Students ‘get’ Google Drawings


google draw

This flexible learning Google App is hard to find and I can’t figure out why.  It’s the app I turn to the most, both in preparing visual content and preparing places for students to show their thinking in a collaborative way.  It is great as a way to set up a question and have groups simultaneously adding ideas to the same document – real time!  As teacher, I watch the magic happen on the SmartBoard.  However, more than anything, Google Drawings is a user-friendly playground for students to CREATE! Text boxes, super-easy image insertion, and features that are common to all other GAFE (Google Applications For Education) Apps make this a program that students are excited and comfortable using.  It auto-saves to Google Drive like always, so I am always looking for more ways to use it in my room.

A few notes and ideas I’ve collected over the last six months of ‘playing’.


  • Select the nine dot icon.  Choose ‘more’ and then ‘even more from Google’ links at the bottom of the app list.  Scroll down on the left hand side of the screen and you’ll find the icon buried in a list of apps I don’t use.


  • By creating a Drawing for the class, I can rid myself of printing worksheets.  Items like this bring ‘worksheets’ to a whole new level.  Namely, these are collaborative in nature.  Many heads are better than one, and students need to work together to not only share the technology to work on these tasks, but need to share ideas and find consensus.  Students take care of one another and share their ideas.  So instead of struggling on a one-on-one task, learning new skills is done in a way that is fun, ‘techie’, and real-world realistic (e.g., teamwork life skills).
  • Share these (via Google Classroom if you like) with individual students to collect for a diagnostic assessment, or use as a formative assessment piece, giving students a social way to learn new concepts with peers.  Best practices and unique approaches to problems are always celebrated and I really like to capture students doing cool solutions to problems and re-teaching the class with their novel approach.
  • Bump up the fun by sharing the document with all your student groups and give them all edit access.  Set the timer for an appropriate time and watch all groups enter their thinking real-time as all other groups are doing the same thing on the same screen.  Really cool – and students need to read other groups’ ideas as they go so they don’t repeat comments or images.
  • Instead of groups typing text boxes (written ideas), have them do a picture insertion task. See the mass estimation task above.  Set the parameters on a blank screen and watch students use the ‘insert image’ button to very quickly access their own Google Drive or the whole Google universe for a fast image insertion.  Instead of creating a time-consuming drag and drop SmartBoard file, why not have the students create the drag and drop?  A favourite task of mine.


A student can upload a photo from an iPad or a Chromebook to use later as a digital backdrop to make annotations (making tracks of words, images and arrows on an image).  They open a new Google Drawing, select the insert image button, and upload from their Google Drive.  They can resize the image to take up the full Google Drawing screen.  Then then can start typing text boxes over top, explaining their thinking and labelling elements for the teacher. Callouts, lines, arrows and shapes make this a flexible way to digitally mark up the photo.  It can then be viewed by the teacher (who can do direct comments online for the student to see), or uploaded into a blog or Google Site as an e-portfolio artifact.

For shared reading/writing, upload a piece of text and have students annotate the actual text image.  In the example above, students in groups were asked to create text boxes to re-write sections of the text they thought needed bumping up.


As I mentioned, this a go-to app in our classroom.  The students likely know the ins and outs better than myself and are always eager to teach each other new tricks.  Some examples of ways we use Drawings as ways to demonstrate learning:

– Create a ‘menu’ for a meal from an ancient civilization – include images and a variety of fonts to capture audience interest.
– With your group, quickly sketch together a procedural writing piece on how to…. include images to support your writing
– Create a bar graph or tally chart to track results of a mathematical experiment
– Students create their own ‘worksheet’!

We use GAFE all the time and gravitate towards the loose approach this format gives us. It’s similar to the way SmartActive software works, which is a bonus.  I find Google Docs more limiting in formatting options and unless students are writing more than one page of information I would stick with Drawings as a more user-friendly alternative.  Give it a try – I know you’ll enjoy using it. Come and ask questions if you want to learn more!



