comics, Geometry, Reflection, sketchnotes, Student Choice

Student Choice Finals

Our district requires us to give a final. We didn’t last year because we has so many absences due to quarantine and illness. Well, that hasn’t changed for this year but they wanted finals anyway. We always give the reason for finals as preparation for college. Some students are not planning to attend a 4-year institution and that’s ok! They don’t need that preparation. I have 2 of my own children in two different colleges and I can tell you they don’t take finals in every course. Some courses replace their lowest test score with the final, some allow you to take it if you want to raise your grade, and some just don’t have a final. So why do we insist in high school that students take finals?

The answer to that question needs to be a different blog post. For now, my students needed a final and I didn’t want them to have the pressure of another test right after Winter break. You read that correctly. After 2 weeks out of school, we want students to come back and take comprehensive final exams!?! My solution was a reflection choice board.

click to open

I provided quick (and not very good if I’m being honest) examples of each. I have since replaced some of them with student examples. The most popular choice was the meme and the second most popular choice was a sketchnote. I only had one student ask me if they could just take a test. I did not have one prepared so it wasn’t an option. I’m not sure if I will add that option next time either. I love that they looked through all their worked and picked 2 from each unit. The students really enjoyed it too. I love to read their reflections at the end as well. Most students were sincere about their responses and I think they got a lot more out of this activity than they would a test.

I know finals are probably already over for you as well, but hopefully you can file this away for the Spring.

For those who follow both blogs, I will be reposting this on Make Math Not Suck too!

Google Slides

Maximize Space in Google Slides

A new AMAZING update recently happened in Google Slides. Before this update, you needed an extension to go full screen and still interact with your slides. Why would you want to do this, you ask? Well Google Slides is my favorite tool for creating interactive draggable learning activities. The filmstrip, and other stuff just gets in the way.

Well, Google listened and now I’m sharing this awesomeness.

Below is a typical view of an interactive activity. Notice the speaker notes at the bottom, the menus at the top, and the filmstrip on the left. This is all taking space that could be used for your activity.

First, we will go to View and we will unclick show speaker notes and show filmstrip. This will make a HUGE difference.

Look how much workable space we have now.

Now, you could be SUPER happy with the new workspace and call it a job well done! But… you can also minimize the menu to create a little more room.

In the top right corner, click that up arrow. It will do exactly as it says, hide the menu. When you want it back, simply click the arrow again and it will reappear.

Now that is a nice workable space for your draggable activities, and just with a few clicks. I know, what an amazing update!

If you REALLY want an extension to do this for you, you can install Full Screen Interactive. Until this recent update, it was a wonderful solution.

formative assessment, Google Sheets, pixel art, Wakelet

Turkey Pixel Art Activity

You know I love to make pixel art review activities. This week, another teacher in my building came to me and wanted to create one for Thanksgiving, so we sat together and created this. With her permission, I’m sharing the template with you.

  • Type your questions and insert any images on Sheet 1
  • Type your answers on Sheet 2
  • Change the font color to white on Sheet 2 so the answers become invisible
  • Hide sheet 2
  • Set the activity to make a copy for each student
  • ENJOY!

If you would like to create a pixel art activity of your own, you can follow the instructions in my original post.

I have created a Wakelet containing all my templates for Google Sheets activities. Click the link below to check it out.

Enjoy and Happy Turkey Day. I hope you enjoy time with family and friends.

Tech or Treat

Tech or Treat 2021


Tech or Treat, year 3. Spooky season is my favorite and I love putting these together for you. I hope you enjoy the ideas and fun that come out of the cauldron each day.

I changed things up this year by creating Tech or Treat in a website because it worked well for 12 days of Techmas. Don’t forget to check back EVEY DAY this week. The cauldron provides techs and treats daily.

click to visit site

Here are the links to Tech or Treat from previous years.

Happy Spooky Season!!!

Google Sheets

Fun with Google Sheets, Part 4

I’m back today with more tips and tricks to make Google Sheets fun and amazing.

Filter by Color

If you have set up your sheet to change colors using conditional formatting (Fun With Sheets 2), then you can filter by color to see entries that are a certain color.

Highlight the cells you want to sort, then select the funnel looking tool on the right of the toolbar. Select Create new filter view.

