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Thursday, January 28, 2016

What Special Ed Students Want You to Know

I have been in the special ed business almost 6 years now. This time of year, the honeymoon has worn off and behaviors start to spike. Teacher frustrations with academics tend to go up as well when you realize that little Johnny doesn't remember the material you went over a billion times already. During this tense time of year, I have realized the commonalities many of my students face. Most of these have come from true heart-to-heart conversations I have had with my students over my years of teaching. I have listed all of the ones that I feel educators need to be reminded of from time to time. Some of these may seem obvious, but some have truly taken me awhile to fully understand. I am hoping you will be able to take away some insight to the struggles some of your special ed students face.

Special ed students want you to know:

  • I promise, I really did learn the material. When I say I can't remember, I mean it. I know it is there somewhere, but I just cannot seem to grasp the memory. It's like having a filing cabinet for a brain. The files are in there, but I just can't seem to open the drawer. It gets stuck from time to time and I need your help opening it.
  • Sometimes I misbehave because it is better to be sent to the office and be labeled a trouble maker than it is for my peers to decide that I am dumb.
  • Sometimes I misbehave because I am dealing with such big and powerful emotions from tragedies in my life that school becomes insignificant. I know that it is your whole world, but I just cannot deal with it some days.
  • When I say that I am upset over something, please do not tell me it is "not a big deal." It may seem like I am overreacting, but this is my reality and my perception of the situation. You not taking it seriously just upsets me more. I need you to empathize and have my back.
  • I know your job is to get me college ready, but that may not be my future. Please help me become a good person and citizen because that will be far more valuable to me in the future than academics will.
  • When I have a hard time focusing, I am not doing it on purpose. Please redirect me kindly and quietly instead of calling me out in front of my peers. I hate being embarrassed for something that I cannot control.
  • Sometimes you are the only stable person in my life. Thank you for always being there for me.

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Refocusing in the New Year - Why I Rearranged My Desks

So, it’s no big deal. Teachers change desk arrangements all the time. We change seating arrangements, sometimes daily, depending on the group of students or the lesson we are working on. This really isn’t a big deal, right? Well, changing my desks this time was a big deal. I felt like I had to break this lull I had fallen into. Susie here, from Anchored in Reading, to tell you why I needed to change my seats to change myself. To save myself. To save education. 

Ok, maybe that’s a little dramatic, but seriously, something needed done. Previously, my desks were all facing what traditionally deemed itself the front of the room. All students could see the ENO board as well as my desk. And, this is where the trouble began. All eyes on the front of the room, including my desk. And my chair. My really comfy teacher chair. And did I mention my desk? Where my computer sits containing emails beeping and blaring at me, taunting me, say ‘read me, read me now.’ I am weak. I have no willpower. Slowly, as the year progressed, I found myself sitting at my desk more and more. (Do you believe there are teachers out there with no desk?! I give them props!) It started with a quick minute as I was changing slides on a PowerPoint or PDF, that then led to a quick rest in my chair which was followed by a quick check of my email and then ended with me totally off task and not giving my students my undivided attention. I was transforming into that teacher. You know the one. The sitter. The email-checking-lazy-bones teacher. What was happening to me? I felt there was no excuse for a 30-something, pretty healthy, teacher to teach from her desk. 

Like a moth drawn to a flame, I was drawn to my desk. Fortunately, I finally realized I needed an environment change. I needed to distance myself away from my comfy chair and my emails that had to be read the second they arrived. I needed to refocus. New year, new me as they say. We always look at our kiddos to see what new year goals they need to focus on, but it was I, their fearless leader, who needed to refocus.
I really did like the last configuration. It worked well with my smaller intervention groups. 

My desk. Don't judge. It was in the middle of 'the move.'

Luckily, we had an in-service day after the start of the new year and I was able to rearrange my desks. My classroom is slightly larger than a shoe box, so I didn’t have many options. 

I am proud to say, though, that I now teach FAR away from my desk!

No desk, no chair, just me and my learners. 

Look at that runway! I have so much room to walk and talk and become more engaged with my students. 

There's my desk over yonder, far away from my temptations. 
My students' desks facing away from the front of the room.

My lonely desk. And chair that isn't as comfy as I remember it!

Sometimes it's difficult to reflect and truly look at what we are doing and how we can do it better, even when it's something as simple as a new room arrangement. Glad I took the time to refocus. 
 I feel like I’m back to my old self! I’m more in tune with what my students are doing and, as crazy as this sounds, the school has not fallen to the ground due to me ignoring my email. 

