Exit Tweet Form

Exit tickets are a terrific way to close a lesson. Of course, if your students have devices, there are tons of ways to collect exit tickets digitally. But if you’re an old-timer like me who still appreciates the occasional old-school teaching method, you might give my paper Exit Tweet form a try.

Of course, I couldn’t just hand a blank 3 x 5 card to my little digital natives; that would be way too 20th Century! Instead, I created this 140-character Exit Tweet template, which you are welcome to download, modify, and use in your classroom.

My template is in PDF format, and I’m not ashamed of that, because PDF is the preferred format of my local paper copy service. Feel free to download, modify, and use this template to your heart’s content.

Click to Download PDF: Exit_Tweet_Form

Sneak Preview of Quizzes on Google Forms!

Hello Teachers!

If you’re like me, you have been jury-rigging Google Forms to give quizzes and exams to your students, probably by using the third-party Flubaroo add-on to handle grading and feedback.

In their most recent update (June 2016), Google has added a lot of Quiz functionality to Google Forms. While the new Forms doesn’t do quite everything that Flubaroo can, I think this update is a big improvement for teachers.

Here is my sneak preview video:

Also, for more information about the new Quiz functions, check out this brief tutorial from Google: https://support.google.com/docs/answer/7032287?hl=en

Star Wars Crawl Generator

Episode VII


If there’s a bright center to the universe, my classroom is on the planet that it’s farthest from. At least that’s what my students think sometimes. Why not grab their attention with a real Star Wars Crawl, just like in the movies, except with custom text that you create? You can make your own Crawl using the Creator at starwars.com:

Link to free Star Wars Crawl Creator

starWarsCrawl1 (1)The Crawl Creator allows you to type your own customized text that then automatically crawls up from the bottom of the screen against a background of stars while John Williams’s unforgettable theme music plays. I use a Crawl to introduce a lesson once in a while, but I suppose you could use it to make announcements, give directions, or just about anything you can imagine.

After clicking “BEGIN,” you can grab yourself a cup of blue milk and get right to work on your customized Star Wars Crawl.  You can’t save your Crawl text, but you can still plan your Crawl ahead of time by using the “SHARE” button. I like to use the “SITE LINK” button near the bottom. Copy the link to your clipboard with CTRL+C, and then save the link somewhere. (I like to add a button to my lesson slideshow.) Test the link ahead of time to make sure your customized text has been saved.


Here are a few more pointers:

  • Choose your title carefully, because you only get 20 characters.
  • The music track cannot be modified, so if your Crawl is too long (more than 2 or 3 short paragraphs), then the music will stop before everyone is done reading it.
  • To add drama, I always “freeze” my classroom projector and get my Crawl ready while the students are working on something else. Make sure your volume is nice and loud–no one likes a Crawl without music!
  • Click on the Full Screen button just before you’re ready for playback to begin. The video will start playback immediately, but you can pause it if you want to “queue it up” for just the right moment during your lesson.
  • The Star Wars people won’t let you upload your Crawl directly to YouTube, Vimeo, or any other video sharing site. That was never a part of the deal. However, you can use a live streaming app as a workaround. My personal favorite is the Screencastify, a Google Chrome plugin.
  • Don’t use the colored share icons at the bottom right — they WON’T share your custom Crawl; instead, they will only share a link to the starwars.com Games site. These aren’t the buttons you’re looking for.
  • Do. Or do not. There is no try.starWarsCrawl3

PowToon: Power Up Your Slide Shows

I show a lot of slide shows. And I mean a lot. Sometimes PowerPoint and Google Slides can get a little dull. Why not surprise your students or colleagues with an engaging video clip? I recently started tinkering with PowToon, a snazzy app from the business world that allows you to turn slideshow content into an engaging video with animations and a soundtrack.

My first effort at making a one-minute PowToon is here:

I was nervous about trying to create a video, because I have almost no experience with video editing. PowToon is extremely user-friendly, even for newbies like me. I imagine it would be even easier for my students!