The view changes and these little upside down triangles show up on the first line.

I’m going to click the triangle on House to filter.

I selected dark red 1 to get my Gryffindor students.

*Note that you can also filter by text color if you prefer colored text instead of colored cells.

A now I have just my Gryffindor students.

Hiding Cells/Sheet

If you’ve been following along with the Google Sheets activities I’ve been creating, then you may already know these tricks. I use them in my activities all the time.

Hiding Cells

Sometimes you don’t want part of your cells to show. Maybe you have some calculations happening, maybe some answers. You can hide those sheets so students can’t see them. Now, a tech savvy student might notice, but we will get to that in the next step.

Highlight the rows you want to hide (works for columns too), right click and select hide rows.

Once the rows (or columns) are hidden, you can see the arrows indicating there are hidden cells.

Hide Sheet

You can also hide an entire sheet from view. If you create an activity and put the images and answers on Sheet 2, you don’t want students to be able to see that.

Once the sheet is ready, right click and hide sheet.

Protect Cells/Sheets

Once you have hidden your cells and sheets, you want to prevent tech savvy students from unhiding them. You can protect these so you are the only person with access.

Highlight the cells you want to protect, right click, and select protect range.

You can do the same thing with the sheet, by right clicking on the sheet and setting protection.

The only caveat with this is once a student makes a copy, like they have to do when they solve a puzzle, the YOU in “only you can make a change” is THEM. So they can now see your Sheet 2 and hidden cells if they know how to unhide. For this reason, I like to make my font color white so it disappears and I place the answers where they have to scroll a lot to find them. Is it perfect? No. But these activities are fun and work well for digital escape rooms or review so I will continue to make them.

I hope this series is helping you embrace the amazingness that is Google Sheets!

See previous Fund with Google Sheets posts:


Is Education Broken?

I’ve been teaching for over 20 years. I’ve seen education change, A LOT! But the pandemic has highlighted the parts of education that is not working. How much more will the system take before it implodes? I’ve been saying for at least 8 years now that we are headed for change. We are now at a point that if we don’t change we are going to fail.

I am all about building relationships with students. I write about it in my book, I model it in my classroom, and I talk to others about it. Do we still have some teachers on a power trip? Yes! Are there fewer teachers on a power trip? Yes! Do the teachers who want compliance of behavior over relationship still have the most issues? Usually. But what I have been seeing lately is a systemic issue of general lack of respect which makes relationship building more difficult. Students are pushing the societal boundaries of acceptable behavior. Maybe some of these boundaries need to change, like our view on dress code which is historically sexist. But what is acceptable? How much of the human body should be exposed in school? What does our society say is acceptable? What are some boundaries that shouldn’t be pushed?

Some behaviors disrupt what our government and court systems have told us is the pubic schools responsibility to deal with: students refusing to be in class, hiding in bathrooms, vandalizing, fighting (like a lot of fighting), and using illegal substances (not just vaping). I know some of you are thinking, relationships will fix this. In a theoretical world where we have unlimited time, yes, relationships and programs like Restorative Justice will fix the issues. We don’t have unlimited time. We don’t have ENOUGH time, period. Behavior issues keep increasing and the number of people able to build relationships and deal with the issues keep decreasing.

My husband is an administrator and I see the amount of time it takes to deal with issues. A minor infraction like a student saying “F#*K” in class takes about 40 minutes from talking with the student to writing up the report. He has 550 students he is responsible for each day. Now imagine in a day he has a fight, a report of bullying, 3 students sent to him for using inappropriate language, a student refusing to stay off their phone during class, 5 students vaping in the bathroom, and 4 parent emails or phone calls. A bullying report takes 2-3 days to investigate, fights take about 2 hours to complete the investigation, make calls, and complete paperwork, and phones and vaping taking 30-40 minutes. Also during the day he is responsible for bussing, all standardized testing (our school has A LOT of “required” testing throughout the year), lunch shifts, supervising and evaluating about 20 teachers, and IEP meetings for his own students. He is also supposed to look at the grades for all of his students and call in students who are not doing well. Now last I checked, we are in school from 7-3, not even close to the amount of time needed to deal with these issues. He supervises an athletic even 2-3 nights a week so he has to leave right after school. THERE IS NOT ENOUGH TIME! The number of behavior issues is insane and administrators are being told to spend MORE TIME building relationships. Where? Where does this time come from? They want to, but they don’t have time. When they ask for more help, more administrators, counselors, and teachers, they are told we don’t have the money. They, just like teachers, are told to FIGURE IT OUT!

