Start Your Year With Google Chrome Basics for Kids

Google Chrome Basics For Kids

According to the New York Times, a reported 7 million Chromebooks were delivered to schools across the United States in 2016. So hopefully, you were one of those fortunate teachers that now have this amazing device available to you to transform your teaching.

Chromebooks are more than just an easy way for kids to have internet access. They can be used as powerful tools for efficient learning and creativity. My 2nd, 3rd and 4th graders that are well-seasoned members of my “Chrome Squad” are now sharing and collaborating on Google Slides, conducting surveys on Forms, voice-typing stories in Google Docs, developing work portfolios in Keep, collecting and sharing their favorite extensions and apps with classmates and teachers, editing images and creating their own videos! Amazing what they can do with the right tools and time to “Sandbox” what we teach them. If you are interested in reading more about my Chrome Squad, please see my previous Chrome Squad posts- Part 1 through Part 5.

So, now what can we do to begin training students to use Chromebooks more effectively? We can start with the basics! As elementary teachers, this thought process is in our DNA, right?

The diagram above is what I use to teach my students the basic functions of Chrome to visit websites, Drive used to store files, Docs, and Slides to collaborate and share work content. This diagram shows how the apps work together and is one of the pages from my ebook – “Chromebooks For Kids- Training Your Elementary Chrome Squad“. Available in July of 2017 on Amazon. Make sure that you sign up to your right – “BE NOTIFIED ABOUT MY NEW BOOK “CHROMEBOOKS FOR KIDS” if you are interested in receiving email notifications regarding my book. I start with Chrome basics on the second week of school with this lesson in the “Getting to know your Chromebook” Chapter. Most of our younger children come to us understanding how to “Swipe & Tap” on an iPad or their parents Android phone so building an understanding of a virtual, unseen workflow takes time, practice and patience. As an added barrier, we put a keyboard in front of them with very little training about using those keys. Nonetheless, they have all had experience being on the Internet in some capacity so, we start with using Chrome as their Internet portal and from there we begin talking about Digital Citizenship.

Most of our younger children come to us understanding how to “Swipe & Tap” on an iPad or their parents Android phone so building an understanding of a virtual, unseen workflow takes time, practice and patience. As an added barrier, we put a keyboard in front of them with very little training about using those keys. Nonetheless, they have all had experience being on the Internet in some capacity so, we start with using Chrome as their Internet portal and from there we begin talking about Digital Citizenship.

The first week of school is always filled with procedures and reminders to build upon the social skills they have already acquired. The second week of school is a great time to parallel good “Digital” decision making with those in-class procedures. We talk about “If it is not okay to do in class, it is not okay to do it online.”

Our sweet little “Digital Natives” understand more about navigating certain devices and sites than we do in many cases, that is for sure but they still need to be explicitly taught the proper use and expectations regarding their new devices, vocabulary necessary for effective communication and most importantly they need our ever-present moral guidance. According to Martine Oglethorpe, author of “Parenting in the Digital Age” and blog site The Modern Parent, it is critical that we help children build up a resilience to cope with the challenges that our 21st Century learners will face. Can they spot a scammer or a site that may be trying to gather personal information, known as “Phishing”? Can they identify false information, resist the temptation to post photos that they do not have permission to post or are not appropriate? These are just a few examples of the types of conversations we need to have with our kids and are addressed in my book.

I would be remiss if I did not mention the outstanding effort that Google is putting toward educating our students to be more resilient when it comes to interacting online. Google’s new- “Be Internet Awesome” was just recently released where students visit “Interland” using a highly “Gamefied” format to build online safety awareness. There are four lands to visit- Reality River, Mindful Mountain, Tower of Treasure and the Kind Kingdom. I am very impressed with the teacher lesson materials also included on this site. Check it out! My kids love it!

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How to Safely Play YouTube Videos in Your Classroom

How many times have you found a great video resource on YouTube to match a lesson you were teaching only to find that the suggested videos along the right-hand column and comments below the video were either inappropriate or just downright distracting?

