2018 Reflections

I saw this #myfives on Twitter and I thought what better than for my first post in five months and my first post of 2019 to be about my top five moments of 2018.  These are not all successes and not in any order.


WASC is a lot of work.  

Grant Renewal

Nothing like in the middle of your WASC visit finding out your grant renewal is due in six weeks.  And not like there’s any pressure writing a grant. Do a good job and your school gets 1.5 million dollars.  Don’t do a good job and your school doesn’t get 1.5 million dollars and 2200 students don’t have access to after school programs.  #nopressure


Because of the above two, I pretty much failed at my regular day job duties every day for the first semester.  And this was not the “fail until you don’t” or “fail forward” type of failing. This was flat out just not getting it done.  Not meeting the standard. Lots of room for growth. For the first six weeks of school it was, “Sure, after WASC.” Then it was “Sure, after the grant gets written.”  I messed a bunch of stuff up. I didn’t get a bunch of stuff done. But you know what? Everything was fine. I think. I think everything was fine, but since I was #failing most days I can’t really be sure.  But, I made it to January, so I am considering that #winning.

Mountain Biking

Technically I did no mountain biking in 2018, but the work I did in 2018 with my Peloton app and Weight Watchers led to me being able to mountain bike for the first time in seven and half years.  This was a sport that I did daily before I had my back surgery and which I was willing to give up to be able to walk again without pain. But now that I can mountain bike again…I can’t even explain.  It’s like meeting an old friend. I am so happy.


Later in 2018 I decided I should try to get smarter by listening to podcasts.  I’m not sure I’m getting smarter, but I am getting a lot of ideas and enjoying it.  One of my favorites is Conan O’Brien Needs a Friend in which Conan O’Brien, whom I love, talks to different comics.  I think what I like most is they discuss the craft of being a comic.  Being a comic is much like being a teacher and a recent trip to the Comedy Store in Los Angeles only drove home that point home for me,  In the latest episode, Dana Carvey talks about all of the work that goes into “a bit” and he says if he does his job right everyone thinks that he is just up there having a good time.  I immediately thought of teaching. If I do my job right, it’s seamless. It makes sense. It’s fluid and has a logical sequence. It’s satisfying to hear that someone as successful as Dana Carvey validate that making it look easy is hard work.

Look at me!  I wanted to post this by the end of January and I have.  #winning!

Getting Back to School

This is just a quick post to prove to myself that I can do a post in 15 minutes.  It’s my goal to be able to post more (or at all!), so I’m hoping if I can just set aside 15 minutes every once in a while, I can make something happen here.

I thought last summer was busy, but this summer was busier.  There was work all summer (WASC, 3 day summer bridge program, after school.)  I went to three conferences (ISTE, Visible Learning and California World Language Summer Seminar in Santa Barbara.)  My dog decided to go full on afraid of going outside.  It’s just been busy.

Here’s what I’m looking forward to for this next semester.

Pear Deck– I’m going full on Pear Deck with my college class.  I’m excited.  There’s some things that I will have to figure out.  Like my videos that I have auto play and auto stop won’t do that, but I think I’m smart enough I can figure out a way to make it work.  I am excited to use the Takeaways to have students do something with information they gained in class and I think mostly, with World Language, I’ll be collecting evidence of what they do in class.  I’m excited.

Explore the World with Google – I’ll be doing an hour and half Explore the World with Google mini-workshop for the Inland Empire Foreign Language Association on September 18.  It’s going to be soooooo fun!  You should come.

Family- While fixing my hair last week, I had a brainstorm idea for updating my family unit at the end of the semester.  I’m excited about changing that up.

That’s all.  I hope everyone has a wonderful and impactful 2018-2019!


Interpretive Reading Choose Your Own

I’ve been slowly re-vamping my units to include more interpretive reading and I’ve been using Google Forms for the reading.  This is a Choose Your Own reading activity that asks students to choose an animal to adopt as part of a bigger Adopt an Animal mini-unit.  Here’s the great cool part: it has different choices based on their answers, so that there are basically four different possibilities for reading.

Here’s how to do it.