We are told, don’t suspend as many students. Ok, are we supposed to say, “Hey friend, next time you are angry, instead of taking someone to the ground and kicking them repeatedly in the kidney because they said your girlfriend is hot, maybe try a different approach. I’ll let you off with a warning this time.” Or “Next time someone calls you messy (this means a promiscuous person with STDs), don’t grab her by the hair and bash her head into the wall and pull her hair out, just say those words are hurtful. Now go back to class and do better.” If it was outside of school they would be arrested for assault and it should be the same in schools. You can’t harm another person and say it’s ok. Do we need to talk to them about their actions and help them make better choices? YES! Do they need to experience consequences for the actions? ABSOLUTELY!!!

On top of the behavioral issues that are getting worse, we have all of the non-academic things schools now have to deal with according to cases adjudicated by the courts and laws passed by the government. We have to teach students how to spot a sexual predator, teach about and deal with bullying, keep students in the school and know where they are at all times but give them more freedom, educate them on suicide, teach about sexual health without promoting an agenda, teach about history without promoting an agenda, and create an inclusive environment for all students without promoting an agenda.

Then we have the issue of academics. We are still operating under an antiquated system from over 100 years ago. Standardized testing started with the first authorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act. It was an attempt to remedy inequity in education. I DOESN’T fit our society now and actually increases inequity. We are encouraged to differentiate education for our students but then we measure it with a standardized test. Then, we base the limited funding for our schools on these tests results. We know students are in different places, we know they don’t all learn at the same pace. We say it’s ok to learn at different paces, BUT WE TEST THEM ALL THE SAME!!!! And then we shame students, teachers, and schools because on this one measure we didn’t do well.

Most teachers give their heart and soul to help their students be successful. But just like administrators, they simply do not have enough time in the day to do all that is asked of us. The “programs” that are purchased to “fix” the issues actually create more issues and take more time away from students. We take teachers out of the classroom to learn about this new program, to discuss our findings for that new program, and we leave students in the classroom with a substitute and a lesson plan to learn on their own, which by the way, took that teacher more time to prepare than if they had stayed in the classroom with a better lesson. We tell teachers to not take work home and care for themselves and then we tell them to create better lessons, find better resources, spend more time evaluating data, spend more time remediating students, but make sure you teach all of the standards and make sure all of our students are successful. Oh, and that list of non-academic things from earlier, make sure you are addressing all of that too.

I call it the hamster wheel. We keep running and chasing the goals and we just don’t get anywhere.

Is education broken? We are at a point where the requirements and expectations of public schools are more than can be accomplished. We know teachers don’t get paid enough. Yes, administrators get paid more, but what they deal with is unbelievable and they don’t get paid for what they deal with. Educators are going to continue to leave the profession and fewer and fewer students are going to choose education as a career because they see the stress teachers are under and the bullshit they deal with daily.

It’s time to stop the hamster wheel and reevaluate what education looks like in the United States. If we don’t, the system is going to implode, it’s going to FAIL in a miserable way leaving the US wondering what happened.

How do we fix it? I don’t know. Since government dictates a lot of what we do and government is also broken, we may not be able to find a solution. We are so divided as a nation on EVERY ISSUE, why should education be different? I don’t have a solution but I’m the type of person that wants to find a solution. This is why I’m frustrated and standing on my soapbox today! You have to talk about the issues to start fixing the issues.

As I step off my soapbox I want to say to my fellow educators, thank you for showing up every day and giving more of yourself than you have to give. And don’t feel bad if it gets to the point that you can’t do it anymore. Encourage each other and keep doing what you are doing until you can’t do it anymore. I’m not going to tell teachers to stay because students need you. I want to fix the situation so you want to stay! You are making a difference, even if the system is broken. If your test scores aren’t what they should be, ask yourself, “Did my students leave as better people than when they entered?” That should be our goal!

At the end of the day, we teach students, not subject matter. Take care of yourself, take care of your students, and let’s find a way to make our education system better. If you have a solution, I’m ready to talk about it!

