3 easy steps to create an animated banner on Google Classroom

The banner on your Google Classroom can be eye-catching and interesting. It also can be animated. Here’s how.

Step 1. Create your banner on Canva using videos or animated stickers. Canva has a free level which limits the clipart and photos you can use but is user friendly and very versatile. I set my banner size to 1600×400 px.

Step 2. Download your banner as a gif.

Step 3. On your banner on Google Classroom, click “Upload Photo,” then select your banner. Resize it to fit and click “Select Class Theme.”

Want to see some I’ve created? Download 2 free animated summer themed banners here.

More animated banners in my TpT Store:

halloween banner for Google Classroom


Creating an animated banner on TpT

The banner on your TpT store can be eyecatching and interesting. It also can be animated. Here’s how.

Step 1. Create your banner on Canva using animated stickers. Canva has a free level which limits the clipart and photos you can use but is user friendly and very versatile. I set my banner size to 450×150 which is the size recommended by TpT.

Step 2. Download your banner as a gif.

Step 3. In your store profile, click “Edit.”

Step 4. Next to “Personal Quote,” choose “Image/Link” and then “Choose File.” Select the file that you saved.

Step 5. Click Save at the bottom and you’re done!

Checking Out

The Governor just announced that school won’t be reopening until September, and that things would be “different” when we went back in September.

All across the state, the collective sound of thousand of kids closing their laptops for good could be heard.

There are 7 weeks of school left. I have content to cover, activities planned, assessments planned. And they are D.O.N.E. The Governor might just as well have said “Early summer vacation!” because that’s what they heard.

There are two ways to cope with student check-out.

  1. Up the stakes. Increase accountability, tighten the reins. Give high stakes assessments and long essays to write. Let them learn that slacking off produces poor results.
  2. Let ’em go. Release the pressure. Play games. Make it fun, interesting, compelling and stress free. Sneak in some learning while you’re doing this.

What’s the middle ground? What’s best for kids? Where is the compromise?

Please help me! What are your end of year motivation strategies to keep kids on track? How are you keeping your kids motivated now that school is “out?”

Distance Learning with Hyperdocs

Delivering instruction is challenging in distance learning situations. Challenging, but not impossible. For the past 6 weeks, we’ve tried countless web based programs – Kahoot, Quizlet, Newsela, Flocabulary, Quia, Quizziz, Edpuzzle – I can’t even name them all.

But Google still rules. Using a hyperdoc, I can direct my students to nuggets of information – either videos or websites or even one of those web based programs – while keeping them and their ideas all on one document.

For example, here is a hyperdoc I created about petroleum.

Meant to take one class period, it leads students to a tour around an oil rig, a video explanation of how a derrick works, and finally another video with a general overview of oil refining. Guided questions lead the way, pointing out the important informatoin while discouraging skipping through just to find answers.

To create a hyperdoc, here are some simple steps to follow.

  1. Select resources that are age appropriate and contain the content you want students to engage with.
  2. On your Google doc, create a table.
  3. The first column is where you will introduce the resources. For example “This video will explain atomic structure” or “Follow this link to read about the life cycle of frogs.”
  4. The second column is where you will ask guided questions to lead students to the important information in the resource.
  5. In the third column, students will write their answers. It’s easiest for students to follow instructions if you color code the answers. In the example above on Petroleum, I set the page color to gray and instructed students to fill in all of the white boxes. In the example below, students were to fill in all of the yellow boxes.
  6. Merge the boxes in the first column so that the resource is spread over all of the questions associated with it.
  7. Share on Google Classroom with the option to create a copy for each student.

Here is another example of a hyperdoc on solar power.

Also meant to take about one class period, this hyperdoc includes a very old Bill Nye video (a perennial favorite of every student I’ve ever had) as well as How Stuff Works and StudentEnergy.org, all guiding students to a general understanding of how solar power works.

Later lessons include wind power, biomass, nuclear power and hydroelectric power, all delivered in hyperdocs.

How have you used hyperdocs to help you adapt your content to distance learning?

Alternative Energy -Free Resource

I just finished the climate change unit in my middle school science classroom. I had students engage with news articles and data sets from NASA and NWS to make informed decisions about the validity of climate change claims. Then we followed up with a slide show and cloze notes to summarize everything.

