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☆

Five Ways to Use the Promethean – Right Now!

Read about these five tools on the Promethean board that I cannot live without! Keep students engaged!

Hello Friends!

After a long wait, today I bring to you – Promethean Part 2: Five Apps to Download on it Right Now! After taking a couple of workshops about the Promethean board, I have decided that there are five specific apps to download through the Google Play Store that you need. These apps will keep the kids engaged while you’re teaching and your life so much easier. Isn’t that what this blog is about? Simplifying teaching through technology.

I’m going to be honest with you – I was not a huge fan of the Promethean board in my classroom when I first started working with it. My former school had SMART Boards and SMART Technologies were all I knew. After taking some workshops on the Promethean board, I learned that it is basically a giant tablet & I now love it and all the things you can do with it!

Google Chrome

Starting with the most used app on my board, Google Chrome. I like it because I can sign in to my school gmail account and have my bookmarks already there for me. I put a password on the administrator account on the board so that no one can access my personal google account. This makes for smooth teaching and not having to worry to pull up websites ahead of time.

Google Drive

Naturally, Google Drive is a staple on the Promethean board. I plan all of my lesson with Google Slides or Google Docs. Having them all in one place is great and I don’t have to worry about signing in every time. Because I created an administrator account with the board, there is a password on it so that only I can use my account on the Promethean. This way I’m not worried about my Google account being logged in on the board when I’m absent or if someone else has to teach in my room.

Google Slides

Google Slides is what I put my lessons on to present to the kids. I prefer this because it saves onto my account and once I am signed into Google Drive on the board, it’s so easy to pull up. I use the magic pen button (on the pink home button) to write on top of the Google Slides as I am teaching. If I want students to write, I take a quick screen shot and put it on the Infinite White Board (see my post on this amazing tool also!) to split the screen and have students write. This makes it easier to save their work to Google Drive or a flash drive.

Kahoot!

My students absolutely love Kahoot! Any reason for them to use a computer keeps them engaged. Having the app installed on the Promethean is the greatest time saver! No more logging in, searching for what you’re looking for, and waiting for it to load. It’s all there on the board for you already!

Quizizz

Quizizz is a similar concept as Kahoot – students join a live game, or you can assign a game on Google Classroom. I prefer Quizizz to Kahoot only because I’m more familiar with it, but students love both! Quizizz is self-paced, so students can answer questions in as much time as they need. The program does time the students and lets me know which questions took longer than others. I love that I also can export the data from the Quizizz. Like I said, any time students get a chance to use a computer, they love it!

PDF Viewer

The last app is a Google PDF viewer. This might sound obvious to you, but I didn’t realize it was something I would need until I didn’t have it. This makes life easier if you want to pull up a part of the textbook you’re using (we use Go Math at my school) or Engage NY pdf files if you choose to use those worksheets.

I hope these apps help you as much as they help me! Any way I can save time in the classroom with trivial things (like logging in) leaves more time for students to be actually working!

What apps do you like to use on your Promethean board? Let me know what I missed that you must use regularly!

PS – have you checked out Feedspot lately? Tech About Math made the list of fifth grade teacher bloggers to follow! 🙂

☆Alexandra☆

Promethean Board Part 1: Five Best Features of the Infinite Whiteboard

Hello Everyone! 

So I’ve been recently taking workshops to help better me as a teacher, as we all do, and I’ve been learning a lot about the Promethean Board I have in my classroom. For those of you that don’t know, a Promethean Board is an interactive white board that has more tools than you can imagine!

In short, the Promethean Board is a giant Android Tablet. There are so many tools of the board that I am going to break it down into a few parts. The first part has so much to offer, that I love, is the infinite whiteboard. Looking at the sidebar can be a bit overwhelming. There are so many tools and each one is so useful when teaching – here are five tools I can’t teach without!

ONE: Ellipsis Menu

The three dots at the top are similar to the “File” button on Word. The “Export PDF Screenshot” is one of my favorite features! As long as you have a flash drive plugged in or Google Drive, One Drive, or any email app installed, you can save what is written on the board. Any time I have the kids show work, I save it. I use the work as pieces in their portfolio, post it to our Class Dojo story, or print it to hang around the room. 

