Awesome! That means I’ve got you hooked, which could be another way to use answergarden, as a hook question! Let’s walk through it together. First, you type in your question. Let’s say for giggles, “What is an example of an animal adaptation?” Don’t hit enter yet if you want to customize. Scroll down to customize. I suggest using the classroom mode because in moderator mode, you would need to manually approve each post- yikes! You don’t have time for that. Then choose how long you want your answers. Keep in mind that 20 char (is not very long as you can see). 40 characters might be better to get the picture = 40. You can also use a password so you can edit it later.
The spam filter is good for open ended question and you don’t want to get a bunch of the same answers, but if you’re looking for the answer for 2+2, you will only see one answer since there is only one answer. You can change the case, which is helpful especially when your in a staff meeting and they ask where everyone would like to visit one day and all of the teachers look dumb when no one seems to know to capitalize countries. Last, but not least you can change how long the question is good for. So if you have an on-line class and need the link to be open for longer than a day, bingo.
So try it out yourself, play around with it. Think of how this can be extended. You could have students come up with the questions and get to see their question realized as their classmates help to answer it! Can this be used globally? Why not! Know a teacher in another part of the world? You should! Ask them to ask your class a question or vice versa. Wouldn’t that be amazing!
The site also says that you can, “Post it in a tweet or you can embed it on your website or blog to use it as a poll or guestbook.”
Please leave a comment to let me know how you used it in your classroom! I would love to hear your ideas.
Here’s an example of using Answergarden
I’m not an any way affiliated with the programs that I will be sharing. If I mention a website or program that would be beneficial in the classroom, it’s because it’s working in mine!
What an age we live in where the student that sits in the classroom has more knowledge of the different types of media that they can share their knowledge with peers than the teacher. It’s sad to say that as an educator, there are so many other things on our plate, that it’s easy to lose focus of the big picture.
When I taught in brick and mortar, most of my time was spent refocusing behavior. The STAAR test was given closer into the school year each year with very little time to teach all of the objectives before the test, that when administration asked us to re-teach concepts that students didn’t understand, I wondered how considering there wasn’t enough time just to teach all of the objectives in the first place. After working on behavior plans and dealing with more parents who wanted to complain rather than offer their help, little time was left for creating lesson plans. What I didn’t realize was that the more I used an older version of paper and pencil in the classroom that I would continue to sink in tasks that needed to be done and lose my students along the way.
There is a huge opportunity for teachers to find ways to allow students to use social media to share their knowledge. For this to happen, the student needs to be allowed to become the teacher and the teacher needs to allow themselves to become the student.
Time…TIME…there just is never enough of it. It’s a shame really that teachers aren’t given time during the work week to really have time to work on their lesson plans in brick and mortar. I’ve been very blessed to have the opportunity to teach online and the school I teach at reserves Fridays as a day for teachers to attend meetings, update grades, and work on lessons. Without having the time to work on effective lesson planning, objectives and creativity get left out which leads to un-engaged students. I would argue that schools that recognize the importance of lesson planning time will have less behavior problems.
My goal each month is to find a way for educators to bring a new piece of technology into their classrooms for student engagement. I’m inspired by this twelve-year-old named Thomas Suarez who has taught himself how to create apps on his phone and then he created a club at his school to teach others. He humbly says, “These days, students usually know a little bit more than teachers with the technology.” A little bit more is a huge understatement. It’s sad, but true. I can’t imagine another time where students came to school knowing more about how to increase their chances for obtaining a job one day than their teacher did, but the tables have turned. Teachers can either sit back, cry over their coffee, and throw up their hands or start realizing that technology isn’t going anywhere, it’s going to get even more advanced, and it is our responsibility to not only get these kids academically ready for college, but to teach them technology literacy as well.
If you would like to hear what Thomas had to say, here is the link.