Place Value Doesn't Have to be Boring!

Now that I have a full month of teaching second grade (previously having taught third grade for almost 10 years straight), I'm actually gaining an understanding of how second graders are prepared for third grade.  If you examine the Common Core State Standards for Math, you will see that place value is really NOT taught directly in third grade.  It is left up to first and second-grade teachers to make sure students learn to read and write numbers up to 1,000.


But teaching and learning place value doesn't have to be boring!  One thing I notice about second graders compared to third graders is that attention spans are even shorter.  Another thing is that you have to mix up your teaching game to keep them focused and processing the information.  They also love to play games!

So I made up this game to solidify the concept of ten 10s equaling one hundred.  First I spent about thirty minutes prepping the materials I would need.  Lots of place value rods and flats!  Luckily, out math program gives each teacher plenty of these to use.  They're also made of foam which eliminates the sound of plastic banging on a desk. First, I put the 10 rods into bundles of ten and put them in snack size plastic bags.  Then, I put all the 100s flats into a basket so they could be handed out.  Finally, just needed one die and my pick sticks (just craft sticks with each students name on a stick).

To play the game, I handed out to each student between 2 - 5 of the 100s flats.  Some students got 2 hundred flats, some 3 hundred flats, some 4 hundred flats and some got 5 hundred flats.  Then I explained to students that I would roll the die.  If I got a four, I want to trade with someone who has 4 hundred.  But to make it random, I would first pick a name from the pick sticks and ask that person, Do you have 40 tens?(that being the amount I wanted to trade with the student).  If the student said no, I would ask why not?  Then I would continue picking names until I found a student who could make the trade:  40 bundles tens for 4 hundred flats.

But just to make it more difficult, I said I needed to ask the student to answer a question before trading.  Sneaky me, I also wanted to have the students practice counting by 2s, 5s, and 10s and 100s.  So I might ask the student:  count by 5s starting with 50.  If the student answered correctly, we made a fair trade, and the class received one point.  So it was teacher vs. class for points.  If a student answered incorrectly, the teacher got the point.  Of course, they won!  Adding the random factor (die and pick sticks) kept everyone in the game.  Asking the same type of question Do you have ___ tens? helped reinforc the concept of ten 10s equaling 100.


Now it was time to transition over to a model.  In my class, we use a composition book as a math journal. However, we call it our Siri Journal.  You know, just like Siri on an iPhone. When you have a math question, ask your Siri math journal!

In the journal, I had the students make a model for 230.  They drew 23 lines (each line representing 10). Then they grouped the 10s into 100s.  Then we wrote the number in different ways:  23 tens and 2 hundred and 3 tens.  We also did this with 370.

From there it was time for independent practice with the math book.  I'm not a huge fan of our math program, but I did like this particular set of math practice pages!


I've also been embedding some spiral review into our daily routine. We do about two Number Talks a week to learn strategies.  We also just practice counting by 2s, 5s, 10s, and hundreds starting from various numbers.  This ability to manipulate numbers in your head (mental math) is probably the most important skill you can teach a primary student.  One of my sons started school after Common Core began, while the other transitioned to the Common Core Standards.  I can see a big difference in how they each handle math.  The one that started with the Common Core uses many flexible strategies to manipulate numbers, while the other one is still relying just on memorization.

I also plan spiral review through games and centers.  I have created an entire set of games and centers to use to reinforce the concept of odd and even.  Having taught third grade, it is critical they understand odd and even!  We use the concept of odd and even to find addition and multiplication patterns!

You can find these centers and games in my Teachers Pay Teachers store.  They are part of the Odd and Even Teaching and Learning Bundle.

What strategies do you use to teach place value?  Please share below!

Save Time, Money and Your Sanity with Teachers Pay Teachers

What is it that teachers need more of?  Time and money!  There's never enough time in a day to teach everything we need to teach nor is there sufficient time in the day to prepare all our materials and make new ones for the next lessons.  Same with money!  Unless a district hands the teacher a credit card with no limit (very unlikely and probably illegal), teachers are digging out of their own pockets (or like that teacher in Oklahoma, asking for donations for school supplies holding a sign on the highway!) to buy materials.  This impact on time and money is compounded when a teacher switches grade levels!

