Sheets Madness - Intro to Sheets in March

I was recently asked to teach Google Sheets to 7th graders in Digital Literacy Class in one 50 minute block.  The challenge of being at a school one day a week.  

There is so much to Google Sheets, I wasn't sure where to begin so I asked math and science teachers at both the middle school and high school what were the most important skills they wished students knew about spreadsheets.  What I learned is that students do not seem to have received any formal spreadsheet instruction and are entering classes at the high school unprepared.  The teachers  listed everything from entering data, basic formatting to creating formulas and building graphs.  

While I am comfortable with Sheets from my prior life as an underwriter and financial analyst, I wanted some guidance to help me teach.  I found a great resources on Teachers Pay Teachers by Cluney's Classroom.  It is one of the pricier items at $23.99.  But it was well worth the amount of time I would have had to take to create from scratch.

Google Sheets Bundle - 10 Terrific Lessons for Beginners

Since it is March and we live in Connecticut, I decided to use the Basketball Sheets Lessons from TPT.  I changed the data from the TPT lesson and used UCONN men's basketball 2016-2017 statistics (see attached PDF - stats were downloaded February 24, 2017).

To make the most to my 50 minutes I created the video below for the teacher to show students prior to my "in person" lesson.  This video introduces Sheets with some basic vocabulary, how to enter data, format cells.  It is not perfect but it was the best way I could think of to make the most of the 50 "live minutes." 

My live lesson follows the TPT Basketball lesson plan.  
The TPT lesson also provides ideas for independent student work to assess understanding. 

I will follow up post lesson with reflections soon!   

Research Project Plan based on Big6

Every year I would do a Big6 project with grades 5 & 6.  If it was Olympic year they would pick an Olympic sport. As a class, we would brainstorm questions and then organize and narrow the questions down to four focus questions.  Students could choose which main ideas they wanted to research within each focus question as there were usually many.  

Examples of Focus Questions:
What is the history of the sport? 
How do you play it?  
Who are current and past Olympic stars? 

Examples of Main Ideas for "How do you play it?"
What equipment do you need?
Where is it played (specifics of dimensions, lengths, etc).
What are the rules?
How do you win? 

On non-Olympic years, we would research awards or inventors/inventions.  Students could pick anything from sports, science, music or inventions. (Message me and I can share our focus questions for those topics). I always made sure they were picking a topic under an umbrella that I chose so we all had the same questions to research and therefore,  could go through the brainstorming and note organizing as a class as 

I would create research packets and it was a pain because I would also color code the notes.  Note taking paper colors would correspond with the colored circles on the Task Definition Page so everyone used a blue page for history, etc.  There are also two different note taking pages depending on ability of kids.  Students wrote any "a-ha!" moments that they had when researching on the back.   Note taking sheets are in "outline" format, the differentiated ones are more graphic organizer-ish

The project took forever because we had 30 minute classes and we research in the winter months (SNOW!!) but kids stayed pretty engaged because they were researching something of personal interest.  Students understood that I was grading on their research NOT their final product.  I have included my rubrics below.  The teachers used the student research packets to teach writing lessons in the classrooms.

If you have questions, please let me know.  I am happy to help.  Oh and we did have iPads but they were old, good for internet searching but  tough to do word processing work so we would practice citations the old fashion way and I explained how amazing life would be at middle school with EasyBib and NoodleTools.  

Here are the links to my materials:

Student Packet:
(ps - yes, these are 16 point rubrics, would have loved to try out the one column rubric on this project!)

*My lesson was modeled on The Big6.

Your News Literacy FAQs - A note to my students

After a quick one period lesson (because I am only at the school one day a week) with my middle school students about news literacy, I asked them to send me questions they still had. I am posting them here, with my answers, for students to access and to help anyone else who may be asked similar questions by students.

Hello LMS Students!

I loved having the opportunity to teach you about how we need to evaluate news and media. One period was definitely not enough time. Because I am only at your school one day a week which is not enough time to see you all on a regular basis, I am posting the answers to your FAQs here for you to read and refer back to. Please know I am always available if you have questions, stop by or email me.

