Google Sites for the classroom

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I have recently become an avid fan of Google Sites! Having not been aware of its existence and invaluable use in the classroom and in education, I feel as though I must share it with all my fellow educators!

Google sites allows you to set up your own webpage without any expense. All you need is a G-mail account which can be easily set up within minutes. I would advise setting up a G-mail account as it allows one to access Google apps automatically. Google sites provides teachers with the platform to create their own educational website for their classes. Teachers can post notes on it as well as any assignment tasks. By simply giving students access to your site by giving them the link, they can access all of your work you wish to provide them with within seconds. This is extremely beneficial and useful when one has to call in sick (both student and teacher) and wishes to give their pupils the work that was (or meant to be covered in the case of a teacher being absent) that day in class. As briefly mentioned, it is an excellent platform for teachers to give students notes as it cuts down on time wasted in class writing them down and also cuts down on paper as one does not have to print out pages upon pages of notes for their students.

As outlined by Google, there are many reasons why one should use Google Sites in the classroom, for example:

  • Google site is free
  • It is very easy to use and has a simple and student friendly interface.
  • Anyone above 13 can join in and add content to it ( provided you give them access )
  • A site can be created  for aSites_web_fonts_example class within a couple of minutes using templates for different pages and without the need for advanced technology knowledge
  • Google Site also offers you control over who can have access to the pages and who can share materials
  • It can improve students digital literacy skills
  • It can open up your classroom and make it a collaborative learning environment

The website further highlights ways teachers can use Google Sites in the Classroom, some of which I briefly mentioned above:

  • Create a webpage for the class where to include course materials and rich content including videos, images, slides, and audio recordings
  • Use it for posting homework, assignments, and class events
  • You can also use it as a discussion board where every student can have a say
  • Create a page for posting announcements , class events, reading materials, classroom rules, and many more
  • Use it as a wiki and let your students sites2collaboratively work on their assignments and edit content
  • Use the File Cabinet page to upload documents, PDFs and other materials to share with your students
  • You can also create a private page where to share information with parents like curriculum resources
  • Embed a calendar to keep track of your deadlines or Google Spreadsheet to keep track of your research


And last but not least, as outlined by the Google Site website, ways students can use Google Sites:

  • They can use it to create digital portfolios to feature their work and achievements
  • Create and manage to-do lists for their assignments and classroom activities
  • Collaborate on group projectsstay_connected
  • They can use it to present their findings on a particular research subject. They can include docs they have created, videos, links and many more
  • Students can use it to contribute in knowledge building inside the classroom and to help with course materials

How to set one up:

Storybirds: A Must Have tool in the classroom!


What are Storybirds?

In essence they are short, art-inspired stories that you make to share, read, and print. Storybirds is a fun, collaborative, storytelling website. What is great about Storybirds is that your students do not need any artistic ability as they drag and drop characters and images  into a digital storyboard. Students can also be inspired by the themes and artwork available on Storybird, providing them with the resources they need to evoke abstract thoughts and emotions your students may not be able to express on pen and paper. What I really like about Storybird is that it  is not only a fun,  storytelling website, but more importantly it is a collaborative learning website as students can work together in teams to create stories.storybird-2ail7e4 It is also an excellent way to get your students enthusiastically writing, which is sometimes hard in the classroom today as students have become so involved and reliant on technology to communicate their thoughts, and thus find it difficult to physically right. It is also an excellent piece of technology to use in the classroom when you have students who have speech impediments, literacy difficulties, or a lack of English to present their work.

I currently teach in a school where DEAR is valued and promoted and takes place every week. As a result, Storybird can be used to encourage students to create stories to be printed off and given out during DEAR time for their fellow classmates to swap around and read.


Wait for it….you can sign up for FREE!!




What do teachers think about Storybird?

“Beginning to see almost limitless appeal of Storybird to all curriculum areas.” @bellaale


“The best writing website for kids.
Fresh and innovative.” @Suite101


“I can’t think of a better way to encourage literary exploration, artsy fun and new media skill sets to inspire a whole new flock of creative storytellers.” @ShapingYouth

“Simple to use and endlessly extendable.” @theDigitalNarrative


How to create a Storybird:

Animoto: Making videos in the classroom!


Animoto is a Web 2.0 tool that allows users to:

  • produce videos
  • that blend photos, video clips, text and music.

What is great about Animoto is that it is easy to use for any age group and appeals to all year groups. You and your students can use a combination of both video and photos to create your video and the end result looks extremely professional, thus giving your pupils a true sense of satisfaction.You can also have your students record their own voice over and then upload the audio file as the audio track instead of music by using audacity or garage band! For example, in English when covering the topic of Media Studies and newspapers, get your students to make their own news report video! Although you are restricted to 22 characters of text, students can work around this by using images or even hashtags(#) in favour of wordy sentences. This encourages pupils to expand on and develop their non verbal skills. As a student project, animoto encourages students to interact with academic material by hand-picking images, video, music and text, thus allowing them to learn and communicate their work with a hint of their own personalities. It also promotes subject engagement and develops students’ creativity and computer skills.