For starters, you can select a pre-made template video their library. You can replace their text and graphics with your own, or choose from a bank of royalty-free images. A lot of the pre-made videos are business-related, but there is a growing collection of videos for teachers on their education portal. You can use their pre-made soundtrack music, or record your own voiceover track with a microphone. For those of you with a little more ambition, you can make your own custom videos from scratch.

The PowToon editing interface in Custom Mode.


Creating a PowToon account couldn’t be easier, as PowToon automatically links to your Google Plus, LinkedIn, or Facebook account.  There is a free account option that limits video quality to 480p, adds a watermark in the bottom-right corner of the video, and locks away some of the premium options after a 48-hour trial period. Premium accounts are pricey, but have a host of cool features including 1080p HD-quality video. There are also special discounts for teachers, including a basic teacher plan currently priced at $4.99 per month, and a deluxe package at $8/month that includes license for up to 60 students.

Videos are super-easy to download and share. PowToon videos can be uploaded directly to YouTube, Vimeo, or Wistia. If you pay for the premium account, you can also download your videos in .mp4 format.

Mr. Wise Featured in Modesto Bee Article

I am grateful to reporter Nan Austin and the Modesto Bee for featuring my students in a recent article about 1:1 student device use.

As I told Ms. Austin when she interviewed me for this article, I believe student devices (in our case, Chromebooks) are part of the biggest change in education since I started teaching two decades ago. Although I am happy to be saving some trees, we must be clear that we teachers are doing much more than replacing paper assignments with electronic ones.

We are changing the nature of the questions we ask our students. We are expecting students to learn more, and to express their understanding of deeper concepts than before. In the past, we felt we had done our jobs well if our students could arrive at the correct answers.

Now, thanks to the Internet, the “correct” answers are usually just a few clicks away. Our students need to pick the best information to solve problems. We want them to assess which sources of information are appropriate and reliable, which ones aren’t, and which ones are flat-out bogus.

We want them to express their ideas in many ways, from traditional academic writing to videos, blogs, and other means of communication that we probably haven’t even imagined yet. And, most importantly, we are asking them the kinds of questions that have more than one right answer.

Here is a link to the Modesto Bee article:


New Google Forms Preview

Google has announced that it will be revamping several Google Apps later this month, and one of the biggest changes will be to Google Forms. If you’re like me, your inner nerd probably got a little excited last week when Google changed the Forms icons from green to purple. Well, if you liked that little change, you ain’t seen nothing yet!

Google has promised to roll out the revamped Google Forms during the week of September 21-25, 2015. Google promises that the new Forms will include:

  • A new interface that is much more mobile-friendly
  • A wider selection of themes, including the ability to customize a theme with your own graphics
  • New buttons that allow you to easily insert pictures and videos
  • The ability to view responses from the Form file itself, rather than opening the separate Responses spreadsheet

But you don’t have to take my word for it–you can take the new Forms for a spin right now:


NOTE: The above link will work ONLY if your Google domain administrator has allowed it. If your admin is like mine and hasn’t quite gotten around to enabling the preview yet, you will see a page that looks something like this:


This is not the preview!

This is a generic page that encourages you to “try again in a few weeks.” Fear not, fellow Googlers! Just log on using a private gmail account. When I did that, I immediately got to see the new Forms preview in all its purple splendor:


And don’t worry if you want to switch back to the “old” (current) Google Forms: see that little stick-figure person running off the page in the lower-left corner? Simply click on him/her to exit the preview. Once you do that, you’ll be sent back to the old Google Forms that you already know and love. (Although there will be a little purple stripe at the top with a button inviting you to look at the preview again, just in case.)

