Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Nearpod takes Egyptian Pyramid Lesson to a Whole New Level

Looking for a way to make Slideshow presentations more interactive?

Try Nearpod!

My district recently splurged and purchased licenses for all our teachers so I have been playing around with it. Here are the lessons I made for my class to learn about ancient Egyptian civilizations. Please feel free to use them with your students!

Nearpod allows teachers to upload premade slides and add interactive features to engage students and quickly assess their understanding. There are options for a teacher-led, Live Session and more independent, student-paced lessons to choose when presenting the Nearpod to your students, which really just depends on how you envision presenting the Nearpod in your class.

There are also options for using drawing tools, quizzes and polls, or open-ended responses (to name only a few) to formatively assess students as they progress through the Nearpod slides. This allows teachers to quickly see who has mastered the material and who needs more help.

Additionally, teachers can add pre-existing virtual reality Field Trips to their Nearpods. Later this week, my class will look at the inside of the tomb of Ramesses IV using the Field Trip Nearpod VR and Nearpod 3D! These are pre-made lessons that can be edited and tailored to your class.  Pre-made lessons are searchable by grade level and content area.

Here are some pictures of the students completing the Nearpod I made for engaging students in learning about Khufu's Great Pyramid. I look forward to making more Nearpods in the future!
This quick check had students labeling the parts of Khufu's Pyramid using the drawing/text tools.

Student's viewing my slides that have been imported into Nearpod. 

The entire class is following along on their Chromebooks during the lecture. 

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

PAX Hyperdoc Activity for Chapter 14 - "What's in a Name?"

Here is my updated Pax Hyperdoc activity for Chapter 14. Remember, the original PAX Hyperdoc is able to be modified for any classroom to meet the needs of the students!

In addition, I updated part of the original Hyperdoc for "What's in a Name" to be a separate close reading activity that asks students to write a 5 point constructed response to literature. If anyone wants to use it, feel free to make your own copy. I am planning to assign this in Google Classroom and make a copy for each student.

I hope you are enjoying the Global Read Aloud as much as I am!

Saturday, October 15, 2016

Google Hangout for PAX

Last week, my class connected with Mrs. Heffler's 6th grade class on Google Hangout to discuss and analyze the book we have been reading, PAX. We truly enjoyed our conversation! I was so impressed with the high level of insight students from both classes demonstrated as they discussed and debated this book.

Here are some of the pictures I took from the call which lasted about 30 minutes.

Here are some of the videos I took of the call. The students were talking about the setting of the story. The author never does tell us exactly where this story takes place, but our students are trying to figure it out. Look at the fact checking and thoughtful responses!

These are some great text dependent questions and thoughtful responses! And did you see how this student is citing evidence from the text? Makes my teacher heart so happy!

We hope to be able to Hangout with Mrs. Heffler's class again, soon!

Sunday, October 2, 2016

First Week of the GRA

This is the first week of the Global Read Aloud. My 6th grade class is reading Pax by Sara Pennypacker and this is how we are connecting:

First, I don't have more than 20 minutes a day to devote to this read aloud. It is not replacing my Reading block. No one else from my grade level team is going to do the GRA, although there is still time for them to change their minds! I think most of the teachers who are doing the GRA are in the same situation as me. I have to keep up with teaching the regular curriculum, while trying to squeeze this project in.  I do it because I know how impactful the connections we make with other kids from around the world are for my students. I've been doing this for 5 years now, and the GRA always is one of the best things I do with my kids.  Even though I am tapped for time, I can't withhold this opportunity from them. So, I will make the time because it is important to me.

To start off this week, we are reading the book and completing this modified Hyperdoc from the PAX HD. I am planning to pass it out via Google Classroom. Then, my students will have 45 minutes in computer lab to learn about foxes, analogies, form an opinion and construct an argument about whether foxes should be kept as pets. Most kids probably won't be able to complete the whole thing in that time period (the extensions could take quite a while...).  So I am hoping to entice my students, excite them, and motivate them to complete the tasks outside of class because when they are finished, they can share their work with a global audience on their blogs.  It's all about motivation, right?

Speaking of motivation, I won't be giving a grade for the work they do for the GRA. Grades don't motivate kids anyway. I believe that the idea of sharing what they are learning and doing with others is motivation enough for students to want to complete the tasks. Kids are natural learners and when they know they have an authentic audience, they are excited to create and share their best work. The GRA provides the motivation for my students through the connections the kids make. Consequently, I've never had a problem with kids not completing the tasks I assign for the GRA. They just do them because they want to.  Why would I want to confuse that by assigning a grade?

Here is the modified Intro to Pax 3-2-1 I am using. Feel free to make your own copy if you want to use it with your class. You may need to change some of the collaborative links that are specific to my class, but I hope you find it helpful!