Monday, January 25, 2016

Adding ENGAGEMENT to your classroom!

Engagement--this is a big word in education today--huh? This is a word that I have seen throughout the blog world and has been a key word in my school year this year.

Merriam Webster defines engagement as:

I believe engagement can be defined in many ways, just like it is above.

Here is my educational definition of engagement:
Students being INVOLVED in the lesson. (basically them not giving you the "bored" look :) )

I know this might have been the type of learning that we grew up with, but this is the type of learning that our students NEED today.

Many bloggers have inspired many of my ideas and I want to make sure to give them credit. I do believe that we are all in this together and all learn from each other!
  • Elementary Shenanigans (Hope King)
  • Miss 5th (Brittney Briggs)
  • Kim Bearden 
I know there are more of you out there--please know that the blogger world and the instagram world has inspired me and made me become a better teacher! Thank you to everyone!

My word for 2016 is gamification! If you do not know what this word means, it is adding games to your classroom. I have found that any time, I can make it into a game even if it is a worksheet that my students LOVE working. It is truly incredible.

Here are some examples of some of my engagement strategies this year:

I have made many board games GIANT! So far, I have made a GIANT Candy Land, Clue, Connect Four, and Hungry Hungry Hippos.

These were VERY simple to set up. For Connect Four, I just displayed the board I googled with my projector and cut out red and yellow circles with magnets on the board. The Clue board game spaces are here. I just made spaces in between and questions for the team to answer. The Candy Land was just colored pieces of paper that were all lined up with colored question cards applicable to whatever topic I was discussing at the time. Hungry Hungry Hippos came from Elementary Shenanigans and my kiddos were in love! Go out and buy plastic colored balls as well as laundry baskets and borrow some scooters!

The goal of my room everyone is to not just have worksheets, but to have that up and moving and engaged.

More to come on engagement in future blog posts! Stay tuned!

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Having students track their own data

It’s Mandy from Caffeine and Lesson Plans here, sharing some thoughts on tracking student data!

I don’t know about you, but I have a seriously hard time keeping track of data for my kiddos. Even though I teach a middle school grade, I am a generalist and teach all subjects. That means less kiddos to keep track of (yay) but way more subjects to keep track of (boo). I used to try to do everything on paper, and put it binders. It was a serious problem- I even had a binder to keep track of my binders. I just couldn’t keep up with tracking everything I had the kiddos doing. It was exhausting. In the middle of another long afternoon of tracking scores, it dawned on me that was I was doing was just silly. If I want the kiddos to be accountable for their scores, they should be responsible for tracking their own scores. If they are capable of writing it down, they are capable of tracking it! With that, I bid adieu to the data binders and said hello to individual data folders.

Once I had the idea in my head, I just ran with it. I started having my kiddos track anything that I would normally track. We took a pre-test on a unit, and they tracked their score. Once we finished the unit and took the post-test, they tracked that too- and calculated how much they grew! I found a simple bar graph chart that went up to 100%, and had the students color in the amount they received on the topic pretest.  Once the unit was over, the students used the exact same test as their posttest. They then tracked that data in their binder, and were able to see their own growth.  If you are looking to get started with minimal time investment, a quick google search will bring up a ton of graphs you can fill in, but here is the one I started with, free from Tons and tons of other data tracking forms are available online. Check out a pretty great list of free resources here

Since I began having my students track their own data I have seen such a huge shift in their attitude about learning. It's noticeable in all my kiddos, but it is incredibly obvious with some of my students who lack motivation. Suddenly, they care about making progress. Going from a 10% to 30% within a topic is no longer just "still failing"- it's measurable, viewable progress. Their bar graph visibly grew, making their growth concrete. They can see the change, proving to them that the effort is worth it. It's been an incredible shift, and I would definitely never go back! 

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

College Pennant Activity - Student Goal Setting

Hi Everyone! Caitlin from EB Academic Camps here to share a fantastic (and FREE) project with you! 

Last year when I was still in the classroom, I taught my students the documentary Waiting for Superman. After studying the film, I really wanted to create a much more collegiate environment in my classroom that would inspire my students to continuously put their best foot forward. Thus, I devised a little college pennant activity. 

