Finding Time for Timely, Actionable and Effective Feedback

Close up of a computer keyboardOne challenge of giving feedback is giving it to everyone in a timely manner. Elementary educators have approximately 30 students each year and often teach multiple content areas.  Middle and high school teachers, often have 150-200 students in their care. College level educators have even more students. One level of common ground, at every grade level, is the need for feedback.

Research shows that more progress is made by students who receive timely and actionable feedback. The techniques in this post are a few methods that have been useful in my efforts to help students make improvements as they strive toward mastery. I teach language arts, but many of the tools and strategies discussed will work across curricular areas. Remember, feedback does not always have to be negative. Leaving a positive or encouraging response (especially when pointing out a negative) will give you legendary status with your students! Ok…maybe not legendary, but it helps!

So what are some ways to give individualized feedback efficiently?


Make a screencast to send quick video feedback. Add the link to the students work. You can find more information about screencasts in two of my previous posts:

Screencasting your feedback makes it quicker and students can replay it as needed. I use it to offer suggestions, point out positives, and do flash tutorials that are specific to the needs of that student. They can be as broad (covering an entire essay) or as singular (focusing on a specific math problem, writing strategy, or convention) as you need it to be. Students can take the information and run with it!


Person sitting at a computer listening to headphonesKaizena allows you to leave audio feedback for your students in their Google Docs. Similar to what you can do with a screencast, except it is audio feedback only. You can find more information about Kaizena here. Don’t forget to grab the Kaizena extension in the Chrome Web Store!

Google Keep

Google Keep requires a google account. If your school uses Google Apps for Education (GAFE) it is already included in your (and student’s) accounts. My students have learned to use it for note taking when completing research, but it works as a feedback tool too! Open the student’s document. Use the extension‘s checklist feature to write feedback in Google Keep. Make the student a collaborator. Tag each note with a label of the student’s name to keep track and organize notes. This method allows an opportunity for ongoing feedback and student can check off as they make corrections or finish remediation tasks. Need more information on Google Keep? Check out this super quick tutorial: How to Create a Shared Checklist with Google Keep by BetterCloud.

Make Timely Feedback a Rotation

Have students come to you for one of their rotations with the sole purpose of talking through what they are working on. For example, recently we were working in creating strong introductory paragraphs in my language arts class. Students came to my rotation in groups of 7-9. In the 20-25 minute rotation, I was able to skim each intro and give feedback for improvement. They were able to either begin to move on or make modifications in their next rotation station. Students who were not prepared for the required task used the time to email their parents to explain what they were missing and that they needed to work on it that night for homework.

Create Feedback Shortcuts in Google Docs, Slides, Sheets, etc.

Make feedback “macros” in Google Docs, they will apply to nearly all of your GAFE products. Watch this quick tutorial to learn how.  These macros allow you to type in short codes that will be transposed into whatever longer text you wish to appear as your feedback.

Onward! pexels-photo-60230.jpeg

Feedback does not have to mean a written message on everything students document. It can be a useful tool that elevates both teaching and learning. Try one or two of the techniques and let me know how they work in your classroom. Feel free to share a feedback method that works in your classroom in the comments…I am always looking to add new tools to my tool box. I hope these ideas help you find ways to incorporate more feedback, in your classroom, in a way that is both easy to maintain and a positive experience for student and teacher alike!


A Flexible Seating Playlist

What is Flexible Seating?

Girl reading a book on the roof
Maybe not THIS flexible!

Flexible seating is a method of classroom management where students have options and choice for where they sit. Their choices may may be driven by physical needs/comfort, learning styles, and/or collaboration needs. It allows students to work in positions that are most comfortable or effective for them.

Flexible seating has become the rage in education, and whether you are a veteran looking for ideas or a novice looking to learn more information, this is THE playlist for you.

Choose your own learning adventure! Just click on the links that pique your interest and learn in the method that works best for you!

NOTE: Before you commit, make sure that the materials you add to your classroom are safe and allowable according to your school administration and fire codes.




Classroom Management with ClassroomScreen

Don’t You Just Love a New (and Effective) Tool?

