How I'm Using Nearpod for Hybrid Learning

I've been using Nearpod for several years now (click here for a post I wrote back in 2015 about it), but since the transition to hybrid learning, I have found it especially useful.  While it's not perfect (I'll share some of its shortcomings here as well), it makes it easy to engage students both in the classroom and at home.

What I Like About Nearpod

I Control the Slides

Being able to control the slides is essential for hybrid lessons.  In a traditional in-person setting, this doesn't really matter because students are viewing the slides on the Smart Board, so of course I control them.  For an all-virtual lesson, if I want to share a presentation and control the slides, I can share my screen.  But the way I'm set up in my classroom for hybrid right now, things get a little tricky, because I've got some students in the room, viewing the presentation on the Smart Board, and then others logged in on Zoom, who can see the Smart Board, but can't always read small print.  For those students, I need to provide them an alternate way to view the presentation.  If I give them a PowerPoint, they could potentially get off track as to what slide I'm on.  Plus, if I have a slide with a question on it and then a subsequent slide with the answer, students could see the answer before I am ready for them to see it.  Using Nearpod and being able to control the slides solves that problem.  Plus, with my new clicker, which works with both PowerPoint and Nearpod, I am moving through slides more easily than ever.

Time to Climb

Time to Climb is a game embedded in Nearpod.  You input a series of questions, students pick an avatar, and then they move up the hill if they get questions right.  It's fun to see their little avatars climb the hill!  It's great to have a game right within Nearpod that doesn't require an additional code, which saves time (although it takes a minute for students to choose their avatars).  Here's a video of it in action (email subscribers must view the post on the blog):


With so many students attending the lesson from home, it's essential to employ comprehension checks that ensure engagement from all students, and the polls and quizzes that you can embed in Nearpod do that easily.  Again, they are already logged into the Nearpod, so it makes using them seamless.  Above, I polled students on what city they were from.  There was no right answer, but in answering they were engaging with new vocabulary.  I love the wheel which breaks down how many people chose which answer.

Draw It

In the years leading up to covid, I had ditched traditional mini whiteboards and dry erase markers because it was so time consuming passing them out and collecting them and the students were constantly doodling on the whiteboards.  Instead, I was having students use the whiteboard app on their school-issued device to draw or write answers to prompts.  Now, again with hybrid lessons, the Draw It feature in Nearpod has become more useful than ever in being able to view all students' responses.  Below, a student's interpretation of "Je ne sais pas !"


Matching is another great way to formatively assess students during a lesson.  I like how you can use images to avoid the use of English.

What I Don't Like About Nearpod

As much as I love Nearpod, there are a few things about it that really frustrate me.

Little Control Over Design

I suppose this could be a nit-pick, but Nearpod is limited in its design options.  You get much more control over font size and choice in PowerPoint, Google Slides, or just about any other presentation program.  Now, of course, you can import PPTs or Google Slides, but that's an extra step if you are creating a Nearpod lesson from scratch and the slides are imported as images so you can't go back and edit the text or placement of other elements.  It just seems strange to me that they allow such little control.


Recently Nearpod has experienced some glitches and downtime.  I've been lucky that none of these have occurred while I was teaching, but it's frustrating when you're trying to work on a lesson and the site is down.

Can't Go Over Time to Climb Answers

The only way to go over the answers to Time to Climb is to exit the presentation and look at it in preview mode.  I find this frustrating.

One of My Recent Nearpod Lessons

I recently used a Nearpod lesson to provide a little comprehensible input to my students.  I introduced (or reintroduced) my students to the characters from Frozen and stated some facts (some of them true to the movies and some that I made up), then students played Time to Climb to review.  Here is the Nearpod (email subscribers will need to view the post on the blog):

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National French Week: A Virtual Culinary Experience

National French Week looked a little bit different this year than it normally looks.  Click here for a glimpse of how I've celebrated the occasion in a pre-covid world.  This year I really wanted to put all my energy into a virtual taste test as a means to introduce cuisine into the curriculum.  At the end of the school year, students always say the opportunities to try new food were the most memorable moments of my class, and I didn't think it was fair to the students simply omit food from the curriculum this year.  Since consuming food in the classroom setting is not feasible at this point, I knew it would have to be done virtually.  First, I provided students with this list of recipes and treats from the francophone world.  I asked all students to either prepare or purchase a dish or treat to consume during class on a Wednesday, which is our virtual day.  I told students that if they were unable to get to the store and purchase something for any reason to let me know and I would provide them with a treat.  On the day of the taste test, I put students in breakout rooms and gave them some guiding questions to discuss their food.  I went around to each breakout room and chatted with the students.  Most of them seemed quite happy to be consuming a treat during class!  I asked students to send me photos of their food.  Here is a little slideshow I made to commemorate the occasion:

In some classes, if time remained, I showed some of the videos in the playlist below:

As a follow up, students were asked to watch the videos in the playlist and then answer the following questions:
-Did you enjoy your dish?  Was it similar to anything you have tried before?  If so, what?
-What's one dish another student brought OR that you saw in the videos below that you thought you might like to try in the future?
-What's one interesting piece of knowledge you learned from the videos?
-Finally, please provide feedback on how the virtual taste test went.  Understanding that having food in the classroom isn't an option right now, is this how you would most enjoy incorporating food into our lessons, or do you have suggestions for improvement or an alternate idea?