The project is quite simple and allows for considerable creativity for the kiddos. 
Students were to design a pennant for their dream college. Then on the back of the pennant, they had to include their dream job and three steps they could take right now to make that dream a closer reality. It was a really fun project and the kids came up with fantastic pennants for me to hang up!

Kudos to my hubby for coming to school with me on Sunday to hang up the string across my classroom! 

Apparently I have a lot of doctors and directors in my 7th and 8th grades! 
(Some of their goals are pretty broad ... but I figure it's okay since at least they know they need to work hard.)

I think this one is so neat! He couldn't decide between Harvard and Caltech :) 

A view of all the pennants hanging up (sorry the lighting is so poor). I loved walking into my classroom and seeing all of these pennants of inspiration! 

You can download this project for FREE from our EB Academic Camps Teachers Pay Teacher Store. I would love for you to share this project with your students and send me pictures of their creations!

Monday, January 18, 2016

Using Data In the Classroom

Hi all! Stephanie from The Marvelous Middle here to talk with you about using data in the classroom, which is a topic that I feel passionate about (yes, this ELA teacher loves numbers!). I use data in my classroom from formal assessments and informal assessments. Using data takes time and it takes practice.

The easiest place to start is with FORMAL ASSESSMENTS (receive a grade). These may include district-wide assessments (we use NWEA Map Testing) and end of unit assessments. With each end of unit assessment that I give, I list all of the content standards that are being assessed. I also label each question with a corresponding standard, so as I grade I can see quickly what standards my students are mastering and which they are struggling with.

Here is an example from my 8th grade science fiction unit formal assessment:

  • There are six questions that assess 8.RL.2. If the student answers at least five of the six questions correctly, the student shows mastery. If the student answers at least four of the six questions correctly, the student shows partial mastery. 
  • There are three questions that assess 8.RL.5. If the student answers all three answers correctly, mastery is shown. If two questions are correct, then partial mastery is documented.
Using this data, I can easily determine which students I need to re-teach the content. Students would then have differentiated instruction based on their mastery level. This data should be shared with students so they are aware of their own mastery level and what they need to do in order to increase their mastery level. Formal assessments do not have to be only tests. They can include projects and portfolios if these are linked to specific standards.

INFORMAL ASSESSMENTS (not receiving a grade) are less time consuming and easier to implement in the classroom. They are the perfect way to progress monitor your students in a flash. One way I do this is by using exit tickets. Below are the types of exit slips I use most often:

1. Triangle, Square, Circle
2. Open Ended
3. 14 Words

I will leave you with a favorite quote of mine regarding assessment (I know...I'm a data nerd!)

"An education usb;t how much you have committed to memory, or even how much you know. It's being able to differentiate between what you know and what you don't." ~~Anatole France


Friday, January 15, 2016

My Love Affair with Checklists!

Today's blog post is all about my love affair with checklists! 

I’ll be the first to admit that I’m a bit of a space cadet. Always have been – probably always will be. I’m one of those people who forgets seven different things every time I try to leave the house while my husband waits at the door, staring in disbelief because he’s been ready for the past ten minutes and doesn’t understand how I can’t remember where I put my keys for the 5th day in a row. When I got my own classroom, of course my scatterbrain soon followed. I realized very quickly that I needed a better strategy to keep myself organized and accountable for the millions of big and little things I was responsible for each day. Enter: Checklists!

Checklists have been a lifesaver for me because I’m able to visually see what I need to do and what I’ve already completed. I used to feel like I would get to school early and stay late every day but still somehow not accomplish anything. Honestly, I do still feel like that a lot, but using checklists in my daily life has made a world of difference. 

I created a “Daily Checklist” for myself in PowerPoint, printed and laminated it, then hung it on the bulletin board by my desk. I’m able to check off the things I’ve done throughout the day with a whiteboard marker, and at the end of the day I have a much better picture of where I’m at and what I need. The next day I just erase and start over. Admittedly it does sound a little tedious when you put it in writing, but I promise it has been amazing!

I also love using checklists in the classroom, particularly for larger writing assignments, because it allows students to interact with and think more deeply about the information in front of them.  I used to pass out the rubric for an assignment ahead of time and even though we would go over the expectations together, I felt like the rubrics still weren’t being utilized by a lot of students. When I started converting my rubrics to checklists, I noticed a huge improvement. Students were more easily able to navigate the checklists and they seemed more engaged with the revision process overall. I still grade using the actual rubric, but the checklist form really helps students home in on their strong areas as well as the areas in which they need to improve. 

