Technology in the Latin Classroom · Vocabulary

A New Quiz Game: Gimkit

Or, as my students call it, “the money game.”

We play Kahoot, Quizlet Live, and Quizizz from time to time in class, and I do like each of those sites (some more than others). Recently, though, I found a new site called Gimkit that I absolutely love, and I’m excited to share it with you all.

I first found out about this on Reddit, where the students (yes, high school students) who created it posted about it on one of the teaching subreddits. They asked for feedback and we gave it to them (including, importantly, changing the name from something else to what it is now), and the resulting product is just outstanding.

Let me tell you some of the best features about this site:

  • There are multiple ways to play – not just team or individual, but different four different modes of play that keep the novelty alive. Students can race to be the first to hit a “dollar amount” you decide (the game calls its points “dollars”); they can work together to reach a dollar amount as a class; and more.
  • You can create different types of questions: multiple choice or typed answers.
  • You can “import” from Quizlet. I think it’s a tiny bit disingenuous to say you can import directly from Quizlet, but basically, you can go to Quizlet, export your Quizlet set as plain text, then paste it into Gimkit. Gimkit will then create a multiple-choice game using your Quizlet terms. This takes all of maybe 3 minutes if you are really familiar with Quizlet – and if you’re not, it might take you 5 minutes, thanks to Gimkit’s excellent instructions on how to do this.
  • The questions repeat! Unlike Kahoot, Quizlet Live, or Quizizz, where you see each question once, your students are going to see the questions multiple times, giving them repeated exposure to whatever you’re quizzing them on.
  • IT’S FUN! This is currently our most beloved game. I don’t know what it is about this game, but my students just love it.

I do want to tell you that the site costs money (it’s run by high school students!), but I think the fees are pretty fair, and they give you multiple payment options (monthly vs. yearly). I’m paying about $8/month right now to finish out the school year on the monthly subscription, and it’s completely worth it. If you want to try it out with no commitment, the site lets you create 3 kits (games) for free. That’s how I decided to take the plunge and purchase the subscription.

If you want to know more and watch a demo game, I’ve made a video for you walking you through what the game looks like.

Let me know what you think!

Classroom Organization · FVR/SSR

More Apps and Websites I Love

I left off two websites from my first post on this topic in December, and I can’t believe I forgot to include them. I use both of these on at least a weekly basis.

  • ZipBooks. In my first two years as Latin Club moderator, I used a combination of pencil-and-paper records and spreadsheets to keep track of club spending. You might not expect it, but Latin Club (what we call our JCL chapter) has a pretty decent amount of cash inflow and outflow every month. I allow students to sign up at any point in the year (although I highly encourage them to sign up by the Phase 1 deadline for GJCL), which means that if nothing else, we usually have dues to charge. But there are also field trips like Fall Forum and GJCL Convention for which we have to charge students and then send off checks, and there are pizza orders, bus reservations, T-shirt orders, NJCLHS registration, and more. I didn’t really have a great setup for keeping track of these simple debits and credits from our Latin Club account, so I did some “shopping” online for a free basic bookkeeping website. I tried out quite a few, including Wave, but I landed on ZipBooks because it is easy to use, allows for custom categories, and has a simple interface. I don’t need something complicated, and while it looks like ZipBooks could be used for business bookkeeping (especially with a premium subscription, which gives you a general ledger, 1099 summary, and a bunch of other goodies), the free version gives me everything I need: a button for deposits, a button for expenses, and a balance sheet. I highly recommend it if you want an easy-to-use site to keep track of club expenses.
  • Libib. We share classrooms at our school, which means I do not have room for an FVR library. Instead, I keep my FVR books in hanging folders in a milk crate for compact storage. But this presented me with a problem from the very beginning. I wanted students to be able to “browse” the books that are available to them, but I wanted to know who was reading what at any time. I looked at several different websites for classroom libraries, but nothing gave me exactly what I wanted… until I found Libib (pronounced luh-bib, but my kids and I call it Lil’ Bib). Here is a link to my classroom library. I want to say upfront that I pay the $5 each month for the premium version, but it has everything I dreamed of and more. I haven’t found another library site that gives you all of the following:
    • Custom entries. Most free library sites I found required you to enter an ISBN when creating a catalog entry, but because so few FVR titles exist for Latin, I do a lot of printing from sources like the Mille Noctes database.
    • Custom groupings. Other sites would group by AR level or Lexile level, but again, this is Latin, and a lot of this stuff is just printed from Google docs. I am able to create custom groups based on difficulty levels that I have created for my students. I have also been able to set up my classroom library site so that the books are displayed by difficulty group rather than by ABC order.
    • Descriptions and photos. I wanted my students to be able to see the book covers and read a summary description of each book.
    • Book status and multiple copies. My students can see how many copies of each book I have and how many copies are currently available to check out.
    • Tons of stats. I can get reports on what books a given student has checked out, reports on general lending data from my class, and more.
    • Tags. Students can view books according to their difficulty groupings, but they can also click on a list of tags I have created to find books according to their topics. When we did an FVR self-assessment last fall, most of my students reported choosing a book based on its content rather than its difficulty. I don’t mean to say that most of them are choosing books completely out of their ability range, but most of them will choose a book that’s a little bit harder if it’s interesting to them. The tag list helps with this. The tags they seem most interested in are the graphic novels/comic books tag and the scary stories tag. Finally, it’s also a great way to organize series. I use tags for the Puer Ex Seripho series, Lance Piantaggini’s Pisoverse series, the Secunda comics, the I am Reading Latin series, and more.
    • Playing librarian. I can check books in and out with my desktop or phone, and, because I am a giant nerd, I have been able to use Libib and the Avery Labels online lab to generate barcodes for all of my books (even my custom-created books) so that I can quickly scan books to check in/out. You can even make library cards for your students, and if you’re so inclined, you can set up a “kiosk option” where students use an iPad to check books out to themselves.
Technology in the Latin Classroom

