Saturday, March 29, 2014

Grammar Mini Lesson Using Google Groups

I have a quick post for you today about using Google Groups for grammar mini lessons.  If you aren't sure how to set up a Google Group, see my Google Groups 101 post to learn how.

We have finished all our required grammar lessons for the year and have recently started a systematic review of each part of speech.  I thought it would be a great opportunity to use Google Groups for a discussion board, and it has worked really well!  I set up a post asking the students to write a complete sentence using a certain part of speech.  All the students logged in and posted their responses.  We did this as a whole group, however it can easily be used as a station or to do list type activity.  After the students posted, we looked at everyone's sentences and discussed the elements.  If they didn't quite get it right, we talked about how we could help that person make it better.  Here are a few shots of one of the topics.  

We have three third grade classes, so I set up a different post for each class.

I edited out the student names for privacy protection, but you would normally see the name of the person who posted in the blank space between the star and the sentence they posted.

The kids really enjoy this.  They love seeing their names up on the screen and enjoy reading what their classmates posted.  It gives many examples of whatever part of speech you are working on and allows students to help one another when mistakes are made.  Both my partner teachers and I all thought it was a great lesson.  We plan to keep using discussion groups for grammar mini lessons as we continue our review.

Another idea is to use discussion groups for spelling rules.  Students can post "long a" words or "short i" words, etc.  There are so many ways to use this for language study.

I hope this gave you an idea of how you could use Google Groups in your classroom.  Feel free to leave a comment and let me know what you thought of, or how you are already using Google Groups in your classroom.  Thanks for stopping by TeachingTechNix!

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Chrome Search Bar

Hello!  I have a very quick tip for you today.

Did you know Chrome has a really quick and easy search function?  Whether you are on a web page or in a Google doc, you can simply hit Control-F (Command-F if you are a Mac user) and a little search bar will pop up in the upper right hand corner of your screen.  If you are on a web page, it will search the page.  If you are in a Google doc, it will search that doc.  Here are some examples of what it looks like.

Web Page

Google Sheets Spreadsheet

Google Doc

 When you are done with whatever search you are making, you can hit the escape key and the search bar will close and disappear.  Quite handy if you ask me!

That's all for today!  Thank you for stopping by TeachingTechNix.  Happy searching!

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Google Groups 101

Hi there!  I have a Google Apps post for you today.  I want to share with you how I use Google Groups for mini-lessons in my classroom, but I figured I should do a post about how to create a Google Group first.  So...this is How to Make a Google Group 101.

What is Google Groups?
Google Groups is basically a discussion board.  It is a tool to create and manage groups for the purpose of communication.  You can have an online discussion board or even have an email thread type discussion, all managed through Google Groups.  For my classroom purposes, I don't use the email function because my students don't have email addresses, just Google Apps accounts.

How do I create a Google Group?
Easy!  Browse to and you will see this:

To create a group, simply click on the red "Create Group" button at the top of the page.  Once you do, you will see this:

You can choose a name and email address for your group.  It will tell you if the name and or email address is already taken, so you might have to get creative.  It gives you a place to type a description for your group and allows you to choose a primary language.  

As you scroll down, you will have a few more options.

For the group type, I chose Web forum.  You have the choices of Email list, Web forum, Q&A forum, and Collaborative inbox.  As I said, my students don't have email, so I chose Web forum.  The type will depend on what you want to do with the group.  The permission options allow you to choose which members can do what.  For my class, I allow all members to view and post.  I require an invitation to join the group.  Once you have made your choices, you can click the red "Create" button at the top.  

From here you can click ok to view your group, or use one of the links to invite members, customize settings, or start posting.  If you click ok, you will get a screen like this:

How do I start a new topic/discussion on my Google Group?
From here, you can add a welcome message for people to see when they visit the group page.  I did this for my classroom, although you don't have to have a welcome message.  

After you type in and save your welcome message, if you choose to create one, you can start a new discussion by clicking on the "New Topic" button.