If you're not a checklist person yet, I encourage you to try it out! Checking off those boxes is oddly therapeutic! :)  

Thursday, January 14, 2016

Revamping Your Classroom Management System

Happy Thursday, everyone! It's Caitlin here from the blog The Styled Teacher, where I blog about all things teacher fashion!

Today, let's talk about the DREADED Classroom Management Systems!

If you're a new teacher or a veteran, there's always room for improvement with your classroom management system. What works for one class one year, might fail miserably for another class the next. You've always got to be flexible. Willing to change to make your classroom a better learning environment.

So, is it too late in the year to change my current system? Absolutely NOT! I know. Mind BLOWN. 

But the key to doing so is being open and honest with your kiddos. Let them know what is and isn't working and what you're going to try next, AS A CLASS, to help make improvements to your classroom. What a great way to teach self-improvement, too!!

Don't be AFRAID to let them know that something you're doing isn't working. They'll respect you more for it. And who knows, they might even have a darn good idea to help improve your system!

I aggregated some of my best classroom management posts for you right here! Why not try implementing them next week?

Let me know how it goes in the comments below! 

And if you're aren't following our page on FB already, you're seriously missing out. Get your tush over there!




Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Executive Functioning Strategies

 Hi everyone, this is Shyra at Junior High Core Values. Tonight I’d like to quickly share some strategies to help students with Executive Functioning challenges.  I’ll tell you now, it’s 8PM and I’m just getting home. Today was one of those days where I had to use every trick in the book!

There are eight executive function skills that humans, be they middle schoolers or adults, are expected to use to organize information and take action.  These are;

 Each student is different, and it’s important to keep trying different strategies until one clicks.

Checklists  When I see that a student is struggling, or at an SST, I sit with the parents and student and come up with checklists for school and for home. These checklists are detailed and clear, but never go beyond one page.  They are laminated and kept in a student’s planner , binder, or iPad case. For those students with iPads, the Reminder app is a great way to set up checklists ( and it’s less likely to get lost)

Star Stickers I go through star stickers like crazy! I start off putting them next to the directions (especially on tests) but they are also used for anything I want my student to pay special attention to.

File Folders At the beginning of the year, I show my students who get overwhelmed by the AMOUNT of information on a page, how to use a file folder to cover the top and bottom. Because of this, it’s easier to focus on one task at a time.

Timers  I recommend using a timer for many things. Especially homework.

Colored Paper.  Depending on what funds you have available, I have found that this strategy works REALLY well. Every one of my study guides is neon yellow. Summative assessments are on white, graphic organizers on light blue, articles on green. 

Provide Student Choice  (Where and when appropriate of course) Whether we are writing in language arts, reading in literature, or having our “Cool Club” at lunch, I always provide students as many choices as possible. For students struggling with getting started, I always explicitly state their options, but they have to be the ones to decide what they want to start with. 

These are the basic strategies I use on a day to day basis. What strategies are you using?

Monday, January 11, 2016

Start a Class Blog

As teachers, we're always looking for a way to make learning "authentic."  That can be a challenge when it comes to writing.  Sure, students can write a letter, article for a newspaper, or argument, but where is the real audience?

Start a class blog to give your students a chance for authentic writing.As adults, we know the importance of writing for an audience.  Our audience changes the tone, word choice, sentence structure, organization, presentation, and even the conventions we use.  

We can see proof of this in something as simple as the texts we send that are filled with emojis!  (Wouldn't it be fun to write your resume with emojis??)

Hosting a classroom blog is an ideal way to get students writing authentically.  Students are writing for a world audience!  Spelling, conventions, content, tone...all of it matters!  

Not only that, students are learning how to be responsible members of a digital community.   

I used Edublogs to create my class blog -- it's free (every teacher's magic word!), but there are other blogging platforms you can use.

You can decide the level of control you want over your blog -- who can post and make comments.  You may even decide to allow your students to create their own blogs.  

