Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Gimkit: The Awesome New Tool for Student Learning!

As the school year comes to a close, I was in search of a new game or tool that would engage my students. After searching through my PLN on Twitter, I stumbled upon Gimkit. I quickly created an account and built my first kit (game) during my planning period. When I introduced my students to Gimkit, they looked at me as if it were Christmas morning and I had just given them the best gift. They were so excited and engaged, and to be honest, so was I. After seeing their reactions, I knew that Gimkit would be a huge hit with my other French classes. So, I built more kits and just like the first time, the students were immediately hooked.

So what is Gimkit and why are students obsessing about this game? Gimkit is an online interactive quiz game but so much better than Kahoot and Quizizz! Gimkit was created by a high school student, Josh Feinsilber, in Washington - this makes me LOVE Gimkit that much more! Teachers can easily integrate their Quizlet sets into Gimkit or choose to create a set from scratch. I have found that I like to export Quizlet sets as it is quick and easy to do. I plan to experiment with creating my own sets from scratch this summer.  After creating your set, you are ready to play the game. Within Gimkit, the teacher can decide on the game goal from the four options.
Game screen in Gimkit showing the four game goals

  • Time
    - Students race against the clock to earn as much money as they can.
  • Target - The teacher sets a target amount and all students must reach the target to finish. 
  • Race - The teacher sets a target amount and the first student to reach the target wins.
  • All-In - The teacher sets a target amount for the entire class and students try to earn as much money as they can. The game ends when the class reaches the total target amount. 
I love having these options and have tried all of them out within my various classes. We have also tried playing both in classic mode as individuals and in team mode. Team mode is interesting as students are still answering questions individually, but earning their money as a team. 

Teachers can also decide to change the language and currency of the game. Gimkit currently has English, French, and Spanish language options available. 

In addition to the game goal options, teachers also have the chance to customize game in a similar fashion to other online quiz games. After selecting your options, you and your students are ready to experience Gimkit. 
Options within Gimkit

To launch the game, simply hit the continue button and the login page will appear. Students can use a Chromebook, laptop, tablet, or their phone to access Gimkit. The students type in the web address and then put in the login code to access the game. While the students are waiting for other players to join, they can draw on their screens (It's awesome!!!) My students actually get upset when everyone logs on quickly because they enjoy the drawing feature. 

During the game, the students answer multiple choice questions based on the set that you have created. Students earn money for correct answers and lose money for incorrect answers. The beauty of Gimkit is that students can work through the questions at their own pace as there is no time time limit per question. The students can also move onto the next question without having to wait for others to finish. Gimkit automatically shows students the correct answer if they miss a question, so the student receives immediate feedback and can learn from their mistake. As the students continue to answer questions correctly, they earn more money and have the chance to shop in the Gimkit Store. In the store students have several options: 
  • Money Per Question - A player earns more money per question. 
  • Streak Bonus - Players earn more money after answering two questions correctly.
  • Multiplier - Every dollar in or out is multiplied. 
  • Insurance - A player pays less when they answer a question incorrectly. 
The Gimkit Shop

The students love Gimkit and stay engaged during the game. Even if the students are not on top of the leaderboard, they are still trying to earn money and move up. My students have told me that they love how competitive and fun the game is. They now beg to play it every day!

Another awesome feature of Gimkit is the reports for the teacher. Gimkit creates a detailed report after each game, so you can easily see how each student did and what areas the students struggled with. 

My students told me that Gimkit really helps them to learn their vocabulary and I am seeing the results in their assessments and classwork. The energy and excitement that is present when we play Gimkit is amazing!

Students actively engaged in Gimkit
 Since my students loved Gimkit so much and thought it was cool that Gimkit was created by a high school student, I set up a Google Hangout with Josh Feinsilber, the creator of Gimkit. Josh shared his story and then my students shared their thoughts and ideas about Gimkit. I appreciated how Josh was interested in their ideas to make Gimkit even better. Josh also asked my students questions regarding some updates he is considering. He shared with us that he is always looking for feedback, so do not hesitate to reach out to him on Twitter at @gimkit.
Let's go shopping!
I would encourage all teachers to give Gimkit a try. Within the free version, you can create up to 5 kits. I have already upgraded to the paid version since I love Gimkit so much and see how much my students love it. Not only do the students have fun during the game, but they actually tell me that they are learning their vocabulary better as a result! What more could you want? 

