Countdown to Launch – Part 2 (Classroom Makeover)

I am excited to announce my classroom is finally finished!  I have been working most of the summer to space-ify my classroom in honor of our math department’s new space theme for the year!  Here’s what my classroom looked like before I changed it.



Besides getting 24 desks that matched (score!)  I took the bones of what I had and space-ified everything!  My mom, Laura, did a TON to help me get ready, and did all of the artsy painting touches!  Thanks mom!!

My favorite touches:

  • Awesome posters from Apollo and shuttle missions.
  • Hand-painted moon and pi numbers on my bulletin board, with a cool earth background for my pi.
  • My word wall has been re-done with keyboard shortcuts and inspirational space quotes instead of math terms.  (I made my math terms into magnets and stuck them to my metal cabinets.
  • All of the elements that were dark brown in the room have been redone with gray and/or shiny silver.
  • The PVC launch tower my husband and I built to go over the giant A/C unit in my room.

The only finishing touch I am hoping to add is a large poster on the back wall between the two windows.  I am wanting a map with paths of orbits like the one shown here, or possibly even a poster of the whole control room like this:

Image result for control room NASA 1960s

I am super excited to start off this school year and can’t wait to get my students in here!  Next week I will post some pics of our first week of school!  Our teachers return Monday and Tuesday, and then our students return to school on Wednesday!


Countdown to Launch – Part 1 (Eclipse Activities)

Hello all, sorry I’ve been on hiatus from blogging the past several weeks, but there was a lot of important work happening in that time.  Here are a few:

  • I’ve been working long hours finishing up my new LearnZillion lessons, which are getting close to being done!  I will share them when they are officially published on the site.
  • I’ve been trying to get through the books I wanted to read this summer:  Teaching Math with Google Apps, The Innovator’s Mindset, and LAUNCH!  I’m still not quite there, but making progress
  • I’ve been working on getting my room ready for school, which starts in 8 days!?!  (Post coming tomorrow with pics!)
  • I’ve been meeting with fellow teachers to plan activities for the Eclipse, since we will be in school and experience over 99% totality.  This is what I’d like to share today, in case anyone else is thinking of doing any activities, and you want to steal some of ours :).


Image result for eclipse 2017 illinois map

We will be experiencing the eclipse with our students, which I am really excited about for three reasons:

  1. I’ve never seen an eclipse before, so I am getting very nerdy excited over here!
  2. Our math department is going space themed, so this should make it a great start to the year in getting our students immersed into space ideas.
  3. We haven’t done a district-wide type activity since I’ve been teaching, and it’s going to be awesome!


Here is our basic eclipse day plan:

  • 7-12th grade students will travel to the elementary schools to teach the younger kids about the eclipse.
  • We will come back to school, serve snacks, and watch a short eye safety video from a local optometrist.
  • We will put together a time capsule that will be opened on the next eclipse day in our area, which will be April 8, 2024 where we will get 100% totality!
  • We will eat lunch on the football field to get ready for the eclipse.
  • We will watch the darkest part of the eclipse on the football field as a 7-12 building with our safety glasses!
  • We will come back into the building and watch the locally-produced documentary, Countdown to the Eclipse.

I am really excited about the chance to work together as a district to make all of this happen, and I’m excited my students will have the chance to research and teach the younger students!  The Thursday-Friday before the eclipse they will be researching in their math and science classes, and they will focus on a specific topic.  We are giving them a basic Google Doc that has hyperlinks and guiding questions to get them started.  Those are linked below if you decide you want to use any of this at your school!

I will share lots of pictures when eclipse day is over, I just wanted to go ahead and post our ideas now in case anyone is looking into activities they can adapt for older kiddos!

Forms and Sheets and Sites…Oh My!

Last post, I shared a basic “4 Steps to Getting Started with Google Classroom” document that I will share with my school in the fall as we go 1:1 Chromebooks.

Today, I’d like to share a more in-depth tutorial that I created for Google Forms and Sheets!  I have been gathering info at the 4C’s Conference earlier this month, while completing my Google Certification Levels 1 and 2, while browsing Pinterest and Twitter, and while reading Alice Keeler’s AMAZING book “Teaching Math with Google Apps.”  I have created a Google Site with all of the ideas I have collected, and sorted the site into these topics to make it more manageable:

  • Google Forms Basics
  • Google Forms Tests/Quizzes
  • Google Forms Assignments
  • Google Forms Rubrics
  • Google Forms for Everyday Tasks
  • Tips for Making Google Forms Quickly

You can find my tutorial site here.  I also created a doc for each page, because when I tried to print the pages of the site, my formatting got lost and the images went weird.  Here are my files and example forms if you would like to make a copy and steal them for your own use!


Pen Shaped Mouse for Math Scratchwork

Our math department has been looking for a digital handwriting tool since we found out we were going 1:1 Chromebooks.  At first we were looking into a Wacom Drawing Tablet for each student, because I have one and loooove it, but it turns out they are not compatible with Chrome OS :(.  So we looked into other options.  I stumbled on this pen shaped mouse, and it came in today so I could try it out!  At $19.00 each it looked promising!