Digital Bookmarks

I have really been enjoying watching my students navigate novel study in small groups of 2 to 4.  They check Google Classroom for their daily reading recipe.  They use elements of ‘read to others’ developed in the primary grades to coach and assist each other through the reading process collaboratively.  There is no judgement, just support that has been highly modeled and reinforced.  Upon completing the day’s chapters, they begin on the task outlined in Classroom.  Every day is a different type of digital reading response.  Maybe book review or theme online forms.  Maybe it’s using Google Drawings to create a new book cover.  Maybe it is loading a Padlet with important quotes from the text.  Maybe it’s a word cloud of adjectives that speak to a character’s identity.  It’s something new each time and they seem to be responding to the uniqueness of each task with high interest.

After the first two days of setting the parameters of what a student-directed hour of literacy looks and sounds like, it’s off to the races.  I get time to conference with small groups, discuss goals, and praise their hard work in helping each other.  Community!  Today I sat for a second to scan the room while students were reading, and later, working on using ShadowPuppet (video notation iPad app) to complete a book talk.  I was impressed.  I felt as though I was in their space, not the other way around.  The students were totally engaged and focused.  Pulling tech into literacy time is helping students jump into books.


Stool Update

Yes, pressing news, I know! So after initial student squeals of excitement about the flashy new seating, we quickly discovered that the stools were too tall to fit under their desks.  The answer was to either shorten the stool legs or raise the desks.  A broken screwdriver, 20 minutes and 3 blisters later, the desks were heightened. The students fit and so far say they’re comfy.

Unexpected bonus: these heightened desks actually work out pretty good for standing and working for 9-10 year olds!  This is perfect for that kid that needs or likes to move a little while working.  The more seating choice the better!  I’m in!  I’m converting this room!

Here’s a problem to solve…and the answer is probably worth a mint.  How do you keep these sticky felts on?  Oh, the small things sometimes.



Is a Stool the Tool?


My IKEA order arrived and I had my kids help me build some stools.  I’m in experiment mode tomorrow at school…how will swapping out traditional chairs for stools work in my classroom?  I started with four stools.  I figure this will allow me to observe each ‘pod’ of students over the next few weeks.

In my mind things will go one of a few ways.  Let’s explore.

  1.  students find them uncomfortable and distracting.  They’d rather be slouching and challenging others to balancing contests.
  2. Students think they are ‘cool’ because they’re different.  It ultimately does not affect their learning.
  3. Students adapt well to the change and Mr. D. starts becoming creative with the flexible seating options they provide.

I sure hope option three is the reality.  By flexible seating arrangements I mean that I can call a group of kids over and they’ll bring their stools with them for a quick ‘knees in’ circle meeting.  Or perhaps carpet time whole group lessons look a bit more like a grown up session where participants sit on stools instead of on the floor.  Sounds more mature, doesn’t it? Hopefully students think so too and buy into using the new seats appropriately. Quick and flexible groupings sound wonderful.

The one teacher pet peeve I won’t miss?  The squeaking and squawking of 100+ chair legs as kids transition between activities.  Ack!  Fewer freestyle chair gymnastics wipeouts will also be welcome 😏

Game on, stools!


Googlier Now

How many new things can your brain hold in a given day?  I’m feeling “googlier”.  The Edtech GAFE pre-summit Bootcamp is cramming major content in short periods of time.  No pens, just lots of chrome books and cell phones flipping between apps.  Go go go!

I’m writing my Google Certified Educator 3 hour exam on Sunday.   Topics covered (and tested with real-time hands on assignments) focus around an educators use of:

  • Drive
  • Docs
  • Forms
  • Sites
  • Sheets
  • Drawings
  • Calendar
  • Gmail
  • Groups
  • Youtube

Of course in a classroom this is all run through a Classroom portal. So slick.

Learning pro tips by an instructor who is a Google Certified Innovator makes it a highly applicable training day.  Sure beats taking 15 hours of online modules!  Thanks TVDSB!



About the guitar

This is from my son’s new blog. He is in grade 2 and he is really excited to write online as opposed to practicing his writing in a notebook. I often use him as a guinea pig to try out ideas that I might want to try in class. I figure that if he can do something digitally, with support from me, my grade 4’s will be able to do the same task independently with success. So with this in mind, I am now trying to plan out how Room 205 is going online soon with individual blogs. Stay tuned!