TWO: Split Board Button

Fun fact: there can be up to 10 students writing on the promethean board at once! Not that there’s room for them to stand around the board, but the option is there for us! Splitting the board is my favorite thing to do with the infinite whiteboard. The cool thing about splitting it is whatever you wrote on the board before the split stays there – and student can’t erase it! This makes for fast fluency, number strings, and team games to be way more engaging. Showing multiple strategies is a key factor in Common Core Math, so I’ll split the board to have two students or groups go up and show their different strategies. Having the side-by-side visual helps students to see the connections in the content. 

THREE: Paper Changer Button

Okay, so Paper Changer Button isn’t the formal name for this, however, that’s what I call it because that’s exactly what it does – changes the background. There are so many options for paper background, and you can even change the color of the background! The paper background I use the most is the graph paper. You can adjust the size of the squares to meet your needs. Helpful hint: use the ruler tool make your axes perfectly straight! 

FOUR: Insert Charts & Templates

This third icon down is to insert a picture or graphic organizer. The board comes loaded with a few charts and templates already, but you can look some up on the internet, upload them yourself with a flash drive, or save them to your google drive and take from there. This is great for when you need a T-Chart, hundreds grid, place value chart, tens frame, or any other math tool you may use to solve a problem. At my school we use GO Math primarily, with some Engage NY lessons thrown in there. It’s so easy for me to go on the Chrome App and save it to the gallery to use on the infinite whiteboard. This is great because you won’t have to draw the tool in every time – it’s already there for you! 

FIVE: Math Tools

All the way a t the bottom of the tool bar, before the undo/redo arrows, are the Math tools. The tools are a ruler, a set square, a semicircle protractor, and a full circle protractor. Teaching fifth grade, I use the ruler and the semi-circle protractor the most, however for other grades the set square and full circle protractor are a great digital resource! The kids are always so amazed when I click the ruler tool and I can expand it or make it smaller with the pinch of my fingers. 

Basically – these five tools make my life a lot easier when I am teaching. The kids are always so amazed and what I do with the promethean and when they have a chance to come up and explore the board they’re so excited. 

What tools do you love on the Promethean? What tools do you wish they would add?

☆Alexandra☆

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☆

Virtual Manipulatives: Fraction Edition

Taking regular fraction manipulatives and making them fun & engaging for students.

Happy Friday!
I know it’s been a while since my last post (February just flew right by!). I’ll just get right to the elephant in the room: fractions with manipulatives!

I am all about building conceptual understanding and using manipulatives to do so, but sometimes students get distracted using them more as toys than mathematical tools. I’ve rounded up a few of the best manipulative websites that students can use on iPads or you can use on the board (assuming you have a SMART or Promethean Board) or with a tablet or laptop. There are so many virtual manipulatives out there it can be overwhelming. My students love using the virtual manipulatives because it’s like they have an unlimited amount of them and they love any excuse to use the iPads. I love them because then they’re not tapping the fraction bars like drumsticks and dumping out unit cubes all over the room! Don’t get me wrong – when students are exploring a concept, we use hands on manipulatives, but when they are solving problems with the manipulatives I allow them to use the virtual manipulatives. I taught my students how to take a screenshot on the iPad and then mark it up with their name and class so I can upload it to their ClassDojo portfolio. (See my ClassDojo post to learn more about that!)

Toy Theater

The first website I use for fraction manipulatives is toy theater. I love this website because it has basically every math manipulative you can think of to use virtually. Some of the other manipulatives I use regularly are counters, dice, decimal bars, and pattern blocks. I plan to use the percentage strips, area and perimeter explorer, and the graph square in the future.

How do I use the fraction strips?

I first used them so show adding and subtracting fractions. Seeing as I teach fifth grade math, students generally have an idea of what a fraction is and what a unit fraction is. I pose a problem involving adding fractions with unlike denominators and give students the opportunity to explore with the manipulatives to see what they come up with. I use the virtual fraction strips the same way I use hands on fraction strips.

The one challenge with the fraction strips is that you’re limited to the denominators that are provided. The fraction strips are more for concept development of adding and subtracting unlike denominators and once students see the concept, they can then move to the procedure.

Math Learning Center

The second website I use for virtual fractions is Math Learning Center. I use this when I’m reviewing the concept of comparing fractions, showing equivalent fractions, and creating equivalent fractions with a least common denominator. There is more room for different approaches with this website. For example, you can choose the number of pieces for each fraction strips up to 100! This website also has applications for an Apple and Android tablets.

Math Learning Center also has a ton of amazing resources to check out for teaching (both tech & tech-less!) I’ve been doing some more exploring and will update in the near future!

How else can you use virtual manipulatives in your classroom? Drop a comment below!

