Posted in General

Welcome Screens

My son was a fully online learner a couple of years ago before most students were forced to become online learners due to COVID-19. I had chosen to enroll him in an online school for 7th and 8th grades to help with some of the struggles he was facing. I have never regretted that decision. My son made great gains in online school and gained the foundation I hoped he would when transitioning to traditional high school. Those two years were a learning experience not only for my son, but for my family. As I supported him and observed his “live lessons” I noticed a commonality from teacher to teacher that I found comforting. That commonality was how they started their lessons. My son was always to log into his live lessons at least 5 minutes early. He would be admitted to his classroom where he would be presented with a screen his teacher was presenting. That screen could have any number of things on it, but mainly it was a welcome screen. There would be music playing, and a message posted from the teacher. Sometimes it would be a question to think about before diving into a lesson, or a warm up, or a conversation starter for the students to chat about in the chat pod. All of it helped to build that much needed classroom community.

That being said I got to thinking about how the teachers at my school could accomplish the same thing when they don’t have access to the same tools. Considering what they do have access to, I found they could create a welcome screen using their district issued devices using Google Slides, the Bitmoji Chrome extension, Classroomscreen (free version) and Zoom. Here is a sample of the end result:

Sample Welcome Screen

So here is how you create something like my sample for your Zoom classroom.

1. Watch this video on creating your own Bitmoji Virtual Classrom:

2. Save your newly created Bitmoji Virtual Classroom as a PNG

When in Google Slides, click the File menu, then select Download, then PNG image. Why PNG and not JPEG? Image quality.

3. Classroom Screen

I have mentioned Classroomscreen to my teachers before and I am going to mention it again. It really is a wonderful free resource to give you a screen to project to your class that is very customizable. The Classroomscreen website is very user friendly and clearly explains its features. It’s worth a visit and a read. You can do plenty with a free account, so there is no need to subscribe if you don’t want to.

Once you have launched Classroomscreen, you can upload the virtual Bitmoji classroom you created. You do that by clicking the Background button on Classroomscreen:

Classroomscreen comes with many wonderful backgrounds built in.

You will then get a window that looks like this:

Here is where you can click Uploads, and upload the Bitmoji classroom you created. Once you have uploaded it, it will show as an option, click it and it becomes your new background!

Then insert the components you would like to use. I used the text feature, calendar and timer. They are all accessible on a toolbar at the bottom of Classroomscreen.

Once you have set up your Classroomscreen you are ready to use it!

4. Start your Zoom meeting and share your screen

Don’t forget to enable computer audio sharing so you can play your favorite kid friendly music in the background. Students love music and when I was in the classroom I had fun streaming all kinds of school appropriate music for my students. In my sample above I was streaming Kids Radio on Pandora. But you could use your preferred music streaming service or music files saved on your computer. I would make sure whatever you choose to stream is commercial free.

You are now ready to welcome your students with a fun welcome screen when they enter your virtual classroom! You may want to have your own mic muted and camera off while you settle in, but be sure to keep an eye on your class.

I would love to hear how this goes for those who try it. Please share with me in the comments below!

Posted in Graduate Studies

Sample Distance Education Mini-Lesson

(This post is designed to meet the requirements for the Distance Education Mini-Lesson as assigned by GCU TEC 571)

Lesson Format: Hybrid
“A hybrid lesson is a combination of modalities and technology with face to face instruction.”
I chose this format as it is closest to my actual teaching environment. The lesson is designed as remediation where direct instruction based on the gradual release model has already taken place.


SUBJECT AREA: Mathematics – Division
Number of Students: 31 (16 male & 15 female) | Age Range: 8-9 years old

Mental, Social, Physical, Social Notes:

  • Disabilities: none
  • Learning Differences:(Based on recent MAPS results in Math: Operations and Algebraic Thinking)
    • Challenge: 10 students
    • Benchmark: 9 students
    • Strategic: 7 students
    • Intensive: 5 students
  • Ethnicities:
    • Hispanic/Latino: 22
    • Asian: 5
    • Caucasian: 1
    • Native American: 1
    • African American: 1

Current Knowledge, Prerequisites, and Notes About Learner Attitudes:

The class on the whole is eager and well behaved. There is a broad spectrum of academic abilities.

