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Category Archives: Teaching

File Naming Conventions

I’m back! It’s been a while, but in my defense, in this last year I became pregnant, was a waddling zombie as soon as I was off the clock, and now have a beautiful baby that keeps me busy 🙂 I’m currently on maternity leave from work, and while I’m definitely enjoying the time with my little one (and happy to dodge the stress that accompanies the first week of school), I do miss being in the classroom.

I thought I’d get my feet wet with what is an easy-to-write but (in my opinion) incredibly important post: How to name your files. Yes, it may seem like a boring topic (unless you’re an organization junkie, like me), but if you invest the little bit of time it takes to give your files meaningful names up front, you’ll have less of a headache when you open your course directories the next school year. One of the things I’m most proud of from last school year are all the comments I received from my students that lauded my organization of Google Drive, and many of them specifically praised my file naming convention since it made organizing their notes very easy.

I wrote an earlier post on how to organize your files in Google Drive and load them into Notability if you want to check out how my students receive their notes and worksheets in my semi-paperless classroom. My students deal with around 20 files in an individual unit, which could lead to a lot of fruitless searching and tears come finals week. Good file naming practices eliminate that nightmare. Here’s a screenshot of a typical unit in Notability:

A typical snapshot of a unit in Notability.

A typical snapshot of a unit in Notability.

Students typically receive 3 types of files in my classroom – homework (video notes), in-class notes, and worksheets – and notice that it’s very clear in the above screenshot what type of note the file contains and which unit it belongs to, in addition to the filename. My convention is:


So if I were to create a worksheet about Absolute Value Equations in Unit 01 on our 3rd day of the unit, I would name the file Worksheet_Alg2Unit01Day03_AbsValueEqns. You want to put the assignment type first so that Notability/Drive groups all the worksheets together, all the notes together, and all the homework together, which helps give you and your students direction when scrolling through a long list of filenames. (Tip – the default setting in Notability is to list files by date, not by name, so make sure your students adjust that setting accordingly). I also use this convention for my unit calendars, which are then super easy to pull up from the search bar since there are only 10 of them – I don’t have to navigate through all my directories to open one!

If you have another way of organizing your files, please leave a note in the comments! And good luck to all the teachers on their first day of school 🙂

Prayer for focus

Tomorrow is the first day of school – eek! I’m a bundle of excitement and nerves. I’m really excited for all the things I’ve learned over the summer and plan to implement; I’m nervous that everything isn’t going to go according to plan, and that my attitude may be soured by stress. My hope for the year is to foster the excitement and stay true to my good intentions. I hope the same for all of you, and I found this nice prayer to keep in mind:

Fractal-Art-WallpaperGod, help me to focus on what is really important.
Help me to focus on what will give life.
Help me to focus on what promotes
justice and peace.

Help me to let go of all the
little things that don’t matter.

I hope that we all keep in our hearts what’s most important in our lives when the day-to-day stresses distract us, and I will send all my fellow teachers good thoughts and prayers for the upcoming school year!


Let’s race! Engage your students with Socrative

Socrative is one of my students’ favorite new classroom apps, mostly because of its Space Race game. Socrative is both free and web-based, so you can run it on any system. Its Space Race activity displays a set of rocket ships on the overhead projector screen, while the students compete with other teams by answering a set of questions. As they get a problem right right, their rocket moves ahead. Again, you’d think there was a monetary prize for the winner as your classroom dissolves into shouts and cheers, but pride will do that to you 😉

You can also assign quizzes and exit tickets on Socrative, and because the Socrative interface is incredibly intuitive, I welcome you to dive in and just play with it. If you’d like a tutorial, you’ll also find that in the set of videos below (and if you have never seen Socrative in action, I do recommend watching the second video!), but what I’d really like to emphasize in this post is the Space Race set-up.

Socrative Space Race

The first time I ran Space Race, it worked beautifully, and then the next section dissolved into complete chaos, as I’m sure you’ve experienced with new activities (Physics, anyone?). So whether you’re tech savvy or not, I strongly recommend reading these pointers that I learned the hard way.

  • Socrative requires you to enter how many teams will be playing before you start. Before you launch the game, make sure that only one person from each team is logged into Socrative, and confirm that each team realizes who their point person is. If more people log in than there are teams, the rocket assignment gets totally messed up. Once each team is logged in properly, then hit “Start Activity”.
  • DO NOT let the students choose a rocket color. Let Socrative auto-assign that for you. If not, fights will break out. Seriously.
  • Make sure that the students have a team name picked before you start the game. This is completely irrelevant, but Socrative always makes you enter your name before you start an activity for data collecting purposes. If the teams don’t pick a name, they spend time arguing over this one screen, which slows them down and annoys them later when they’re behind.
  • After you end the game, don’t forget that you have the option to receive the teams’ scores and a list of problems they got right/wrong. This is very handy as you can check if there are questions that the entire classed missed that you should review.