Tuesday, May 1, 2018

The Journey To Find My Voice

I originally wrote this piece for the SCOLT (Southern Conference on Language Teaching) blog, Voices of SCOLT and decided I wanted to share it here as well. Being able to share a part of my story that I often do not share is important, as so often many of our students are struggling with these same issues. No matter what you do, take time to find your voice, share your story, and inspire others to do the same. 

The Journey to Find My Voice 


When I was a student at Liberty High School in Bealeton, Virginia, I was a very quiet and reserved student. I excelled in my classes, but only spoke in classes when I needed to. I was afraid that what I would I say would be wrong and not valued by my classmates. This fear of speaking continued all through high school, but I knew that deep down inside of me, there was a voice that needed some nurturing.

In the fall of 2003, I entered Sweet Briar College, a small private liberal arts college for women, located near Lynchburg, Virginia. At Sweet Briar, my professors started to nurture my voice. By the end of my first year, I was not only starting to speak up in my classes, but I was also taking on leadership roles within clubs. My voice was starting to grow and little by little, I was developing more self-confidence. My French and History professors continued to challenge and push me through my remaining time at Sweet Briar. Who would have thought that the shy and quiet student who entered Sweet Briar back in 2003 was now the president of several clubs, serving as the French and History department tutor, and working as an Admissions tour guide? It was because of the constant support of my professors that I was able to blossom and come out of my shell. At Sweet Briar, I truly found myself and my voice. I was encouraged to share my thoughts and opinions. At Sweet Briar, I had the chance to think about who I was as an individual and who I wanted to become. Having that supportive environment not only helped me to find my voice, but also to develop as a leader.  While my voice was not completely developed at that point, I at least had a start and knew who I could become.

As I started teaching at Skyline High School in Front Royal, VA in 2008, I continued to focus on finding my voice and developing as a teacher. When you start out teaching, it is overwhelming and even scary at times. There were days when I would revert back to that shy and quiet person that I once was. However, I realized that in order to make a difference in my classroom, my community, and in the field of education, I needed to continue to develop my voice. It was then that I got the courage to start presenting at conferences and telling my story.

The first time I presented at FLAVA, I was so nervous. The morning of my presentation, the sound on my computer decided to malfunction and that caused my nerves to increase even more. I then wondered if anyone would even attend my session. To my surprise, the room was packed. Other teachers actually wanted to hear what I had to say. There was a brief moment where I thought I was dreaming and wanted to run, but then I realized that my voice is important and these teachers were here because they wanted to learn about global connections. I survived the presentation and realized that my voice could be used to inspire others. From that moment on, I realized that I needed to keep sharing my voice.

Things took a dramatic change on September 13, 2016, when I learned that I was named the 2017 Virginia Region IV Teacher of the Year. This was a huge honor in and of itself and with the honor came the opportunity to speak at conferences throughout the state, as well as with Virginia legislators. I could no longer be the reserved young lady that I used to be, instead I was now a strong and confident young woman with a message to share. My voice was being used to advocate for teachers across Virginia, as well as being used to inspire teachers across the state. I now realized that my voice was powerful - I could inspire others, advocate for educational policies, and could help teachers and students to find their voice.

The last two years have been such a blessing for me being both the Virginia Region IV Teacher of the Year and the FLAVA Foreign Language Teacher of Year. I have had the chance to share my voice and story with so many educators, and also be inspired by their stories. The small voice that was deep within me had finally blossomed into a vibrant flower. Finding my voice was indeed a journey, but it was a journey that I do not regret.

In the film, The Dead Poets Society, Mr. Keating (Robin Williams) states, “Strive to find your own voice. Because the longer you wait to begin, the less likely you are to find it at all”. Today I challenge each of you to find your voice and to encourage your students to find their voice. If we do not use our voices to tell our stories, advocate, or inspire others, who will? Your voice and your students’ voices are powerful and deserve to be heard.



Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Liven Up Your Class with Quizlet Live!