Well, I found a great way to remedy this problem! ViewPure is free and basically, displays the video on a clean white background free of comments and suggested videos that typically appear next to the video you had selected. There have been instances that it has not worked with embedded videos but those times have been very rare in my experience. ViewPure is also a great workaround if your district blocks YouTube.

There are two easy ways to use ViewPure. You can either copy the URL of the Video you want to watch and paste it inside ViewPure or you can download a bookmark tab to use, which is quicker to access.

Here are three videos to show you how to use and install ViewPure:

ViewPure Video How To- Maria Kehres

ViewPure Example #1 by Brian Wise

ViewPure Example #2 by Brian Wise

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Chrome Squad- Elementary Edition (Part 5) Finally Coming Together- Using an Interactive Chromie Bootcamp Chart

Finally Coming Together- Using an Interactive Chromie Bootcamp Chart

My ebook/Hyperdoc– “Chromebooks for Kids- Training Your Elementary Chrome Squad”  was created to better transition elementary students from iPads to the ever popular Chromebooks. It is a Step-By-Step comprehensive guide for teachers to share with their students learning to use Google tools on Chromebooks in a Personalized Environment. It was born out of my own need to have something to structure a “Google Apps Curriculum” of sorts to get my students more familiar with the new devices in our classrooms. For those of you that have been through the Google Educator Training, I modeled my book after that training process and hopefully, my material is a bit more simplistic for my younger students. 🙂 To best understand this process, go back and read posts #1-#4 about our Elementary Chrome Squad.

After months of revising and colleague input, I finally feel confident enough to post the final editions of the two main charts I used to get my “Chromies” to seamlessly work in their independent personalized Google lessons. Both charts are from my new eBook- “Chromebooks For Kids- Training Your Elementary Chrome Squad” coming out on Kindle at the end of June. Make sure that you sign up to your right – “BE NOTIFIED ABOUT MY NEW BOOK “CHROMEBOOKS FOR KIDS” if you are interested in receiving email notifications regarding my book.

This interactive “Chromie Boot Camp Chart” you see above, is the heart of my book and most commonly used by my students to stay on track. Each numbered step is interactive, meaning that the kids click on the step that links them to the Google App Lesson page they are working on. Each page has a series of videos to watch, assignments to try and followed up with a Google Form to see if they were ready to move on to the next app. Also on this chart, you can see what a Chromie badge looks like including the coveted gems they earn when they help others with the tech skills they have learned, which the kids absolutely love!

My second chart titled – “Independent Work Stations” is not interactive, however, it was also very helpful, especially at the beginning so students would know where to find help if they needed it, knowing where others were working at that same level.

In my book you will receive:

*Directions on How To Use “Chromebooks For Kids- Training Your Elementary Chrome Squad”

*6 Chrome Squad Goals To Guide Action Plans

*2 Charts to Help Manage Learning Paths for Ability Groups

*60 of my “Suggested Apps and Extensions” that link directly to The Chrome Web Store so no searching required.

*A Google Form for each of the 8 steps to assess student mastery before progressing to the next step.

*2 Pages of Printable Name Badge Styles for Students to wear, along with the actual links used to purchase what I found were the best plastic badges.

*Instructional Material to best use 6 of Google’s most basic Apps- Chrome, Drive, Docs, Slides, Keep & Draw to Create, Collaborate and Communicate Student Work

*Over 68 Links to Carefully selected Video Lessons and Websites to teach young children how to use Google Tools using a  language they can actually understand!

*How to Find, Edit & Save Images to Google Drive using 6 Different Resources to find Copyright Safe Images

*5 Suggested Video Tools to use and Share Video on Chromebooks

*Printable Storyboard for Students to Use when organizing Video Projects

*And a few creative EXTRAS!

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Chrome Squad- Elementary Edition (Part 3) Where to Begin With Students and Staff?


 Chrome Squad Selection Done, Now What?

As with any new initiative, there are many pieces to gather and then there’s finding the best working solution for each of those pieces. I knew I was on to something with this “Chrome Squad” idea when I saw the excitement on my students’ faces but overwhelmed expressions from the adults I worked with. The kids are fearless and totally unaware of the “Behind the Scenes” work that is necessary to get a new initiative up and running. I knew putting the fragmented pieces together would be a lot of work, but I also knew that it would be worth it! Now that the Chrome Squad selection was complete, I had to take care of a few other specific pieces: communication with my principal and staff, parents, students and then begin thinking about exactly what we needed to do in those first few meetings.

