Sharing Successes with Units of Study

At the end of each Units of Study unit, we like to share the successes and examples of student writing.  Here are 3 ways you might consider having your students share what they accomplished during the unit.  These are not meant to be perfect pieces of writing, but rather showing what the student is proud of.

  1. Create an animated version of the story.  With Toontastic 3D (Free) students can create multiple scenes and characters from their story.  They can animate each object as they narrate the story.  This is a great way to use the iPad to bring life to your story.  The final product is a video that an be shared easily.
  2. Sketchnoting – this is also called Visual Notetaking.  If you have ever seen a video where the animated hand “sketches” out the ideas of the speaker – that is sketch noting.

    With Units of Study, you can group your students in groups of 3 or 4.  Have 1 student read their story out loud to the their group. The other members then can use Sketchbook EDU to draw the story they listening to.  At the end the group members can share their drawing back to the author via AirDrop.  The author now has a visual of what their story “looks” like.  Before diving in, you’ll want to work with your students on practicing sketchnoting so they have some ideas and tools on how to do this effectively.  Use a story you are studying, perhaps in science or social studies and ask your students to draw what they are hearing.  Go slowly and read it out loud a few times.  Additionally, here are links to some tools that can help scaffold this concept. Here are some resources to teach Sketchnoting:

  3. Create an ebook using Pages to enhance the highlights of the story for the end of the unit celebration.  Alyssa Goularte’s 5th grade class used the magazine template to create an article based on their informational writing unit.  They used Keynote to create timelines, graphs, and graphics that were imported into Pages.  Pages then took the headings of the paragraphs can created headlines in a magazine format.  Listen to one of her students explain the process. Check out these examples: Magellan Columbus


Google Classroom Features


Google Classroom has added several features over the last 6 months that you might appreciate in your classroom workflow:

  • Parent communication
  • Annotation
  • Differentiated assignments

Parents can now receive weekly emails about their child’s assignments and keep up to date with your class.  They only have access to their child’s work and assignments.  They do not have the ability to see any discussions or other communication that might involve another student.  In order to sign parents up – the teacher needs to go to the Google Classroom – choose the Students tab and then enter the parent’s email address.  This may not be reasonable to secondary teachers with over 100 students. YouTube Tutorial on adding Parents.

Google Classroom & iPads – if you are using an iPad for Google Classroom, you now have the ability to annotate any document.  As a teacher you can share a PDF, image, Google Doc or other file and students can choose to annotate it instead of editing it. When they are done, it is submitted as a PDF back to the teacher.  This can be a great resource in math, science and other subjects where you need to draw to show your understanding.YouTube Tutorial on Annotation.

Lastly, you can now give assignments to different students.  Not every student might need to do the same work – you can now choose to give students the resources that are appropriate for where they are at.  When creating an assignment or post – you can choose which students will receive it.  YouTube Tutorial on Differentiation

We switched to Gmail!

First Things First

Staff, here is your starter to-do list now that you’re on Gmail so that you can get squared away for the start of the school year!

  • Create a mail signature
  • Enable the “Undo Send” option if you realize you made a mistake right after you hit “Send”
  • Set Desktop Notifications so you know when you get new e-mails
  • Create Labels (the new “folders”)
  • Set the Calendar Share Settings for people who you want to see your calendar
  • Set whether your calendar is visible to everyone in CUSDK8 or not

(See these videos for how-to’s)

Preview E-mails in Chrome Browser

If you are using Chrome for your browser, we recommend installing a Chrome extension called Checker Plus, that will allow you to easily see if you have any email and view it without opening a Gmail tab.

Preview Pane

Do you like having a Preview Pane where you can read the email and see a list of all your other emails on the side?  Enable the “lab” Preview Pane and set it up to look just* like it did on Outlook.

Setting up an iPad

There are a TON of apps, including the native Mail app. However, we have found that the best app is the Outlook Mail App (previously Acompli). You can sign into your Google account and it will allow you to easily view your mail, calendar, Google files, and more — in one app.

Get Help

Help Videos

For web based Gmail, we have created a playlist of videos showing you how to use Gmail and some specific preferences that will make your workflow easier: YouTube Playlist


If you use Chrome, you’ll notice in the top right corner a “Google” circle that when you place the cursor on top says” CUSD Google Help. This will give you short guided tutorials on how to do just about anything you are wishing to to. If you are in Gmail – it will give you Gmail tutorials, if you’re on Google Drive – it will give you Drive tutorials – it is smart like that! This a great quick reference and learning tool to become more comfortable!


Virtual Reality Field Trips Come to Cupertino

Students at Muir Elementary School had a chance to experience a new way for students to
travel to far way places.  Google Expeditions took the students to a variety of biomes around the world so students could understand better what they had learnIMG_20160531_131529455_HDRed in class.  Students went from the Antartica to the desert, to IMG_20160531_133351085looking underwater at turtles, and finally bring it back home by going into the California Academy of Science.  This was all within 30 minutes.

Using a set of material available from the Teacher Resource Center, students can look through a VR viewfinder (link goes to a short video) and listen as their teacher guides them through any of the 150 locations available.  Virtual Reality gives students control over what they want to investigate and allows them to feel like they are in the location.

IMG_20160531_135358708After visiting each biome, students brainstormed what they learned, experienced and what they wanted to learn about how climate change affected the biomes.  At the end the students compared the experience to a typical lesson

Google EDU has been taking the experience around the world to classrooms. back in November students at Montclaire Elementary had a chance to experience this learning, but that was limited to getting time on Google’s schedule.  Now CUSD teachers can request this experience for their class any day.IMG_20160519_170812711_HDR

A Lesson on Heat

Welcome to the next installment of our Guest Blogging Series!  This post comes from Nicole Konicke a teacher at Lawson Middle School.

Who would ever think that heat transfer could be funny? My 6th grade students were able to do just that in their heat transfer comic projects. Their projects were completed as a comic, using Comic Maker or Book Creator.  Technology has provided an outlet for my students to show their creativity.

The inquiry hook to our mini heat transfer unit was a convection lab. During the lab, students used hot water (heat source), a pan, and some food coloring to demonstrate a convection current. We followed up by watching Bill Nye Heat. Then, we began our project.

In this project, students were required to show their understanding of the three types of heat transfer: convection, conduction, and radiation through a day in the life of a molecule or a day in the life of a person as the character went through each type of heat transfer. They were responsible for including the type of heat transfer in action, how the heat transfer works, how the heat is being transferred, and where the heat was being transferred to. Students needed to have dialogue, represented through speech bubbles, between the characters.

We started our project by brainstorming the differences and similarities between the three types of heat transfer. I provided a list of scientific vocabulary that could be used throughout the comic. Then, we had a mini lesson on how to use book creator and comic maker. Students were given the freedom to explore the two apps for the rest of the class period. The final step before beginning the comic included story board completion. Students were to sketch and plan out their scenes prior to completing on the app.

My students did have some issues along the way, but they displayed their collaboration skills through the problem solving process. We all worked together to try to solve the issue and one student was able to come up with a quick solution. She was eager to airplay her iPad and share the solution with the class. The class was engaged throughout the entire project. I am continuously amazed at the work my students produce with their iPads.





Twitter in the Classroom

Welcome to the next installment of our Guest Blogging Series!  This post comes from Christina Tsuei a teacher at Murdock-Portal Elementary.

Now, more than ever, technology allows us to stay connected to the world around us. Twitter is an online social networking tool in which users can post 140 character updates of what is going on in their lives.

In my multiage elementary classroom, my twitter account is primarily available for my classroom parents to get a live update of what is going on in their child’s classroom throughout the day. Too often, students go home and tell their parents they had a “good” day and they learned “nothing” that day. My twitter account gives parents a way to get the inside scoop of their daily educational experience.

Throughout the week, I give students the opportunity to come up with questions that relate to something they have learning in class so that parents can feel connected to their child’s learning experiences and they can ask their child meaningful questions. This provides opportunity to have an open dialogue between home and school. Parents also have the ability to tweet our class back.

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Our twitter instructions are as follows:

  1. Take a Post It note
  2. Write your tweet
  3. Stick it on the display under the correct heading

Heading choices are:

  • “What did you learn today?”
  • “What did you enjoy doing today?”
  • “What did you find challenging today?”
  • “What did you do to be of service to others today?”

Our class twitter account also follows other teachers locally and around the world. My students were able to skype with a class in Palo Alto and dialogue about what they were learning and experiencing. The class has really enjoyed being connected to the world around them through Twitter!

Screen Shot 2016-01-25 at 9.21.24 AMYou do not need a twitter account to read the tweets. Instead just click on this link: and you’ll be able to see recent tweets. If you are a twitter user, feel free to follow @MsTsuei!

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Coding with Kindergarten

Welcome to the next installment of our Guest Blogging Series!  This post comes from Jenna Clarke a kindergarten teacher at Stocklmeir Elementary.

Why yes, you can have fun coding, even a kindergartener can code. Even I can teach kindergarteners to code, with help of course.  When I first heard about the “Hour of Code” I decided to step out of my comfort zone and give it a try.  After all, what is coding?  How does it work?  I asked our tech team for a volunteer to teach my class for the worldwide hour of code phenomenon that I had read about, and waited.  I was fortunate and Audrey Prouse – our Assistant Principal – offered to teach my class.  She came into our classroom and explained very well what coding was, it’s part of technology, and how it is like putting the pieces of a puzzle together. One step, or one piece at a time.

In kindergarten, the first part of the technology piece is learning to use the mouse. We used the mouse to learn directions, left, right, up, and down. Then we used the mouse to navigate the internet browser to find the website  We were using technology to code by putting the puzzle pieces together and we were now part of the “hour of code” participants.

I was motivated to learn more, so when I received an email from a colleague about the hour of code seminar presented by Embark Labs, I signed up. I attended the seminar, dreamt of coding, and the next day took what I learned and presented it to my class. This is what coding beyond the hour of code looks like in a learner focused kindergarten classroom.

After presenting the 3×3 grid on our carpet, I explained the directions and the “one step at a time” concept.  After we defined the words position and orientation, I shared that the goal was to move the box to each X on the carpet to “light it up” with the least amount of steps. Students were called up to hold the box to determine if the directions called out were a change in position (moving forward out of the cell) or orientation (moving left or right within the cell.) The students were fully engaged and ready to code on their own.

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We used the arrows as symbols when recording the codes on white boards

After the students were clear on the position and orientation concepts of coding they were assigned to groups to write out their own codes to “light up the X.” In small groups they were given a whiteboard, marker, and small dice to help with determining the movement on grids they drew on the whiteboard. Working together the students used the arrow symbols to record each step of the code. Once they had written down the code, they checked their work on the main grid on the carpet.

This was a great learning tool in the classroom to help the students really understand the basics of coding. They were having fun and fully engaged the entire time.

On our next visit to the computer lab, the students were ready to go beyond the hour of code and try some more advanced coding.  At we used our mouse to navigate to find the Lightbot application. Working together and independently the students moved the robot using the arrows that indicated right, left, move forward, and jump. When they had completed the steps they were able to self check to see if their robot was able to light up the cubes. When they completed the task successfully, they were really excited. “We are coding!”

Coding in Kindergarten, why yes, they can!  Watching my students go from learning how to use a mouse, start the computer, navigate google, finding the website, use the applications to code, and properly log out of the computer, was a wonderful experience.