Getting Students to Evaluate the Authenticity of Websites: Grades 3-12

There are millions of websites and our students are looking for instant gratification when it comes to finding answers. But, students are often using websites that are either not credible, erroneous or not current. So, how do we teach students how to find accurate and solid information in a world where anyone can post anything?

The Lesson

I like to start by playing a little trick on students. The two websites that I often use while teaching students how to evaluate websites are All About Explorers (created by teachers) and the Pacific Northwest Tree Octopus.  Both of these websites are not only safe to use with students but also very entertaining!

This week, I started my  lesson by asking students to review one of the assigned website and to share interesting facts with their classmates. It always amazes me when these 4th and 5th grade students shared their learning while stating obvious impossible facts such as “Wow. I never knew an octopus could steal dollar bills!” Or,”I had no idea that they had email back in the 1400s!”

These type of statements tell me two things:

  1. Students continue to believe what they read online is TRUE. We need to make sure they understand that anyone can make a website. It is up to the AUDIENCE to evaluate the website for authenticity before we use it for a reference.
  2. Students need to think for themselves.  We need to urge students debate questionable information. I believe every student knew that electronics were not around in the 1400s and that an octopus cannot climb trees. Yet, not one student in the 4th grade classroom debated the statement. And, only half of the 5th grade students were challenging the ideas. We need students to become independent thinkers.

After explaining the objective of my lesson (and getting quite a chuckle out of the students’ reactions), I introduced the 5 W’s for evaluating the authenticity of websites using this Google Drawing. (Click to make your own copy.)

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Then, we used these two hyperdocs to continue learning how to evaluate websites.

All About Explorers HyperDoc

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Pacific Northwest Tree Octopus

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We need to teach students not only to be independent thinkers, but also to evaluate the millions of online sources at their fingertips. There are so many websites out there that look like they are credible, but are either filled with erroneous or dated information.

How do your students evaluate the authenticity of online sources? Do you use any “fake” websites such as All About Explorers or the Pacific Northwest Tree Octopus?

The Hour of Code and The Hechinger Report!

The Hour of Code

This month, thousands of students in my district participated in the Hour of Code. The Hour of Code is a global movement by and Computer Science Education Week to inspire millions of students across the world to learn how to code and learn about computer science. I always get excited this time of year, as’s Hour of Code reminds me of the time my father taught me how to code when I was in second grade.

Students in our district participated using various robots such as Dash and Dot, Robot Mouse and Beebots, games such as Code Master and Bloxes, and  websites such as to complete coding courses and activities. I tried to empower students by allowing them to choose their tools, devices and activities.

Hechinger Report

After sharing my article detailing my thoughts and experiences with Wonder Workshop, it was officially published in the Hechinger Report, and ASCD’s  Smart Brief on December 13! I am extremely proud to share the article with you. And, I am extremely proud to continue sharing my passion for The Hour of Code with students and educators whenever possible.

How will you continue to engage students past The Hour of Code?



Coding Squad: Keeping Students Interested in Computer Science Beyond The Hour of Code’s annual “Hour of Code” is upon us! Students in my school have been having so much fun learning how to code using Dash and Dot, BeeBots, Robot Mouse, Bloxels,, Scratch, and countless other resources while learning the fundamentals of coding. Students are engaged and excited!

How do we keep that enthusiasm alive?

In order to continue engaging students in computer science beyond The Hour of Code,  I decided to start our first optional Coding Squad. This opportunity is a flipped learning approach in which students will learn about different computer science at home!

Weekly Challenges

For eight weeks, I will post a different coding challenge using a hyperdrawing which is designed to allow students to explore, engage, create, self-assess, reflect, and share their work. I will also post a video screencast tutorial detailing how to complete and submit each challenge. I will then post the answer to the challenge (if applicable) the following week.

Here is an example of my first activity:

(Click the image to “Make a Copy”)

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Digital Badges

In order to encourage participation, students will earn digital badges upon completion of each activity. We will share our work to an authentic audience using social media and our classroom website. Students that complete all eight challenges will have their names posted in our newsletters and on our Coding Squad website. I will also create certificates of participation for all students.

The buzz about our Coding Squad is quickly spreading throughout the school. Parents seem excited to learn about coding alongside their child!

In Summary

The Hour of Code is such an amazing way to engage our students while promoting collaboration, creativity, critical thinking, teamwork, and communication skills. The question is, how do we continue engaging students beyond The Hour of Code. How do we continue to encourage students to learn about computer science?

I am excited to see how the Coding Squad progresses over the next eight weeks. How will you encourage your students to continue learning about computer science?