I am always looking for tools that make my job easier. I have tried many tools over the years to help students stay on task and have found what is truly a “golden ticket!” ClassroomScreen is an online wall of sorts and an excellent tool for your teacher toolbox.

What is ClassroomScreen?

ClassroomScreen is a quick classroom management tool created by Laurens Koppers, a teacher in the Netherlands. It is accessed via a website (no need to download anything) which allows you to easily display your ClassroomScreen for your students. It allows the user to use widgets on the screen projected in their classroom, to keep students informed of expectations and on task. The icons give visual cues and are an excellent resource for all students, but especially helpful for students who receive English Language Learner or Special Education services. I’ve created the five-minute video below to demonstrate some of the features of the website.


How I Typically Use It

Continue reading

Whooo’s Reading: Effectively Using Tech to Improve the Reading and Writing Ability of Our Learners

Whooos Reading LogoNo matter what grade, I have always encountered students who were less than enthusiastic about reading. I have taught upper elementary and middle school, and at the beginning of each year there are students who bemoan requests to read.

“I am not good at reading.”

“I don’t want to read.”

“This is too long. Do I have to read the whole thing?”

“Why do we have to read this?”

For many students reading is a chore. The act of persevering long enough to connect with a text does not come naturally to all students. For some, we must find ways to not only engage students in the required reading, but also help them to develop reading skills that make reading more appealing.

At the same time, we are educators. We have to serve the academic needs of our students. My role must also include assessing each student’s ability to comprehend what they have read and facilitate growth in their mastery of reading. In this post, I will discuss a web-based reading program that offers ways to help our students grow as readers. I have chosen this resource for:

  1. The types of texts students access
  2. Curricular alignment
  3. Type of reading/response to reading that is required
  4. Availability of data to track student progress
  5. Potential engagement for learners
  6. Cost (FREE–because there are QUALITY free resources out there!)
  7. Student-paced (a key components of blended learning)

Whooo’s Reading

The Highlights

  • Students read the book of their choice, no required texts (I do recommend that students check the site to see if their chosen book is in the database–most are.)
  • Requires students respond to higher-level questions in writing (no multiple choice)
  • Questions are aligned to a variety of curricula, including the Common Core State Standards
  • Students complete “journal” entries based on the text they are reading and 3 question quizzes when the book is completed (both are self-grading)
  • Students receive immediate feedback and guidance on how to make their written responses stronger (positive reinforcement)
  • Students are able to earn “Wisdom Coins” they can spend on their avatar and in-game incentives lending a game-like atmosphere (gamified learning experience)
  • Teachers track student progress and identify needs to help drive classroom instruction
  • FREE

According to their website:

Accelerating reading comprehension and writing skills has never been easier… or more authentic.

Give feedback beyond pass or fail. Let our program remind your students, while they write, to do things like cite evidence and answer all parts of the question, so you don’t have to.

Know who’s actually reading.
See automatic quiz results for every book your students read, provided by our data-driven grading algorithm.

I like Whooo’s Reading for the potential to keep students reading and writing about what they read. Three higher-level questions are used to assess comprehension. The student develops writing skills in addition to reading skills. The feedback (delivered by a friendly owl avatar) guides students to improve their writing conventions, word choice, use of evidence to support their response, etc. Students make revisions, on the spot, before they submit their answers. The intervention is immediate and does not require teachers do the grading. It is done in response to the student’s writing, about the book they chose, requiring reflection on the response they wrote. They get the opportunity to improve that response before it is graded…all the things we want to offer students, but do not always have the time in confines of our class time. Best of all, students get positive reinforcement and get to share their thoughts on the books they read.

To gain a little more insight into what the program offers, I recommend you watch these tutorials from the company.

Whooo’s Reading is promising and certainly worth exploring. I plan to follow up with a future post, after I have to the opportunity to use it with more students. If you are using Whooo’s Reading or found this post informative, please comment below!

Getting Hyped About HyperDocs

Remember webquests? Webquests were big when I started teaching.  Students would work through a self-paced digital assignment, completing ordered tasks linked to websites in the internet. Webquests were designed to learn about a concept or topic. HyperDocs are like webquests on steroids…not necessarily bigger, but so much better!

So, What is a Hyperdoc? 

