A few years ago, I started posting my notes from SMART Notebook on a WordPress blog for students to read if they needed them. I would export them to a PDF and then upload them. Some students would read them, but it always seemed like I was going through the work of putting them up there for about 5 students all year long. This year, my district switched to Google Apps for Education (GAFE), so I started using Blogger. I have a few students in class that have bookmarked the page so they can get to the notes for class very quickly. However, I still felt like I was doing it for just a few students. Different students told me they tried to get to my blog, but were having problems finding everything. So I decided to change things a little bit to make it easier for me and them both.
Google Calendar Instead of a Blog
By using Blogger, I already had to upload my notes to drive in order to link to them in Blogger. So I thought more students would see them if I just added them as an attachment in Google Calendar. I’m also able to attach anything students may need for an assignment in class. For example, I can attach graph paper, or a picture students may need, or a screen capture of the exit ticket. It seems as if more students are using the calendar because they can see what we are doing throughout the week. I also share the link to the calendar with parents so they can see what we are doing or get notes if their child was sick. I also keep my Blogger site going and just embed the calendar at the top of the page. In this way, students who bookmark the page to get the notes can still get them and others can take advantage of the calendar. Here is the link to my Eighth Grade Math page to see what it looks like with the calendar embedded.
Weekly Autocrat Newsletter
During the last two units I have taught, I haven’t given any homework. I’ve used an exit ticket every day as a formative assessment. There are days were students don’t finish the problem or don’t do it correctly. I want them to show me before we take an assessment that they can do it correctly, but I don’t want to have to print out a picture of the triangle for Pythagorean theorem or solid for finding volume. Instead, I started using the mail-merge script, Autocrat, in order to send out a weekly newsletter with a link to all of the week’s exit tickets. Here is a video of how to set it up. Here is a copy of the newsletter I sent out last week to each student. It is a personal letter for each student with links to each exit ticket. They can then email me their answers once they have it completed. Students have preferred this because missing assignments don’t pile up on them and they can usually get me the answers right away.
If you send out a weekly newsletter to parents or students, I would suggest using Autocrat in order to save paper. My own children get all types of paper copies of letters and schedules. We use Skyward in my district so it is very easy to get parent emails. The more paper we save, the more we can help the budget. Also, if you are a parent like me, I prefer electronic copy over hard copy. Overall, I encourage you to try using something new with GAFE. It was easy to do the calendar and Autocrat both. I have also used Doctopus and Goobric this year as well. These two things allow you to assign and collect a document for each student through Doctopus and grade it using Goobric, all without using any paper. My district doesn’t have all of the new add-ons for Sheets or Docs yet, but once they do, I’ll post some more things I’m doing with those.