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Are you ready for the back-to-school rush?

While the prospect of facing new learners can be exciting, beginning a new school year can also be stressful. Careful preparation goes a long way in determining the success of our time with new learners.

Technology can help us stay organized, manage classroom behavior, create better assessments, get those creative juices flowing, save paper, and much more.

That's why I'm so excited to share some of my favorite back-to-school tools that will help you and your students achieve greatness throughout the school year. Some have been favorites for a couple years, while some are newer to the tech scene.

Along with a brief description of each tool, I've included a complimentary video tutorial to walk you step-by-step through the action item for each particular tool. Doesn't get much easier than that, does it?

Which will be your favorite? There's only one way to find out... review them all and let me know your pick in a comment below this article. :)

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Track and Manage Classroom Behavior

Classroom management is such a huge part of classroom success, which is why ClassDojo is a must-mention in this back-to-school tools list. This tool allows you to track and manage classroom behavior.

In this 3-Minute Classroom Problem Solver, SimpleK12's Teacher Learning Community presenter, Kim Munoz, will show you how to track and manage classroom behavior easily with ClassDojo. You can create your class roster, and within a few minutes you'll be ready to award positive and negative behavior points to students. It's that simple!

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Getting started with ClassDojo is easy. First, create your classroom by uploading your student roster. You can create multiple classrooms if you need to. Next, customize the different behaviors (positive and negative) that you'd like to assign to students. Finally, start awarding positive and negative behavior points to students throughout the day. ClassDojo even has mobile apps for iOS and Andriod, so it's even more convenient to award behavior points on the go.

For our next back-to-school tool, let's take a fresh look at one of my favorite "golden oldies" of the tech world.

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Getting to Know Students using Technology

There are many fun ways to get to know your students better using technology, and integrating word clouds in the classroom is a great way to start.

I've been using word clouds since I first came to the EdTech scene years ago yet, every time I'm presenting on technology, there is always at least one teacher who doesn't know what a word cloud is. Word clouds are so simple to create and fun to use - they really are a "must-have" for every classroom.  And there's really not an easier way to use technology in getting to know your students just a little better.

So how can you create your own word cloud art? It's simple! There are a few word cloud generators out there, but our favorite one to use is called Wordle. It's simple to use, creates beautiful word art, and it's free. Learn how to create your first cloud in just 3 minutes by watching this video tutorial by SimpleK12 trainer Kim Munoz. Kim will also outline a great idea of how to use this tool at the beginning of the school year, as a way to get to know your students a little bit better.

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How else can you use word clouds in the classroom? You can create word clouds and use them for many things, such as:

  1. Inspirational classroom posters. Choose words that describe your classroom experience and integrate them into a word cloud.
  2. End of year gifts for students. Have each student pick a positive adjective for every student in the class.  Put together the word clouds and present each student with their own word cloud.
  3. Debate analysis. Paste the text from a speech into the word cloud generator. You'll instantly see which words and concepts are most prevalent, and can compare them with the word cloud made from the opponents speech.
  4. Lesson overviews. Create a cloud with the text from your lesson plan or class reading assignment. Present the cloud to the class when introducing the new topic, and ask them what they think the unit will focus on.
  5. Student project covers. Have students create their own word clouds as covers or introduction for their own projects.

For our next back-to-school tool, we'll look at one of the leading free classroom management tools, and how to use it t differentiate learning for your students.

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Differentiating using Technology

Would you like a safe way to differentiate with technology in your classroom, a place online where you can connect and collaborate with students, parents, and others at your school? In this 3-Minute Classroom Problem Solver, SimpleK12's Teacher Learning Community presenter Kim Munoz explains how you can use Edmodo to connect with students safely online, and differentiate learning.

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If you're looking to differentiate with technology, Edmodo is a great tool to use to get the job done. However, that's just one way to use this tool in the classroom. Here are a few of my favorite ideas:

  1. Allow students to submit their projects via sharing on your Edmodo homepage. This is a great time-saver and allows them to take pride in their projects by sharing on your public classroom space.
  2. When students share their projects on the classroom page, encourage other students to critique their work. This provides an opportunity to discuss with students digital citizenship and peer review etiquette.
  3. Create your own book clubs with the Edmodo group feature. Students can discuss their reading virtually wherever they might be, all they need is a device with an internet connection.

Coming up on the next page, a few ideas on how to spice up your seasoned lesson plans, and create lesson plans with mystery. It's a great way to engage students at the start of a new year!

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Creating Lessons with Mystery

A little mystery can go a long way when it comes to engaging students in the classroom. Why not try something new to excite your students during the back-to-school season?

In this 3-Minute Classroom Problem Solver, SimpleK12's Teacher Learning Community presenter Kim Munoz explains how you can use QR codes to build lessons with mystery.

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You know those little squares with seemingly random dots and lines on the sides of packages or on the backs of books or magazines? Those are QR codes (short for Quick Response codes).  This special kind of barcode provides additional information to anyone who reads it.

QR codes are becoming quite popular, mostly thanks to the expansion of smartphone technology. While it is possible to scan a QR code using a webcam, the simplest way is to use a smartphone or tablet.

These tiny barcodes offer a goldmine of possibilities for us as teachers. There are more and more apps, tools, and online resources appearing regularly to help us incorporate QR codes into our lesson plans. They're a lot of fun to use and students always love scanning the barcodes with their mobile devices.

