Teacher Hack: Mail Merge for a Personal Touch

How much do you love labeling all the things? I mean, if you’re anything like me you label, cut, laminate, label, plan, and repeat. Well, I teach at a departmentalized elementary school and I love that I can just master teaching math and really focus on being successful at it, however labeling the things personally for three different classes can be daunting! So, being the problem solver that I am, I found a way to label things with all my students names on it, without having to type 60+ names on a template every time.

What is Mail Merge?

I never knew what mail merge was until about two years ago, when I taught middle school and learned of the game changer that it is! Basically, it’s a way that you can take an excel spreadsheet, and put it on a template in Microsoft Word. The possibilities are endless! You can mail merge labels, letters, envelopes, basically anything you create in Microsoft Word, you can input the information from an Excel spreadsheet into it!

1: Where to begin?

The first thing you want to do, is create a spreadsheet in Excel. I used to be scared of Excel, but it really isn’t so bad! I have a master class list saved that I have the students first and last name, separated into two different columns. I have 4 different sheets in my Excel workbook – 3 separated by class, and one with all three classes combined on it. This is the most time consuming part of mail-merging, because you need to have all the information typed on there. It might save you time if you asked your school secretary to email you a spreadsheet with your classes, but I type fast so I just take 20 minutes to type in the information, and then I have it for the rest of the year.

2: Create a Template

After you finish typing in your information that you want on labels, you have to open Microsoft Word. Click on that “Mailings” tab that no one actually knows what to do with to create the template you want to have filled with the data from Excel. For my example, I am going to create labels for my students binders, so I’ll click “Labels.” You can click letters to create a progress report, envelopes, and email messages.

3: Now what?

You go to that Mailings tab that no one actually knows what it is for, click the drop down menu that says, “Start Mail Merge,” and it will ask you to choose a new or existing recipient list for mail merge. Remember that excel file you created earlier? Here is where it comes into play. Click “Select Recipients,” and then, “Use an Existing List.” Search for the list that you just saved in your drive and click the sheet that has the data that you want to merge.

From here, you can create anything. I’m creating labels for my students folders, so I have the template in word, so I am just going to select “First Name.” To do that, you click, “Insert Merge Field,” where you will see a drop down of the titles of the columns of the excel spreadsheet that you created.

4: Formatting the Information

You can format the inserted field the same way you would format any document on Microsoft Word, from the home tab. Something to keep in mind is make sure the next box says, “Next Record,” to ensure that the merge completes all the data on the excel spreadsheet that you created.

5: Preview & Merge

When you are finished inserting the merge fields and formatting the information the way you want it to look, you can click, “Preview” and see what it will look like. If you’re happy with the way it looks, click “Finish & Merge.” I always click “Print Documents..” and then save them as a PDF in the printing window.

I hope that this gives you more time to do fun things and spend less time typing, re-typing & typing again for cute labels! I have a YouTube channel where I will be posting a detailed tutorial complete with the steps for mail-merging , so look out for it coming soon! Happy labeling!

As always, thanks for stopping by!

☆Alexandra☆

Google Sheets: Beyond the Formulas!

A quick read on 3 ways to use Google Sheets, besides calculating with formulas, in the classroom!

A quick read on 3 ways to use Google Sheets, besides calculating with formulas, in the classroom!

As you can tell, I’m a huge fan of Google Apps. I use Google Slides to create all of my lessons, Google Classroom to give my students assignments and Google Docs to create documents to share with my team. One application that I wasn’t using too often was Google Sheets. I took a course and it was so informative! I learned all about formulas, add-ons, and tips and tricks for students to use Google Sheets as well. Today I am going to share with you some ways I use Google Sheets to help me ease the time consuming to-do lists of teaching.

Conditional Formatting

Even if you’re not using Google Sheets for formulas, you can use it to type in students grades and you’ll have a neat and organized list of how your kids are doing. Conditional formatting is the greatest tool you will use to make your life 100x easier! Basically, you can set it so the lower grades are one color and the higher grades are a different color. I usually create a color scale to let me see the different grades, and I can easily see the students I need to conference with at a glance. I set up my Google Sheet like this:

Planning for Grouping

I created a grouping spreadsheet to help me when I make my center-time groups. Last year, I used paper and I left out kids more often than not and it was so frustrating for me and them to figure out where to put them. I no longer worry about that because of Google Sheets! I created a sheet for each of my classes and I have a master copy of the students names pre-populated in the first column. Then, as I put them into a group I change the fill color of the cell of their name to the color of the group I am putting them in. Check it out here:

As I am creating the groups, I can quickly see which students are going where and who I still have to put in a group. This is such an amazing time saver – I no longer take hours to plan for center time and small group!