You can type a subject for your discussion, which will show on the group's main page once you are done posting the new topic.  The "Type of post" box allows you to start a discussion, or post an announcement.  For our purposes here, I showed a discussion.  If you check the "Display at the top" box, this topic will show at the top of the feed, meaning if you have more than one topic, this one will rise to the top.  The "Lock" option will make it so no one can post to the topic until you unlock it.  You can type whatever you want into the body of the topic.  You can put links in and you have some basic text formatting options.  This is the first post and will start the discussion.  When you are done editing, click the red "Post" button at the top of the screen.  

Now you will return to the group's main page and you will see your new topic.  Your group members can click on the topic to read it and reply.  This is what they will see:

The members can click in the box to reply.  They will have the same basic formatting options you had when you made your initial topic post.  Each member's post gets listed below the topic like this:

The posts here all have my name on them because it was just to show you, however it will show the member's name next to his or her post.  

How do I add members to my group?
You can click on the "Members" link on the upper right to see all the members of your group.  To manage your settings, including adding members, click the "Manage" link.

When you click the "Manage" link, you have several options for adding members.  You can invite them via email, or do a direct add.  A direct add means you add the member directly to the group, without them having do anything to confirm it.  For my purposes here, I'm adding my students, so I do that by direct add. They don't need to accept the invite, in fact, they can't because they have no email address.  I choose direct add on the left and type in their Google account addresses.  I didn't worry about a welcome message, because it isn't going to send them an email.  Below the boxes, you can choose the subscription options for your members.  For my students, I chose "No email".  

Once you are finished, click the blue "Add" button at the top.  Now when your students go to, your group will show up under "My Groups" for each of them.  There are other advanced settings down the left side, but we won't go into those today.

There you go!  You can now create a Google Group, add your students, and make a post!  To see the Grammar mini-lesson I use - click here

Thank you for coming by TeachingTechNix.  I have two more Google Groups related posts for you soon, so stay tuned!

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Worksheets: Get Even Lines, Every Time

I've got a Microsoft Word tip for you today.  I was taught this trick by a mentor teacher while I was in my credential program and I have used it frequently throughout my teaching career.  Many times while I'm lesson planning, I feel like the curriculum given worksheets and assessments aren't exactly what I'd like them to be.  My solution?  Make my own!  This sounds great in theory, but always tends to take more time than I expect.  Now, I do need to admit that I can tend to be a bit of a stickler on symmetry and even lines and spacing and all those details that most people don't care much about.  When I'm making a worksheet, this used to drive me crazy.  I would spend so much time making sure my lines (answer blanks) were even so that they all ended in the same place along the right side.  Well, this wasn't easy!  Using the underscore can take a lot of time, be a bit tedious, and it isn't always nice and perfectly even.  The solution?  Tab stops!

Before you do this, you'll need to set your margins and then decide where you want your lines to stop.  It is best to go ahead and show the ruler at the top of your screen.  If you don't have the ruler showing, click on the "View" menu across the top of the ribbon and make sure the check box next to "Ruler" is checked.  You can choose anywhere you want for the lines to stop, just figure out the mark (in inches) where you'd like for your lines to end.  

Then, in the "Home" menu of the ribbon, click on the little pop-out icon at the bottom right of the "Paragraph" section.

Then click on the "Tabs" button on the bottom left of the menu that pops up.

Now you can choose what position you would like your lines to stop at.  

You can see that I chose 7.5 for my lines to stop, but you of course can choose whatever you wish.  Now, if there are other tab stop positions already set, you can just hit the "Clear All" button before entering in your tab stop location.  

Once you enter in your desired tab stop location, select "Right" under Alignment, and select option 4 with the underline under Leader and then click "Set".  Then you can click "OK".  

Now, when you are finished typing your question, or whatever it is that needs a line following it, you can simply hit the "Tab" key on the keyboard.  You will get a straight line starting from your cursor that stops exactly at the location you set in your tab stop settings.  Even lines, every time!  This also works within columns in case you want a worksheet that has nice even lines in more than one column.  Another perk is that if you need to start typing to fix a question or add something to it, it just shortens the line from the left to make room for your text.  You don't need to readjust your line at all.  