The advantages:  
    Get started blogging with your class!
  • connecting to students and people around the world.  One year, we were blogging buddies with a class in Australia.  The visitor widget on our blog let us know where our visitors were coming from -- all over the world!
  • staying in touch.  When a classmate moved to Mexico, we were able to stay in contact through our blog.  Grandparents and parents could read about what was going on in our classroom.
  • extending the writing day.  Posting a "question of the week" or writing challenge kept my students writing.  
  • inside jokes galore!  We know how middle school students love the inside joke -- the blog just kept them going!
  • editing and proofreading practice!
  • evidence that spelling really does matter!
  • a platform for voice.  Students can practice writing with voice -- a skill that we often don't have time to teach.
The disadvantages:
  • know and follow your school's privacy rules!  Make sure you teach internet safety to your students as well.
  • the learning curve!  If you are not familiar with blogging, plan on spending time playing with the blogging platform you've chosen.  You can use a pre-set template, but you'll want to be able to monitor comments and add fun widgets.  You don't need to be a blogging expert in order to get your blog up and running, but you'll be happier if you spend some time playing with it.
  • getting students up and running.  If you don't have access to student computers, tablets, or technology, it will be more challenging to help students figure out how to respond to blog posts, but you can do it!
January is an ideal time to start a class blog.  You've already established your class routines, you
know your students, and it will energize your class (new technology!!)  It will also give you a taste of how you want to run your blog next year. (Because once you start your class blog, you will want to continue!)

Give a class blog a try!  If you are interested in learning more, I've created a guide to running a class blog.  You can find it on my Teachers Pay Teachers store.

Happiness always,

Friday, January 8, 2016

Going Digital in 2016

Hi everyone! Tori here from Journey Through the Middle. I am so excited to be writing my first ever blog post for The Middle School Mob! This is such an fun way to start 2016. If one of your goals this year is to become more organized or utilize technology to make your life a little bit easier, then this is the blog post for you. I can't wait to share with you how to go digital in 2016 by creating your weekly lesson plans on Google Slides and saving them in your Google Drive.

I have been doing all of my lesson plans digitally for about a year-and-a-half now, and I honestly do not know how I functioned before. Having all of my lessons plans and accompanying assignments in one spot on the cloud has allowed me to keep track of and use the plethora of amazing resources I have amassed over sixteen years of teaching. Yep, sixteen years of hormonal and apathetic, yet empathetic and honorable 8th graders. I just love middle school! Alright, let's get started. 

So, obviously the first thing you need to go digital is to have a Google account and make sure you are logged into it. If you do not have a Google account, they are free and super easy to set up. Once you are logged in, go into your Google Drive and click on the red "New" tab. Then, click on "folder" and create a new folder for your lesson plans. Title the folder as you please. I titled mine 2015-2016 Lesson Plans. Once you have typed in your title, click the blue create button.

Open up your new folder. Now, click on the link below to open up the FREE template I have shared with you.  I love this template. It covers a whole week on a two-page spread to give you tons of room and make for easy printing if you want to print them off and put them in a notebook.

The template will open up in "View Only" mode. Simply click on "File," "Make a Copy," rename the file, and click "OK" to save it. I always save mine under the title of the week's lesson plans I will be writing, i.e. Week of January 11-15. Open up your saved copy.

Now the fun begins.  You just start adding your information into the text boxes. I love Google Slides because it is so similar to PowerPoint. You can easily change the font styles, size, or color; change the background color and shape; insert hyperlinks and pictures; easily make duplicate copies of any page, etc.  

Here is a sample of one of my completed pages for next week:

I add in the vocabulary words we focus on for each story we read on the left-hand side and a To Do list to help me focus. When I finish an item on my To Do list, I draw a line through it (highlight the text and then go to "Format" and choose "Strikethrough" to draw a line through text). I assign a majority of my work through the Google Classroom, which is why I clarify on my plans that the assignment will be housed there. If it is not in the Google Classroom, I know I probably have to make copies or students will be working in their physical Interactive Student Notebook.

When I am done typing up my weekly lesson, I share a "View Only" copy with my principal and LA team. I share it as "View Only" because I don't want someone to go in and accidentally delete or modify my plans. I also upload copies of every assignment I place in the Google Drive, handout I pass out, PP I show, and I try to take pictures of really awesome examples of student work. I place all of these items inside of the 2015-2016 Lesson Plans folder. I organize my 2015-2016 Lesson Plan folder by creating weekly folders inside of this main folder. Here is a small snapshot of what that looks like:

Here is a quick view of what the inside of my next week's folder looks like:

I cannot even put into words how amazing it is to have all of your resources right at your fingertips and organized. It helps save your sanity now, but it is life altering when you are able to go back into the folders next year and see exactly what you did, have all of your resources right there, and easily improve. No more reinventing the wheel because you misplaced something, no more smacking yourself upside the head because you realize you used a great resource the year before but forgot about it this time around, no more frantic scrambling because you suddenly realize your pacing is three weeks slower this year than last! Make this the year you organize your lesson plans (and your school life) digitally with Google Slides and the Google Drive.