Checklists for Planning

How frustrating is it when you’re planning this awesome lesson and in your mind it’s going to be the most jaw-dropping lesson of the week and then you get to work and realized theres a major component missing? Fear not – Google Sheets FTW! You can insert check boxes into a cell to check off as you complete the tasks! I created a master copy that I make a copy of and fill in for each chapter. This helps me so much when I’m planning for the unit and I can see what I need for each lesson and check it off as I create each piece.

Another use for the checkboxes is to check off as students had in assignments, trip slips, or anything really! This will save yourself from asking, “Where did I put that paper with the kids names that brought in the permission slip?” Such a simple solution to a very real problem!

Beyond Teaching

Google Sheets is such an important tool for me – I use it beyond teaching. I have a budget spreadsheet that helps me manage my money, a blog post tracker, and I track my TpT sales goals! Email me at letstechaboutmath@gmail.com if you have any questions or want some tips and tricks on Google Sheets beyond teaching!

I hope this helps with becoming more efficient in the classroom! Thank you for stopping by, don’t forget to subscribe for exclusive access to my Google Drive with FREEBIES just for subscribers! One of the freebies is a detailed explanation of how to do these three things, so be sure to subscribe for it!

Enjoy!

☆Alexandra☆

Tech-less Tuesday: Resource Roundup!

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Hello everyone!

Happy Tech-less Tuesday! Today, I am sharing with you Resource Roundup, an activity that I spoke about briefly in a previous post. I created this to help students become aware of all the tools and resources around the room to help them become successful independent learners!

If you’re like me, you’re prepping your back to school lessons, decorations, and organizing everything to get ready for September! Seriously – we don’t get all summer off, we take at least all of August to plan, right? I’m going to share with you this Resource Roundup activity to help students recognize the scaffolds around the room to support them.

Resource Roundup will allow students to explore the room, manipulatives, and any tools you may have to help them be independently successful throughout the year. This is a great way to discuss the various topics that will be covered and will give you an insight as to what the students already know of the resources.

This is a Jig-Saw activity that I will use within the first few days of school. Students will have a “Home” group and an “Master” group. In their master groups, they will explore the resource they are assigned. They will discuss and take notes on the graphic organizer I created answering a few questions about the resource. When they return to their home group, they will share their findings.

The activity can be altered to fit your students of course! The worksheet can be a center time activity, a whole class activity, or an independent activity. Just be sure to give students 15-20 minutes to browse the room and see what they can find to help them be successful. Again, the way you use this activity is up to you!

Some of the resources I am having students examine are fraction manipulatives, base ten blocks, the rubrics we use and success criteria, math dictionaries and word wall, measurement tools, unit cubes, and counters. I will also allow them to walk around and look at the posters and anchor charts that may help them understand more.

An extension for this activity I am planning to do is to have each home group create a poster or advertisement of the resources. You can have them all choose one, you can assign each group a different resource, or you can have them advertise for all five resources – the possibilities are endless!

When I do this activity, I will have each group advertise one resource (assigned by me) on a poster and hang them around the room for the year so students can be reminded that they have plenty of resources to utilize before me. This is a great way to have student work up and to remind you to use the manipulatives in your lessons!

In my TpT store, you’ll find Resource Roundup, which comes with the following:

  • Lesson Plan
  • Resource Roundup Graphic Organizer
  • Assignment Checklist
  • Teacher Assessment Checklist
  • Extension Activity

How do you introduce the resources of your classroom to your students? Drop a comment below & let me know! 🙂

☆Alexandra☆

Digital Small Group Solutions

Hello Techie Teachers!

As we enter August, I have been in full on planning mode for September! One area that I struggled with the most last year was planning small group work and center time. This year, that is going to be one of my main focuses! I’ve been trying to research efficient ways to create my groups and plan which center each group will get, but I found nothing that will suite me, so I decided to make something!

In my school, we begin our day with Center Time for about twenty minutes. During this time, I have four things happening in the room – I am working with one small group, another group is on technology, a third group is doing a collaborative problem solving activity, and a fourth group is working on fluency. This can get crazy because center time isn’t necessarily for what I’m teaching the whole class that day, it’s to bridge the gaps of previously taught standards. I try to keep it to a standard a week and rotate the same groups throughout each of the different centers.

The Problem: Grouping

The issue I was having last year was that when I created my groups for each week, I was looking at a list and crossing out names as I put them in a group. This posed as an issue for me because I would STILL leave students out! The day would come for them to be in a group and I wouldn’t have anywhere for them to go. I wanted to create a digital way of grouping for this year where the students are pre-populated and I can just rearrange them.