In Kim's video, she explains how you can create your own QR codes for free using QR Stuff. She then outlines a couple of fun activities you can do with students with your new QR codes. I personally love the idea of creating a QR code scavenger hunt (you can create one for free using this tool, QR Treasure Hunt Generator). Take a look at the video, and let me know what lesson you're trying out first!

Click to view the next page, and learn about a free tool you can use to make test reviews fun for students.

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Make Test Reviews Easy and Fun (Really!)

Are you looking for a simpler way to make test reviews for your classroom?

Today's students have short attention spans, and can be hard to engage in the classroom. This free web tool allows you to make test reviews that engage students by using mobile devices to respond to quiz questions, much like a game. In this 3-Minute Classroom Problem Solver, SimpleK12's Teacher Learning Community presenter Kim Munoz gives a tour of Kahoot, a tool you can use to create your own learning games.

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Right at first glance, there's a lot to love about Kahoot. When you go to sign-up at GetKahoot.com, the first thing you see is students excitedly shouting out near a computer, and the large print screaming, "Make Learning Awesome!" Isn't learning awesome? Yes, it is! Can students love learning, too? Yes, they can! And Kahoot can help you get students excited about learning.

Kahoot helps make learning fun by allowing you to make your own learning games. They call them games - you can call them test reviews, quizzes, or formative assessments - whatever floats your boat. You can create your own learning game in a matter of minutes, and Kahoot encourages you to include images, videos, or diagrams in your game to keep your students interested.

Once your game is created, all you need to do is invite your players (your students) to join. They can join via their mobile devices, or any device with an internet connection. One neat thing about Kahoot is the physical location of the players doesn't matter. They can join in from the same classroom, or from all over the globe. Imagine how much fun your students would have competing with students from another school, state, or country.

One of my favorite things about Kahoot is there are NO accounts required for your players. Just set your learning game up, share the info, and they can sign in using the unique code provided. It's a huge time saver!

For our next tool, we'll explore a free feature of Google that will help your students research effectively.

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Help Students Document Research

Have you ever wondered, "What is an easier way to help students document research?" If you're interested in helping students more easily create citations, this back-to-school tool is for you.

One of the benefits of using Google Docs in the classroom is the additional help provided by Google via all of the wonderful features of their free word processing tool. Let's take a minute to look a one of these extra add-ons, the Research feature.

In this 3-Minute Classroom Problem Solver video, Kim Munoz shows how you and your students can use the Research feature in Google Docs to add relevant research to papers, along with the proper footnotes and citations.

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Another benefit of using this tool is that it keeps students all in one place while doing their research, because they don't have to leave the page or move outside of their document. This cuts down on potential distractions and keeps students focused on the task at hand.

For more on writing with Google Docs, I highly recommend this online training session from SimpleK12, Improve Writing Skills Using Digital Writing and Google Docs. Explore more of the writing features of Google Docs, all through the expertise of an experienced technology trainer with years of classroom experience. Join trainer Susan Oxnevad as she shows how to use Google Docs to incorporate digital writing into your curriculum thoughtfully. She explains how to utilize the latest Google Docs features fully, such as integrated reference tools and collaborative revision tools to help you and your students embrace digital writing.

Let's switch gears again, and look at another type of tool. This one can be used to create free review games for students... click over to the next page to check it out!

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Creating Bingo Review Games

Are you looking for a fun way to review material with students? Why not create a review game with Bingo Baker? These games are also a fun way to introduce students to new concepts, or review some helpful content they would have studied at the end of the previous year.

In this 3-Minute Classroom Problem Solver video, Kim Munoz shows how you can create a fun review game with Bingo Baker, a free web tool you can use to create printable bingo cards.

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You could create a bingo review game for almost any subject or grade level. Here are a couple of ideas:

  • Math - Put the math solutions on the bingo cards, and read out the problems or post them on the board. Have students figure out the answers before they claim their bingo squares.
  • Vocabulary - Almost every subject area could use this technique. Place the vocabulary words in your bingo cards, and read the definitions aloud to the class. To claim their bingo win, have students name each of their words and the definitions.
  • Site words - For younger students working on their literacy skills, integrate pictures of site words into the game. Enter the text into the bingo cards, and hold up photos in front of the class for students to identify.

Would your students enjoy a review game using custom bingo cards? What other ways do you like to quiz your students on information? Tell me about it in a comment on this article.

For more back-to-school tools and tips for success in the upcoming school year, check out these on-demand training videos from SimpleK12:

Surviving the 1st Month of School! 10 Tips & Resources. Discover tips and suggestions designed to improve relationships with learners and their parents right from the start. C

Making the First Day of School Memorable. Too often the first day of school is a blur of syllabi and instructions leaving students dazed and confused. Instead, use that first day of class to inspire, inform, and engage your students!

Flipping Your Back-to-School Night. Flip your Back-to-School Night and maximize your face-to-face time with parents. Not only can you front-load the evening with the nuts and bolts of the class, but you can also provide parents who are unable to attend with important information they'll need to more effectively support their students.

7 Cool Back-to-School Tools Click to Tweet

What back-to-school tools are you most excited to try with your students? Share your thoughts in a comment on this article.

Kimber Thompson is a Lead Moderator for SimpleK12 webinars and a Contributing Editor for SimpleK12.com. She writes frequently about education topics, and is passionate about tools and techniques that inspire young learners. You may reach her with ideas and comments at editor@simplek12.com.

2016-08-23T17:06:21+05:00

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