Two Boys and a Dad Productions

I had to change grade levels right at the BEGINNING of the school year!  That meant finding time to get new resources that would help me teach the second grade English Language Arts and Mathematics Common Core Standards.  I'm very fortunate to work at a school in which each grade level teams and shares ideas, planning, resources, and materials.  That is very helpful when making a transition to a new grade level.   But I still needed resources!


Though I am a teacher-author and create resources for Teachers Pay Teachers, I actually did not create resources for this new grade level, but rather for the one I had taught.  To create new resources for this grade level is not as easy as it looks.  First, I have to really understand the standard or topic being taught.  I have to design a lesson or an approach to teaching it.  Then I have to make the resource to help me teach that lesson.  I also have to try out this new resource with the students and see what needs to be modified.  But my students can't just sit there and wait for me to create the resources.  That's where Teachers Pay Teachers saves me time!


The first unit in math related to place value.  This meant teaching odds and evens, adding doubles, doubles plus one, standard form, expanded form, word form, digit values and place value names.  I did a search on TpT and found MANY fabulous math resources to use to teach these exact lessons.  All were FREE!  This was such a time saver!  I didn't have to reinvent the wheel.  The resources were high quality that aligned with my lesson/content.  All I had to do was download, print, laminate, and cut.  As a teacher-author, I could have probably created those materials from scratch. But why? It's already done and ready to go!  This saved me the time I needed to then create resources I could not find to match my teaching style or lesson.

Here are some of the FREE resources that I found and used:


Two Boys and a Dad Productions

I used these to play a matching game.  Students had to walk around and find the card that matched whether they had the number or the hands.  When they found their partner, I had them stand back to back.  Then I had a few partners justify why their cards matched.  Matching games are perfect for second grade because it gets them up and moving around!  Thanks to Blooming Beyond for creating this cards!  You can find them HERE.


Two Boys and a Dad Productions

My students still ask to play this game!  They really enjoyed playing the different versions (doubles and doubles plus one).  Set up was easy. Just give them a die.  The instructions do say to color in the space to get 4 in a row, but I wanted the students to have many plays, so I just had them use counters to cover the sums.  We played the games instead of just working in our book or doing a worksheet.  Whenever we have some time in the day, I bring it out for a quick practice of doubles.  Thanks to Primary Inspiration for creating these games!  You can find the game HERE.


Two Boys and a Dad Productions

Another fantastic resource that I used to reinforce and practice standard form, expanded form, and word form.  I used the cards as a whole group matching game using my pocket chart stand.  Again, it got my second graders up and moving around.  They also had to justify their placement of the cards and explained why they matched.  The cards were ideal for encouraging mathematical discussion and critiquing another's reasoning.  The cards include place value up to the hundred thousand as well as decimals.  Very adaptable to any grade level in elementary.  Thanks for Angela Watson for creating this cards!  You can find the cards HERE.


Two Boys and a Dad Productions

My district requires teachers to post the standard or the I Can statement on the board daily (and yes they do check).  I have a similar set for both ELA and Math for third grade.  But now that I teach 2nd grade, the standards are different.  I found this particular set of I Can Statements for 2nd grade and have been using them since.  They fit perfectly in the area on my whiteboard I have designated for listing the standards.  Thanks to Partyin' With Primaries for creating this set of I Can Statements.  You can find them HERE.


Sometimes, I could not find what I needed on TpT (whether free or paid), so I created my own resources.  I also rummaged through my closets and found ALL my base ten blocks!  So I separated them into individual baggies containing 10 rods (10s) and 10 cubes (ones).  I gave each student a baggie that was then used on a place value mat I created.  It is two sided.  One side is for 10s and 1s.  The other side has 100s, 10s, and 1s.  I printed each mat on cardstock and also laminated each one.  Then I gave each student a mat, an expo marker and a piece of felt for an eraser.