The Solution

I created a Google Sheet with my students names on a class list and on the side are the four groups, color coded. I can cut and past the students names in each group, and when their name is cut I know they’re already in a group! I also plan to color code the students names for my high-medium-low groups when I meet them and get a chance to review the EOY data from fourth grade. This will help me to ensure all students have a group each day in the week. I also plan to keep students in the same group all week because, let’s be honest, changing them daily is way too time consuming and the standard to work on is the same all week anyway!

The Problem: Planning Activities

Last year when I was planning activities for centers, I would have my bin separated by skill/standard and just give them to the kids if we were working on the standard. This became an issue because I wasn’t entirely organized about giving out the center and some students got stuck doing the same center more than once, which isn’t exactly meaningful work. I mean, some centers can be repeated throughout the year, but not in the same week. This was where I was really struggling last year, so again, I did some research for ways to plan and was inspired by a few blogs, but nothing worked directly for me. We do center time, but it isn’t exactly Guided Math or Math Workshop, because we still have a whole group mini lesson, independent practice, and math journal every day after centers.

The Solution

The solution to this was to add another sheet to my workbook on Google Sheets. The second sheet was to plan my activities and which group will be doing them and what day of the week. I can copy my groups right into the boxes on this sheet to know which kids are doing what and when. This will help me to see what centers I need for the week and I will keep making copies each week. I may even add a yearly plan to this, but I haven’t thought about that yet.

What do you think? How can you use this for your classroom?

☆Alexandra☆

Purchase this Small Group Planning Solution at my TpT store by clicking here!

Tech-less Tuesday: Worksheets Can Be Fun

So I’m a day late with Tech-less Tuesday, we’ll call today, “Without Tech Wednesday :P”

I am writing today with education.com to show you guys how I used their worksheets in my classroom this year. I’m not going to lie, I strongly dislike giving my students worksheets to complete independently, and the collecting them and grading them are even worse! However, I recently have been using worksheets to my advantage by making them into a basketball game. I purchased a little nerf basketball hoop for my classroom and when my kids see it hanging up, they come in very excited and ready to play and learn!

What do you need to play?

To set up, here is what you need:

  • Basketball hoop (or trash can with some paper basketballs)
  • Worksheet of your choice (visit education.com for a variety of great worksheets to choose from!)
  • Dry erase boards & markers
  • Duct tape (for the floor to mark 2- and 3-point shots)

Setting up the Game

To set up the game, you divide the students into teams. I usually do 5 groups of 4-5 students, grouped heterogeneously to make the game fair. Each team can come up with a team name for the score board. Students start by completing the worksheet independently for about 7-10 minutes, depending on the length of the worksheet. After they work on it independently, I give them time to work as a group. If the worksheet has several skills, I’ll assign questions I want each group to work on so that I know they are working on the specific skill I want them to practice. Of course as they are working, I am walking around and taking notes on my checklist to formatively assess the class.

The Game

Since I have a Promethean board, I use the spinner labeled with each students name on it. I have it set so that each child is only chosen one time. I use the spinner to determine the order that students answer. You can use popsicle sticks or roll a dice to determine the student order if you don’t have a digital spinner. The first student who lands on the spinner will answer the first question.

Since the students had a chance to discuss the answers and how to solve it with their group, random selection is a great way to make the game fair.

I give the class 1-2 minutes to write their answer/work on their whiteboards and say, “3-2-1- boards up!” If the person who’s name is chosen from the spinner got it correct, they get one point for their team and to take a basketball shot for their team. They can choose 2- or 3-point shot and they earn that many points for making it.

The team that has the most points when the worksheet is complete (or time runs out) wins! I usually give them a prize like a jolly rancher, homework pass, or extra computer time during centers. Rewards can be discussed before the game, however students are just excited to play basketball in math class!

Variations

There can be some variations to this game. You can make it individual, or have the class in 2 teams, or even let other teams steal from the students who got their question incorrect. I kept it simple in my class this year and it worked. I used this game for task cards during test prep and it made state exam review exciting. You can also use it for vocabulary practice.

Dive into multiplication practice with this under-the-sea themed math worksheet! Check out our full collection of math games and printables at Education.com.

How do you use worksheets in your classroom? Drop a comment below!

☆Alexandra☆

Google + Jigsaw = Engaging

Happy Sunday Everyone! 