First, I needed to follow up with my principal and fellow teachers. I needed their support and for them to have a full understanding of my intentions since they were typically the ones fielding some of those awkward parent questions, like “Why isn’t this offered to my kid too?”. I also wanted a chance to make my purpose very clear. I not only wanted my staff to know that my purpose was to teach a small group of kids at first to use technology in purposeful ways, but I also wanted my students to develop an outward focus to help others with what they learn so that our Chrome Squad could continue to grow.

My principal had many other questions and concerns that often times we teachers are not aware of.

How would I select my Chromies? Student selection this year was easy, they were all my students from last year, so I knew which kids had the basic character traits I was looking for. I explained to my principal that next year I would ask teachers to help me by submitting recommendations after they are made aware of our goals and behaviors I was looking for. (In my last post, I listed those specific goals and character traits.)

How would I communicate with parents and kids?  I used my Gmail Contact list to communicate with parents. I was very careful to give the parents all the initial details necessary about our purpose, expectations and our schedule but I also let the parents know that I really wanted to push the content responsibility to the kids. I highly encouraged parents to help me hold my Little Chromies accountable for the content I put on Edmodo. Edmodo was the Learning Management System we were using. I ended up using Edmodo to post Chromie content to begin with because my kids already knew how to navigate through Edmodo since we used it in our classroom last year. Our building was just getting used to Google Classroom so we would transition to that later in the year as our learning management system.

Where to meet and scheduling? Initially, I had the kids meet me once a week, on Tuesdays in one of our two computer labs during their scheduled lunch and recess time. This block of time worked out best since no one reserved the labs during this time anyway and academic schedules would not be interrupted. We would clean off the tables and eat while we worked. Later on in the year, we met after school as well.

What tech resources would be used? My students either brought their own Chromebook or used one of the Chromebooks in the computer lab. We would use Google tools and basic keyboarding programs to get started.

The First Two Weeks- Goals & Skills to Build Upon

The basic plan for the first two weeks was to go over our “6 Chromie Goals” and to put together two lists, one list was a compilation of skills for us to work on as a group and the second list was of skills we noticed our friends needed help with. First, we went over expectations for our Chrome Squad and our “6 Chromie Goals” since we would refer to them frequently to justify our path and decisions to follow.

Goals and Focus

  1. Be kind, respectful and PRESENT (Be aware of what is going on around you!).  People First. Devices Second.
  1. Help others to learn more about using technology in meaningful ways.
  1. Have a “Growth Mindset” *Book by Carol Dweck
  1. Be diligent but understand when others have trouble.
  1. Be problem solvers and creators.
  1. Be awesome! 🙂

Secondly, since our main focus was to learn for ourselves so we could best teach others, we created one list of skills the Chromies wanted to work on for themselves and a second list of what peers were having difficulty with during the beginning of the year, which according to our observations, was a rather short and obvious list. It was mostly logging into devices and keyboarding skills.

In the weeks to follow, we took some time to review for ourselves, a few necessary basic skills, like logging into Edmodo, Digital Citizenship, Keyboarding & personalizing their Chrome browser for more efficient academic use. I posted the directions and links to videos that I wanted the kids to use for this assignment on our Chrome Squad Edmodo page so they could work on them at home and parents could see what we were doing. My ebook- Training Your Elementary Chrome Squad coming out in June will have more specific charts, links and lists of resources, stating exactly what I found and used in my own teaching to be developmentally appropriate for our elementary students.

In my next post, I will share our next steps- setting up the procedures for “Chromie Acts of Kindness” earning Badges & Gems, revisit group & personal goals.


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“Chrome Squad”- Elementary Edition (Part 1 Intro.)

Ask Me, I Am a Chromie!