You all had great feedback, questions and concerns about our lesson on news literacy.  
Here are the answers to some of your questions…

Do fake news websites get shut down?
Can we stop fake news?
Is there a law for clickbait sites?

The First Amendment of the Bill of Rights assures that we have the freedom of speech in This includes a free press (that includes news), the democratic process, diversity of thought, and so much more.  This is a good thing!!!  Senator John McCain said this weekend, "We need a free press. We must have it. It's vital." (Ok students, when there is a quote but no link to the original source, what do you do?)

Imagine what our country might be like if the government controlled all the news and had laws about what we could or could not say, see, hear or print. I challenge you to research countries that do not have free press and what life is like there. The Committee to Protect Journalists posted an article The 10 Most Censured Countries. If you decide to research this, let me know if you need help..

What companies such as Google and Facebook (who are working on this) can do is identify news imposters and stop paying them ad revenue.  Facebook now has a way that readers can flag news stories they suspect are false.  For more check out this article.

MORE IMPORTANTLY: What YOU can do is learn as much as you can about how to evaluate what you see, hear and read. An crucial piece to evaluating the news is background knowledge. It is important to understand the history of our country and our world, science concepts and principals, mathematical formulas and skills, and the different types of writing and reporting.

Pay attention in all of your classes!! The knowledge you are gaining in ALL of your subjects makes you smarter so you can evaluate the news and media intelligently.

Don’t forget all the great resources on our LibGuide to help you.

Why do people spread misinformation?  Is it just for money?

First, let’s understand what information is and the different kinds of false information.
image by +Casey LaPlante 

So misinformation is typically a mistake or something that was shared without proper checking.  Sometimes it is the competitive news outlets trying to report a breaking story with the newest bit of news first (remember the Boston Marathon video of news errors?)

Yes money drives disinformation and propaganda. They make money from:
  • the ad revenue from clicks to the site
  • a fake ad made to look like news to sell something (like the newest weight loss magic pill).  

Companies might want us to believe something that will in the end profit them (not a direct profit from web site clicks and ads).  For example, in the 1920s and 1930s cigarette companies wanted people to believe that smoking was good for you. They hired actors and models for their advertisements and called them "doctors" to say that smoking was healthy. This is disinformation. Read more about that here. In the late 1930s studies were beginning to show that smoking caused cancer and heart disease. It wasn't until 1970 when cigarette advertising on television and radio were prohibited by the Public Health Cigarette Smoking Act.

Now companies use the Internet to make their disinformation and propaganda appear as news. There are companies who are polluting our environment who may want us to believe that climate change is not real.   They do not want regulations and restrictions put on their business which may cost them money and cut into their profits.  So they support the articles that promote the idea that climate change and global warming is not happening. Again, the bottom line is money.  

Is it illegal to lie on news media?

It is not illegal to lie on the news.  If I were to lie to a news reporter in an interview, it would hurt my reputation and career.  The journalist interviewing me should do thorough research and other interviews to know that I am lying and discredit me.   

However, defamation is illegal. Defamation is the act of damaging the reputation of someone.  If I lie and tell a story to a journalist about my boss being a thief it is illegal!

Do memes count as fake information?

A meme is defined by the Oxford Dictionary as “An image, video, piece of text, etc., typically humorous in nature, that is copied and spread rapidly by Internet users, often with slight variations.”

Memes sometimes refer to something happening in the news. My advice to you is to research the information the meme is claiming. Google the quote or the gist of what the meme claims to learn what it is referencing to understand the actual events.

I created the meme to the right.  It is an actual photograph but hopefully you recognize that the quote is not real as George Washington never said it.  Why did I make it?  To teach YOU!!!  

How do I filter info for a report?
How do we know if someone is telling true or false information?

Doing research is hard work.  When starting research always start with sources that you KNOW are good.   I suggest starting here on our LibGuide.  This list will grow next year.   

#1 I suggest starting with Britannica Encyclopedia to gain background knowledge on a topic.  This digital reference tool also has links to sites that have been vetted by professional researchers so you can rest assured they have good info.

Resources for Middle Schools   researchIT CT.png#2 USE DATABASES.  Databases are online collections of searchable articles, reference sources.  They cost money because there are people getting paid to check these sources and make sure they are good. We pay for those subscriptions for you, our students, to access.  The public library also has databases for you as well. Check out with your public library card number for some free databases from the State of CT.