A few things to remember, if you have any other things you want to use the tab key for in your worksheet (indents, spacing, etc.) this may toy with those.  I've never really had an issue with it, but I just use the space bar to make an indent if I need it somewhere on the page.  You can have multiple tab stops on a page, so if you want your line to stop at a certain point, then have more text, then another line ending at the second tab stop location, you can do that as well. 

I hope this little tip comes in handy for you.  Thanks for visiting TeachingTechNix!  See you soon for more handy tech tips!

Friday, March 14, 2014

Long URL? No Problem!

I've got a quick tip for you today. This is something I've recently learned and it has already come in handy!  I attended a Google Summit a few weeks ago and learned so many great things, many of which I'll be sharing with you in the coming weeks.  The tip I have for you today is something each of the presenters used and I actually used it in my classroom today.

Have you ever had a situation where you needed to get people (parents, students, coworkers, etc.) to your website, but the URL was too long for them to get verbally or copy from your screen, and it wasn't possible or convenient to email the link to all of them?  Maybe a Google Form, or a Google Sites webpage?  Well, Google has a solution for this very thing.  It's called the Google URL Shortener and you can find it by typing into the address bar of your browser.

Simply paste your long URL into the shortener and hit the blue "Shorten URL" button.  Ta da!  You get a short URL.  It will be and then an alphanumeric code of 6ish characters.  It is case sensitive, so watch for the capitals.  It even gives you a QR code for the website.  As long as you are logged into your Google account when you use the shortener, will keep a record of all the short URLs you have created and even gives you stats about who has been visiting your site.  Very handy!  

I recently created a Google Sites page for my third graders and had our IT staff set it as the homepage for all of them.  This week some of my students had their homepage settings revert to a previous site.  The link for the new site is too long for my third graders to type in easily, so until IT gets the problem solved, I gave the kids the short URL I made using  I printed it in a large font on a piece of paper and pinned it up near my whiteboard in the front of the room.  The kids easily typed it in and accessed the homepage I created for them.  This was so much easier than yesterday when they each brought me their Chromebooks and I had to type in the long URL for all of them.  Phew!  Thanks again, Google!

**UPDATE** - There is now a URL Shortener extension in the Chrome Web Store!  Shorten those URLs without even visiting the website.  

Thanks for stopping in at TeachingTechNix!  See you soon for my next tech tip.

Sunday, March 9, 2014


Thank you for visiting TeachingTechNix!  This site is dedicated to helping teachers use technology to enhance their teaching practices.  From little tech tips that help with making lesson plans and worksheets, to ideas for getting students using technology in the classroom, my goal is to help teachers incorporate technology comfortably and successfully.  

Teaching at an elementary school has been my dream for as long as I can remember.  I've always had a passion for helping people learn.  Just like many other educators, I love that moment when something clicks for someone and they really get it; it's what most of us know as a "lightbulb moment".  Working my way through college as a computer technician, I realized two things: the "lightbulb moment" isn't reserved just for the classroom, and I found another passion.  Teaching people about technology and helping them harness the opportunities it creates brings just as many lightbulb moments as being in the classroom.  

Today, I find myself very lucky to be able to work in an environment where I can do both the things I love.  I'm the techy of our elementary school staff, and I have many opportunities to share my technology knowledge with fellow educators.  My coworkers are always excited when I share my tips and tricks and they ask how they can learn more.  I realized it would be a whole lot easier if I had one place to share all those little tidbits, as well as some of the bigger ways I've found to use technology in the classroom.  I started the TeachingTechNix site to share these tips and ideas with my coworkers and also with you.  

I plan to post tech tips, give occasional app reviews, provide links to helpful websites, and share about how I'm integrating technology into my classroom.  From those who are comfortable with technology to those who are perpetually baffled by tech overload, I'm hoping everyone can find something useful here at TeachingTechNix.

*Update 2015: While I was a classroom teacher when I started this blog, I'm now working as an Ed Tech Coach.  This should bring an even larger variety of tips and tricks your way!

Helping teachers incorporate technology, one tech tip at a time.