Other things to keep in mind in terms of competition:

  • Remind the students that it’s not who finishes first – it’s who finishes the most problems correctly first. A lot of them will stop when they think they have no chance of winning… but then maybe the first team done actually gets two wrong, so other teams still could win.
  • Some teams believe they have no chance of winning from the beginning, and think they should just quit. If that attitude manifests itself, I have each student submit their work for the problems on a piece of paper after the game. This not only forces them to do the work, but it helps them get back into a good mindset. In fact, once some of those teams actually start working, they do really well!

The videos below will walk you through setting up a Quiz or Space Race, and then launching a race/quiz. It may take some time setting up, but I promise your students will love it 😀

Click here to access Socrative User Guide (with tutorials) as a pdf

Lastly, thanks to my coworker Suzanne for introducing me to Socrative 🙂

Bingo Baker

One of my favorite things about teaching is when I’m reminded that teenagers can still have fun with dorky games, and one of the games my students LOVE to play is Bingo. They are totally obsessed with winning (as if there is anything they can do to enhance the outcome), and they request to play it constantly, especially the kids who “never” win. I may be encouraging a future bad habit, and I won’t be surprised if I see half these glued kids to the slot machines when they’re old enough to gamble, but anything that keeps them motivated to do math problems is worth investing time into.

Prepping for BINGO isn’t too difficult, but the problem is that I don’t want the kids to all have the same card, so I usually have them fill it in themselves, which takes up valuable class time. I was excited to discover this free web-based app called Bingo Baker. This is a very simple tool in which you enter a list of words or numbers, and the app generates random BINGO cards for you.

Bingo Baker homescreen

The Bingo Baker homescreen

Once you hit the “Generate” button, Bingo Baker creates a unique URL which now stores your board (so make sure to bookmark it for your reference! You can just grab it from the address bar). You can print 8 different versions of your card in pdf format , and if you purchase the full app for $9.95, you can print out dozens more. If your class has access to computers though, the real power in this app is through the “Play Online” link, which we’ll check out next.

Bingo Baker option pane

Bingo Baker option pane


“Play Online” takes you to a screen in which your students can actually play BINGO via their laptop or tablet. After you hit “Play Online”, simply grab the URL from the address bar and direct your students there. The best part about the card is that if they hit refresh, it rearranges the BINGO squares, generating a new BINGO sheet on the fly so that everyone has a different card. They can hit refresh as many times as they like if they want to make sure their card is totally unique (because you know you’ll hear complaints of cheating if two people have the same card 😛 ). The students can tap on any square to highlight it so they can keep track of their score. So simple yet so cool!

Bingo Baker Playing Card

The actual bingo playing card

Because I am using this for material review, I will be asking questions to go along with the answers in the squares, so I’ll plan on keeping those in a Google Doc, along with a link to the board in the same file. Better yet, I’m also planning on having the students generate games for me, so I’m a winner too 😀

More posts on games to come soon, so keep an eye out!

Lovin it: Logitech Tablet Keyboard

I just wanted to give some quick love to my latest iPad accessory, the Logitech Bluetooth Tablet Keyboard. I’ve had it for a few months now, and it is pretty boss. I picked this keyboard mostly because I already had a great case for my iPad (and didn’t need a case-board combo), but now I’m convinced a free-standing keyboard is the way to go. Below are a few snapshots that illustrate its awesomeness.

First, it is a full-size keyboard, much like a laptop keyboard, which means no cramming your hands together and typing with squished fingers. It also makes a very satisfying clicking sound when you type.


Logitech keyboard with iPad

It comes with its own hard-shell case, which is really secure. I toss it in my backpack without any fear of the keyboard breaking in two.

Logitech Keyboard in its case

Logitech Keyboard in its case

The hard-shell case also converts to a handy iPad stand. Because the keyboard is not attached to the iPad, you can set it wherever you’d like, which is nice because I don’t necessarily have to be hunched over the screen. I also like the fact that you can orient the iPad vertically or horizontally.

I prefer the vertical orientation, so it

I prefer the vertical orientation, so it’s really nice to have this option!

The stand also allows you to adjust your viewing angle.

You can change your viewing angle to any angle in between as well!

You can also change your viewing angle to any angle in between.

The keyboard has its own on/off switch and takes AAA batteries, keeping things simple, and it was super easy to sync with my iPad via Bluetooth. (You can sync it to any Bluetooth device, actually). I also like that it has media control keys, so you can adjust settings like volume easily.

I actually now prefer my iPad/keyboard combo to my laptop, mostly due to the fact that it weighs waaaayyyy less and I can combine typed notes with handwritten ones. My only gripes about this combo (which have nothing to do with the keyboard) are that the Google Docs app isn’t as robust as its desktop version (but I’ll be patient), and the fact that a touch screen interface is sometimes inconvenient when you use the iPad in “laptop” mode – having a mouse is much easier if your screen is hard to reach. That being said, I think I’m actually going to be using my iPad much more than my laptop when lesson planning next year.

Lastly, the keyboard costs $42.99 on Amazon, which is a great price, especially for the quality of the product. Honestly, I haven’t tried another keyboard, but I don’t think this one will disappoint!