Databases are amazing sources and we will talk more about them next year when I add to our database collection.

#3 Evaluate websites before you use them.  There are lots of acronyms to use.   

Below is a video about the CRAAP Test to help you evaluate what you read.
You can find checklists on the LibGuide to accompany this 

Why do people read the fake news if they know it is not real?

Some people read “fake news”, knowing it is fake, for entertainment.  For me, there is too much information out there and I only want to fill my head with what I know is true.  If I know something is fake, I do not want to waste my time or space in my brain to read it.

Another reason people read fake news that they know is not real is because they want to believe something is true, even if facts prove otherwise.  We call this post-truth and it was the Oxford Dictionary’s 2016 Word of the Year.

You can link to Oxford Dictionary to learn about post-truth.  What it means is that people rely on their emotions and personal beliefs, not proven facts, when making decisions.  These people seek out disinformation and propaganda to reaffirm their beliefs.   


What if this person does fake news stories and everybody knows it and then he did a real story but nobody believes him?

This question made me think of The Boy Who Cried Wolf. Just like in the story, a person who writes fake news (lies) and later decides to become a real journalist (tell the truth) has destroyed their own reputation by purposefully lying and making bad choices and probably will not succeed writing “real news” because no one will believe him or her.  

How do real news sources like CNN and NBC verify their facts before they report it?

This is an excellent video that shows some of the research journalists do. It is definitely worth watching!

Can't Google disable the account of the fake news journalists?

Google is banning the AdSense accounts of sites that misrepresent themselves (note, they changed the wording from “fake news” to “sites that misrepresent”).  In my research I have not seen anything where Google completely disables accounts.  If they did would they be violating freedom of speech?  

Please let me know if you have any further questions or if you think of something you forgot to ask.  I can't promise I will know the answer, but I promise I will help you find it!

One Column Rubric

Teacher: Remember the rubric. If you annotate three sources you will get an A.
Student: I am good with a B. (Pulls out her phone)

An actual conversation I overheard.

Are rubrics backfiring?  A scoring tool that gives specific criteria for a particular grade should help students self assess before completing a project.  But instead, less motivated students use rubrics as a multiple choice option for how much effort they feel like putting in and what grade they need to receive to scrape by.  They can choose not to strive for the A, because well, they don't need an A, they just need to pass the class.   

Perhaps we need to rethink the rubric and just give students the highest expectations.  

I recently attended a discussion by Jeffery Heil who discussed the one column rubric and awarding badges according to effort and mastery.  Working in public education where the rubric is revered, I do not see badges becoming a grading technique, perhaps they could be used as a means to encourage students.  

I also do not think the rubric is going away, perhaps teachers should try just giving students the expectation for an assignment.  Just the "Exemplary/A/6.0" column of the rubric. One column rubric.  I know this is going a little "old school" but the current rubrics are not working to motivate students. 

After work is handed in, as a class, the students could determine what the rest of the rubric should look like.  Students would monitor their own effort, ability and learning and as a group come up with a rubric to reflect learning that did not meet the expected goal.  

Or, if students did not meet the exemplary standard column, they could be given a copy of the rubric with 3 blank columns for B, C, D work (F work would be obvious).  The teacher could ask the student to propose with rationalizations what those other standards should be, individualizing the grading that reflects student learning.

If the rubric is meant to assess student's learning, students should only be given the expectation so they have a bar they are trying to achieve.  

Let's rethink the rubric so we are creating a future that strives to jump over the bar, not grab the low hanging fruit.

News literacy lesson plan with indicators & standards

Writing a lesson plan prior to an evaluative observation is time consuming.  The following is the lesson I wrote for the news literacy/fake news lesson I taught 9th graders.   I have included Connecticut Indicators and Common Core, ISTE and AASL Standards.  I hope this helps others creating similar lessons.  

