In the Trenches

Thoughts and Ideas from a Classroom Teacher

BC5: Assessment Tips

I’ve used Google Forms for a long time as my parent/student information survey at the beginning of the school year. This year, I decided that I wanted to find ways to use this free, digital tool more frequently and for assessment. It allows my students, who will be taking end of year tests online, a chance to practice assessments online. Here are a few I’ve done that I post to my class blog for the kids to access easily.googleform

Unit ELA Assessment (students had printed copies of the texts)

Matter Post Test

Student Mid Year Survey

I love how easy they are to access from home, and they are a lot lighter to carry home than a stack of papers. I’ve recently discovered the joy of Google Forms Templates, and I found this post by Tammy Worcester Tang. She provides detailed instructions and a variety of templates for self checking quizzes. So cool! I thought I’d try it out for this post, so I’m prepared for my students.

Take my quiz and then check out the results! Let’s see how it works 🙂

Here’s the spreadsheet. You can see the ANSWERS on the top page. Click the SCORES tab at the bottom to see how they are checked. SO COOL!

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BC3: Websites I Love

Technically, my original thought was to blog about a classroom website that I love to use, but I’ve decided to take this a different way.

A website that I cannot live without is Hootsuite. hoosuite

Hootsuite is a social media dashboard. The free version allows you to manage up to 5 social media accounts (Facebook, Twitter, Linked In, etc.) from one dashboard. You can also easily schedule posts for a later date or time. You can set up different streams to follow conversations, direct messages, or whatever you want. Did I mention that the free version is really pretty robust?! If you are looking for a great management client that is web-based (iOS and Android apps are available), check out Hootsuite. By the way, it often works in school buildings where Twitter is blocked. I’m just sayin’…

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Getting 2014 Started Right!


I created this using PicMonkey. This was a super easy way to create a collage, add backgrounds, and add a variety of text. The free options are numerous and very customizable. Check it out!


You can follow along with the Techformers Unite challenges, too. It’s an open group on Facebook, so hop on over. Here’s our mission:

As educators (of any form or fashion) we are constantly saving the world through various challenges! Join the Techformers Unite team to boldly take on technology challenges that increases the use of these tools in your classroom. If you are ready to be a part of the Techformers Unite group, you just need to join our group and start attempting the various challenges! These challenges can be completely done by you, or you can do them with the students that you work with! Remember that any challenges you complete and post about need to comply with your schools/district rules for posting pictures/information. You are in charge of keeping up with what challenges you complete when you fill out the Google Form at the end of the month! On other social media? Share using #TechformersU


Blogging Challenge Encouragement

Are you taking the Blogging Challenge?

And follow along with others who have taken the challenge…


Starting Your Own Blog

I am certainly no expert at blogging. I go in spurts. I don’t write my own coding. I use the fonts, styles, and themes from the platforms that I use. I don’t even have my own domain. But, I will shout from the rooftops the benefits of writing, sharing, collaborating, and reflecting in a public space. When I first started blogging, I felt like I had to contribute to conversations about broad educational topics. I set goals for myself that weren’t fitting of my skills or desires. It wasn’t until I realized that my gift, my niche, was in simply sharing what I do, that I found a rhythm. Don’t let anyone else define for you what your blog should look like. Find your own way. You’ll thank yourself. In case you still aren’t convinced, Edudemic put out this great list of 3 reasons why you, as an educator, should be blogging.

Here is a quick tutorial on how to set up a Blogger account. Blogger is a free, easy to use service based on your Google account. I’ve found it to be the most user friendly!

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Coding Club

I am so excited to announce that my principal has ok’d me to start a Bobcat Coding Club, which will be a two month after school experience to teach third through fifth graders the basics of computer programming. After participating in Hour of Code, my students were so excited that I knew I had to come up with a way to offer more! I can’t wait to share more about our journey! THIS is going to be our “curriculum”

Check out this video on why kids should learn, at very least, the basics of computer coding. Find more info at



Big Huge Labs… Ho Ho Hum?

Today’s challenge was to use Big Huge Labs to create something with an image. To be honest, I was not impressed. I love the ideas behind what was there, but I had the hardest time getting images to upload and didn’t find it to be user-friendly at all.  Don’t get me wrong. I will give it another shot, but I’m concerned about ease of use with my students if I can achieve a similar output with a simpler tool. Anyone have any tips for me that I might have missed?

motivatorcf5056f0f528cd2e01974e04c12fbca6f92f23c5But who can be too mad at this cute little stinker of mine? 🙂 


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Kenan Fellows Application Open Now!


As I look back at the three professional development experiences that we have had through our Kenan Fellowship, a few key ideas come to mind and they are best described with a plant metaphor. I am not a gardener, so I may not do the art of growing justice, but I will give it a shot.

Seeds: The PD institutes we have experienced haven’t been enough to fully grow a garden, but they have been able to plant seeds. Whether it was the use of Augmented Reality in the classroom developing as teacher-leaders, we were exposed to a variety of gardens to grow. There is no way to grow each of these types of seeds, but I think we have all found a specific seed or two that we are wanting to cultivate. For me, these include growing my use of social media in the classroom and developing as an advocate for change in education that is student-teacher-leader focused.

Roots: While there may not yet be tons above the surface, the professional development institutes we have shared have built strong roots for growth. The foundations of knowledge and experiences we have shared have been exceptional at meeting us “where we are” and allowing us to move forward from those points. As a PD leader myself, I’m often the “feeder” but miss out on the opportunity to “get fed.” Our sessions, many with people I have known for ages (like Paul and Jason), gave me the chance to just sit, learn, and grow.

Water: Considering my dip in the Nantahala, this reference is probably obvious

Time: At this point, I’m just looking forward to time. I need time to process, time to reflect, and time to forge a new path for leadership that fits my needs, desires, and personal mission.

Fruit: My Kenan Fellows experience is bearing fruit in ways that I hadn’t anticipated… new friendships, increased professional opportunities, engagement in my own teaching, and learning benefits for my students.


Applications for the Class of 2015 Kenan Fellows are open now. Please take the time to consider this opportunity. It is not for everyone. It’s time consuming. It’s demanding. It’s hard work. But, it’s also an exceptional opportunity for professional growth, networking, and fun! If you have any questions, feel free to get in touch!

photo credit: Jason A. Samfield via photopin cc

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Elf Yourself!

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Voki for Techmas


I had a blast playing with Voki for today’s Techmas challenge! I am excited to use this more with my students, but I always want to keep the content first. For me, using this as the best instructional tool is sometimes not as obvious as other tools. I do think it would be a great addition to our class blog, though, with some welcoming information.

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