In Fin's HEAD

When you get a guitar You have to do some work .

step.1  First go to pick a new guitar. You have a choice.🎸

Step.2 name  your guitar. I just got to name my  guitar  Lightning.

step.3 learn some cords then if you can learn how to play the guitar.

step.4  then make a  Garage  band  and go step by step!

Click here to see me play my guitar

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Sphero: Fad or Fantastic?


I bought one. The school bought a few.  Now what?  This little guy is a rolling dynamo (for an hour per charge) and the interest / excitement a robotic ball can generate is impressive.  So I feel, as an educator, I need to be able to prove how a robot ball helps me cover curriculum.   Or, is it a way, a “hook” I can get kids to explore curriculum elements through…  a device or vehicle?

I think it’s both.   Sphero can be a character in a building challenge, or a math tool programmed to analyze angles and distance.  It can be a representation of a sci-fi future (green screen movie trailer alert) or the paintbrush in a slow exposure light paint art piece.

So I’ve done some scouring to start a list of ways I want to explore with this high tech programmable pet.  One thing is certain.  This is meaningful education as long as the student is the doer, the coder, the planner, the engineer, the reporter, the film director, the creative problem solver.  Otherwise it’s just a cool toy.

I’m in!  Fantastic!

Here’s my idea list.  I’d certainly love some suggestions.

SPHERO Ideas…so far!


Rejigging “Reading Response”


“Read pages x – z”.  “Write paragraphs/sentences/response to text”.  Sound familiar?  Hopefully not to students in a 21st Century classroom.  Familiar = boring.  Boring = tedious.  Tedious doesn’t always lead to the engagement with the text that we are looking for.

How can we be creative, engaging, and perhaps collaborative with our reading response activities?  I have a few ideas I’d like to try out.  The students and I will learn together to see how effective the new strategies turn out to be.  The framework I am looking at adopting was introduced to me by the author Paul Solarz in “Learn Like a Pirate”.  He uses small student groupings to collectively read novels.  This student-directed reading time is then followed by some type of digital response.  In fact, students look up a ‘digital bookmark’ to see their reading task for the day and the specified amount of time needed to complete the digital response at the end.  The teacher observes, conferences as necessary and lets students lead the experience (student leadership and control bumps up task engagement).

What types of digital reading responses might I have groups (or individuals) complete?  Here’s a list of some digital storytelling ideas I’m anxious to try:

  • Google ‘My Maps’ –> Students drop pins in specified locations on a map and add photographs and paragraphs/captions retelling activities happening on the interactive map.
  • Shadow Puppet Chapter Summary –> Photos, word cards and even short videos are edited into a puppet with verbal narration of learnings
  • Wordle –> Students create a word cloud with key focus words, ideas, struggles, etc.
  • Padlet –> Students add important quotes from the chapter and add their own inferences about why the quotes are meaningful to the problem/solution
  • Adobe Voice –> Similar to Shadow Puppet.  A very slick and attractive way to organize photos collected that connect to the story. Perhaps a trip outside with the iPads to find artifacts to include in a visual collection, complete with music and narration.
  • Google Forms –> Students create their own chapter quiz (re-teaching is ultimate learning).
  • Green Screen –> Students choose a background and perform a drama tableaux of the key problem in the chapter/book.
  • Google Slides –> My students love this app and are always looking for opportunities to show what they know with this easy and visual format.
  • Google Classroom –> We have many well-used forms in our online Literacy class.  Book recommendations, big ideas wiki,  website review, etc.
  • Viewpure/youtube search –> Browsing time for media that links to the text. Reviewing the appropriateness of sites.  Understanding why authors use social media to discuss/promote texts.
  • Google Draw –> digital creativity…create new book covers, or add images to image-free novels ; ).
  • Google Docs –> Traditional comprehension questions for students to demonstrate the knowledge I’m looking to see.  We think typing is more fun than printing!
  • Stop motion –> Perhaps for a final task. A recreation of a favourite part with an accompanying article.
  • GarageBand? –> Why not?  How about demonstrate understanding with creating soundtracks for the ‘movie version’ of a text.  Fun.

Or…we could do a book review ; )