Lisa Highfill, Kelly Hilton, and Sarah Landis have written The Hyperdoc Handbook: Digital Lesson Design Using Google Apps as a primer for getting started using HyperDocs effectively in your classroom. It is available in both print and digital formats. According to the writers,  “HyperDocs are digital lessons that you give to students for engaging, inquiry-based learning.”


But Isn’t That Just a Fancy Document with Hyperlinks?

In a word, no. True HyperDocs ask students to dig deeper, master content, and demonstrate a deeper understanding. Hyperdocs also allow teachers to build in supports to aid in understanding of the content. In her blog, Karly Moura explains this well.

The beauty of HyperDocs is that the creation of the doc itself requires the teacher to take into consideration the needs of the students, how they will engage in the content, what ways they can reflect on their own learning, and how they can show what they know. It is also ALL about packaging. HyperDocs LOOK engaging because they are. Kids enjoy doing them and while they are learning, collaborating, creating and reflecting in their doc the teacher is given the gift of time to connect with students and engage in quality conversations with them about their learning.

Ms. Moura also created a wonderful graphic illustrating the differences between a document with hyperlinks and a HyperDoc.




Here is an example of a HyperDoc on Growth Mindset created by Lindsay Reed.

img_0190-1Even though this was Ms. Reed’s first attempt at a HyperDoc for her middle school learners, she does a great job of creating a lesson that is engaging and includes multiple methods of delivering information and demonstrating understanding. It also requires completing tasks and answering in ways that require higher order thinking skills…Hallmarks of a good HyperDoc.

How Do HyperDocs Fit Into the Blended Learning Environment?

As I have stated previously, blended learning is any combination of face-to-face and online learning. HyperDocs allow for students to explore and master content online, at their own pace. They can receive lecture, face-to-face instruction in small groups or one-on-one with an educator and the online component of blended instruction via HyperDocs. This can easily fit in a rotation model, flipped classroom model, etc.

But Wait There’s More! 

For the low, low price of $0 you too can access these resources! The website associated with the book is a buffet of ideas, tips, and tools made by the authors and shared by the the community of educators. The community has embraced the idea of teachers sharing resources for FREE (remember that is my favorite price) and the amount of knowledge and expertise being exchanged is phenomenal! The point is, share what you create, partake of what others share…everyone wins.

  1. website created by Lisa Highfill, Kelly Hilton, and Sarah Landis, writers of The Hyperdoc Handbook: Digital Lesson Design Using Google Apps
  2. an exchange where users can submit their HyperDoc lessons and download lessons created by other educators to use or modify for their classroom needs.
  3. #Ditchbook with #HyperDocs #BetterTogether Sharing Extravaganza! Padlet by Karly Moura where educators have contributed an assortment of HyperDocs.
  4. Hyperdoc Links by Merle Goess is a Padlet that lists a wide range of HyperDoc resources.
  5. HyperDocs Facebook Group is a forum for all things HyperDocs. It is a very welcoming community where teachers share resources and ideas.
  6. How to HyperDoc by Nicole Beardsley is a HyperDoc that is also a model for introducing HyperDocs!
  7. Driving Digital Learning The entire website is filled with resources free to use. This page is a set of HyperDoc templates.

Why Use HyperDocs?

  • Personalized, self paced, and flexible
  •  Room to differentiate with alternate texts for individuals or groups of students, individualized scaffolds like text to speech readers, various ways for students to “show what they know” using multiple learning styles
  • Engaging
  • Use the skills 21st century learners need
  • Less lecture and read and respond lessons of traditional teaching
  • Requires intense interaction with and a deeper understanding of content
  • Excellent tools for blended learning
  • Many lessons already created by peers in the community (educators) that are modifiable for your needs
  • Templates to get you started online

Best of all…you’ll have more time to work with students in small groups and one-on-one while your students are engaged in meaningful instruction! Explore HyperDocs as a means to meet the needs of your learners.

If you are already using HyperDocs, or are exploring their use in your classroom, or you just have questions/comments, please be sure to add your thoughts to the comment section below. Thank you for reading!

