Today’s Contributor: Yesenia Zecca
My name is Yesenia Zecca and I teach 5th grade Language Arts at Boone Elementary. When I am not working, I enjoy spending time with my husband and two girls. I love to create using technology whenever I get the chance.
This is my second year using BLEND in my Language Arts classes. The first year was full of bumps and hurdles, but I have learned a lot. Here are some of the things I learned on BLEND.
One of the biggests struggles I had last year was how to organize my modules. I began by creating week by week modules, then moved on to creating modules by Genre. I was not happy with either method. This year, I read a blog post from Travis Horne, Using BLEND For Re-Teach and Tutorials that opened my eyes to a new way of organizing modules. I constantly get asked, “What are we doing today?” or “What did I miss yesterday?” The simple answer is to organize Modules by day/lesson. This not only helps me keep track of what we have done, but helps students and parents know exactly what we did on any particular day.
As a Language Arts teacher, I have countless writing assignments to grade. It can be a very tedious task, but by creating and using rubrics for grading, grading these writing assignments is a breeze. When you create a rubric, you can designate the rubric be used to grade the assignment. When you open a writing assignment to grade (or any type of assignment you create a rubric for), you open the rubric and click on the corresponding score for each part of your rubric. Click save and you are done. It will highlight the score for each section, add up the points and post the grade.
Giving students comments on their work is such a valuable tool. I love having the option to type a comment, record a video, or record an audio comment. I especially like to use the speech to text feature (speaker icon) to save time on typing. Students are able to get valuable instant feedback that helps them grow as learners.
I love creating interactive activities for my students using Google Slides, Google Docs and Google Drawings. Having the external tool option (Google Docs Cloud Assignment) is great. It allows me to upload my interactive activity, which makes a copy for each student. In addition, students can submit their work right from the interactive assignment. We have encountered some challenges though. Sometimes students will get an error message when trying to submit, but we have found that closing the assignment, refreshing BLEND and reloading the tool will fix this problem. Another downfall to a Google Docs Cloud Assignment is that the screen display of the assignment is reduced by a lot. I tell my students that once they open their assignment from BLEND, they can close it out, then open and work on it from their Drive. Once the assignment is complete, they can reopen it from BLEND to submit.
Recording Questions and Answers
It seems that every year we have more students being identified as 504. Most of them have the accommodation of having the questions and answers read to them. It can be exhausting having to reread the same question over and over. The simple solution is to record questions and answers for your assessments. Even if you still give assessments on paper, having the recordings of questions and answers on BLEND will save your voice! Plus, you can assign it to only the students that need the accommodation. One thing I have found useful is to record each question individually and place them on a table. This way, students can play ANY question as many times as they need to. I use vocaroo.com (but you can use any recording program you prefer) to record my questions/answers individually and download them to a folder on my desktop. Then, I upload them to the assessment I created on BLEND. If you create quizzes on BLEND, you can also insert your recording on each individual question.
Being departmentalized means teaching over 70 students. Since all my students are listed on one course, sometimes it is not feasible to assign work to most students and exclude others that are not required to complete an assignment, like Special Ed students that are pulled out for instruction.. I will assign work to everyone, select Speed Grader and type in EX in the grade box for those students that are excused from that assignment. You can also do this from the Gradebook. This way, the assignment won’t show up on their To-Do list and parents won’t freak out because their child has overdue assignments!