10 Tools to Promote Number Talks

Are your students struggling to explain their strategies? Did your students receive low scores on the open response portion of a digital test? If so, increase student achievement by talking about math using technology!

Encourage students to:

  • Express their thoughts, ideas, solutions, and questions
  • Observe their peers
  • Receive and give constructive feedback
  • Revise and edit their responses while elaborating
  • Use technology to produce not consume information
  • View written transcripts of their audio recordings
  • Become more familiar with basic technology skills and keyboarding
  • Finally, construct their own detailed and accurate written responses

Here are 10 technology tools that will help your students increase their ability to share and expand their ideas about math:


How do you encourage your students to talk about math? Do you use technology?

Google Keep: Talking About Math: #MathSnaps

Some educators are referring to annotated digital images of student math problems as #mathsnaps. You can capture and archive student thinking within minutes! Google Keep is such an easy way to accomplish this!

Why Use Google Keep?

Student may:

  • Take a photograph
  • Add annotations to the image
  • Record their thinking
  • Receive a transcript to edit and revise
  • Share with a teacher
  • Collaborate with a colleague
  • Add links to websites or documents
  • Receive feedback
  • Insert Keep Notes into Google Docs, Drawings or Slides
  • Save in The Cloud

Video Tutorial

I used the FREE screen recorder on IOS 11 to create this short video tutorial.

In Summary

The next time you distribute student tests or quizzes, or just want a quick formative assessment, consider asking students to demonstrate their understanding and corrections by using Google Keep. It’s free. It’s easy. And, it’s fun! The more students talk about math the more they will increase their understanding and their standardized test scores! And, I know how much students care about those test scores 😉


Student Digital Reading Log Using Google Sheets

Why Google Sheets

Collecting student reading logs can be such a tedious task.  There are many websites out there that allow teachers to monitor student reading. However, I prefer Google Sheets as it is so easy to provide students with feedback using the Commenting Tool. Also, students and teachers may easily share the reading log with parents, administrators or educators simply by using the Share feature. And, the Google Sheet is also collaborative. If students were researching together then they could share references, ideas and summaries with their partners. Finally, Google Sheets automatically saves in the Cloud which makes it easy for students to track books they read at school and at home. It will never get lost!

Google Sheets Template

The following digital book log allows students to set a goal for how many books they wish to read. In the image below, the student set a goal to read 100 books. As the student updates their reading log on a weekly basis the percentage towards that goal is automatically updated. So for example, the student in the image below read one book today and they have a goal of 100 books. Therefore, they have met 1% of their goal!

Click the image and Make a Copy to modify and edit your digital book log. 

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Ways to distribute the digital book log

  • Google Classroom-Make a Copy for every student
  • QR Code Generator– Post a QR Code
  • Gmail- Share the file with students and email it to them
  • Teacher Website- Post a link to the URL on the teacher’s website. Remember to change the URL ending from “edit” to “copy” which will force students to make their own copies


There are many ways to have students track their reading. But, Google Sheets allows teachers and students to easily monitor progress using the amazing features of Google.

How do your students track their reading?

Do Your BookSnaps Seem Flat or Disorganized? Spice Up and Organize BookSnaps Using Google Drawings while adding GIFs, Bitmojis, and Word Art to Code Text!

What are BookSnaps?

BookSnaps is a term used for annotated digital snapshots taken by students while reading texts. Popular apps for BookSnaps include SnapChat, Seesaw, Instagram, and Explain Everything. Tara Martin is one popular educator credited for coining the phrase “BookSnaps” and sharing her fabulous BookSnap ideas all over Social Media.

Do your BookSnaps seem flat or disorganized?

Use Google Drawings to help students stay organized while promoting creativity!  Use animated GIFs from Sticky Al app, or add images using Google Search or the Bitmoji Chrome Extension. And, don’t forget how simple it is to use Word Art to code the Text! Or, if you have never created BookSnaps, consider starting your journey using Google Drawings!

Google Drawings is my favorite tool for a number of reasons:

  1. Students may collaborate on BookSnaps using the Share Tool.
  2. Students may provide and receive feedback using the Comment Tool.
  3. Google Drawings saves in the Cloud.
  4. Students may use the Explore Tool to locate images and research topics.
  5. A Key for coding the text can be provided in the margin or “gutter”.
  6. Bitmojis are easily integrated using Chrome Extensions.
  7. Insert animated GIFs or captioned student-created images Using Sticky Al App.
  8. Students can use the Screencastify Extension to explain and record thinking about their BookSnaps.
  9. Students can “Turn In” their work using Google Classroom.
  10. Teachers can “Make a Copy” of a template for every student or differentiate by modifying templates to meet individual needs.

Example BookSnap With ANIMATED GIF! Click Image to View

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Student Created Stickers for Annotating Text

Students may create their own images  or ANIMATED GIFs by using the amazing FREE apps such as Sticky Al. Sticky Al allows students to create their own selfie-stickers and GIFs that may be used with Google Drawings by:

  1. Using the Free Sticky Al on iPad to take photos using various facial expressions and gestures to use in the reading responses. (I recommend students model being surprised, angry, sad, happy, confused, and also using hand gestures. Then add fun labels to express the thoughts.)
  2. Uploading images into Google Drive and placing them in a folder. Students may now use the images for the rest of the year. They would only have to do this once!

Go to Insert-Image to locate student-created images and insert them to BookSnaps.


You can even caption the images or customize animated GIFs right in the Sticky Al App! Awesome!


Google Drawings BookSnap Template (Click and Make a Copy)

booksnaps template

Here is a template you may wish to use with students.  I provided the Bitmojis for my students using the Chrome Extension as they are too young to have their own Bitmoji accounts. I would provide both male and female Bitmojis so students may select the desired gender. But, ultimately, student-created images using the Sticky Al app would be the way to go! Click the image above to create your own copy and modify as needed.

Video Tutorial


In Summary, I think Google Drawings allows teachers and students to stay highly organized by inserting a coding key and distributing assignments using Google Classroom. The ability to work in the Cloud while collaborating with group members is also a key to engaging students. Immediate feedback using the Commenting Tool is surely a way to allow students to revise and reflect with peers and educators. Throw in some animated student-created GIFs and Bitmojis and you have a winner!

7 Key Points for Evaluating Your HyperDocs

There are so many amazing HyperDocs out there for you to share, use and modify. Maybe you are even creating your own HyperDocs! But, what differentiates a really good HyperDoc from just an average learning activity? What is the big picture? What are your goals? Keeping the SAMR model in mind for redefining the task, I have come up with 7 key points.

7 Key Points for Evaluating HyperDocs

  1. Activate Prior Knowledge
  2. Engage Explore
  3. Collaboration
  4. Apply/Creation
  5. Self-Assess/Reflect
  6. Authentic Audience
  7. Student Choice

Providing students with an authentic audience and choice is so important when it comes to engaging students and promoting creativity. It is so very important to make sure these key items are provided throughout your HyperDoc.

I would not say that I have completed one HyperDoc to perfection. I am constantly going back and making changes as I learn about new tools and ideas. And, not every HyperDoc is going to have touched on all these key points, but it is so beneficial to keep them in mind.

Click on the Doc below to enlarge and make your own copy of this guide.

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Check out Kathy Schrock’s Blog on the SAMR model

Promote Creativity and Collaboration by Creating Comic Strips Using Google Drawings

These days, there are dozens of apps and websites available for creating and integrating comic strips into the classroom using characters and scenery provided by the designers. But do students really need these websites? Why not have them create their own comic strips using Google Drawings!

Why Google Drawings?

  • Collaboration: Students may share their comic strip and collaborate with a partner and receive instant feedback using the Comment tool.
  • Research: Students may use the EXPLORE tool to continue researching their topic.
  • Creativity: Students may customize their comic strips without being limited to the software’s permissions.
  • Convenience: Comic strips will automatically be saved into the student’s Google Drive without hassle.
  • Cost: It’s FREE.


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5 Creative Ideas for Using Comics in the Classroom

  1. Health: Students create scenarios explaining how to react during certain situations. For example: They can create informational comic strips explaining how to react to bullying, peer pressure or stress.
  2. Math: Students create and solve word problems while explaining their thought process. For example: Students create a comic strip applying a number sentence to a real life scenario.
  3. ELA: Students may retell or summarize a story. Or, dig deeper to summarize characters traits, problems, conflicts, or resolutions within their reading assignment. Students could even create a comic strip to demonstrate understanding of unfamiliar vocabulary terms. For example: Students create a comic strip reenacting a scene that provides evidence of the main character’s internal character traits.
  4. Science: Students explain a science concept. For example: Students create a comic strip explaining the water cycle.
  5. Social Studies: Students could summarize a historical event or reasons for immigration. They could discuss a region’s features, economy, location, agriculture or landforms. For example: Students create a comic strip with a character discussing the landforms found in the region.


Sticky App: Create clear background selfies. Turn selfies into stickers!

Google Drawings Cartoon Templates- Feel free to modify and share!


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