As a side note, if you like the lesson plan template I shared with you, I have nine more varieties available in my Lesson Plans Bundle in my TpT store. Not only will you get multiple digital varieties, but the bundle also comes with editable PDF and PP versions. 

Thanks for stopping by and visiting the Mob! 
Until next time,

Thursday, January 7, 2016

New Ideas for a New Year ~ introducing PIXANOTES!

Helping middle school students comprehend and retain information can be quite a challenge!  Learn about one way to help in this post!  #teaching #memory #studyskills

Teaching Middle School sometimes means that you have to think out of the box in order to get the results of which you know your students are capable. 

So when I was confronted with the fact that my students seemingly couldn't remember things we learned from one day to the next, I began to research how to improve their memory skills.  What I discovered was that our brains are primarily IMAGE processors rather than word processors!

Did you know our brain are primarily IMAGE processors, not word processors?  That's why Pixanotes make so much sense! #teaching #middleschool #languagearts

So that got me can I harness the power of visuals but still have some structure for my left brain thinkers?  That's when Pixanotes was born!

Pixanotes is a blend of interactive notes and traditional two-column notes with fill-in-the-blanks for content on the right-hand side of the page and pictures to illustrate key ideas to be placed on the left.

The pictures are on cut-out flaps so that students have to place them next to the correct content and can later write signal questions underneath.

However, this is just one of four versions that Pixanotes has to offer so that you can differentiate with various levels of structure to suit your students.

★ Pre-printed Pictures and no blanks (highest level of structure)
★No pre-printed pictures and no blanks (moderate level of structure)
★ Pre-printed pictures with blanks (moderate level of structure)

★ No pre-printed pictures with blanks (lowest level of structure)

Interactive notebooks WITH structure?  Yes, that's Pixanotes®!  Try the simile and metaphor set for FREE!  #teaching #middleschool #languagearts

Another new idea for the New Year is DIGITAL Pixanotes. 
Students can interact with the content using any device that can connect to Google.  This allows students to click and drag pictures into the correct positions as well as words to the correct blanks.  Digital Pixanotes also come in several formats to help you differentiate.  

I think digital is the ultimate way to go for differentiation because you can assign each person their own page and no one will be the wiser as to who is doing what because everyone will be looking at their own screen.  Plus you could sit students strategically so that students who have the same assignment can work together.  

Any way you go, digital resources set up your students for the 21st Century!

Digital Interactive notes WITH structure! Pixanotes® come in four levels of scaffolding so each student gets what he/she needs!  #teaching #middleschool #languagearts

Click here to see these digital Pixanotes®.

Imagine all the possibilities that images can create!

Monday, January 4, 2016

Reflecting with Padlet!

Hi everyone!  Julia here from History from the Middle.  I have a FUN and EASY to use tech tip for you to try out this New Year!  Padlet is an interactive website that serves as a collaborative whiteboard.  Students are able to post comments, images and links to the topic you create within your Padlet board.  I have used Padlet for quite awhile, and my students LOVE it!  I've used it for electronic exit tickets, reflections, and discussion boards.  Here are some examples of Padlets I've used with my class:

~American Revolution 
~Good and Bad Emperors of Rome
~Life in the Colonies

Here are some easy to follow steps to get started with Padlet TODAY!

Step 1
Go to the Padlet website and create an account.

Step 2
Once you have created an account, you are ready to create your first Padlet board!

Step 3
Now, you have a blank Padlet board ready to build!  You first want to click on the Cog at the bottom of the options bar, and then start with creating a title and a brief description.  You can then add a small image that will attach to your title, and you can change the wallpaper.

Step 4
Next, go back to the cog to change the layout.  I would HIGHLY recommend using only Grid or Stream.  Freeform comes in very messy, and is difficult to see.  Next, click on Privacy.  I usually keep it in the default of Hidden Link.

Step 5
Lastly, click on address.  Here you will find the website for your students to use to access your Padlet.  I typically push it out through Google Classroom, or my Google Class site.  

NOW, you're ready to go!  Click HERE to do a practice post to this sample Padlet.

What are some ways you can use this in your class this year?  Share your ideas!