French II Students Engaged in Quizlet Live

By this point in the semester my students were becoming tired of my typical games and activities. I needed an activity that would engage all my students and add a new level of energy and excitement into the classroom. I had recently read that Quizlet  had created a new activity -  Quizlet Live. After watching the introduction video and demo, I decided that I had to try this activity with my students.
French I Students Collaborating on Quizlet Live

With Quizlet Live, the students work together to find the term that matches the definition since none of the students have all of the answers. The activity forces the students to communicate and collaborate with their classmates. Each class member must participate in order to help the team.  In addition to learning to work in teams through collaboration and communication, the students also learn the vocabulary and grammar by focusing on accuracy, rather than speed. If a student answers incorrectly, the team is forced to start from the very beginning of the activity.

Join Code for the Students to Access Quizlet Live


When I introduced the activity to the students, I was surprised to see how engaged they were in the learning. They were truly collaborating and communicating with their teammates. In addition, they were learning French vocabulary and grammar. The students found the activity to be fun and competitive. They loved the team aspect, especially the fact the I continually switched the teams. Quizlet randomly selects the teams, thus creating groups of students who may not typically work together. The students were open to this and those who were stronger students stepped up to help those who were not as strong. The teamwork and collaboration among the students was awesome and inspiring. I loved when my 4th block students walked into class asking if they were going to get to do the same activity (referring to Quizlet) that my French 1 students had completed. This excitement continued as the students participated in Quizlet Live. Using Quizlet Live has definitely improved the communication, collaboration, and engagement among my students.
Students react to Quizlet Live

I would definitely encourage all teachers who are looking for ways to make the learning come alive to create a Quizlet Live set. It will totally change the energy level in the classroom for the better. If you are unsure of where to start with Quizlet Live, check out the following tutorial.

After such a positive experience with Quizlet Live, I will continue to use it in my classroom as a way to review vocabulary and grammar in a fun and engaging manner.

By using Quizlet Live, I know that not only are my students learning French, but they are also learning to collaborate with each other in order to achieve a common goal. Even though the students are having a lot of fun while competing in Quizlet Live, there is definitely learning taking place. At the end of each game, Quizlet Live shows the students what they missed and need to work on, as well as what they learned/mastered. This type of feedback is great for the students, as well as the teacher. Overall, Quizlet Live has brought a positive change to my classroom. I am already working on creating more sets of Quizlet Live for my upcoming chapters.
Students work together using Quizlet Live

These videos show how engaged the students are while engaging in Quizlet Live.

Definitely try out Quizlet Live and liven up your classroom! You won't regret it! I'd love to hear your thoughts and experiences with Quizlet Live. 



Friday, March 4, 2016

EdTech Team Virginia Summit



This weekend I am fortunate to have the opportunity to present at the EdTech Team Virginia Summit featuring Google Apps for Education. This is one of the best Google conferences in the state. Last March, I attended my first summit and was amazed by the presenters and the wealth of knowledge they possessed about Google Apps for Education and the innovative ideas they had for classroom integration. It was at that summit that I decided I wanted to be like these individuals.

I continued to hone my GAFE skills, earning Google Educator certifications, as well as becoming a Google for Education Certified Trainer. In addition, I had the chance to present at VSTE 2015, FLAVA, and several local conferences. Through these presentations, I gained confidence and knew I was ready to submit a proposal for the Virginia Summit. I decided to submit several proposals, all on various topics since I was not sure what EdTech Team would be looking for. In early February, I learned that I would be presenting not one session, but four sessions at the Virginia Summit. I was completely humbled. I thought I would be lucky if one of my sessions would be accepted, but to have all four sessions accepted is unreal.

This weekend will be filled with lots of learning, teaching, and networking. I look forward to meeting new people and expanding my personal learning network. The members of the EdTech Team are my mentors and idols. To get to present with them this weekend is so awesome. I still cannot believe that I will be participating in the Demo Slam with them. I'll share my Slam after the summit. But for now, I'll say that I think I have a pretty good one. This Sweet Briar Vixen has her gloves off and pearls on - I'm ready for the competition.

If you are attending the Virginia Summit, please join me in my sessions. I promise you'll learn a thing or two and have a lot of fun!


Thursday, February 18, 2016

The Dreaded Sick Day



Those dreaded words, you have to take a sick day. Those are words that many teachers don't like to hear, myself included. You realize that the students will not be able to complete the same work as if you were there and that in most cases the substitute won't be familiar with your subject area. In my 8 years of teaching, I have rarely taken sick days for those reasons. However this week, I had no choice after being diagnosed with a kidney stone and dealing with the severe pain associated with the stone.