Don’t forget to leave your email address to never miss a post!

Alexandra

ClassDojo: Classroom Management at it’s Finest!

Happy Monday!

Hope everyone had an exceptional week!

How many teachers struggle with classroom management? Personally, it was one of the bigger challenges my first year in the classroom and can even still pose as a challenge. One way I combated the struggle was with ClassDojo. This website (and app!) is a great resource to help students keep themselves in check and give you a great reward system with minimal extra work for you!

The way it works is you import your class, then you can set up skills you want students to earn points for doing. One skill I wanted my students to improve on was persevering through a problem, so I made that worth 1 point. Other skills i wanted improvement on were being an outstanding citizen, completing all their classwork, demonstrating excellent teamwork, and using math talk. Again, you can choose the skills you want your students to work on and give each skill a point value. The teachers on my grade are rewarding students with the most Dojo points with a pizza party, so it’s an incentive for students to earn.

This is what the skills looks like: (My school is departmentalized, so my skills are labeled “Math – skill” so the other teachers can create their own skills)

The second half of the management is taking away points for negative behavior. I don’t like taking away points they already earned for positive behavior, but some behaviors warrant the negative points. Students in my classroom can lost points for calling out, not handing in HW, being off task, and using unkind words. Again, taking away points they’ve already earned isn’t my favorite thing to do, but there are times where students can be very distracting to the students around them and there has to be consequences. To take points away, you click, “Needs Work,” on the top and the skills will look like this:

Another feature I’ve been using more often is the Portfolio feature of ClassDojo. While students are working I go around with my iPad and take pictures of the students work. There are two ways to upload the work to ClassDojo – to the Portfolio of the child or the Class Story. I use this as a motivator for students to keep their work neat and organized because my kids love when I share their work to the ClassStory or their Portfolio for their parents to see.

Finally, the best part about ClassDojo is the parent engagement piece. You can either print out a slip of paper for parents to register and get the app, or you can send them a text invite through the app! Personally, phone calls can take quite a bit of time, but with ClassDojo you can message parents and even send out mass messages to keep them aware of whats going on in the classroom. Most parents prefer this as well and are able to message the teacher with concerns or questions. Don’t worry – as a teacher you can choose “Do Not Disturb” times when you aren’t teaching or the weekends to still have a life outside of school!

How else could ClassDojo be used in the classroom? Drop a comment below with suggestions!

Enjoy

☆Alexandra☆

Five Favorite Tech Tools

Hello Everyone!

I’m going to start the first post by saying this: I’m no tech expert by any means, and I don’t claim to know more than what I know about technology. I am forever learning and thinking of new ways to incorporate technology into my classroom and come across many obstacles when implementing new technologies and ideas. I’m creating this blog to help alleviate the challenges I have when using new technology in the classroom and to help educators enable students to become innovators with the technology that is evolving. The following is a short list of some of the technologies I use in my Math classroom everyday.

Google Classroom

The first piece of tech that I use on a regular basis is Google. I created a G Suite domain for my school and use Google Classroom daily with my students. I love it because I can create digital assignments that are self-correcting and keep the kids engaged when working independently.

Prodigy Game

The second piece of tech is a game called prodigy. Students choose a character and complete battles, answering math questions to win the battle. I can select assign types of questions by standard or by skill. There is also a baseline assessment (that still looks like a game) to help me determine students starting level.

Class Dojo

The third piece of tech that I use daily is classdojo. Students can earn or lose points based on behaviors I create. I try to use it in a more positive way and give more points than I take away. Parents are linked to the students dojo account and can view portfolios and work that you post of the child.

Google Forms

The fourth tech that I use is Google Forms (part of the G Suite). I use this app for everything! I created conferencing checklists, behavior checklists, small group checklists, as well as student centered activities (like a digital escape room I’ll share in a later post!) and self-correcting quizzes. There are plenty of extensions to add that will even grade the assignments for you! This falls under the Google Classroom umbrella, but definitely deserves its own list because it’s such a versatile tool to use in the classroom.

Code.org

Last but not least, I am starting to use code.org in my classroom. This is the PD that I attended that indirectly inspired me to follow through with this blog that I’ve been thinking about since the beginning of my teaching career (a whole five years ago!). The workshop was very informative, and I brainstormed ways I can incorporate coding in my Math classroom. More information on code.org to follow!

What tech tools do you use in your classroom? Drop a comment below!

Enjoy!

☆Alexandra☆