Learning Styles (29 students assessed via “What’s Your Learning Style?“)

  • Visual: 8
  • Auditory: 13
  • Kinesthetic: 3
  • Auditory/Visual: 2
  • Auditory/Kinesthetic: 2
  • Visual/Kinesthetic: 1


TITLE: Division Review
SUMMARY: In this lesson we will revisit the concept of making equal groups (dividing).
3.OA.3 – Use multiplication and division within 100 to solve word problems in situations involving equal groups, arrays, and measurement quantities, e.g. by using drawings and equations with a symbol for the unknown number to represent the problem.
ESSENTIAL QUESTION: How could you solve problems breaking quantities into equal groups?
1. Creativity and Innovation

a. Apply existing knowledge to generate new ideas, products, or processes.
b. Create original works as a means of personal or group expression.
c. Use models and simulations to explore complex systems and issues.
2. Communication and Collaboration
a. Interact, collaborate, and publish with peers, experts, or others employing a variety of digital environments and media.
b. Communicate information and ideas effectively to multiple audiences using a variety of media and formats.
3. Research and Information Fluency
a. Plan strategies to guide inquiry
d. Process data and report results
4. Critical Thinking, Problem Solving, and Decision Making
a. Identify and define authentic problems and significant questions for investigation.
b. Plan and manage activities to develop a solution or complete a project.
c. Collect and analyze data to identify solutions and/or make informed decisions.
d. Use multiple processes and diverse perspectives to explore alternative solutions.
5. Digital Citizenship
a. Advocate and practice safe, legal, and responsible use information and technology.
b. Exhibit a positive attitude toward using technology that supports collaboration, learning, and productivity.
c. Demonstrate personal responsibility for lifelong learning.
6. Technology Operations and Concepts
a. Understand and use technology systems
d. Transfer current knowledge to learning of new technologies.
Students will be able to solve problems breaking quantities into equal groups.
Blooms Taxonomy:

Students will remember how to solve a problem using division strategies.
Students will understand how to apply division strategies to solve problems.
Students will apply what they have learned about division to real world problems.
Students will evaluate their own division projects as well as those of their peers.
Students will create projects demonstrating their mastery of division strategies.
Relatively up to date computer (Windows or Mac operating system)
Smartphone or other device to record and upload with.
Internet browser (e.g. Safari, Explorer, Firefox, Chrome)
Ability to operate a computer.
Ability to navigate the Internet.
Familiarity with how to post to YouTube privately.
Familiarity with Discovery Education and Board Builder.
Familiarity with Edmodo and BrainPOP Jr.
DURATION: 20 minutes in class, as much time as needed at home
GROUPING: In class whole group, at home individual


ANTICIPATORY SET:  Review the BrainPop Jr video “Making Equal Groups(Since BrainPop Jr. is a paid service, access information has been shared privately with those who require it.)
Watch and discuss the video pausing at key points with the entire class, being mindful to select students from each ability level (Challenge, Benchmark, Strategic, Intensive) to contribute to the discussion.
Once the video has been reviewed and discussed, the online portion of the task will be explained including the rubrics that will be used to score them. Students will complete tasks remotely as outlined via a Discovery Education Board Builder. (For sample purposes, a guest log in to Discovery Education has been provided privately.)

ONLINE PORTION (parent/guardian permission and assistance required)

      1. Students will log into their Discovery Education accounts for the Board Builder that has been assigned to them entitled “Division Review.”
      2. Students will then visit the “Making Equal Groups” video page themselves where they will review the video.
      3. Students will complete the following activities related to the “Making Equal Groups” video page.
        1. Activity – Print out the activity page and record yourself solving the problems, explaining your thought process. Post privately to YouTube and share the link in the class group on Edmodo. Students will then review and comment on their peers’ work. (summative assessment)
        2. Division Is All Around You – Students will identify as many division problems in their daily lives as they can and have a parent record them identifying it and solving it using any of the division strategies we have discussed. The video can be privately posted to YouTube and the url shared in Edmodo for class review and comment. (formative assessment).
      4. Students will review and comment on their classmates’ work in Edmodo.


Other ways this lesson can be extended:

Students create a podcast using SoundCloud that takes a division sentence and makes it a story, then post the link to it in Edmodo for the class to listen and comment. Students could also use the same idea and instead of create a podcast, the could create an online book of it using StoryBird, sharing their completed story on Edmodo for peer commentary.

Students could create their own division Board Builder, and upload text, drawings, audio and video…serving as a portfolio of their mathematical and technical understanding.


The main area of concern would be the level of parent support and willingness to aid children this young in completing online tasks. A secondary concern is the technology literacy of the household and the level of necessary preparation students and families may need to accomplish online tasks.