Create Your Own Custom Search Engine

When I work with elementary teachers, one of the biggest concerns I hear about is the fear of what students will find online. Teachers know it’s important to teach students how to search effectively, evaluate website credibility, and cite their sources, but it can be scary when teachers are working with younger students.

One way to teach these important skills, while keeping students safe online, is to create a custom search engine. This way teachers can identify appropriate and safe online websites to include in their custom search engines.

Here’s how you can create one to use with your students:

Step 1: Go to Google Custom Search Engine

Step 2: Click “Add” and copy and paste the sites you want to include in your custom search. You can include site URLs or page URLs in your custom search.

Step 3: As you add sites, the custom search engine will automatically generate a “Name of the search engine,” but you can easily change it. When you have decided on a name, click “Create.”

Step 4: Click “Public URL” and share that with your students directly. You can also click “Get Code” to add the custom search engine to your class website.

Don’t Have Enough Time to Create a Custom Search Engine?

If you don’t have a lot of time, here are two “safe search” options that elementary teachers can use with students.

Safe Search Kids

 Sweet Search

Please share your favorite kid-friendly search engines!

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New Year’s Resolution: I’m Moving ALL Assessment into the Classroom

I don’t typically make “pie in the sky” New Year’s resolutions, but

this year I am bound and determined to move ALL assessment into the classroom!Click To Tweet This may sound like a crazy resolution given that most teachers spend hours of time outside of school assessing their students’ work. However, there are three reasons I’d argue we should NOT spend our time outside of class grading:

  1. Our prep time is better spent designing creative and engaging lessons.
  2. Real-time feedback and assessment are way more effective.
  3. We don’t get paid for the time we spend grading outside of class.

The main reason most teachers spend hours grading outside of their school day is because of lack of time. I believe this lack of time stems from our approach to teaching. If teachers spend the majority of their class lecturing or transferring information, there isn’t time for consistent, real-time feedback.

As I’ve embraced technology and blended learning models, I’ve found it much easier to create time and space to provide feedback as students are working. Below are three blended learning models. I’ll explain how I plan to use each specifically to create the time needed to move assessment back into the classroom.

The Station Rotation Model does just what the name suggests–students rotate through a series of online and offline stations. One of those stations is the teacher-led station. As students move through this teacher-led station, I can use this time to provide feedback on my students’ work. If we are focused on how to cite online resources or how to generate a hypothesis, this station gives me a chance to actually read and edit my students work.

Typically, my students will come to this station with Chromebooks that way I can open up each of their Google documents in Google Classroom and leave comments, ask questions, and suggest improvements directly on their work.

The Flipped Classroom Model is a wonderful inversion that can also be used to free the teacher from living at the front of the classroom. Whenever I am tempted to talk at my students or explain something, I make a video instead. Recording a video does take preparation outside of class (just because I’m not grading doesn’t mean I won’t be working outside of school hours!), but the advantage is that students can self-pace through that information (pausing and rewinding) and they have access to it anytime online if they need to watch it again. Plus, I can incorporate these video lessons into my station rotation lessons with an in-class flip!

So, for those teachers who are using their teacher-led station exclusively to teach concepts or model a process, it’s helpful to consider moving some of that online with the flipped classroom where students either engage with the information at home prior to class or in the classroom with the in-class flip. Then the teacher-led station can be used for assessment and feedback.

Last, but not least, is the Whole Group Rotation–a modern spin on the Lab Rotation. In this model, the class rotates between online and offline activities as a whole group. When the entire class is online working with adaptive software, digital curriculum, or online tools, I have time to work individually with students. This time is great for one-on-one coaching, formative and summative assessments, goal setting, and conversations about final grades.

My goal is to use a mix of blended learning models and technology to create the time I need in the classroom to assess my students’ work and provide them with the individual real-time feedback they need to grow as learners.

Wish me luck in manifesting my New Year’s resolution! I’ll make sure to post updates about the challenges and successes I encounter on my journey to move all assessment into my classroom.