Two Boys and a Dad Productions

I gave my students about 10 minutes of just using the base ten blocks for fun so they could get the novelty out their system.  Then we used them to show a number with a model (base 10 blocks) expanded form and standard form.  I also used the mats later to practice word form as well.

Two Boys and a Dad Productions


When I couldn't find a PowerPoint to help me teach odd and even (I rely on PowerPoints all the time to teach content), I made my own!  Knowing odds and evens is a critical skill because it leads to understanding mathematical patterns as well as, understanding why and even number added to an even number will always yield an even number.  An odd number added to an odd number also produces an even number.  An odd number added to an even number yields an odd number.  This knowledge also helps with multiplication as well.  So make sure your second graders truly understand this concept! In third grade, it is only reviewed but is very important in understanding addition and multiplication patterns.

I am currently refining the PowerPoint and adding sound as well. I hope to have it available in my store soon!  It will be part of a larger resource that will include centers, posters, color by number sheets and an assessment.  Here are some previews of what it will look like.  UPDATE 9/6/17:  THE ODD AND EVEN TEACHING AND LEARNING BUNDLE IS NOW AVAILABLE IN MY STORE! CHECK IT OUT!

Two Boys and a Dad Productions

Two Boys and a Dad Productions

Two Boys and a Dad Productions

I've also used an Interactive Notebook for math.  I've created some pages that the students glued in and filled out.  Once the school year is completed, I will gather all the templates and make them available.  Here are some examples:

Two Boys and a Dad Productions

Two Boys and a Dad Productions

Soon, I will also blog about the very useful and time-saving English Language Arts resources I found on TpT to help me with my switch to 2nd grade.

In the meantime, check back at my store frequently to see when the ODD and EVEN Resource Pack will be available!  

5 Quick and Important Pieces of Advice When Switching Grade Levels

I have to admit that switching or changing grade levels as the school year began was nerve racking and very stressful.  Although I'm starting my 31st year of teaching, change is always hard.  I've taught mostly third throughout those years, and for the past decade, it has been teaching third grade.  I've had combination classes along the way (mainly a 3rd-4th combination class), but we have a very unique way of instructing our combination classes, so it was never an issue.  But this year I was assigned a 2nd-3rd-grade combination class and now am teaching a class of just second graders.   So, I offer some advice if you have to switch or are changed grade levels.


We may be teachers, but we are also human beings.  Your first reaction is to panic!  You're thinking of all those great lesson plans and units you won't be able to teach this year.  You're thinking of how you're going to have to teach new units and new standards.  You're thinking about all the resources you're going to have to buy, borrow or find around the school.  You think so much it is overwhelming!  It's OK to feel overwhelmed, frustrated and a little sad about leaving your preferred grade.  But you shouldn't panic.  Why? It will lead you to inaction.  You'll waste valuable time that you could be using to make the transition smoother.

In my school, we have a particular way of handling combination classes.  Usually, a combination class in my school involves just having a few (4-8) kids from the one-grade level combine with another.  Because they are so few of that one-grade level, the other teachers from that grade level agree to take them for most if not all of the day.  That leaves the combination teacher with one grade level to teach.  Yes, it does increase the numbers for the other teachers.  But we look at it this way.  Eventually, every one of us will have to teach a combo class, and if we can help each other out, when our time comes we will also get help.  Think of it as paying it forward.

But this year was very different.  Our three combination classes had an even split between the two grades levels that were combined.  So the only solution was for me to take the second graders from the 1st-2nd-grade combo and combine them with my second graders to form a complete class. This meant sending my third graders to the other third grade teachers.  So here I am now teaching second grade!


When you're switching grade levels, the second thing you should do is find those pacing guides!  They will show you the entire year in a nutshell and will make your planning much easier.  In my district, grade level units were made by classroom teachers for each grade level and are shared in a Google Drive folder.  So it is straightforward to see what the units for the year are going to be.  In my district, these units are for English Langauge Arts and Math.