PAX 3-2-1 Hyperdoc Edited by Mrs. Diaz

Ways I Am Connecting for the GRA

I am connecting in a variety of ways. 
  • Kidblog - the students have their own blogs. We will be posting HERE at least once a week. Some students may post more often. If you would like to connect with us via blogs, please do so! If your students have blogs, we would love to add you to our connections.
  • Edmodo - I have a closed student group for Edmodo. I created it for 5 teachers whom I connected with on Twitter and/or Edmodo. Our classes joined and will be able to chat with each other there. Although we are not looking to add more kids to this group, anyone can start their own group and invite other teachers. This is a simple way to connect and moderate chatting about the book with select classes. My class will post on Edmodo as one of the activities on our PAX 3-2-1 Hyperdoc.
  • Twitter - I hope to have my students tweet at some point although I am not 100% sure how yet. Our twitter handle is @mrsdiazclass if you want to follow us. We will use the hashtag #GRAPax.
  • Skype and Google Hangout - I am planning to do a few of these during the GRA. If you would like to find someone to do this with, I suggest using Twitter to find people who would like to connect. If everyone who wants a live video connection were to use Twitter, we could find a partner class almost immediately.
  • The PAX HD - there are many embedded collaboration pieces in the activities in the PAX Hyperdoc. Anyone can view it at  Feel free to make it work for you - create a copy, and modify it for your class. You don't have to do it all -be choosy about which tasks you assign to your class. Pass out the smaller Hyperdocs (like the one above) to your class on Google Classroom. Encourage your students to click on everything to find the "hidden" gems hyperlinked to the Slide Deck/Hyperdocs.
Whatever you do, don't be overwhelmed. Be creative and try to make one connection this week to another class. If you do nothing else, read the book and view the Twitter feed with your class and look at what other people are doing. Have discussions with your students. Best of luck for an amazing first week of the GRA! 

Mystery Skype that Failed

This is how my first mystery Skype of the year failed. Yep, it failed. Epic-ly. If there is a picture of an epic failure it was of my class this week. And I'm not worried about it at all.

This is what happened.

I tried to connect with a class to do a Mystery Skype in advance of reading PAX for the GRA. However, our connection did not work due to some technical difficulties. We (the other teacher and I) weren't sure what the problem was at the time, so we tried Skype, Google Hangouts (on two different accounts in case my GAFE account was being blocked at the district level...). But it was not to be.

After 20 minutes of trouble shooting, we just couldn't get it to work. It failed. And my administrator was in the room for it because I had invited him ahead of time. Awesome!

But that's ok, failure happens - especially when trying something new and using technology. It doesn't mean we should give up. We have to be resilient. And probably try to connect on the school computers at least once in advance of the actual meeting time...

Am I embarrassed? No, just disappointed I couldn't make it work. Thinking of giving up? No way! We are hoping to be able to try again next week with the same class or a different one.

I think it's important to share that it didn't work out because I know there is a lot of hesitation out there when it comes to technology. Sometimes it works, and sometimes it doesn't, but that doesn't mean it isn't worth trying (or trying again). I have done many Mystery Skypes and never failed at one before.  So I felt comfortable inviting my administrator to watch us. And so, he was there when it failed. I think the administrator was as disappointed as the kids were that we couldn't make it work. He commended me on taking intellectual risks and said he was impressed with my perseverance to try to trouble shoot the connection. He commented that he was very excited about what I was trying to do - connect with another class in a far away place about a shared book. I hope he can make the time to come back next week when we get the tech all straightened out! Because connecting with other classes using the technology is worth the trouble and effort it takes to do it!

How has technology failed you lately? What did you do to get around it? Does the failure inspire you to try again, or make you feel like you should definitely NOT do that again? I would love to hear your comments in the discussion below. Thanks for sharing your failures because I think it shows that things go wrong for techy teachers, too. Maybe knowing that will help others take risks in their own class...

Sunday, September 18, 2016

The Hero's Journey Archetype

The internet is an amazing resource for resourceful teachers!

This week I introduced the Hero's Journey Archetype. This is a lesson I taught last year using materials from Engage NY. But this year, I chose to deliver the content to my students using a Hero's Journey Hyperdoc created by Heather Marshall. If you haven't seen her work yet, head over to to her website and check it out all the resources and lessons she shares.

The lesson began with the students watching a video of heroes from many movies and cartoons played to the song, "Holding on for a Hero" by Bonnie Tyler. It was a lot of fun and it gave the students a chance to think about the lyrics to the song, what Ms. Tyler's definition of a hero is, and how their own definitions are similar or different from hers. Here was the students' thinking after watching the video. 