It comes with a small mouse pad, a micro USB plug in, a stand, and of course the pen.  The pen has right and left click buttons and a scroll wheel (just like a mouse!) and it has a stylus tip at the other end (perfect for if we get the iPad cart!).

It works great!  This will be perfect for when students want to digitally capture their math work, but don’t want to have to type out there equations, which can get really annoying and time consuming.  I also want to try to introduce students to sketchnoting this year, so this will be good for that too!  Here is a silly Google Drawing I created with it when I opened it!

Handwriting Google Draw

The first week of school, I want to give students some time to play with their new tool and get used to writing with it.  So, I’ve created a couple of Google Drawings with instructions for the skills I want them to practice.  One is specifically for the pen, and the other is for all of the other Drawing tools that I want them to get used to.

HandwritingDrawing Practice

Google Drawing Practice (1)

Here are the files if you would like to use any of them with your classes!

Handwriting and Tracing Practice
Google Drawing Tools Practice

P.S.  If you’ve never used, I highly recommend it!  It’s awesome!  It can take a horrible drawing like the one on the left, and guess what you were trying to draw!  One click and it turns into some awesome clipart like the ones on the right!


Google Certification, LearnZillion, and Google Classroom Tips

Happy Monday everyone!

I’m going to start the week off by tooting my own horn just a little bit because I’m overjoyed about how my summer has gone so far.  A few accomplishments:

Happy Monday everyone!

I’m going to start the week off by tooting my own horn just a little bit because I’m overjoyed about how my summer has gone so far.  A few accomplishments:

  • I earned my Google Certified Educator (GCE) Level 1 and Level 2 Certification.  If you haven’t gone through the training center, I highly recommend it!  Even if you don’t plan on taking the certification exams ($10 and $25), the free training gave me great ideas to enhance my digital lessons using Google Apps.
  • I became a 2017 LearnZillion Dream Team Content Creator, and I’m super excited to be a part of their latest project!  I just started last week, and I will tell you more about the exciting new content as we roll out at the end of the summer.
  • I just heard today that I am going to be a LearnZillion Ambassador this year!  This is a new position at LearnZillion, but basically I will be helping to develop the content that we will present at conferences, in blog posts, etc.  I will also get to travel to both national and local conferences to talk about my story on the Dream Team and talk about LearnZillion’s resources!

I also have all of these lovely badges I get to display on my websites, social media pages, and email signature.

Google Tutorials

I’m sure there will be more of these throughout the summer, but I am beginning to create some Google tutorials that I want to share with my colleagues throughout this year as we transition to 1:1 Chromebooks.  At the beginning of the year, we are going to encourage everyone to create a Google Classroom for each class so they have a centralized location to distribute announcements/assignments/due dates.  This first tutorial is a quick-start guide to creating and using a Google Classroom site, and it is aimed at beginners, but has a few tips even if you’ve used a Classroom page before.  Feel free to steal it and tweak it for your needs if you need something to take to your school, or need help getting started!  I plan on coming up with a walkthrough of a few more advanced features soon.


Here’s the file in two different formats:

PDF:  4 Tips for Getting Started with Google Classroom
Google Doc:  4 Tips for Getting Started with Google Classroom

Is there anything I’ve left out for beginners, anything I should add?  Leave a comment below!

Tomorrow, I’m going to share some tips on using Google Forms and Sheets!

Shout-Outs, Soft Skills, and Some Virtual Manipulatives

This week has been a blur already, and it’s only Wednesday!  

In addition to beginning my summer work for LearnZillion (which is going to be REALLY exciting when it’s finished!), I have been working on a few mini-projects.


I am taking a Go Slow Workshop with THE Alice Keeler on Google Classroom.  If you’re not familiar, this is a virtual online professional development workshop that you can take at your own pace at home, much like you would an online class.  The only difference is it’s much cheaper and most of it is optional, she just gives you tips on ways to use the Google Suite in your classroom and you try out the ideas.

One of our latest assignments was to create an ongoing assignment for your students, such as a math journal.  She ended up liking a few of my ideas, and asked if she could blog about it!  Here is the link!  I was so excited my humble compilation from various books, websites, and a couple from my brain made it to her blog!  If you are a teacher and you don’t know of Alice Keeler, go find her on Twitter and her blog, she has lots of AMAZING ideas about all things Google for Education.

Soft Skills

A few of us were talking today about assessing “soft skills” such as teamwork, communication, responsibility, etc. in addition to our normal content standards.  We are new to this, so we are just brainstorming right now, but here is what are thinking so far:


  • Pick some soft skills we feel are important
  • Create a Google Form (here is my first attempt)  to make it easy to rate all of our students quickly and give comments (Exceeds Expectations, Meets Expectations, Needs Improvement).
  • Use a mail merge add-on and use it to generate a document that could be printed at the end of the semester and mailed out with their report cards.

Do any of you work at a school that already does this?  Any tips to making this process easier?