I’m about to bridge the gap into a unit on alternative energy. In this unit, I used to have students form groups and research and report out about how different alternative energy sources work. Not sure how I’m going to teach that now that we’re remote. Definitely something I’m going to work on in all my free time this weekend.

To bridge the gap between what they know and what they’re about to learn, I created a quick slide show and cloze notes on how fossil fueld and alternative energy sources provide electricity. This isn’t meant to be all-encompassing, just a quick overview.

I’m offering it free along with the cloze notes on my TpT store if you’re interested.

I would love your feedback. How can I make it more useful? What would you add? What would you change?

Silver Linings

No, of course Quaran-Teaching is not what I want. I miss my kids. I miss my coworkers. I worry constantly about the health of everyone and the safety of many. Most of my identity is “teacher,” so I miss knowing who I am.

But let’s be honest. It ain’t all bad.

Teacher Bladder? Waiting for a time to use the bathroom used to be a challenge. Maybe someone will be coming down the hall? Maybe the 3 minutes between classes will be enough time?

Hey girl, I'll watch your class... Take all the pee breaks you ...

4 meals a day. Since high schools in the US start school as early as 7:30 in the morning, my lunch is scheduled for 11 am, which means I’m ready for dinner by 3:00. Which means I’m ready for second dinner by 7. Less than ideal. In theory, working from home should help me have a more “normal” meal schedule. That may or may not be working out…..you’ve heard of the “quarantine fifteen,” haven’t you?

A Collection Of the Funniest Quarantine Weight Gain Memes

Fitbit At work, I easily log 7,000 steps just in my normal regular day. A few laps around the block later and I’m comfortably in the 10,000 range. Working from home, it’s not unusual for me to check my Fitbit at noon and be in the 435 range.


Pets. My pup is thrilled when I get home from work. She’s also thrilled that I am constantly home. More petting, more walking. The emotional well being of my dog is higher now than ever.

Quarantine And Chill Day 3: Why 'Love Is Blind' Binge-worthy ...

Commute? My normal work commute is about 1/2 hour each way – certainly not terrible. But an extra hour every day is such a gift!

my commute is so short i can't listen to my morning playlist ...

I get to meet my students’ pets. ‘Nuff said.

News about #zoom on Twitter

Muting kids. Actual time in class is far more efficient.

Appreciation. Everyone needs it. Parents trying to support their children’s education are starting to recognize the challenges of teaching, especially in the younger grades. Students who have challenges at home appreciate the structure we’re providing.

Hall Duty, Bus Duty, Class Coverages. All gone.


Sunshine and roses? Of course not. But if you’re only seeing the clouds, look again. The daily annoyances are different now. There are silver linings.

Be well, Friends!

What’s a Teacher Worth?

For the decades of my teaching career, I’ve passed through myriad teacher evaluation instruments. There were the years of the checklists, years of narratives, and now we’ve had years of SGOs and SGPs. There are arguments to be made for all of these, yet I don’t think any of them actually measures the value of a teacher.

When my children were in school, I valued the teachers that held my kids to high standards and demanded excellence in their work. I valued the teachers that enabled my children to be their own best selves. I valued the teachers that helped my children engage with others and form opinions and defend them. I valued the teachers that had pretty bulletin boards and stayed after school for extra help. I valued the teachers that gave my kids a little emotional support when they were down.

Those things are immeasurable.

SGOs and SGPs and PDPs and whatever other acronym they’re going to make up and throw at us with the next iteration will never appropriately identify what it is that makes a teacher grand. You can’t measure relationships with a rubric.

Let’s talk about teacher evaluations in the Corona Era. Now that we’re at the bare bones of what education IS – teachers and students communicating together for the advancement of knowledge and skills – maybe it’s time to reevaluate how we measure the quality of a teacher.

I don’t know the right answer, but I’ve lived through several decades of the wrong answer. Leaders, please look at what’s happening now. With absolutely no training and little, if any, planning time, teachers are crushing it. Not to mention the hundreds of (viral) videos of teachers in their cars parading past their students’ houses or singing songs to remind their students of how much they care.

Find me a rubric that measures that.