Kathleen Smith
School Librarian
High School Library
December 20, 2016
Objective: English 9 students will learn about misinformation and disinformation and develop the skills needed to critically evaluate information. Students will be asked to identify and debunk at least one fake news story.
Essential Question: What media literacy skills do students need to evaluate the reliability of a news source?
Outline of lesson:
- Students will login and be introduced to Pear Deck - an app that I learned about at the Google Summit Dec 3-4, 2016 and was recently purchased for those of us who attended the summit.
- Students will participate in a group discussions gauging their background knowledge and personal experience with fake news on the Internet.
- Students will interact with the presentation
- Students will be asked to look for fake news between now and that next time we meet to share and debunk.

Informal Assessment:
Students will indicate learning and understanding through Pear Deck responses. I will be quick check their responses throughout the lesson. Pear Deck allows teachers to save sessions which means we save the class set of responses and can review students answers and complete the lesson.

Formal Assessment/Final Activity (may need to do in another block):
Students will be asked to debunk one fake news story - in a Google Doc, screen castify, graphic or other method.

Students will be asked to indicate questions they still have about identifying misinformation and disinformation and concerns they have about the effects of fake news.

I have created a News Literacy LibGuide with all of the resources I have used or referenced (including my presentation as a Google Slides). I shared the guide with students for future use and independent learning.
INDICATOR 2a: Planning of instructional content that is aligned with standards, builds on students’ prior knowledge and provides for appropriate level of challenge for all students.I had worked with Mrs. Malavazos' English 9 class for their research projects and many students wanted to "just Google" information. I noticed that despite both she and I discussing web site evaluation, students were not reading sites critically.
INDICATOR 2b: Planning instruction to cognitively engage students in the content.I will use current events and social media and ask students to share their own experiences. Students will be engaged by working along with me but on their own computers.
INDICATOR 2c: Selecting appropriate assessment strategies to monitor student progress.Students will be assessed through discussion, feedback through Pear Deck and a final activity.
INDICATOR 3a: Implementing instructional content for learning.Students will understand the the CRAAP test that we taught them was NOT just for school research. They will understand the importance of critically and skeptically reading, especially on the Internet. They will understand that misinformation and disinnformation is an epidemic in the world we live in.
INDICATOR 3b: Leading students to construct meaning and apply new learning through the use of a variety of differentiated and evidence based learning strategies.Students will be watching, listening and reading throughout the lesson and will be asked to provide feedback in multiple ways. Student will be allowed to submit their Fake News DeBunk to me through Google Doc, a Screencastify, a graphic.
INDICATOR 3c: Assessing student learning, providing feedback to students and adjusting instruction.Students will be asked implement learning throughout the lesson. I will observe and talk to students to monitor their level of understanding and adjusting instruction as needed.
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.CCRA.R.1 Read closely to determine what the text says explicitly and to make logical inferences from it; cite specific textual evidence when writing or speaking to support conclusions drawn from the text.
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.CCRA.R.7 Integrate and evaluate content presented in diverse media and formats, including visually and quantitatively, as well as in words.
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.CCRA.R.8 Delineate and evaluate argument and specific claims in a text, including the validity of the reasoning as well as the relevance and sufficiency of evidence
ISTE (Insternational Society for Technology in Education)
Knowledge Constructor: Students critically curate a variety of resources using digital tools to construct knowledge, produce creative artifacts and make meaningful learning experiences for themselves and others.
3a Students plan and employ effective research strategies to locate information and other resources for their intellectual or creative pursuits.
3b Students evaluate the accuracy, perspective, credibility and relevance of information, media, data or other resources.
3c Students curate information from digital resources using a variety of tools and methods to create collections of artifacts that demonstrate meaningful connections or conclusions.
3d Students build knowledge by actively exploring real-world issues and problems, developing ideas and theories and pursuing answers and solutions.
AASL (American Association of School Librarians) Standards for 21st Century Learner
Indicator 1.1.4: Find, evaluate, and select appropriate sources to
answer questions.
- Identify and prioritize possible sources of information based on specific information needs and strengths of different information formats.
– Use specialized reference materials to find specific and in‑depth information.
– Use both primary and secondary sources.
– Evaluate sources based on criteria such as copyright date, authority of author or publisher, depth of coverage, and relevance to research questions.

Badges Are Not An Alternative to Library Media Specialist Certification!

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