Using Text-to-Speech and Speech-to-Text to Help Struggling Readers and Writers

I am always looking for ways to scaffold instruction or make learning more accessible for my students. Over the years, I have had the opportunity to work with many students whose reading and/or writing levels have ranged from well below grade level to well above. Often with learners performing below grade level, listening comprehension is higher, and by giving opportunities to read along with another reader, opportunities to show comprehension of the text are also acquired. In addition, I found that my lowest readers have great things to say and by giving them ways to scaffold their writing skills, you give them a voice.

By giving students who struggle choices for how their needs and accommodations are met, ways to find and use supports independently, and control over the frequency and availability of those scaffolds, you have the ability to empower those learners to advocate for themselves. These are tools students could be using in college and beyond, should they need the support. It also has the ability to eliminate some of the stigma students (especially older students, in my experience) seem to feel when they need to ask to have something read or need help manually writing (ie. scribe). These struggles do not signify and inability to create or lack of intelligence, but instead and obstacle, to be overcome. I would like to share some of the tools available to help your students show what they know! With all of the tools, I will try to identify free tools (free is my FAVORITE price!) as often as possible.


You can use text-to-speech software to have typed text read out loud.

  • Text-to-Speech Reader
    • A free online service accessible via the internet. It even works on a smartphone. If you can copy and paste from a website or document, you can have this website read it aloud. There are several languages to choose from, but is not a translator. You can change the accent of the voice that is reading and vary the speed read. As the voice reads, the text is highlighted sentence by sentence. The computerized voice is slightly robotic, but easily understood. No login is required and no information is stored by the company. You can also download it as an app in the Chrome Web Store. (FREE)
  • Announcify
    • A free Chrome extension available in the Chrome Web Store and as an Android app. This tool can read web pages. The computerized voice is moderately robotic, but understandable. As a bonus, this website takes away many of the distracting ads in the margins and focuses on the text of the article. (FREE)


You can use speech-to-text software to have what you say typed out.

  • Read&Write for Google Chrome
    • A literacy extension that lets those with reading limitations access text by hearing it read aloud and using the dictionary (including the picture dictionary). You can also use your voice to type, so for students who need scribe, it is an excellent resource. For those with writing limitations, it offers predictive writing. (FREE for teachers)
  • Voice Typing in Google Docs
    • You can use a microphone (the one built into your computer or in a plug in headset works fine) to type with your voice. The voice tool can be found in the tools section in any Google Doc. To access it, below the title of your document, choose “Tools” then “Voice Typing.” Follow the directions on the screen to turn the feature on and off by clicking the large microphone icon.
    • Charlie at Open Source Marketer created a great overview YouTube video of this feature. (FREE)

Hopefully, you will find these tools as helpful as I have in meeting the needs of your learners! Please comment below if you have used, will use, or are using these features. I would love to hear about them!



Using Social Media to Demonstrate Reading Comprehension and Content Mastery

If you are an avid user of Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and other social media platforms, there is a good chance your students are either using or aware of them as well. Students are using these tools creatively in my class to show their understanding of a literary text. There are also possibilities to apply these activities in any classroom where explaining thinking is required. In ELA I am able to assess if students understand plot, character motives, relationships, etc. all by reading their “texts.” In social studies, students could have discussions between world leaders and/or historical figures across time. This is especially relevant if those figures lived in different eras. Across content areas, students could create the Facebook pages, text screenshots, Snapchats, etc. for inventors, scientists, historical figures, book characters, mathematicians…regardless of time of barriers like language, lifespan, or location. The possibilities are endless.

Screenshots of text messages between book characters

Cinderella's phone Prince-Hey it's the prince, Cinderella-what's up, Prince-I think I found your shoe, Cinderella-Where, Prince-on the steps outside my house, (image of a glass slipper), Prince-Is this yours?, Cinderella-Yes! I must have dropped it when I ran out! I missed my curfew!
Screenshots of fake text message exchanges between literary characters.

In the article, Creative Lessons with Fake Texts, Tweets, Facebook Pages and More by Nick LaFave, the author discusses several  links to social media simulators that you can use with your students. This is not an exhaustive list of what is available, but offers a great place to start! All sites should be thoroughly explored by an adult first. Have fun creatively using social media in your own classroom, without many of the worries of social media access!