Here are some of the comments students left in their follow up:

Students also made some great suggestions for improvement.  A lot of students said they would prefer we did not do breakout rooms because they wanted to see more food.  I had chosen the breakout rooms to encourage students to feel more comfortable sharing and presenting.  One student suggested I make a Flipgrid assignment to accompany it (I've just started using Flipgrid this year and I love it!).

Overall, students said they were pleased with how this turned out and look forward to doing it again, but all things being equal, they'd really love to be able to eat in the classroom again!

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Establishing Norms in a Hybrid Setting

Last fall I blogged about my experience establishing norms with my students (click here to read about it).  The idea came from a blog post by Annabelle Allen, aka La Maestra Loca.  This year I knew I couldn't do the lesson the same way:  having students write on the chalkboards wouldn't work (no sharing of materials and half the students are attending class via Zoom) and students cannot gather in groups in the traditional way.  I still had the students establish norms, but I modified the lesson to suit our school's current hybrid model.  To start with, I made sure my students understood what a norm is.  After all, it's not a term 12 year olds use very often!  Students often struggle with norms vs. goals, so I gave some examples (from another class, so as not to give them too many ideas!)

Students, like last time, first had to jot down their hopes and dreams in a Word document.  In other words, what they hope to accomplish through their study of French.  Then, students in the room were put in breakout rooms on Zoom with students at home to try to devise three norms based off their hopes and dreams.  I was able to come around the room and see how the breakout rooms were going since most or all of them had a member who was in the room.  Most students used the chat feature to accomplish their task.  After awhile, I combined breakout groups and had the larger groups come up with four final norms.  Then, they picked someone from the group to communicate those to the class.  When everyone returned to the main Zoom room, I started a collaborative whiteboard.  The representatives from each group listed the norms on the whiteboard.  Then students stamped their favorite norms.

After the first three classes, I decided the whiteboard was too disorganized, so I switched to Socrative.  Using the Quick Question feature, I told only representatives to type in their norms.  Then I removed answers that were either duplicates from other groups or not really norms.  Then everyone was asked to vote on their favorite two norms.  This made it a lot easier for me to see which norms were the most popular.

After all this, I looked at the votes and stamps and determined what seemed like the four most prevalent norms and presented them to the class and posted them on my Canvas page:

Overall, this worked just about as well as the previous version, although, having students actually interact with each other in person is always preferred.  Ultimately, my experience has been that when you ask students to reflect, their values and goals are more often than not aligned with the teacher's.

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Qu'est-ce que la Toussaint ?

The lesson I normally give for Halloween isn't fully compatible with our school's current hybrid model of teaching, and I am at a different spot in my curriculum than I normally am right now.  Combine that with a bunch of really neat Halloween/Toussaint/Jour des Défunts videos I found on YouTube this summer, and I realized I needed to craft a new lesson.  After ten years of teaching 40-minute classes, this year we have 60 minute classes.  That means that after I accomplish my initial objectives of teaching students about the holidays in the French-speaking world, there is time to just have some Halloween-themed fun.  I am posting this lesson. before I actually teach it in case it gives anyone any ideas they may want to use with their students this year.  So, without further ado, here is an overview of what I will be teaching students in the days right before Halloween:

-First, via Nearpod, students will match up French Halloween vocabulary with images using the matching pairs feature.  Most of the words are cognates, such as "un monstre." or words we learned, such as "un chat noir."  I used to use this as an opportunity to review masculine and feminine noun markers, but we have not tackled that yet this year so that will not be the focus.

-Next, we will watch portions of all the videos in the playlist below.  For the Martinique video, students will be instructed to turn on auto-translated English subtitles so they can follow along (by the way, for email subscribers, you need to visit the post on my website to see the videos):

-Via Nearpod's Time to Climb game (which I will be talking about in a future post), students will answer a series of comprehension questions about the English.  I know the use of English here may be a bit controversial, but sometimes, often with cultural lessons, I feel that students would be missing out on a lot of valuable knowledge if there wasn't any opportunity to discuss the material in English.

-We will sing the song below, but I will have students look at this version with subtitles in English.  It's not culturally relevant, but it's a great way to reinforce the pronunciation of "C'est."