Next, we discussed the Hero's Journey archetype Joseph Campbell wrote about in his book, "Hero with a Thousand Faces", and how the same characteristics show up time and again in myths, stories and legends about heroes, including in movies, and the book we are reading, Percy Jackson and the Lightning Thief by Rick Riordan. Students viewed a variety of text and video resources to help them understand the 12 stages.

To show what they know, the students were assigned to watch a movie that follows the structure of the Hero's Journey, fill in a graphic organizer, and report back to their groups on Monday. It was a fun lesson and way more engaging for my students than simply reading a handout!

To see a view only copy of the Hero's Journey Hyperdoc I used in my class, CLICK HERE. Let me know if you use it, or have any other great ideas or resources for teaching Hero's Journey.

Sunday, September 11, 2016

Teaching the Scientific Method with Hyperdocs

One of the traditional assignments our 6th grade teachers give at the beginning of the school year is about The Scientific Method. In the past, the students read the textbook and then created a brochure to inform others about the Scientific Method. The past two years I taught 6th grade, I found that the textbook wasn't providing enough information and students needed more resources to truly understand the process. So this year, our brochure assignment got an upgrade!

This lesson was modified to be delivered through a Hyperdoc, assigned to students through Google Classroom. Each student received their own copy and then worked at their own pace to view the articles, graphics, and videos (as well as their textbook pages) provided as resources for learning about the Scientific Method. There was also opportunity for them to post responses on the doc itself and a Padlet.

Click the image to view the complete Hyperdoc. You may create your own copy to edit and use in your own classroom.

Here is the padlet my students used to share their questions with our class. We will be using these for inspiration during their science fair projects and Innovation Day projects later in the year.

Once students had learned about the Scientific Method, their task was to create a company that would inform and assist students who needed to do a Science Fair project utilizing the Scientific Method process. They created an informative poster using Piktochart, Google Drawings, or any other means as a way of convincing people to hire them to help with Science Fair projects. The students got really into it and are currently working on their projects. I hope to share the final products with you next week!

In the meantime, let me know what you think of this Hyperdoc. Did you make your own copy and modify/use it in your class? Let me know how it goes and thank you for your feedback!

Saturday, September 3, 2016

Flipping Back To School Night

This year our 6th grade team decided to take a risk, and try something new.... We Flipped our Back to School night! And it was a huge success!

Our rationale for doing a "Flipped" Back to School Night (BTSN) was to have parents watch our usual presentations at home, before they came to BTSN. Then, when they came to our classrooms on the actual night, we would have time to engage and interact with the parents - build relationships and have conversations that revolved around their kids, our passion for teaching, and the expectations for learning this year. It would give us the chance to get to know parents, and make those connections with them as partners in their child's education.

And it was awesome! Here is how we did it.

First, we are not tech gurus. None of us have savvy video production skills. So we used our Google Slides Presentation and Screencast-O-Matic to record ourselves narrating our slides. To make it easier and more manageable, we divided up the slides between us and each of us wrote the script for those slides. We recorded them individually, and then posted the videos to YouTube. From there, we were able to create a playlist (using our Teacher GAFE accounts) and add the videos to our own, individual playlists. We emailed parents the link to the playlist about 4 days before the BTSN and asked them to watch the videos in advance of coming to the classrooms. Here is what mine looked like.

Next, we had to figure out what to do when the parents showed up. This is where we diverged a little bit (I don't see anything wrong with that, by the way). Some of the teachers in my grade level choose to play a Kahoot with the parents, to review some of the most pertinent information from the videos. That was a huge hit! I decided to have my parents work on a collaborative slide deck and leave selfies for their kids. That was very fun, too! All of us chose to do a short presentation about ourselves using either slides or Smores since we did not include personal information about ourselves in our videos. We also had sign ups for Fall Conferences and Volunteers. 

I did "present" to parents for the first 15 minutes. But after that, I had the parents work on their selfies or sign ups while I started walking around.  The best part of flipping the BTSN was that I was able to walk around and talk to parents. Shake hands, mingle, get to know the parents a little bit. Give them an opportunity to ask me any questions. And just chat. We had the opportunity to build those positive relationships that are so important at the beginning of the year. I got to talk to most of the parents in my class. And I actually stayed longer than the allotted time just to be able to talk to parents. Instead of ushering parents out at the end of the night, the principal had to tell ME to leave!

After doing this Flipped BTSN I can't see going back to standing up in front of the parents for 40 minutes, reading my slides, and talking at them. It's too passive. It's boring for parents - and me. I would like to continue to work on finding ways to engage them during the BTSN and of course, having time to just walk around and get to know them better while building positive relationships.

Have you tried Flipping your BTSN? If you have, what did you do during the evening?

If you end up trying it, let me know how it goes!