Go to section

To make the choose your own, you have students go to a different “section” in the form based on their answer.  That process is simple enough, but it is helpful to plan out your sections ahead of time.  First, I plan, then I make sections with those titles, and lastly I add questions.  Here’s my planning document for this form:

Pro-tip:  Have an end page where everyone does the same thing at the end.  It’s just helpful for setting up the form to have everyone dumped back to a common destination.  In this form, the students all get dumped back to a page where they write about why they chose the animal they chose.

So for my reading, first students say whether they want a dog or a cat.  Then based on that they go to a different page.

I do not know much about cats because cats make me go to the ER and have breathing treatments and weeks of prednisone, so I had to ask some people about what kind of traits cat lovers look for when I was building my form.   Also, I told students if they didn’t like cats or dogs to pretend they did.  Maybe I’ll update it for other animals and maybe I’ll just continue to tell them to pretend.

There is a third dog; it is just not in the picture.

Once they choose a characteristic, students have three animals with those characteristics to choose from.  I added those by taking a screen shot and then inserting the image.

And then lastly, students tell why.


You can try out my Adopt an Animal Choose Your Own yourself by clicking here.

To learn more about how to set up this type of form you can watch this video.  (Not about reading, but a survey for after school.  It’s the same idea.)

Making the Internet Smaller

It’s been, once again, crazy busy, so I’m going to get out a quick post here, because I just haven’t had time to finish any of the longer ones.

I did a session at the CLTA Quest for Proficiency in March called “Search Faster and Smarter for #authres.” I highlighted a super underused feature in Google called the Custom Search Engine.  Here’s how it works- basically you create your own search engine page that looks like a regular Google Search page, but, and here’s the brilliant part: it searches only the pages you have pre-selected.

The Why

A lot of times you might want students to go out and search for things on the Internet, but the Internet is a big place and so you as a teacher can still give them the practice of search and making judgements about which pages to look at, while at the same time restricting the amount of extraneous incomprehensible nonsense they might have to wade through in order to accomplish a task.

Here’s a quick video that walks your through how to do this.

If you didn’t make it to the CLTA Quest for Proficiency – here’s the link to the slide show.  (The only thing it’s missing is that we did all of the searching about the Tour de France because it is the greatest sport in the world and the only reason to get out of bed in July. 🙂 )




Image Search

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Faster, No Math Required Feedback

I am on a quest this semester to make feedback as fast and effortless with the least amount of mathing.  I hate trying to math by myself.  Give me four numbers and unless they’re all 2, I’ll have a different answer each time I add them up.  It’s mind blowing how terrible I am.  I’ve pretty much decided that from this point on in my life, I am going to math only with the help of a spreadsheet because it’s just less frustrating for everyone.

In the past, I’ve never used Google Forms as a way to “grade” (give feedback) on student presentations because I couldn’t figure out how to have it automatically add up the points.  Then, my friend told me about Form Publisher Add-on.  And I thought, how did I not know about this??!!

Form Publisher is a Google Form Add-on that allows you to publish your form entry to a doc or an Google Sheet.  (And the Google sheet means no mathing by yourself!)  Add-ons are amazing little programs that help you do great stuff in Sheets, Forms, Docs and Slides.  In Forms, to get an add on, click on the three dots then choose “Add-ons.”  Search for Form Publisher and then click add.  To run it, go to the puzzle piece and chose it. (You’ll run it after you set up your form. )

The Why

For as long as I can remember, I have always had intermediate students do a two minute oral exposé once a month or once a chapter.  I give them the topic:  Research a store, a country, a famous scientist, a problem, present your survey results, etc – you get the idea.  When I had my combined level 3 and AP class, I used the topics to help the AP students prepare for AP.  (I tricked them and had them preparing even in level 3!  They had no idea.)  I continued this even with my college classes. Sometimes I have it really structured- sometimes I don’t.  This unit for college they doing some reading and comparing and presenting a thesis.  The first one was, “Tell me about yourself,  your family and friends and what role do they play in your life.” I like it.  Students like it.  It’s a nice way to have some presentational speaking on a specific topic that goes along with your theme.    I needed a paperless way to add up these points.

The Set Up

There are two things to set up for Form Publisher.  One is the form and the other is destination document.  For my form, I took the student email addresses from my Google Classroom and entered this into the first question.  This way I could click on the student and populate the column that Form Publisher would use to share the document.  (You won’t see this in the example.)  Next, I added the names of all of the students in the class along with my own.  I have always had students peer grade for oral exposés.  A student would get two reviews: One from me and one from the reviewing student.

The Rubric:

I really like the presentational speaking rubric for AP.  It’s easy to follow.  It’s clear enough without being too wordy.  And I’ve used this for years in the high school as well in my college class.   (Note: When I had the combined 3/AP class, I used the same rubric for the 3s.  Only “appropriate structures” has a different meaning for level 3 and AP.)  I wanted the rubric to add itself up, so I made one question with a number  for the points (5,4,3,2,1) and one with the comment for that point value.  I wanted them to be side by side, but without fancy coding in your sheet you’ll need to have two questions.  I repeated until I had all of the criteria.

The Destination Sheet:

I made a template sheet in Google Sheets.  Form Publisher had a pretty picture in their example, so I tried to mimic that idea with relatively little success.  Because the destination sheet pulls information from the form, you have to have “markers.”  These are marked by << >>.  (I don’t know what their English name is, so I refer to them as “French quotation marks.”)  These have to match EXACTLY what is on your form questions or it won’t work.

I used a basic formula to have the points add up.  Here’s an example of what it looks like for the student.  (This was a test one.)

Each time you submit the form, Form Publisher creates a new document (or sheet) and can share it with the student.  It’s brilliant!  No paper!  Instant Feedback!  I have a section on mine for the students to do a little reflection after their exposé and after they review their feedback because if you give feedback and you don’t have them do something it’s a waste of your time.

You can make a copy of my form here.

You can make a copy of my destination sheet here.

Form Publisher has its own really easy to follow tutorials here.

Advanced Search

Advanced search can help you refine your search and get what you want faster.  Learn how easy it is.

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Returning and Crushing

I’ve been absent from the blogging for a bit because I was in a déluge of work:  organizing with our local host committee for the CLTA Quest for Proficiency Conference in Ontario, CA (you were there, right?), preparing my four sessions for the conference, starting the new semester including a class that now has the the same number of students as the minimum requirement for using the plural form, writing of the WASC document (those of you in California will know the inflection I used on that word), and caring for, and preparing for an army of turkey babies to hatch.

tired bitmoji I'm pooped

I’ve got a lot of ideas to blog about in the next few months, but I thought I’d return today with my some people I have a professional crush on.

Eric Curts@ericcurts Eric Curts has the most amazing technology and Google resources and ideas.  Every time he posts something I feel like exclaiming, “What?! I didn’t even know I wanted to be able to do that!” They are mostly all applicable to World Languages and all are simple and thoughtful.   www.controlaltachieve.com

Atul Gawande@atulgawande One of the presentations I did at the Quest for Proficiency was on checklists inspired by Atul Gawande’s book The Checklist Manifesto.  I loved the book, but I decided I had a full crush after I watched his Ted talk on checklists for the 50th time.

Jason Fritze and Alina Filipescu- Teachers in the CI community and southern California know Jason and Alina.  I’ve heard their names for years, since we travel in adjacent World Language groups,  but it wasn’t until I helped with the technology in Alina Filipescu’s presentation at the conference that we actually met.  Then, I got to go back and see part of their presentation and I just loved their energy.  I don’t believe it would possible for someone to have left that session not inspired.

With everything slowing down, I’m looking forward to being able to blog about some of the projects I’ve been working on.

À bientôt!

Data Validation Saves You Time

I’m always surprised how little teachers use Google Sheets (or Excel) because it has so many features that help make all the little tasks we need to do as teachers less time consuming. One of these is Data Validation.

Data What?

Data validation is a neat little feature that adds a drop down menu to your cell so that you have some pre-set choices.  You set the choices.  Highlight the cells in which you want the drop down menu to appear, then in the tool bar choose Data>Validation.  From there, I generally choose “List of Items” and list what I want my choices to be.  (You can also require that the cell be filled in with a number or a certain text, but I never use those.)  Click to view a video that walks you through the steps.


Applications for Education

Faster Feedback

When I give an assignment, I have a general idea of all of the items I may need to comment on.  For example, I know I want to give at least one positive comment, at least one “work-on” comment and then tell them what to do next.  I’ve used data validation to give feedback faster, by setting up data validation with the most common comments I think I’ll use.  Then I don’t have to type them in one by one, over and over for each student.  It makes the mechanics of giving feedback much faster.  I can still type in a unique comment if needed, but I don’t waste time typing in the same thing multiple times.  I use a Google Sheets Add-On like Autocrat or FormMule to send or share the feedback with the students with a few clicks.

Story/Sentence Creation

Students who can’t produce their own language just yet, can create stories using data validation.  Here’s an example I made with vocabulary from the first hours of French.  Click on the image to make your own copy and to see all of the choices. It’s like structured sentence creation.

Student Choice

I use data validation to set the choices for my homework choices sheet.  Students click on the arrow and it gives them a list of approved choices.  I’ve also used it for Flipgrid review.


You probably keep attendance in your classes in your school’s student information system (SIS), but data validation can be a quick way to keep track of attendance for clubs or extra curricular activities or anything else you might need to “check-off” over a period of time.


I use a spreadsheet to grade my end of unit assessments.  I have four columns for each of the four sections.  I use data validation to put in the possible scores and then as I’m listening to students or reading what they wrote I use the drop down menu to input their score.  I set the spreadsheet up to automatically add up the points.  It’s much easier to click as I’m walking around with the iPad listening than to type.

Go ahead, open a Google Sheet and see how Data Validation can save you time!


Google Forms Test Security

I get asked all the time how to make Google Forms secure for test taking so students don’t cheat.  Whaaaat?  Students want to cheat?  Whaaaaat?  This technology…now all the sudden kids what to cheat.  They never did that before.

Here are some ways you can make your Google Forms tests more secure.

Walk Around and Supervise

If you’re unable to walk around and make sure kids aren’t cheating then assume they are.  There’s nothing that will ensure test security better than the teacher walking around.  That said, sometimes you can’t walk around and supervise.  (Like when you go back to work after back surgery and have to teach in a back brace for three months.  I did no walking around during those tests. ) One of my colleagues says if you walk around you can tell who is trying to cheat because they are very concerned where you are while everyone else is focused on the test.

Here’s some other things you can do:

Use Sections

Sections split your test up into “pages.”  Then you can shuffle everything on that page.  If you have a picture with questions about it the picture may appear at the end of the webpage, but I’ve given hundreds of Google Forms tests and as long as students know that they might have to scroll up or down to find the image there has never been an issue.  In general, I try to limit the number of questions per section to less than 10.

Click on the equals sign to add a new section and shuffle the questions in the gears.  Questions are shuffled within each section.

Add a Code

You can add a code by using data validation.   The first section of my test is name, and the code.  I usually make my code a number and as soon as everyone is “in” the test I change the code.  This way, students can’t log in unless they get the code.  Require the question.  Pro-tip: Check your test before you pass it out.  I’ve had teachers say that the correct code showed up when students typed in the wrong answer.  I always use the “number” “is equal to” and then add “Sorry try again.”  I add the code in the first section so that students enter their name and then wait for me to give them the code then they start the test.  

Stop Accepting Responses

As soon as the last student is done, turn your form off.  This will prevent anyone from accessing it when you don’t want them to.  When I begin a test, I keep the form off and make everyone click on the link and get the “This form is no longer accepting submissions” page, then I turn it on and then I have everyone refresh and then they start.  I just like for everyone to be on the same page.

Remove the Link

In Google Classroom you can add the form directly by clicking on the Drive icon and adding it.  This will allow you to import grades (if you want.) One of my colleague doesn’t do this and instead posts the link to the form in Google Classroom and as soon as student have taken it, he deletes that post from Google Classroom.  If you do this you won’t be able to post your scores in Google Classroom.

Establish Test Taking Procedures

A long time ago I got some advice that was revolutionary: establish test taking procedures and if someone doesn’t follow them you don’t get accused them of cheating- they just haven’t followed the procedures.  I had a student log in from home and take a quiz once.  I was highly annoyed, but fair play to her because I hadn’t explicitly said they couldn’t.  I add to all of my assessments now “Only assessments done in class and supervised will be graded.” And then I establish these procedures:  “You can have these tabs open:  Google Classroom, the form, and a tab with the accent codes on there.  If you have any other tab open you will earn a zero for not having followed test taking procedures.”  I add this in Classroom and I say it.  You could also add it to the form if you felt like you needed it.