Apps and Websites I Love

I am not a “technology for technology’s sake” person. I do a lot of old-school pen-and-paper work in my classroom, and I am happy about it. When I do love an app or website, though, I love it, and the following tools have made their way into my everyday teaching life:

  • Tiny Scanner Pro. Free basic version. $4.99 for the full app, and worth every penny. I have not been teaching for long, but even in a few short years I had managed to amass an ungodly amount of paper. I use TSP to digitize almost everything. Just take a picture with your phone and the app creates a pretty decent PDF of your document. From there,  you can upload to Google Drive, Dropbox, OneDrive, Evernote, and more. You can also print (if you have a wireless printer) straight from the app if you need to make a copy or two of the document. I use TSP primarily for digitizing things I want to recycle, but I use it for things like “scanning” workbook pages from other curricula that I want to use as inspiration later. I also use it to scan keys of exercises or “model” work to be posted on Haiku (our LMS) for students to refer to.
  • ZipGrade. Free basic version. $6.99/year for unlimited scans and custom answer sheets. I made the switch to ZipGrade this year after having heard a lot about it for a long time. ZipGrade has made my life so much easier. It has cut down on the time it takes me to grade because I’m not waiting to go run Scantrons; I can scan students’ responses as they turn them in, leaving me to spend my planning time actually planning or giving feedback on their written work. I love that ZipGrade automatically makes item analyses, and I love love love love that it re-grades papers instantly if I change the key. I don’t know if I’ll ever go back to Scantrons.
  • Screencastify. Free basic version (and the basic is nothing to sneeze at), and I think about $24/year for full features like video cropping. I have only started using Screencastify in the past few months, but I love how easy it is to make a recording of my Surface while I’m working. I use Screencastify to make short videos for my students showing them how to use an online tool (like Magistrula – see a sort of awkward video here as an example) or walking them through an exercise like conjugating or declining. Next semester, I plan to use it for storytelling – this would be great to incorporate with a website like EdPuzzle. The best part of Screencastify is that it syncs with Google Drive, so your videos are housed there and easy to share.
  • PearDeck. Free basic version, but you most likely want the pro version, and the price will depend on whether you’re buying it individually or as a school/district. PearDeck, which is an interactive presentation tool, is great for having students show their understanding, and I (usually) love the anonymity of student responses in the default display. It makes it easy to discuss a response as a class. I’ve run into some problems before with students submitting inappropriate or off-topic answers, but now I usually require them to include their name in their response. (NB: You can see who made a certain response, but not, as far as I know, in the default way that student answers are displayed on the screen. That’s why I have them put their name in their response most of the time.) PearDeck also has a fun new game called Flashcard Factory and a few more bells and whistles, like their “takeaways” option and their Google Slides add-on, that make it an attractive option for increasing student engagement.

And then there are the “classics” like Quizlet and the things I love, but don’t really have any say in choosing, like our LMS, Haiku (well, PowerSchool Learning now). These are all things that make my life easier and make instruction better (I think) for my students.