There are also unit binders that each grade level puts together with the resources that support each unit.  Knowing exactly which standards I am going to teach with each unit is invaluable.  Knowing which content area (social studies or science) is integrated into each unit is also invaluable.  Having both allows you to see how the entire year will flow.  Find your pacing guides.  Locate the unit binders.  If your district of school does not have these, another way is to ask a teacher at that grade level to see if you can look at last year's lesson plans (because we know every teacher keeps those old lesson plan books!).  


Even with the pacing guides and unit plans, you're going to have questions! You will have lots of them. The third thing to do is don't be afraid to ask for help from the grade level teachers.  I am lucky to work at a school in which everyone is friendly and works together as a team.  It is easy to ask for help.  We've developed a culture at my school in which it is not "my kids" but our kids.  Since we team teach for English Langauge Development (ELD) and RTI, it is natural to think of all the students as our students.  We have a stake in all classrooms being successful.

What if you don't have a friendly or helpful staff?  I've worked at those schools, too.  The best thing to do is to find a mentor.  Find that one friendly, helpful teacher (even if it's not the same grade level) and ask that teacher for help.  Don't feel intimidated to ask the principal for help!  That's a principal's job which is to support teachers.  Does your school or district have math or reading or some other type of instructional coach?  Ask them for help, too!  Don't add to your stress by isolating yourself and think you are showing weakness. It takes a professional to understand that help is needed.  Ask for it!


After teaching for 31 years, I have a lot of "stuff."  Yes, most of it is grade level specific, but I know I can adapt some of it to work in my new grade level assignment.  My fourth piece of advice is to figure out how you can repurpose all your read aloud books, unit resources, big books, digital resources, posters, etc., with your new grade level.  The Common Core State Standards from second grade and third grade have lots of overlap.  I'm not going to throw out everything and start over again!  Yes, I may need to borrow some resources or create new ones, but that's just part of teaching.  We're always on the lookout for new and useful resources.

I'm fortunate that some of the second-grade units in my district are very similar to the third-grade units when it comes to content.  That means I will be able to adapt my third-grade resources to use in second grade.  But when I do truly need something, I know I can go to my colleagues and borrow resources.  Also, just yesterday I went to the public library and found some read alouds to use with the current unit.  Don't forget to use your public library as a resource!


You might as well enjoy it! You're going to be teaching that new grade level for an entire school year.  You owe those students the best teaching and lessons you can deliver.  I am almost sure that next year I will be returning to third grade again (we have real solid numbers now coming up).  So this year I look at it as an opportunity to see how second graders are prepared for third grade.  It will give me invaluable insight as a third-grade teacher next year knowing what I taught the second graders.  Also knowing what third graders are going to be learning in third grade, will help me prepare and challenge these second graders to be ready for the challenges of third grade.

Also, it will give me an opportunity to create many new resources (both print and paperless/digital) to share with others in my Teachers Pay Teachers store. 

Be sure to come back regularly so you can read more about this switch to second grade!

5 Mistakes to Avoid When Setting Up Google Classroom

It's Back to School season and one of the newest duties teachers have to do to set up a new classroom is setting up Google Classroom to accommodate the new students for the new school year.  When I set up my first Google Classroom three years ago, I made some rookie mistakes that I avoided the next year and beyond.  In this post, I will show you how to set up Google Classroom right the first time so you can have smooth sailing all year long.

You don't want to make these mistakes when you first set up Google Classroom for the new year:

In this post, get a few tips to set up Google Classroom right the first time so you can have smooth sailing all year long.  You'll be shown how to set up different classes or subjects.  You'll be shown how to turn off student commenting.  You'll be shown why it's important to use a naming convention.  You'll be shown how to keep guardians in the loop with the student's assignments.  You'll be shown how to turn off and on notifications.