As a teacher I find that students, especially Junior Cycle students, like to be given responsibility and feel as though they are making a contribution to the lesson. At times I get my students to come up and teach specific topics/points for 10 minutes of a class and they love it. For those ten minutes they are the teacher and they are in control. Animoto is a great way of encouraging students to become active learners and allows students to prepare their work that they could eventually teach/present to the rest of the class. I love Animoto and I think that it works extremely well with all year groups and diverse learning styles.


How much does it cost to use?

It is freeeee!!! However it is only free if you chose the ‘Lite’ option, which in turn restricts you to making 30 second video clips, which is sometimes enough for specific subjects and topics. However, if you would prefer the option of making 10-20 minute video clips you can subscribe for as little as $5 a month….ultimate bargain!Especially for Transition Year classes.


Why use Animoto? (

  • Unlimited 20 minute videos: Make videos up to 20 minutes long and using up to 600 photos/video clips.
  • Easy to use: All you need is a few photos screenshotcand a few minute to create a beautiful video.
  • Post, Tweet, Email: Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Pinterest, WordPress, etc. Share where your audience is.
  • Licensed music: 2000 tracks from industry-leader Triple Scoop Music and other partners. Pro Premium gets 1000 more.(Or as I said previously, you can get your pupils to upload their own voice over.
  • Call to action button: Link your video to your school or event’s page.
  • Customise: You can customize your video to your liking. animoto1Select a style, choose your music, and add text to speak to your audience.


How to get started and use Animoto:

Padlet: Web 2.0 tool for the classroom!

PadletSo what is Padlet?

  • Formerly Wallwisher
  • free application to create an online bulletin board
  • Allows you to display information for any topic.
  • Allows you to add images, links, videos, and more.
  • Settings allow you to make your wall completely open for public contributions, completely private, or allow you to moderate any contributions made.

Padlet is like an online piece of paper where people can put any content anywhere on the page and allows people to express their thoughts and opinions on a specific topic of interest or discussion.


Why use Padlet in the classroom?

  • Creates a collaborate learning environment
  • Does not show which work is attributable to which student, which is excellent when seeking opinions on certain topics that students may be embarrassed or curious about and pose questions they may not necessarily ask in class in fear of what people might think or say. (With regard to this, in order for students to get credited and merited for their work, perhaps ask them to initial their posts)
  • Invites pupils to contribute their comments, topics of interest, opinions, and viewpoints.
  • Open to all subjects.


Ideas of how to use Padlet in the classroom:

  • Use as a place to collect web quest links and information.
  • Assign a student projects where students choose their theme and design a wall around it. For example, have students create a wall about the search for meaning and value. They can include pictures, audio or video, links, and other information to display, all of which which relate to the student’s culture.
  • For grammar or vocabulary words.
  • Create walls for debates.
  • Post assignments or reminders on the wall for students.
  • Use Padlet as a class space during school breaks, especially for those preparing for exams.
  • žBrainstorm a new topic and share knowledge and ideas.
  • Brainstorm area for possible fundraiser or project ideas.
  • Have students create a sentence using the word of the day. They can share their sentences with others on the wall.
  • Allow students to post videos or post your own video and have students respond.


Examples of completed Padlets:


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Excellent tutorial on how to use Padlet:


Suicide and Euthanasia Introductory Resources












The above images are slides I have used to introduce the topic of Suicide to my senior students. They allow room for class conversations to take place whilst keeping a flow and structure to your lesson. I also showed my pupils the following video clips as they effectively communicate the statistics surrounding suicide and highlight some of the reasons as to why it is so common these days. The students respond well to the second video clip on Phoebe Prince as the story made the news and the majority of students are very familiar with the tragic event.



Other possible ways to introduce this topic are to explore in brief what life is all about, the value of it, what makes life meaningful and the purpose of it. Ask the pupils to reflect on what makes them happy and life worth living for. Perhaps bring your students to the computer room and ask them to find an image, video clip, or music video to share with the class to express what makes them happy in life and makes life seem so worthwhile. (Encourage the pupils to perhaps reflect on the amazing atmosphere created at a concert, or somewhere they went on holiday or on a trip that took their breath away, or even perhaps a song that gives them vision and inspiration.) Some examples one could use in the classroom include:



You could then introduce your students to the fact that not everyone values life the same way or has the same outlook and feel as though there is nothing left to live for, thus introducing the concept of suicide. A good video to use to communicate this would be ‘Hoe to Save a Life’ by The Fray:



Lesson on War: resources

I am currently covering the topic of ‘War’ with my 5th years. I spent Monday’s lesson introducing my pupils to the concept of war and enticing their initial reaction to the topic before we began to look at specific facts and important pieces of information. It is always important, I feel, to  research your student’s knowledge and feelings on a topic before beginning to cover it, exploring what it is they know or feel about, and what it is they wish to learn about the topic. It allows one to focus the content on areas where knowledge and understanding is lacking, whilst also approaching the area to their areas of interest.