-If time allows, we will also watch this video, which is fun since most of the students have seen the movie:

-For the rest of class we will switch gears (using Halloween imagery) and do a bit of review using a shared PowerPoint, where students can drag and drop text boxes to form sentences on their assigned slide.  They will see a prompt, such as a ghost asking a happy witch "Comment vas-tu ?" and they have to compose the appropriate response.  I talked about shared PowerPoints in this post, but I'll be talking about this particular activity in a subsequent post.

If you'd like more detailed information about the contents of this lesson, feel free to contact me using this form.

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Harness the Power of Collaborative Slides!

Here's a video I made explaining how I've been using PowerPoint this year to encourage collaboration and interaction among students.  By the way, I had some technical difficulties, so it got a little cut off at the end!

Here are some of their "C'est moi" slides hung outside my classroom:

By the way, click here to view some of my students' "C'est moi" slides over on my class blog.

How would you use shared PowerPoints?

Update 10/23/20Click here for a template for the second activity in the video (the text boxes to drag and drop), and click here for a template for the activity I mentioned at the end.

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Getting to Know Each Other...Virtually

It's being said a lot, but this school year is certainly one like no other previously.  Our school is following a hybrid model, so four days a week, I have students in the room and on Zoom, and Wednesday is a virtual day.  The first week of school, however, was entirely virtual.  Most students come to school two days a week (during one of which I see them), but some students are entirely virtual.  With that, I have had to come up with some new, mostly virtual, ways for students to get to know each other, which incorporate both the students in the room with me and those at home.  Here are some of the methods I have used so far:

Zoom Polls

During the first week of school, Zoom polls helped me get a pulse on how everyone was feeling about the new school year.  It's great to have a little tool like this built within Zoom.  Here are some results:

Tu préfères

During the first week of school, I wanted to create an activity that would help students get to know each other, but also provide them with some comprehensible input.  I created a "Which do you prefer" activity, made up of cognates and words that can be easily illustrated with a photo.  I put all the text and images to one side, then saved each slide and used them as Zoom backgrounds (an alternative to sharing your screen which allows you to appear larger on the screen).  View the presentation below:

Open Floor

The first two days of class I actually met with all my students at once on a giant Zoom call.  During this time, I really just wanted them to get to know me and feel more comfortable with French class.  That's why I really just let them have the floor and say or ask anything they want, even if it wasn't related to class.  I made a Zoom background for the occasion:

Informal Comments

On Canvas, I have been allowing students to leave informal (and sometimes a little off topic) comments on announcements I make, or make similar comments in the Zoom chat.  Sometimes students ask each other how their day is going or how they are liking French class, and they respond with comments such as "Très bien !"  I appreciate that they are trying to use their French and I figure it replaces a lot of those informal conversations they would be having in person that build rapport and community, now that they are at home most of the time during class.  If it's slightly off task, I often let it go, and then rein it in only if it starts to get in the way of the lesson.  It's true, I told my students to keep chat to "academic only," but what can I say, I'm a softy!

Virtual Ball Toss

My awesome colleague Sarah first turned me on to this idea.  I have this goofy looking squishy ball that I love to toss around the room to elicit participation.  It's so weird looking and feeling that the hands instantly go up as soon as I pull it out because they all want to touch it.  Well, obviously that's out the window for the foreseeable future.  What I'm using in the meantime is a virtual, imaginary ball.  During the first week of school, I had each student toss a virtual ball to another student, greeting one another with "Bonjour."  It helped them learn each other's names, as well as an important word we use a lot in class!

Breakout Rooms

I've tested the waters with breakout rooms in Zoom.  So far, I've used them twice.  Once, during the first week of school, when we were all virtual, I sent students into breakout rooms to introduce themselves in French.  Yes, I know they probably spent some of the time just chatting, but with students not even being in the classroom at the same time as some of their classmates, I felt it was ok to give them a little bit of downtime to build some rapports.  In our school we use a teaming model, as is common with most middle schools, but students are mixed with students off-team in special area classes, so they generally don't know everyone when they come to class for the first time.  Another time, while students were brainstorming norms (which I will blog about separately), I paired them up with students in their opposite cohort (to the extent possible), meaning that students in the room were paired up with students who were at home.


Students completed a survey on Microsoft Teams, which included questions about their personal interests, learning preferences, and motivation for learning French.  When I read the surveys, I call up their school photo to try to match up a name to a face.  I then wrote an email to each student after I read their survey commenting on what they had written and letting them know I was looking forward to working with them this year.

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Why Learn French? My Students Weigh In

Every year at the beginning of the year I show my students a video that I made to get them excited about learning French.  Every 2-3 years, I update it to keep the contents relevant.  The most recent version I've made was in 2019, so this is the one the students saw this year:

After viewing the video this year, we had a discussion in class and then on Canvas about why it is important to learn French, and where it is spoken.  This year I took some of their quotes and made them into graphics on Canva to share with the class, their parents, and school community members.  Here's what they had to say:

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