Happy Quarant-Easter!

Our children are grown, living in their own apartments about a half hour from us.

I miss them so much. All the time. But especially now, in quarantine, when all I get is phone calls and the occassional Zoom. No hugs, as they are both in essential occupations.

Today we packed Easter baskets and Easter dinner and delivered them. Texting “We’re here,” to each child as we pulled up, grinning and waving as we (from a safe distance) handed off Tupperwares of pork and roasted potatoes and carrots and chocolate chip cookies (a rare treat in times of flour and butter and egg shortage), not to mention the Easter baskets with chocolates and jelly beans.

The we headed home to our dining room, already set with candles and crystal. And dialed in to Zoom.

It’s not the same. But it’s good. A small sacrifice for a greater good. Maybe with this absence, we can spend Mother’s Day together. Or Memorial Day. Or Flag Day. I don’t care.

Instead of seeing this as a loss, I’m choosing to see it as a sign of great love. I love these people so much that I’m willing to not be in their presence for some still unknown period of time so that we can all remain healthy and be together soon. It would be selfish of me to break quarantine for a hug, when I can have dozens in a few weeks (months?).

Happy Easter to you and yours. I hope you’re well and that you are able to see the great love that is all around you as strangers all over the world Zoom their Easter dinners so that you can have your hugs later.

Grading during Quarantine

Remote schooling or distance learning or whatever your district is calling it had plenty of obstacles to hurdle. Now that we’ve managed the who and the what and the where and the why, it’s time to get down and dirty and talk about grades.

There are two extreme schools of thought and a middle ground appearing.

  1. Kids should be held accountable for the curriculum. Mastering 9th grade algebra or 6th grade social studies means mastering a body of knowledge and students should be held to that standard. Now that some (many? most? all?) states have thrown away standardized tests, it seems to me that this argument is losing.
  2. This is unprecedented, unusual, and unplanned. Kids are stressed, families are stressed, teachers are stressed. What’s best for everyone is to call the whole thing a wash and give the kids busy work and straight As.
  3. Pass/Fail. If a student maintains a certain work ethic, he or she passes for the marking period. If the student doesn’t hand in a minimum number of assignments or demonstrate some minimum level of effort, he or she fails. Seems to provide the teacher with the most latitude, but is it fair for kids? What about the valedictorian honor bestowed upon the highest GPA? Do GPAs mean anything any more?

We all agree that education is important. Students need to advance their skills and their knowledge, and professional educators know how to help them do that. Now that we’ve stripped it to the bare bones – THIS is important, but THIS can go away – are we looking at a revolution in education?

Can grading be up for conversation now?

I wasn’t ready!

We had warning that this was coming, but we didn’t know when. And then one day we were told not to come back the next day.

My plants are still in my classroom. It’s been nearly 4 weeks.

The first 2 weeks were an absolute blur. Hunched in front of a laptop attempting to make some sense of what to do and how to do it. Worried sick about my students. Worried about my family and friends.

We made it through the first 2 weeks. Somehow. Adapted the lessons we had planned to do. Luckily for us, we are a 1 to 1 district and students all had the capability to connect. I used GoGuardian and email to “chat” with every student every day for 2 weeks.

Eventually I learned Google Hangouts and Zoom and were able to see their faces, judge their needs, evaluate their levels of comprehension, anticipate their questions.

Still logging 11-12 hours in front of the laptop every day. Fitbit stats in the toilet. Students struggling with asynchronous lessons emailing me at 11 pm for clarification. Parents, frustrated and exhausted and scared, emailing me at 4 am for help. Administrators imposing required faculty “meetings” using Google Hangouts, digging into my valuable and essential prep time. Parent meetings, team meetings, PLC meetings, and virtual class meetings all on Google Hangouts.

Now that we’ve hit our stride with lesson planning and sort of have the hang of how this works, I’ve started to get a different type of email. “I need more time to finish my work because my aunt died.” “My neighbor was taken away by ambulance and I don’t know how he is.” “My parents fight all the time.” “I can’t sleep.”

We weren’t ready for this. But one of the hallmarks of teachers everywhere is flexibility. Something not working? Adapt in a heartbeat. Thinking on our feet all day. So I know we’ve got this.