Log into Google Classroom. Find the plus symbol (+) located in the upper right-hand side.  You'll be given a pop-up window that you will fill in with the name of the class, section, and subject.  One mistake I made my first year was to create just one class for all my students and all their assignments.  It became a nightmare trying to find assignments and became unwieldy to manage.  Instead, make a new class for EVERY subject (English Language Arts, Math, Science, Social Studies, etc.). If you teach periods, make a class for every period.  You might also want to create special classes for students you share with other teachers.  For example, in my school, we switch students around for Response to Intervention (RtI) and English Language Development (ELD).  So I created special classes just for the students in that group.


Develop a way in which you will name each class or subject or period.  This makes it much easier for students to find the correct class and therefore the assignment.  If you look at the example below, I have used the following naming convention for my classes or subject areas:

  • subject (use abbreviations when you can)
  • grade (especially important if you teach a combination class or multi-age class)
  • school year (once the school year is over, you can archive a class)

Google automatically assigns the color and background of each class when you initially set up.  The newest feature of Google Classroom allows the teacher to change the order of the classes by just grabbing and dragging the classes around.  Before, the recent class would always be first.  If you need to add more classes during the year, just click the plus symbol (+) again and create it.

You can also customize the look of each classroom by clicking on a class name, then on the right side of the class header/banner click on SELECT THEME.  Once you do that, you'll be presented with the option to choose from pre-existing themes or patterns.  You also have the choice of uploading your own photo.  However, the dimensions of the picture need to be 2000 X 400 pixels.  You can upload any photo, but you'll have to drag it around inside the header to get it to show what you want.

Another important set-up feature is to make sure you add topics to each class.  Topics are essentially like subheadings within a class.  For example, I have an English Langauge Arts Class.   But in that class, I can assign spelling, comprehension, grammar or vocabulary assignments.  Without topics, students have to scroll around to find the exact assignment.  With topics, you can give each assignment a topic. That way students can filter assignments by topic.


One of the biggest mistakes I made that first year was NOT monitoring or turning off the comments.  Both teacher and students can add comments in Google Classroom.  That's a nice feature if the teacher needs to have more detailed instructions or add more information to an assignment.  There are lots of legitimate excuses and reasons to use the comment feature.  Unfortunately, some students see the comment section as a texting feature and start sending comments to each other that ALL students can see.

I had an incident in which two students were putting comments in the comments section writing about another student.  It was not nice compliments.  I had to take screen shots, email them to the parents and the students lost technology privileges for a week.  That is when our Technology Itinerant Teacher showed me how to prohibit students from commenting.  So I do that with every class. I turn off the ability for students to comment.  Only the teacher can comment!


A very nice feature of Google Classroom is the ability for parents and guardians to get updates about student assignments in each class.  I discovered this feature when my own child entered seventh grade, and several of his teachers used this feature.  Parents can opt in to receiving daily or even weekly updates via email.  This was an incredibly useful feature to me as a parent of a middle schooler trying to keep him on track with assignments, projects, and homework.  This feature also helps you to be proactive with parents whose children are not putting forth an effort or are not turning in assignments on time.


Your email in-box will be full of notifications when students turn in assignments, resubmit assignments, add comments, share docs with you, or a myriad of other things.  You can turn all of them off.  However, I caution against that because a student can say that he or she turned in an assignment that you didn't know about!  So it is better to leave ON all notifications so that all communication and notifications are given to you.

I would, however, change the profile picture because sometimes students will have several teachers who use Google Classroom.  They can instantly recognize whose Google Classroom it is with your custom profile picture.


Once you have all your classes in Google Classroom set up, it's straightforward to add the students to each class.  A new feature of Google Classroom 2017 is the ability to project the JOIN code in full-screen mode.  Before you more or less had to recopy it onto the whiteboard large enough for everyone to see.  Now, Google Classroom allows you to project the code in full screen.  Once a student has joined the class or subject or period, only YOU can delete the student from the class during the school year.  If you get a new student, no problem.  Just give the new student the code, and they will instantly be added.

Another important feature is the ability to invite other teachers to be an administrator of the class.  This is a fantastic feature if you co-teach or share students.

What features of Google Classroom do you like? Share in the comments below!

5 Essential No-Nonsense Apps Teachers Need Every Year

With the thousands of Apps available for the Mac, iOS, Android, Chrome, and Windows how is a teacher supposed to narrow the field for the most essential and no-nonsense apps?  In this roundup post, I'll give you the run down on five important Apps and websites you can rely on year in and year out.  These Apps and websites have only improved with age.  Take a look at each video so you can learn the features of why these Apps and websites are so essential.

Essential App #1:  Google Classroom

Before you watch the video, there are some exciting new updates coming to Google Classroom and Google Forms!  Check out this link:  10 ways we’re making Classroom and Forms easier for teachers this school year.  

If you are in a 1:1 classroom environment or are heading in that direction, "get thee to Google Classroom," a modern Shakespeare my say.  Google Classroom is a platform that allows teachers to assign, distribute and grade assignments and projects in a paperless way.  Teachers can access Google Classroom on the desktop ( or as an App on their tablet or phone (both iOS and Android).  I've blogged about how important it is to organize your Google Classroom in this post, and Google makes organization easy and convenient.

Check out this video tutorial for Google Classroom to get started:

Essential App #2:  ClassDojo

If you're looking for a great way to combine Growth Mindset, parent communication, student accountability and classroom management you've just found it.  ClassDojo is both a website ( and an App available for tablets and phones (both iOS and Android).  I've also blogged about using ClassDojo with my students.  Create a class roster and start rewarding students for good choices.  If students make bad choices, you can document that through ClassDojo as well.  But the best part is keeping parents informed not only about the student's behavior but also about the happenings in your classroom.  Parents download the App and join by a unique code provided to them.  Parents can keep track of their child's behavior, receive notices from you (including pictures and videos).  ClassDojo has now added a new feature called ToolKit which is viewable through the App.  The new ToolKit has eight new features including a timer, group maker, directions display and more.

Check out this video tutorial for ClassDojo to get started:

Essential App #3:  Remind

Everyone is busy.  Teachers and parents.  So what is a quick and sure fire way to make sure parents receive important school and classroom information?  Use Remind!  Sure, you can send messages through ClassDojo, but that means the parent has to open the app to see the message.  What if you could text the parent directly with relevant information?  That is what the Remind App (and website at does for you.  When you sign up, you'll be given a random telephone number that will be used to text parents.  Parents sign up directly from their phone.  I like to use Back to School Night to have them all take out their phones and sign them up.  Sign up takes 30 seconds!  From them on, they'll receive text messages from you with your important announcements.  It has many other features, too.

Check out this video tutorial for Remind to get started:

Essential App #4:  EdPuzzle

This website is one of the coolest sites available to teachers.  Ever find a great video on YouTube or some other site and think how you could use it in a lesson?  This site allows you to not only assign a video (it communicates with Google Classroom so you can assign it through Google Classroom), but you can develop questions for the students to answer and interact with the video!  I've blogged about how I use EdPuzzle in my classroom.  You can trim videos or even add your narration.  A video is a powerful tool for teaching, and this website makes it easy to develop assignments and projects with the videos.

Check out his video tutorial for EdPuzzle to get started:

Essential App #5:  Kahoot

What is Kahoot?  The Kahoot blog explains it well:

"A Kahoot is a collection of questions on specific topics.  Created by teachers, students, business-people and social users, they are asked in real-time, to an unlimited number of "players," creating a social, fun and game-like learning environment."

You can make up your own questions or pick from those made by others.  It's a great way to check for comprehension or use as an exit ticket quickly.

Check out this video tutorial for Kahoot to get started:

What Apps do you consider essential for teachers to use?  Let us know in the comment section!

25 Amazing Chrome Extensions Every Teacher Should Use

If you're new to using the Chrome web browser or a veteran user, here's a round-up of 25 Chrome Extensions that will help teachers save time and their sanity.  Rather than make a list, here are some informative videos to get you started with adding these amazing Chrome Extensions.  

Not sure what Chrome Extensions are or how to add them? No problem!  These videos will walk you through the process.  Just open up Chrome and get started!


In this 20 minute video, you'll be introduced to a variety of powerful and useful extensions every teacher should be using.  The extensions in this video are perfect if you're just now making the switch to Chrome.

Here are the extensions presented:
  • G Suite Training - great for learning everything Google
  • Google Tone - instantly share links with your class
  • - URL shortener
  • Bitly- another URL shortener with more options
  • Print Friendly  PDF - stop wasting paper and ink!
  • Extensity - turn extensions on and off as needed
  • Auto Text Expander - create shortcuts for oft repeated text
  • Awesome Screenshot - more than just a screenshot, lots of options including annotation!


In this 5 minute video made by a teacher, you'll be introduced to some handy Chrome Extensions that will help you be more productive.

Here are the extensions presented:
  • Save to Google Drive - You know you want to!
  • Eye Dropper - what color is that?
  • One Tab - get those opened tabs organized


Need even more Chrome Extensions? Then watch this 11-minute video for some more awesome and time-saving Chrome Extensions.

Here are the extensions presented:
  • Click Time - need a timer for your class? Get this one!
  • Google Dictionary - click on any word and instant definition
  • Tab Resize - want side by side tabs open? This will resize and split your screen.
  • Pin it Button - save all those great ideas to Pinterest


Can it get even more awesome? Yes, it can!  Here are five more incredible Chrome Extensions to add as explained in this 3-minute video.  

Here are the extensions presented:
  • Readability - Get rid of all the things you don't want to read on a page.
  • Tab Cloud - Save all your open tabs as a session to open again later
  • Edpuzzle - Integrate right into Chrome!
  • World Data Finder - Need more statistics and charts? Then this for you.
  • Tab Scissors - Another tab resizer


This final round-up video will not disappoint.  Take a look at this 9-minute video and add these Chrome Extensions as well.

Here are the extensions presented:
  • Grammarly - Check your grammar and spelling 
  • Tab Glue - Glue all those tabs back together
  • YouTube Adblock - Get rid of those sometimes inappropriate ads on YouTube
  • Kami - Open and Annotate PDFs 
  • Drive Quick Create - Shortcut to create a Google Docs, Slides or Sheets

If those Chrome Extensions aren't enough, make sure you check out the Chrome Web Store accessible from Chrome (or just Google it).

Share your amazing Chrome Extensions for teachers below in the comments!

5 Tools That Will Make Your Students Google Docs Pros

Do your students use Google Docs® for writing and publishing? That's great! But now let's make them a Power User or Pro when working with Google Docs.  

Here are five Pro tools to teach your students so they can increase their efficiency and work when using Google Docs.

If you're unfamiliar with Google Docs, it is part of Google's free online apps which also include Google Slides and Google Sheets.  Think of it as the web version of Microsoft Office, but with one big difference! It's free!  All you and your students need to get going on using these apps is a Google Account.

I am fortunate to work in a 1:1 district and I have a cart full of Chromebooks.  Each of my students and myself have a district issued Google Account which we use to log into anything Google.  So what are these Pro tools?  I believe that these five tools are often overlooked, underused or teachers and students don't know they exist! 


If your class make up is anything like mine, you will have many English Language Learners, Resource students, and students with limited vocabulary.  In a 1:1 classroom, I can not be everywhere.  So if a student sees a word that is not understood, teach the student to use the Define Tool.  Directly to go to Tools, scroll down to Define.  Then type the word or term in the box.

Instantly you will get the definition AND synonyms if available.   Get students into the habit of using online dictionaries. Why? I'm here in California.  In our version of the Smarter Balanced Assessment (SBAC), students have the ability to use the built-in glossary when working on the reading portion of the test.  How cool is that! But if you don't use it to your advantage, it's a wasted opportunity to improve your score.  So if you get students into this habit of using online dictionaries or glossaries, it will help them later while increasing their vocabulary.  They're also using technology as a tool, just like they would in college or in the workforce.


A critical Common Core Standard for English Language Arts in third grade is RI.3.5 which is about using text features.  Headers in an informational piece are crucial and used to locate information more efficiently.  When students use the Document Outline Tool, they create their own headers, and it helps them organize their writing.  At the same time, it's an added bonus that they learn how to use headers and how they are used in not only organizing information but helping the reader to find it.

While they are making headers, they are also learning basic word processing tools and skills that they will need for college and the workforce.


How many times do we tell our students now:  cite evidence!  Well, first you have to collect the evidence.  That's where Google Keep is handy.  If you're familiar with EverNote, then you'll be familiar with Google Keep.  They work in similar ways to capture information in one place that can then be accessed at a later time.  But the best part is that you can access your Google Keep notes DIRECTLY from Google Docs.

As with all Google sites, you will need to already have an account for Google Keep to save your information.  Google Keep is a website (, but you can also add the Google Keep Extension to your Chrome browser.  Click on the extension button anytime to bring up something to save. You can also highlight something and then right-click to bring up a contextual menu to let you save it to Google Keep.

You can see all your notes and organize them any way your want from the Google Keep website.  The key is to organize your notes by using labels. Create a label around a topic, and then anything you save related to that topic should be given that label.  That way, if you have a multitude of notes, you can search for the notes you need by the label.  Organization skills are valuable skills for college and the workforce.

How do you access your notes in Google Docs? Very simple! Go to Tools, then scroll down to Keep Notepad.  Now you can just drag text to your document.  It will automatically paste anything in that note, including web links.  But we don't want students to plagiarize! So Google Keep should be used as a research tool to gather information for which the student will rewrite in his/her own words.  This brings up the opportunity to discuss being a good digital citizen, plagiarism, and copyright infringement.


This past year I had two RSP students who really HATED to write.  I also had a few other non-RSP students who felt the same way about writing....even typing!  So that's why you want to use this handy tool with select students.  To access the Voice Typing tool, go to Tools then scroll down to Voice Typing.  You might have to test this feature to see if it actually works on the device the student is using.  Though it worked on my MacBook Pro, sometimes I could not get it to work on the Chromebooks.  You should speak to your Tech Department about how to make sure it will work.

By the way, a workaround for this is the iPad. If you have access to iPads, all the Google Apps are available for the iPad. iPads have built-in dictation, so all the student has to do is open a new Google Docs, then bring up the keyboard.  On the screen keyboard, click on the microphone key, and it will take dictation. Dictation on the iPad or Chromebook can be tricky as ambient noise can mess things up.  Also, you have to say PERIOD or QUESTION MARK or EXCLAMATION POINT if you want punctuation.  It's a nice feature to have for those students who struggle with just writing or typing.


This is not so much a tool as a feature of Google Docs.  With this feature, you can turn any Google Docs document into an online web page.  Why would this be important?  As I discovered when I went 1:1, a lot of my students' writing was not up on our writing wall but stored on their Google Drive. So how is anyone going to see it (especially district officials when they come on their yearly tours)?  So here's a way for anyone to see their published writing that's stored in their Google Drive.

First, go to File and then scroll down to Publish to the Web.  From there you will be presented with a window to ask how you want it posted (link or embed).  Choose link.

Then, click on Start Publishing.  Then you'll be given the link (which you can store on Google Keep).  You will have to have a Google Slide presentation template already set up to receive the link.

In Google Slides, you will create a small text box.  You will write a title such as, My Statue of Liberty Opinion Piece or whatever is the title of the writing.  Then you will insert a link in the text box.  This is where you paste in the link you already saved.  Now a student can keep adding text boxes with links to this Google Slide, and it can act as a homepage with links to all their writing.  Much more convenient than retrieving it from their Google Drive.  Even better, create a QR code for a link to the Google Slides presentation.  That way, anyone can scan the QR code with a phone or other device and quickly get to the slide and the links.

If you can teach your students to use these tools, not only do they become a Power User, but learn valuable tech skills and are becoming prepared for college and the workforce.  If you have a PRO or POWER USE tip, submit it below in the comments!

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