Are you teaching young children to use “G Suite”, formerly known as Google Apps For Education? With Chromebooks taking over as the device of choice for most districts, we as classroom teachers have an exciting yet challenging role to play in this transition to integrate technology into our classrooms. Most of us are in the process of learning how to use Google Suite ourselves, so teaching our young K-3 students what G Suite can do and how to use it in meaningful ways can appear to be a slow and daunting process. However, since no one can truly be a tech expert since technology changes so rapidly, we need to model a humble “Growth Mindset” and learn alongside our students or we will greatly inhibit the learning process for us all.  I am far from being an expert on Chromebook use in general, however, I am willing to share my insights and experiences as I am in the process of learning in hopes that my failures, successes and overall process will expedite yours. If you have read over any of my other posts, you will see that most of my G Suite experiences have been on iPads. That is about to change!

As I thought about how to best help my fellow teachers and students make confident gains toward learning Google Tools, I wondered if I should just start with teaching a few kids in each classroom to mentor others instead of training the teachers first like we have done so often in past professional development opportunities. It was then that I read an interesting post on Kasey Bell’s blog- “Shake Up Learning-Student Chrome Squad”. Her post was exactly what I needed! The post was actually written by a colleague of hers, Mr. Cody Holt from Royce City, Texas and was about how this former high school teacher, now a Digital Learning Specialist had developed a mentoring program to help manage his district’s 1:1 Chromebook program with a select group of high school students that he later called “The Chrome Squad”. My idea would take a more primary form of Cody’s Chrome Squad but I believed I was on to something!

Being a primary teacher, it is second nature to take a great learning opportunity that upper grades are participating in such as this and scale it down to a level that can benefit our younger students. I asked myself- “What if I took the same basic program that Cody began and made my own elementary version of it?” Student expectations would certainly look different but the overall goals would be the same. Students using what they learn to in turn help others.

I began my journey with 10 third grade students that I had in my class as second graders the year prior. I already knew the kids and the parents trusted me. (Scary thought, I know!) I selected my “Little Chromies” rather quickly as I kept in mind how Cody had selected his Chrome Squad.

In my next post, I will begin to walk you through my setup process, the attributes I looked for in our Little Chromies, our specific goals and how I began our first few sessions. As always, you can and should adjust your program given your own building variables.



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Coding for Young Children- Not Just for Big kids!

Teach Coding To Young Children- Loopimal

Loopimal- This App Will Be Your Favorite, Too!

Loopimal App

I just had to write about my favorite coding app for young children PreK-2nd- “Loopimal” by YATATOY, available on iTunes for $2.99. It basically introduces sequencing, necessary to coding skills by allowing children to assign patterns of hilarious movements and music to each animal highlighted on the screen. Up to four adorable animals can be dancing at once. I guarantee that you will be anxious to try it out on your own children or grandchildren and even for yourself! I played with it for over an hour the first time I opened it. 🙂

The “Geeks With Juniors” Blog, has a more in depth review along with a quick one minute video demonstrating what the app looks and sounds like.

They have recently updated the app with even more choices of cute animals- Mammoth, Yeti, Octopus, Bear, Bird, Pig, Sloth, Hippo and a Panda.

Loopimal Animals App2016-06-15 12.00.49

I would highly recommend YATATOY’s suite of other creative apps-

Drawnimal app          Miximal App

Drawnimal- iTunes- $1.99                Miximal- iTunes- $1.99 – This app is not only great fun but teaches kids syllabication.

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Awesome Digital Nonfiction Resources For Elementary Reading and Research

Digital Nonfiction ResourcesFor Elementary Students

It is a huge challenge to find nonfiction resources that are appropriate for our young readers and writers, so I have a great collection of resources that I am excited to share with you that I hope will inspire you and your students!

Most of the time, reading levels are too difficult and the content can be way above the understanding of a typical 5-9 year old. The nonfiction resources I have used in my own classroom below have “Read to Me” capabilities if the reading levels are too challenging. They also include high engagement content and pictures. Our higher students typically have interest levels that exceed their reading comprehension ability, so it is not always the lower readers that may need this content support.

To get any website to your student devices, I recommend two options:

  1. You can have students scan the QR code using a QR code scanner app on their iPad. On your Smartboard when you display the site in Chrome, you can use the “Qr Code Extension” that can expand the QR code large enough for students to walk up and scan.
  2. You can also load the website’s link into the feed of your LMS- Google Classroom or Edmodo.                           *Please message at the bottom of this feed or email me ( if you need help with this. It was a huge “Ah-Ha!” moment for me.


Wonderopolis– FREE! Primarily for interest driven topics beginning with a guiding question. Students can click to have the text of a “Wonder” read to them, watch a video and clickable vocabulary words that will display definitions too!

Epic eBooks

Epic! Digital eBook Collections– App and webtool. Epic is by far my students favorite digital resource. It has an awesome ebook collection with over 10,000 books to choose from. You will be amazed at some of the popular titles. Many are audio books or have “Read-to-Me” capabilities. Teachers set up an account online for free student access at school in the teacher’s account and students may pay a monthly fee of $5 a month to access this account at home. 

Screen Shot 2016-02-13 at 10.47.42 AM – This is an awesome site and one of the few lower level readability of common topics for early readers. It does require a very reasonable subscription of $20 per year for one teacher and it is limited to school hours. You can also show the kids how to have the text read to them online using a great Chrome extension – Speakit!

Brainpop JrScreen Shot 2016-02-12 at 9.32.39 PM

Brain Pop Jr.– App & Webtool- High interest, Common Core Lesson Videos for K-3 students in all subject areas.  Some free resources but a subscription is $160 for Classroom year subscription and $1,350 for a school but well worth it if you can convince your administration to help you. The lessons are very relevent and on target for standards. There is also “Homework Help”, leveled quizzes, games and activities for kids. My kids literally show a subtle cheer when I announce their assignment on Brain Pop Jr.. No Kidding!

Scholastic Mag. app    Screen Shot 2016-02-13 at 11.49.41 AM

Scholastic News Online– If your school has a subscription, you just have to login and get a password for students to access either on the app or online. All the great things we have known about Scholastic over the years has not been wasted on this resource either! Awesome content, videos, photos and even interactive comprehension page just like the paper articles.


news-o-matic_ipad  Screen Shot 2016-02-13 at 12.03.52 PM

 News-O-Matic – Free version & Paid Version -$5.99 available. Mostly Social studies topics and has “Read to Me” capabilities.

Farfaria    2016-02-13 12.10.59

Farfaria is a free app to download that is mostly known for it’s fictional genres but it also has some wonderful nonfiction topics that can be searched for in the “Home” screen. St. may view one book a day for free. It is $50 a year for a teacher subscription but think about how much more cost effective it is to have this versus paper copies that get lost and worn down. All kids can have their own copy for groups. I will say that the books do have DRA reading levels posted on them which are a good guide but a few of them I did not agree the level it was given. Another great feature is to search books by DRA level! We absolutley love this app!


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Martin Luther King Jr. & Harriet Tubman Compare and Contrast Techie Style Using QR Codes

Martin Luther Black History Thumbnail.001

Here is a fun Black History web quest for your students to easily utilize 21st Century Skills for researching Martin Luther King jr. and Harriet Tubman Biographies using your iPads. I have detailed directions for the students, “I Can” statements to check off, differentiated options and directions to the “Text-to-Voice” capability tool on your iPad for your lower readers. All you have to do is adjust your settings on your iPads, to allow text to be read to your students, which is a five click adjustment into your setting tab, download a QR Code Reader app if you don’t have one already, print the task card with the student data recording sheet and monitor their progress. Students will need to have a lesson on scanning QR Codes which is imbedded inside the “QR Reader” app suggested in this bundle. I have also added a second differentiated page for those higher readers that need more challenging content. This is what each student page looks like.

Screen Shot 2016-01-10 at 1.07.40 PM

So, all students need to do is:

Scan the QR Codes, Listen to the text, and Write what they learn.

My Teachers Pay Teachers MLK & Harriet Tubman Web Quest Using QR Codes ($5.00)


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Great Audio Recording tools for Students and Teachers

Audio Tools for iPads & Chromebooks

Why Record Student and Teacher Audio Files in Our Classrooms?  I can tell you why….