The mind starts to wander … How will the Flubaroo plug-in work with the new Forms? Stay tuned…


Gamifying My 9th Grade Biology Class

Hi. I’m Brian, and I teach high school science.
Recently, I decided to gamify my classroom management system for my freshman biology class. (Read more about gamifying your classroom at EduRealms here.) Our school mascot is the Hawks, and I admire the grassroots world of Minecraft, so I have dubbed my classroom “World of Hawkcraft.”
Game Console, a simple Google Site whose URL is posted to the About tab in Google Classroom for all the students to see.
I created this game dashboard using Google Sites. My campus has 1:1 Chromebooks with Google Classroom, so I simply dropped a link to this Google Site into my “About” tab for each class. I created the titles using the free 8-bit style and text editor at textcraft.net.
The entire class period earns an “Egg Point” if the class has, overall, a good day. These Egg Points are indicated by the egg icons on the right; Minecraft players will recognize where I stole the graphic from. To earn an Egg, all or most of the students in the class must meet three expectations:
  1. Ready To Learn: All or most of the class is on time, ready to work with writing utensil, notebook, charged Chromebook, and no visible cell phone. Students shouldn’t ask to go to the bathroom or get a drink of water unless they really need to (and yes, after 19 years working in high schools, I can tell when they really need to).
  2. Act Like A Hawk: All or most of the class shows common courtesy, polite language, and our district’s learning norms (waiting for cues to speak, not blurting answers, using response whiteboards appropriately, , etc. Nothing is thrown.
  3. Keep The Nest Clean: No litter is left behind, no trash is thrown into the recycling bins, no furniture is written on, no plumbing or gas fixtures are messed with, etc.

Classes earn privileges based on what “Level” they have earned. Once a class has earned a level, they cannot lose it, with one exception*** (see below).

Class Levels
Each class period begins the game at Level 0
Level 0 = “Noobs.” No privileges. Sorry, kids, I start the year tough and loosen up later.
Level 1 = “Robins.” Feeding Behavior (food allowed, as long as the nest is kept clean)
Level 2 = “Jays.” Singing Hawk (listen to music with headphones when done with work)
Level 3 = “Hummingbirds.” Thermal (use notebook for 1 min during exam); Updraft (teacher provides 1 clue on one exam question)
Level 4 = “Hawks.” Invisibility (go to restroom ~3 min once per week w/o consequence); Shared Bounty (teacher brings snacks for class)
***Special Rule: At teacher’s Discretion, regardless of Class Level, there may be a “Coyote Attack,” which temporarily removes all class privileges back to Level 0. Class must earn Hawk Point for 2 consecutive days to regain their previous Level.
Individual HP and XP
Individual students earn Health Points (HP) each day. The class level is separate from the student’s HP count, but the two are related. Students earn a daily base level of HP for showing up, and that level increases slightly as the Class Level increases. As the Class “Levels Up,” more privileges get added to the students’ menus. Students must spend some HP every time they use a privilege. (They also lose HP for being tardy, using the restroom, being caught off-task, etc.) On the other hand, with a little luck and effort, students can earn extra HP by making good effort when they are called on during class discussion. I keep track of each student’s HP using ClassDojo, which I update in real time with my iPad as I walk about the classroom while teaching.
Students, lab groups, and classes also have the opportunity to earn bonus HP with special badges. Most are awarded at the end of the week, although some can be awarded “on the spot.” I may create additional badges as the year progresses. I got the original idea for badges from Alice Keeler’s blog. I designed this spreadsheet myself using her template as an example.
Cell Phone Samurai — phone was not visible for the entire week +5HP
Toilet master — returns back promptly from all restroom breaks. +3 HP
Time Lord- effective use of time. Entire week withat no absences, no tardies, no missed deadlines, and no restroom breaks. +5 HP
Dragon Tamer– special badge everyone in class period earns if 80% of students pass an assessment with min score 3 out of 4. +7 HP
Lab Jedi– special badge everyone in a lab group earns if everyone in the lab group earns mininum score of 3 on lab report. +8 HP
Lab Safety — returned class policies; no horseplay; keeps goggles on; reports accidents or spills to teacher promptly +3 HP