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3 Reasons to Consider a Co-teaching Model

This year I transitioned from teaching English classes in isolation to co-teaching English, science, and technology with another teacher in a pilot program called N.E.W. School. When I initially pitched the program concept to my principal, I emphasized the co-teaching component. I believed that team teaching and sharing the same population of students in a shared space would allow us to make important cross-curricular connections, delve into more meaningful project-based learning, and provide more individualized support and feedback.

As I reflect on this semester, I believe it is the team teaching component of N.E.W. School that makes it so powerful.

#1 Learning from Another Perspective

It’s easy to get stuck in a rut when you teach by yourself. We tend to teach content the same way year in and year out with some minor variations. This can cause teachers to become entrenched in their approach and less willing to mix things up. I see this reluctance to experiment all of the time when I am training teachers on blended learning models.

One thing I love about working so closely with my teaching partner–Marika Neto–is her fresh perspective. She is only in her second year of teaching and she is credentialed in English and science. I’m in my fifteenth year of teaching and I’m credentialed in English and technology. We plan and execute every class together with the goal of teaching our subjects in concert instead of in isolation.

Just having another person to bounce ideas off of has been an incredible learning experience for me. It has challenged me to think bigger and make connections between English, science, and technology that I would not have considered before.

#2 Sharing the Load

Teaching is an exhausting profession. Our workload both in and out of the classroom is overwhelming. Ask any teacher what his/her biggest “pain point” is related to teaching and the majority will report “the take home” or “the grading.” Sharing the load with my co-teacher has made a world of difference.

Marika and I use Google Classroom to assign and manage our students’ work. We are both instructors for our class group, which means we can both develop and post assignments, as well as access our students’ work and provide them with feedback. This makes it easy to share the workload even when we are not in a physical space together.

We approach feedback and assessment as a team. If our students are completing a piece of writing or working on a big project, we work together to provide them with ongoing feedback in real time and online. We design our classes to allow time for informal assessments and one-on-one conversations about individual student performance/progress. We also work asynchronously on Google documents providing detailed feedback to help them improve the quality of their work.

There is something so comforting about having a partner to work with and lean on when it comes to managing the workload. There have been times this semester when Marika or I was sick or juggling a sick child and the other picked up the slack and planned an entire day or finished grading an assignment. It has been incredible to have that support system in place. I am not longer alone in my teaching practice and that’s a wonderful feeling.

#3 Making Key Connections Between Subjects

Instead of teaching my subject in isolation, now I am constantly striving to make connections between English, science, and technology. In our Mental Health Unit, we read and performed Romeo and Juliet while researching mental health conditions and studying the human brain. Students were challenged to think about what they were learning about the brain, decision making, and mental health issues and apply that new information to the characters in Shakespeare’s play. Their formal piece of writing was a psychoanalysis of a character from Romeo and Juliet, which required that they analyze one character’s behavior in the play to find out what was revealed about that character’s mental health from those behaviors using evidence from both the play and credible online sources.

Then students did a deep dive into a specific mental health issue for their unit project. They were asked to become the experts on a mental health condition then use a creative medium to raise awareness about that issue. We had students build models showing how anxiety affects the body, compose original songs and write children’s books about depression, create art installations focused on substance abuse, and design a virtual reality experience to shed light on what it’s like to navigate the world with autism.






It’s beyond exciting to see students pull together all of the information they are learning and skills they are developing in our program to create such powerful pieces!

Co-teaching has both challenged and inspired me to grow as an educator. It’s given me a fresh perspective on teaching, support in managing the workload, and a better sense of how to connect different subjects to make learning more meaningful for students.

I realize that shifting to a co-teaching model requires changes in the master schedule and how facilities are used, which can seem like big hurdles, but I’d argue that the benefits for teachers and students are well worth experimenting with this model.

Shaking up education isn't going to be easy. It requires that we take risks and experiment, but the rewards may be well worth the growing pains!Click To Tweet

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