Thankfully, my sick days did not turn into lost instructional days for my students. Why you ask? With my classroom set of Chromebooks, I could easily create assignments for my students to complete in class knowing that I could collaborate with them on the assignments. In addition, I created a discussion board on Google Classroom where the students could ask me questions about the material and I could respond to their questions during class. Even though I was not in the classroom with the students, they knew that I was a click away from them. 

The students responded very well to this system and my substitute was very appreciative of my availability to the students. I think this system may be a game changer for me in terms of taking days off. No more days of movies and video notes. Knowing that my students and I can be connected through Google Apps for Education no matter where I am is awesome. I know that my students are learning and the students know that I am available to help them. 

Days off and substitute lesson plans no longer need to be dreaded. Just think of it as an online learning day for the students and yourself. While it might take some time to adjust to, I think you will find that leaving your students with a collaborative assignment and knowing you are available to help is much more effective than a movie. 

So what are your thoughts on sick days and lesson plans? I'd love to keep the conversation going. 

Thursday, February 4, 2016

One Step Closer


It was so great to return to school this week following Snowzilla (aka blizzard 2016). The students and I were clearly ready to continue learning and progressing on our journey to a completely paperless classroom. This week we made big steps forward and are almost completely paperless at this point. I am so proud of my students and how willing they are to try new things. 

Prior to acquiring the Chromebooks, my students took notes using pencil and paper. Now, the students are starting to complete notes using Google Classroom and Google Docs. Prior to class, I uploaded a Google Doc into Google Classroom for the students to use as notes. During the lesson, the students took their notes using the Google Doc. The students even made sure to include the French accents using the Easy Accents add-on . This add-on opens a separate window in Google Docs and the students can easily insert the French accents that they need. While the students were taking their notes, they mentioned that they really liked doing notes this way. The beauty of doing the notes as a Google Doc is that the students have access to them at anytime from anywhere without having to worry about losing them or leaving them at home. 

In addition to taking notes on the Chromebooks, my students also created their own Google Sites this week. We will be using these sites to showcase their projects that will be shared with our partner school, the Lycee Bazin in Charleville-Mezieres, France. To see our progress in our projects, check out our partnership website.

As I approach the end of the first month of the new semester, I feel that I have made positive strides towards transitioning to a paperless classroom. While there have been some challenges, the successes have outweighed the challenges. I continue to be impressed by my students' level of motivation and their willingness to try new things. The level of collaboration in my room is reaching new levels - the students are working together, creating projects, and using the target language more and more each day. To see all these things happening is amazing. I could not be prouder of my students. I never thought that I would see changes like this so soon. I cannot wait to see what will happen by the end of this month. 


I would love to hear your thoughts or questions about going paperless. Feel free to leave a comment and let's keep the discussion going. 

French students collaborating on an assignment using the Chromebooks

Going paperless and taking notes on the Chromebooks.




Wednesday, January 20, 2016

No Paper, No Problem!


Today was my students' first unit exam and to their surprise, there was no paper involved! Some students expressed concern, but for the most part they were open to this new form of assessment in my classroom. To make a completely paperless test, I simply created a Google form for the students to record their responses in and uploaded that form to Google Classroom. Then I uploaded the exam as a view only document on Google classroom. The students could easily have both windows open side-by-side for easy access and viewing. 

After the students completed the exams, I opened the students' responses in the corresponding Google Sheet. Using the Flubaroo add-on, I was to quickly grade the exams and give the students immediate feedback. I cannot say enough good things about Flubaroo - it's easy to use and eliminates all the papers teachers used to carry home to grade. In addition, I can send the students their score via their email or Google Drive. My students loved getting the immediate feedback on their exams. By the end of the class period, all of my students knew their grade on the exam and I had no papers to bring home to grade! A win win for everyone!

Following the exam, the students began working on their new vocabulary words. Again, I went paperless for this assignment. I posted the vocabulary list as a Google Doc in Google Classroom and made a copy for each student. Prior to this semester, I had given each student a paper copy of the vocabulary list, which the students frequently lost before the end of the unit. With the change to paperless, my students can now access their vocabulary from their Google Drive at any time from anywhere. I definitely feel this is going to be a positive change in my classroom and am looking forward to continuing the paperless journey. 

The moral of today's lesson, no paper, no problem!