Sunday, August 28, 2016

Collaborating on PAX for the Global Read Aloud

One day, I happened to be on Twitter...

Sounds like the perfect beginning to a Hero's Journey archetype, no? Yes, it does!

Because it's my story - although I am no hero. I am an ordinary teacher in an ordinary world, who joins up with three amazing and talented comrades and we work together to solve the problem about how to collaborate on a teaching resource for a novel we are reading with our classes in the fall.

And the adventure is just beginning!

Before I go on, I must back up. This story has a prologue. I LOVE the Global Read Aloud. It has opened so many doors (ok... Google Hangouts) to other classes from around the world. Over the past 5 years, I have enjoyed reading novels with my class and then taking our discussions online to reflect, discuss, and create with classes in far away places such as New York and Australia. Here is another blog post I wrote on the topic. To learn more about the Global Read Aloud and sign your class up, go here. This will be my 6th year participating in the GRA and I am looking forward to reading PAX by Sara Pennypacker with my 6th grade class in October.

Now, back to the beginning of my story...

One day, I happened to be on Twitter and I was hearing amazing things about HyperDocs (created by Lisa Highfill, Kelly Hilton, and Sarah Landis). They looked so innovative and interesting and I really wanted to make one. And then I saw a tweet from Heather McMarshall. She was looking to start a collaborative novel HyperDoc and was looking for suggestions about which book to choose. So, I took a risk; I answered her back! And to my delight, she agreed to make a novel HyperDoc with me for PAX. We needed a couple more teachers to work with us and she found just the right people: Nicole Beardsley and Kimberlie McDonald.

Remember, I am the ordinary teacher here. I had never made a Hyperdoc. And it turned out, I couldn't have asked for better teachers to learn from. I look forward to sharing more about the process of collaborating on this project in subsequent posts. Also, it is our intention to use this PAXHD to connect our classes together when the project starts in October.

So why am I sharing my experience on my blog? Because I took a risk, reached out, and Heather, Nicole, and Kimberlie reached back through Twitter. I hope that maybe if I share the process of collaborating on this project with these amazing teachers that someone else may be inspired to take a risk in their own teaching. Working with teachers I have never met in real life and using Twitter as our main communication tool has been an eye-opening experience for me. We are certainly BETTER TOGETHER when we work together to plan learning experiences for students!

For more inspiration on collaborating on a shared Hyperdocs, check out this blog post by Karly Moura. To view the collaborative novel Hyperdoc for PAX, go to

The Art of Selfies

This week was the first week of school and I wanted to do something new and exciting to learn about my students. So I found a Hyperdoc created by Heather Marshall called The Art of Selfies. I had to edit it because I found some of the content to be inappropriate for my 6th graders. It is important to ALWAYS preview another person's work, links, videos, etc. BEFORE showing it to your class! You never know!

For this lesson, I went over my Responsible Use Policy before handing kids a Chromebook. This was going to be their first time using devices in my class, so I spent about 20 minutes going over my expectations and answering questions. Which naturally led us to talking about images people post online. I asked them how many of them take selfies, and we were on our way to starting the Hyperdoc.

The students worked in partners to view the resources in the Hyperdoc, posted thoughts and ideas on a collaborative padlet, answer garden, and Google Form. The students also inserted their own selfie and a short bio into our shared Google Slide Deck so our classmates could get to know each other better.

The lesson I taught using the modified Art of the Selfie hyperdoc is embedded below.

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Buying a Car

I am working on the CUE Innovative Educator certificate program and completed a Project Based Learning course as one of my electives.

This course was an exercise on designing a Project Based Lesson. The benefit to students is that it is real-world applicable, interesting, and open ended. Students progress through the project at their own pace, collecting information as they go that determines the path they take to solve the problem. For my project, I created an extension to our end-of-the-year Financial Literacy unit we do after our Math Placement testing. The project required students to choose a car to purchase, provide a rationale, and prepare a financial accounting of how they would purchase the car including calculating the monthly payment.

The project that was created is presented here. I taught this lesson to my 6th grade class. If you end up using it in your class, please tell me how it goes - what worked, what challenges you found, or any additional resources you would have liked to have. You can contact me at or @jendeeaz. I would love to hear your feedback!

This is an example of exemplary student work. We only had a couple of weeks to complete this project, so there is certainly some room for improvement, but I was really proud of all my students because they were able to support their decision with reasons and evidence. However, sometimes the math calculations did not mirror reality. It would be helpful to have students actually look at a loan document to see the breakdown. They could make their own itemized loan document in Sheets. Another idea for improving this project would be to find an expert to speak to the students about loan financing, costs, and fees that influence the monthly payment. These would be some modifications I would make the next time I do this project with my class.

Here is the rubric the students were graded on.