Digital Escape Rooms, formative assessment, Geometry, Google Sheets, Self-Checking

Self-Checking Magic Squares Sheet

This tutorial is combining two ideas together that I have previously shared. This first is a Magic Squares sheet by Jason Pullano, and the other was a recent post about self-checking sheet. This activity is great for a self-checking activity or as a clue in a digital escape room.

Many of the steps are the same, so I am just reposting them below so you don’t have to flip screens.

Create your Questions

I find it’s easier to have my questions and images (if needed) ready to go before I begin building the spreadsheet.

I’m using this for a Geometry review so I’ve created my images in advance in a Google Slide and I changed the page size to the standard 4:3. I can download each card as a PNG or JPG image to use in my self-checking activity.

Create the image

This activity loads an image into squares one at a time as a correct answer is entered. You will need to decide how many squares you want. I went with a 4×4 grid.

I used Google Drawing. In page set-up I set the size to 10 x 10.

Once your image is designed, place a table on top of it and drag it to fill the screen. I learned this trick from Jason Pullano. The table creates a perfect grid and you don’t have to worry about placement of the lines.

Now you crop your image. There is more than one way to do this but I chose to use my snipping tool and just snip each section. I found it helpful to zoom in to get a good snip.

Open Sheets

Now we will put this all together.

I start with my blocks of information. I merged cells to create the sections for instructions, question images, and also to create my grid. By selecting columns G-J and right clicking, I can resize my columns to 99. Do the same for rows 2-3 and resize to 33. This should give us squares.

I just typed in my header this time, but you could always create a colorful header like we did the last time. If you create the header image, insert instructions are below.

Place images and answer in a new tab.

Click the plus button in the bottom left corner of your spreadsheet. This will create a new tab in Sheets. This will be the location for out images and answers.

Place the images (insert image) for the questions and for the square reveal. They can be VERY TINY. It’s ok. It will scale to fit the size we allow it.

We also want to place the answers to our questions here. We are going to hide the tab later so students don’t see it.

Dropdown menu

Start with the dropdown menu where you have the word instructions. Place the same words, Choose a Question, Question 1, etc. in your list. You can view a tutorial here.

Now right below that, you will enter a vlookup code.


This is telling sheets to see what word is selected in A4 (Choose a question, Question 1, etc., then go to sheet 2 and select the image that matches my words that are in column A starting at A1 and my images are in column B ending at B13.


Now let’s set the conditional formatting for our answers. There is a tutorial for conditional formatting in the link above as well.

I’m going to have three rules for each cell. If the cell is empty, I want it to be transparent. If the cell has an entry it will be gold for correct or red for incorrect.

It’s a little tricky to get conditional formatting from another sheet.

Here is what you would type in:

We will do the same thing to get a wrong answer but select text does not contain and type in the same formula and change the color to red.

Repeat for the remaining answers.

*This seems like a lot of work, but this process allows you to use this template again simply by changing the images and answers in Sheet 2.

Load Image

Now we need to load an image square. When an answer is correct, we want a square to load in an image space.

Below the fun stuff in Sheet 1, I have the sheet respond with 1 if an answer is correct and 0 if it’s incorrect using the following formula:

Once you return, there will be a little blue box in bottom right corner. You can drag that box down 10 spaces and it will auto fill the formula for you.

Choose a square you want to load. For this example, if the answer is correct it will go to sheet 2 and load the image in D1. You just need to make sure you load them in random order and that you include each one.

I have 16 boxes and only 12 questions so a few of my questions load to squares.

Clean it up and Assign

I like to hide the parts of the sheet we don’t need.

I’m going to highlight columns K-Z and right click and hide those cells

You can also hide the rows that have your adding trick on them by doing the same thing.

I’m also going to hide the sheet with my answers on it. Now a spreadsheet savvy student will now how to unhide this so you can always password protect the sheet so they can’t access it.

Don’t forget to set it to make a copy for every student in your LMS.

Here is the final result with all of the answers filled in:

These are so much fun. You can even get more advanced and have one image load and it changes to another image as you get the answer correct.

You can always just use the created spreadsheet below as a template if you don’t want to make your own. Just switch out the images and answers on Sheet 2.

If you make one, please let me know. I love to make these and my students love to complete these.