#1. Because many of our Common Core “I Can” statements for Language, Reading and Technology involve skills that many of us are still learning how to teach and hold students accountable for mastery. We see standards that include words like, read fluently and with expression, sound out new words, retell in correct sequence just to name a few. We then also see words like; explain, answer, describe, retell, and identify all of which indicate the importance of verbal communication.

Speaking and Listening Standards-

SL.2.5. Create audio recordings of stories or poems; add drawings or other visual displays to stories or recounts of experiences when appropriate to clarify ideas, thoughts, and feelings.”

Then for writing-

W.2.6. With guidance and support from adults, use a variety of digital tools to produce and publish student work, including in collaboration with peers. ”

So, how can we collect that data or even share this data with a colleague or parent? You guessed it! Record your students’ performance using whatever technology you have access to.

#2. Audio and visual recordings utilize technology to engage students and make our jobs more enjoyable and a bit easier. In the last few years, as I have taken steps toward integrating new technologies into my classroom, I have found that on several occasions, I wanted to preserve an audio recording. 

*To document and share what a student has learned or show mastery of a skill.

*To allow a non-reader to understand content and so that they can participate in classroom activities with their peers.

*Further develop my students’ language skills by hearing stories read to them by other readers and to record their own thoughts for an authentic audience.

What Tools do I use?

Depending on your tech resources, I would recommend the following apps that I have used myself.  Click on the links below to see the iTunes App description page.


Tellagami -Free   Tellagami

Educreations – Free  Educreations- New

ChatterKid Pix – Free   Chatterkids

DropVox – $1.99   Dropvox  This app records the audio and save it directly to your Dropbox account.

Literably– Free   Literably App I love this app/webtool! It records students reading a leveled book and scores it for you!

Notability – $.99 – $3.99 (Price can Vary)  Notability

Book Creator – $4.99   Book Creator Creates an actual ebook. There is a free version but only allows one book to be stored at a time.

Draw & Tell HD – $1.99    Draw & Tell

RecorderHQ – Free   RecorderHQ I use this when the kids want to just record an audio file. It can be uploaded to their Google drive.

Google Keep – Free  Google Keep Note taking with a new audio capability. I was super excited about this. You can see my other post about how I use Keep for student portfolios.

Shadow Puppet EDU – Free Shadow Puppet

Sock Puppets–  Free  sock_puppets_main_icon_07


Chromebooks or PC-

Google Slides   Google Slides (Free) create content, go into the PRESENT mode and then have students create the “ScreencastifyScreencastify Ext video (Also free)  using the Screencastify extention from the Chrome web store. This is awesome for Google Apps for Education districts because there is only one sign in and once the extension is added to a student’s Chrome account, there is automatically a Screencastify folder created that saves each recordings upon completion. No lost or unsaved work and it can be shared with peers, teachers and even parents.

Recording Booth -Chatterbox Blog Post Image  Need a quiet place to record audio any of these projects in your room? Try my Chatterbox for $45.99!

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Holidays Around the World Using “Best Christmas” App


iTunes States- This app takes your students around the world for a special view of Celebrations in other Continents and cultures! Select countries, find all hidden animations, and be surprised at how they react! It’s a superb mix of learning and entertainment…

Utilize an awesome app- “Best Christmas App for Toddlers and Kids”. It is a great way to learn about different traditions and celebrations from all around the world. The interactive scenes and music makes it a great combination. The North Pole section with the toy factory is definitely one of the favorites.See Compare and Contrast printable activity for students to complete with or without teacher support.
Social Studies Indicators:
A-1 Describe the cultural practices and products of people on different continents.
A-2 Describe the ways in which language, stories, folktales, music, and artistic creations serve as expressions of culture and influence the behavior of people living in a particular culture.


Best Christmas App for Toddlers and Kids App – iTunes Link ($1.99)

Here are two of my “Techie Holiday” Teachers Pay Teachers products that have compare and contrast pages for your students to show their understanding.

Two Products-(One Free and One $4)

Free! – iPad Christmas App- Comparing Cultures – Uses app described above.

Holidays Around the World, Techie Style!- Teachers Pay Teachers Store

1 Christmas Thumbnail #2 small.png.001



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