Oh my goodness it’s been a while since I posted. I got so caught up with my online courses, grading, planning, and life that I put this on the back-burner, but I am back & ready to write all summer long! This is my favorite time of the year, not only because it’s Summer, but because I get to start planning and thinking about next year! It is a time of reflection and adjusting based on what worked and what didn’t work throughout this past school year and I can be creative and take my time planning for the upcoming school year! Since I have been absent for the last couple of months, there is a freebie waiting for you at the end of this post!

One of the online courses I took was about creating a more student-centered classroom. As a teacher I want to show them all of the amazing things that I love about math, but honestly, it’s much better when they discover the concepts and get excited about it all on their own, am I right? One thing I read up on was the Jigsaw method. I know this is usually used in the other content areas, and you’re probably wondering how the Jigsaw method works in Math – fear not my friends, I will share this with you!

The first thing I want to clarify is – what is the Jigsaw strategy? Well, it is a collaborative learning technique that gives students the chance to become masters of one specific concept or skill to teach to their home group. Here’s a visual I created to help you see what I mean:

As a math teacher, this may be difficult to picture doing. One way I plan to use this strategy in my classroom is to do a Resource Roundup in the beginning of the school year. Students are assigned a “Home Group” and then within the group, each student is assigned some classroom tools and resources to become the masters of. They look at the manipulatives and resources we are going to use in the fifth-grade and evaluate and compare them. This includes the digital resources involving the iPads and computers that we are fortunate enough to have (see my post on virtual manipulatives for an overview of what I use). Once they have mastered their resources, they return to their home group to share what they found. I plan to teach this activity over the course of two days – the first day giving students a chance to work with their master group and the second they share with their home group. Home groups will create a poster to advertise at least five classroom resources they look forward to using in the fifth grade. Once the posters are complete, I will hang them throughout the room as a reminder of the great tools we have to help us.

So now that you see how we can use Jigsaw in a math classroom, how does this relate to technology? Well, the G Suite is one of the greatest educational tools, and I have written about it in this postBesides having one of the master groups looking at technology resources, when students are with their home groups creating the poster, they can make it digital! Google Drawings is a great app from the G Suite that students pick up on in a snap! Nowadays, students are so tech savvy that most don’t even need direct instruction on how to use certain apps. Once students create their digital posters as a group, you can print them and hang them around the room to refer throughout the year.

One thing I noticed this past year is as students get older, they are more reluctant to use manipulatives and resources. Students see a word problem and immediately start scribbling down an equation to help them solve – the equation usually dealing with the current unit. Students don’t take the time to break out the resources we have in the classroom such as fraction bars, base ten blocks, graphic organizers, and even a problem-solving folder they have right at their tables! Reflecting on my own teaching, I realize I seldom used the resources and I hope that this activity will help students to recognize what we have in the room and when it can be useful to them. I also hope that the posters will be a reminder for myself to refer to the tools and resources as I am teaching my lessons.

What other ways are you thinking about using the Jigsaw method in your math classroom?

Enjoy!

☆Alexandra☆

PS – Here is a Freebie for you to do a Resource Roundup! in your classroom!

Find the full lesson plan at my TpT store here!

@TechAboutMath

G Suite Part 1: Google Docs & Slides

Hi Everyone!

So I started this blog to talk about must-have-tech in my classroom and let me tell you – G Suite is the go-to for my students and myself in my classroom. I love how the G Suite has so many tools and apps all together, and the extensions are endless! With each program in the G Suite, students and teachers can collaborate with each other in real time. Today I am going to share with you just two of the many apps with G Suite: Google Docs and Google Slides.

Google Docs

Google Docs is an online collaborating software to create and edit documents. The greatest feature is the collaborative part. Students and teachers can share documents with each other and edit them together. Most people understand that Google Docs is a great tool for students in ELA where they have to write, edit, and publish essays, but many people don’t realize how it can be used in a Math classroom. Here are some ways I use Google Docs in my classroom:

Have students create a “How To” for a specific topic. For instance – if we are doing a unit on fractions, I would have students create a poster or a “How To” with a specific operation of fractions. Teach students how to use the Math Type Add-On. It allows students to create their own mathematical equations. It’s easy and you can have students create their own questions for each other to answer.

Teachers can use Google Docs to create and edit lesson plans together as well.

Google Slides

Google Slides is a collaborative presentation program that has endless possibilities! The obvious task is to have students create presentations to demonstrate mastery of a skill. Something you can also do with Google Slides is create task cards for students to complete digitally or with paper and pencil. This will save you so much paper and time because you can assign the Google Slide right through Google Classroom, so students will get a read only copy. I also have students create their own vocabulary flash cards with Google Slides.

How else do you use Google Docs and Google Slides in your classroom? Drop a comment below to share!

☆Alexandra☆