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

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

Google Expeditions Come to CUSD

Imagine you could take your students on a virtual field-trip to almost anywhere in the world.  Now imagine themstudent's view being able to explore that virtual location on their own rather than watching what someone else is deciding they should see.  This is the new Google Expeditions that Montclaire Elementary piloted last Friday.

With Google Expeditions, students view a cell phone through special googles.  The image is a 360 degree image so that when the student turns his/ her head the image will change as well – its as if they are in the location.  What’s special about the Google Expeditions is that in Teacher viewaddition the teacher can direct the students to look in a particular direction and teacher notes are available for the teacher to describe what the students are looking at.

Students visited the moon, rainforests, the ocean, US National parks, California parks, and many more locations.  It was amazing watching the student engage in the learning, reflecting on what i would be like to be at the location and also the freedom they had to explore that location.  students view

Using Rubrics with Google Classroom

If you’ve gotten comfortable with Google Classroom and realized that the grading feature isn’t very robust – you do have some options.  There are 2 Google Add-ons that you can use to help manage the feedback you and fellow students give to each other.   You can create a rubric and use it with multiple assignments.  You can work as a grade level to develop and use a common rubrics for writing.  You can even opt to leave audio comments for your students.  Here are the components you’ll need:

Screen Shot 2015-04-29 at 9.43.07 AM

1. Google Classroom – this creates your roster and a place for the assignment.  You can invite your students by using the Groups feature to see all of your students at once.

2. Doctopus – This is an Google Sheets Add-on that works with Google Classroom to create a roster for each of your assignments and allows you to control how the documents are being shared.

3. Goobric – This is an Add-on as well that works with Doctopus.  You can create your rubrics and then give students feedback using Goobric.  It will append the feedback to the end of their document along with a recording of any audio comments.

You can watch the following video to see how this works together, and I’ve outlined the basic steps below, and here is a great resource with detailed instructions.


  1. Create an assignment in Google Classroom with each student getting their own copies of a Google Doc template.
  2. Have students open their copy of the Google Doc – they don’t have to write anything, just open it once.
  3. Create a blank Google Sheet – spreadsheet and start Doctopus – under Add-ons
  4. Select Google Classroom for the roster and then your class and assignment.  It will find all of the assignments that were opened in Step 2.  Don’t worry if some students didn’t open – you can easily refresh later.
  5. Follow the prompts in Doctopus and you’ll see it generate a list of your students with links to their assignments.
  6. Create a rubric in a Google spreadsheet with your grading criteria along the top and the scores in column A. Be sure to leave A1 blank.
    1. Save this rubric as in a folder called Rubrics – This can be a shared folder that you work on with colleagues.  The more simple/less wordy your rubric is, the better. You don’t want a rubric that takes up three pages of your students’ documents.  Here is an Example.
  7. From the Doctopus side pane, Attach Goobric and select the rubric from the folder you just created.
  8. When you are ready to give feedback, you can open the first assignment in the Google Sheet list and look for the Goobric “Eye” in the top Address bar of Chrome browser.  Screen Shot 2015-04-29 at 8.51.11 AM
  9. The rubric should show up on top and you give complete.  There is an option on the right side to record an audio comment.Screen Shot 2015-04-29 at 9.08.35 AM
  10. When you are finished grading the first paper, there is a Submit button and then Next to bring up the next paper to grade.

Bonus Credit:

  • You can grade a paper multiple times and the student will see each set of feedback so they can track their improvement.
  • Wlth Doctopus – you can give other students access each other’s papers so they can give feedback with the Goobric Eye.

ISTE Realizations

I’ve been back in the office for a week now and have had a chance to reflect on learnings from ISTE 2014 in Atlanta.  We were fortunate to have 2 poster sessions accepted there and shared our work with many other educators.  At such a large conference (~17,000 attendees), ISTE can be very overwhelming so I try to pick on a few topics and then look for new products on the exhibit hall.  I will try to share some of these with you here.

Appsmashing – this is an idea that has increased in the last year the focuses on how we use iPads for instructional projects.  I often get asked for the best apps to use and this is a hard question to answer.  There are many apps for learning vocabulary, state capitals, chemistry element, etc.  However, trying to capture all of these apps can lead to scatter and increased learning time as students learn the new apps.  Appsmashing focuses on creating a “suite” of apps that your students can use for multiple projects.  You use  multiple apps to create the individual components of a project and then bring them together in a final summative app and publish.

From what I’ve seem, the categories of apps you’ll want is: drawing, audio recording, avatar creation, whiteboard, ebook, cloud storage, video publishing. An example would be to use Paper53 for drawing graphics which is used in Explain Everything to create a whiteboard lesson, then add audio from Garageband, use an avatar from Tellagami to narrate. Use iMovie to combine these resources. The movie can be used in an iBook or published to Youtube. Drive is used to save the various components and final work.

You can see my list of resources on app-smashing at:

A second area of interest that I found at ISTE was formative assessment tools.  Mastery Connect just bought Socrative to add powerful tool to deliver assessments. Edulastic is a newer company to K-12 – they previously focussed on higher ed – they have a new set of math assessments and will be adding ELA in the next 6 months.  There were several sessions on assessment as well showing a growing interest in this field.

Other quick tidbits, I picked up: a demo account for Google Classroom, using Google Drawing to add interactivity to a Google Site, and creating interactive YouTube videos.

Appy Hour Thursday!

Appy Hour is back this Thursday (March13th) 3:30 – 5:30. We encourage all Cupertino employees to come out and talk with colleagues, share, listen, ask questions.  Food is provided via a donor.  This month we will be at Outback Steakhouse across the street (20630 Valley Green Dr, Cupertino, CA).  Please come and join us in this joyous practice!!