Some Virtual Manipulatives

I was thinking it would be nice if students had a “bank” of virtual manipulatives in their Google Drive that we could access any time of the year.  Students could use them at any time, copy and paste their work into whatever doc/slide they were working on, and then reset the drawing and starting again.  They could also paste into a shared doc/slide and check each other’s work!  Here are some screenshots of the manipulatives I came up with, the link to the Google Drawings are below if you want to make a copy for yourself!

Links to Google Drawings (Use File -> Make a Copy if you want to steal these!):  Transformations, Protractor, Ruler, ClothesLineMath, NumberLine, AlgebraTiles

Are there any other virtual manipulatives that you would like to see?  Comment below!

4C’s Conference Part 2: Two Projects that are Scary, Exciting, and Could Completely Change my Class Culture!

In yesterday’s post, I listed out my biggest takeaways from the 4C’s conference I attended this past week.  In short, I went in looking for ways to use our 1:1 Chromebooks to create powerful learning for my students.  While I did get that, I was inspired to do so much more.  This school year, I want to take risks, do more project based learning (PBL), offer more choice and encourage curiosity, and create more authentic learning for my students.  Here are the two projects that I have a clearer picture of now that I have spent two days listening to awesome speakers and then discussing with the other math teachers at my school.

I am intentionally posting these as unfinished projects, because I expect these ideas to get better and better over the summer as we collaborate and think through potential challenges.  This is just a first draft.

Project #1:  Beginning of Year Research Project

This is a mash-up of two ideas.  I wanted to get our math department culture established for the year by combining our math classes in the auditorium, and each of our math teachers introducing apps/norms that we would be using in all math classes this year.  Another math teacher wanted to get students excited and curious about our space theme.  So we decided we could do both at the same time!  Here’s what we’re thinking.

  • Let students work through a “choose your own path” Google Slides Hyperdoc, where the slides let them choose which topic to dive deeper into.  For example, the first decision students make could be The Universe vs. NASA History, and once they choose they have links to articles, videos, etc. that students could visit to learn more.  Then they make another choice, and another, and by the end they have 8 different “paths” they could have chosen.  I’ve created a graphic of possible paths.

Research Project HierarchyOutline (3)

  • At each level of choice, students would have a different benchmark assignment to complete.
    • After their 1st choice, they have to try to create their first sketchnote.
    • After their 2nd choice, they have to create a timeline of at least 10 important advancements, discoveries, and people.
    • After their last choice, students have to group up and choose a way to show everyone what you learned.  I have a list of ideas of what these could look like, or students could also propose their own ideas and get them teacher-approved.  They have to somehow incorporate their sketchnote or timeline into their presentation.

Research Project HierarchyOutline (2)

  • My main goals with this project are to encourage students to:
    • Be curious
    • Learn norms for collaboration
    • Try something new
    • Work with other grade levels
    • Familiarize with using Google Classroom, Google Slides, Youtube, and Google Forms for classwork.
    • Present their findings to others and take ownership of what they learned.

What a way to open the school year!  How can we make this even better?

Project #2:  NASA Mission

Ok so this one is more theoretical at this point, but I want students to create and execute a mock NASA Mission.  I want students to have different “jobs”:

  • Rocket Design Team – Design the rocket that will launch the mission
  • Lander Design Team – Design the lander that will land on the moon, Mars, or wherever the Mission Design Team decides to go.
  • Rover Design Team – Design and program the rover that will perform specific tasks on the desired planet/moon/asteroid.  We have several Sphero robots, and students can design rovers using K’nex or another building material that can navigate the surface of the given planet.  See these cool videos from Sphero below!
  • Orbital/Flight Calculations Team – Make any calculations necessary about velocities, orbital paths, fuel efficiency, etc.
  • Mission Design Team – Creates and presents the details of the mission to the other teams, decide how much to budget for each department, and help any teams that need extra help or fall behind during the project.  Students must apply for this position.

I am hoping students could choose jobs, and then mission teams could be formed across grade levels.  For example, let’s say I have a 3rd hour Algebra 1 class, another teacher has a geometry, and the last has an Algebra 2.  Each teacher could have a mission project in their room that has students from all three levels.

My ideas on how to go through the project:

  1. Have students choose/apply for a job.
  2. Mission Design has a few days to work on mission details, everyone else researches design elements and ideas, makes paper models, sketches, etc.

    Created on
  3. Mission Design proposes the details of the mission, other teams help refine the mission.  Mission Design decides how much of their “mission budget” they are going to spend in each department.  Budget goes towards materials they can buy in the class “store”
  4. Everyone gets to work on their elements, mission design team helps fill in and keeps the team on track.  Puts together reports on the design process and helps plan the “documentary” of the mission.
  5. Final tests of all elements, filmed for the documentary.  Any other elements of the documentary get filmed, such as interviews with the teams, voice overs, etc.
  6. Elements of each project are posted on a Google Site for parents to view, as well as documentary videos when ready.
  7. Best project videos are shown to the whole school in the auditorium.

Anyone have any experience with PBL that could improve these ideas?  Please share below!

I am nervous and excited to hopefully try these this year!  What risky ideas are you wanting to try next year?