At the beginning of the lesson, I introduced my pupils to the topic via PowerPoint and informed them that, as per usual, they will give their initial response to the topic in this lesson. To avoid the response ‘Ah Ms/Sir, I don’t have any opinion on it or know anything about it’ (as a means of escaping having to do any work), I advise teachers to show pupils video clips, lyrics, or images associated with the topic in order to aid their writing and to engage them in the topic. At the beginning of my lesson (I have them for a double class) I showed my students the following clips in the following order. I informed the pupils that for the next 25 minutes they were to focus on and get lost in the worlds presented in the video clips. (They worked a treat and I have honestly never seen this class so quiet and interested!!)

As I mentioned, I showed the following clips in the following order:


I then handed out my pupils the following handout and informed them that they had 10 minutes to answer the first question. I encouraged the pupils to use the video clips to aid their responses.


Name: ______________________________                                                                       Date: ____________________


1) What is your initial response to the topic of ‘War’?

2) With the aid of Edwin Starr’s lyrics, describe what war is all about.



When the students had completed the first question, I  asked my pupils if they had ever heard of the song ‘War’ by Edwin Starr. Via PowerPoint I explained who Edwin Starr was and informed the pupils that we would first watch the video of the song and that we would then focus on the lyrics (which I gave out after) and explore the purpose and effects of war. (I would HIGHLY recommend this song, students LOVE it and respond really well to it!)


I then re-played the song, asking the pupils to follow the lyrics and underline what stands out to them about war. When the song was over, as a class we brainstormed the lyrics the pupils underlined, for example:

  • It means destruction
  • Friend only to the undertaker
  • It ain’t nothing but a heartbreaker
  • Made him disabled, bitter and mean


Lyrics handout: Edwin Starr ‘War’

War, huh, yeah  SuperStock_1566-439209

What is it good for

Absolutely nothing
War, huh, yeah
What is it good for
Absolutely nothing
Say it again, y’all

War, huh, good God
What is it good for
Absolutely nothing
Listen to me

Ohhh, war, I despise
Because it means destruction
Of innocent lives

War means tears      ES3_FortHillCemetery1648
To thousands of mothers eyes
When their sons go to fight
And lose their lives

I said, war, huh
Good God, y’all
What is it good for
Absolutely nothing
Say it again

War, whoa, Lord
What is it good for
Absolutely nothing
Listen to me

War, it ain’t nothing
But a heartbreaker
War, friend only to the undertaker
Ooooh, war
It’s an enemy to all mankind
The point of war blows my mind
War has caused unrest
Within the younger generation
Induction then destruction
Who wants to die
Aaaaah, war-huh
Good God y’all
What is it good for
Absolutely nothing
Say it, say it, say it
War, huh
What is it good for
Absolutely nothing
Listen to me

War, huh, yeah
What is it good for
Absolutely nothing
War, huh, yeah
What is it good for
Absolutely nothing
Say it again y’all
War, huh, good God
What is it good for
Absolutely nothing
Listen to me

War, it ain’t nothing but a heartbreaker
War, it’s got one friend
That’s the undertaker
Ooooh, war, has shattered
Many a young mans dreams
Made him disabled, bitter and mean
Life is much to short and precious
To spend fighting wars these days
War can’t give life
It can only take it away

Ooooh, war, huh
Good God y’all
What is it good for
Absolutely nothing
Say it again

War, whoa, Lord
What is it good for
Absolutely nothing
Listen to me

War, it ain’t nothing but a heartbreaker
War, friend only to the undertaker
Peace, love and understanding
Tell me, is there no place for them today
They say we must fight to keep our freedom
But Lord knows there’s got to be a better way

Ooooooh, war, huh
Good God y’all
What is it good for
You tell me
Say it, say it, say it, say it

War, huh
Good God y’all
What is it good for
Stand up and shout it


Wordle: Word Cloud Web 2.0 tool for the classroom!



What is it?

Wordle is a tool that allows user to create word clouds from a source of words. The software automatically
removes common English words (is, the, and, it..) and presents the words in colourful cloud formations. The more that a
word appears in a source, the larger the word is in the cloud. You can tweak your clouds with different fonts, layouts, and color schemes.


What can it be used for in the classroom?

  1. Great for showcasing word usage in a speech, poem, story, text, etc.
  2. Great for students to copy and paste words from their own paper to summarise their work.
  3. Great for creating personality clouds of your students and for showcasing their opinions on certain topics.
  4. Put your lesson plan into a word cloud to create a word cloud of what you will be learning about. This could also be part of your entire course outline used at the beginning of a course.
  5. Put vocabulary words into a word cloud.
  6. Have students create word clouds that generate understanding of a concept, standards or vocabulary word.



To create a wordle:

1. Go to

2. Click create your own

3. You can copy and paste text from a word wordle2document or you can simply type in the words you want to use.

Hints: The more often a word is entered, the larger it will appear.

4. Select go

5. Wordle is generated. Characteristics can be changed by using the toolbar located at the top of the page:

  • Colour refers to the colour scheme. Wordles can be white or black backgrounds.
  • Layout is the appearance/shape of the wordle – mostly vertical, mostly horizontal, half and half, etc.
  • Font is the style of the text. Language – wordles can be anything from English to Croatian



Examples of completed Wordles:



alqaeda wordle


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Please find attached a very good and detailed step by step tutorial on how to use Wordle: