G Suite and Formative Assessment


It’s almost report card time and most of us are focused on summative assessments. However, as with anything cyclical, we’ll be looking at formative assessments again before long! The good news is the G Suite for Education has a number of tools to help with formative assessment.

The simplest tool is Google Classroom. In Classroom you can ask your students quick questions and have a record of all their answers with very little effort. Depending on what you are wanting to know (do they know how to multiply fractions; can they give you an example of evolution at work?) you can choose short answer questions or multiple choice questions. If you ask the question at the end of class and then look at the answers before the next class, you will not only get an idea of who is understanding the information individually but you can also see if the class as a whole is fine as is or if they need more instruction.

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Google Forms gives you several ways to collect information from your students to help drive instruction. One of the easiest ways to do this is to create short, self-grading quizzes. The self-grading quiz serves two purposes. You get a spreadsheet with all of the results, so you can quickly see who understands the work. Your students get immediate feedback in the form of knowing which answers they got right and which wrong. Here is a short video to guide you through the process of creating a self-grading quiz.

Another way you can use Google Forms for quick, formative assessment is to create a short form that starts with a drop down menu with all of your student’s names in it. This will take a bit of work, but the form can be copied for later iterations. From there, you can create a “question” with the skill or outcome you are planning to assess (I did this with “Can say the date in French”). Your “answers” to this question are in the form of checkboxes containing your descriptors. I used:

  1. Great job!
  2. Wrong day
  3. Wrong date
  4. Wrong month
  5. Wrong year

What you will end up with is a spreadsheet with all of the information you need to decide who knows the information and who still needs further practice!

I am sure there are many other ways the G Suite for Education tools could be used for formative assessment. I hope these ones are helpful for you!


Some Google Classroom Fun!

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I’m not sure about the rest of you, but with FSAs finally finished and report cards looming on the horizon, I am in the mood for something fun that doesn’t tax my brain too much! So, this week we’re going to learn how to use Google Drawings (a very under utilized but awesome part of the GSuite tools) to create a custom banner for Google Classroom!

Google now has lots of choices for making your classroom look different from other teachers (more important in high school, where students might need to keep track of 8 different classrooms) but when Google Classroom started off, there was very little choice. You couldn’t even use your own image! However, despite the choice we now have,  sometimes it’s fun to have something that’s entirely unique and just yours!

To start with, find Google Drawing by going into your Google Drive, clicking New and scrolling down to More. Then mouse over to Google Drawings and open it up! Banners need to be a certain size in order to work well. To set the size, you need to go File > Page Setup. From there, open the drop-down menu and choose Custom. Set it to Pixels and put your numbers to 1500 and 400. That will give you a banner shape!

For the next bit, I figure it’s easier to show rather than explain so here’s a little video I created, showing you how to create a basic banner! Once you’ve mastered the basics, see how creative you can be!

Happy New Year!

welcome back

For the majority of the world, New Year’s Eve is December 31st. But for educators…it’s the last night before school starts up in the fall. The end of the Labour Day weekend. The start of a “new year.”

I can always tell when New Year is approaching. My sleep gets interrupted by “back to school” dreams, or sometimes, nightmares! This year I’ve had a recurring nightmare about being forced to teach Kindergarten – I wake up in a panic every time!

But it’s not all bad. I get excited about new school supplies, a new planner, freshly polished linoleum and plans for “the best year yet!” I look forward to reconnecting with colleagues and meeting new students, so despite the scary dreams, it’s a good time!

I thought I would focus the first blog of this year on a few reminders and tips for the beginning of the year, so here we go!

Patience Is A Virtue!


The more that technology becomes part of the landscape in our district, the more we feel we should be able to hit the ground running, digitally speaking, right away. Google, Fresh Grade, Math IXL, My Blueprint…as teachers we want to be able to dive right in and get started. But.

But we need to remember that Acceptable Use policies have to be signed, Google and Fresh Grade have to be opted into by families and, most importantly, the tech support staff need time to put all the “behind the scenes” pieces together. For instance, Fresh Grade gets our student data from MyED BC, but we can’t send that to them until all the classes in all the schools are settled and the last student and teacher changes have happened! That takes time and the collected efforts of a large number of people, so….be patient!

Google Is Always Changing!


It’s true – Google changes their stuff constantly. This summer Google Classroom has had a number of changes. Some of them are great, some are good and some are so-so. Although I could list them all out for you, Eric Curts from Control Alt Achieve does such an awesome job, I’ll just link out to him. Here is his blog post on the changes Google made to Classroom and here is his blog post on how to get around the biggest disappointing change, the missing About page (he has some awesome work-arounds!)



Digital privacy and the safety of our students is something we all need to take seriously. Our district, led by Sean Nosek, has worked hard to ensure that our use of tools like G Suite for Education, meets the expectations set out by the Privacy Commissioner. Teachers and students can safely use all of the tools located within G Suite. Where we need to be cautious is with apps and sites that encourage you to “Sign in with Google”  – they seem, on the surface to be safe. And they might be. But what they are NOT is part of the G Suite for Education. What that means is that they have not signed the same agreement not to data mine and there is no guarantee their servers are safe or even within Canada.

The exceptions to this rule (yes, there are always exceptions – life would be boring without them!) are tools like Discovery ED. With Discovery ED, you go to discoveryeducation.ca and then you DO sign in with Google. This is something the district has organized with Discovery ED, to make sign in easier but still safe.

If you are ever not sure about an app or site, please don’t hesitate to ask!

Quick Tips


Need to know how to get a student’s device onto the district network? Go here. (You will have to sign in to Inside45 to access this)

Students forgotten their passwords? You can reset them but remember that they need to be an 8 character password. Go here for instructions on resetting passwords. Again, you will need to log-in. If you have a new student or if you are teaching Grade 4 students, the district will supply passwords sometime in September.

So…enjoy your new students, get set to have a great year and stay tuned for lots of great ideas to use in your classroom!


Using Google Forms to Track Reading

dr suess readingOkay, so since this is the last post before Christmas (and therefore the last post of this calendar year) it should probably be a light post, full of fluff. After all, we’re all pretty tired and ready for a break.

However, I know that once the decorations are put away, the last cookie has been eaten and New Year’s Resolutions are made, some of us will start thinking about the next part of the school year and what we want to do better. And since I don’t plan to blog over the break, I thought I’d put this (somewhat) serious post up today.

importance of reading, infographic.jpg

I know that my students who read regularly have a better vocabulary and grasp of how the English language works. Knowing this, I want to do a better job of encouraging them to read and of tracking their reading. In the past, I’ve tried paper “home reading” journals – great in primary, not so effective in Grade 7! I’ve tried having the kids report out in class while I enter their reading on a spreadsheet, and while the kids (and the data nerd in me) like the idea of the spreadsheet, it took too much time out of our class and so was abandoned.

Then, about a month ago, I saw mention somewhere of using Google Forms to track reading. BINGO! Kids could self report like they do in the home reading journal, but they could do it online, which is way cooler when you’re 12! And, if I set it up correctly, I would get a spreadsheet with some great data I could use to track reading and know which students needed further encouragement.

For those who have not heard of it, Google Forms can be used for everything from student questionnaires to self-grading quizzes. And, as it turns out, a cool way to track reading habits! Forms is one of the tools we have in GSuite for Education – if you’ve never used it you should really give it a try!

To create my form, I started by thinking about what I wanted to track. Student name, date, name of book and pages read. Those seem like obvious things to include. I realized that I also wanted to track what genre of book they were reading, as many of my students seem to get entrenched in reading just one type of book. I want them to branch out. Finally, I decided I would like them to give a one sentence synopsis of what they read.

Once I knew what I wanted to put in the form, it was fairly easy to create the form. You will find Google Forms in your Drive (click the blue New button and then More – the icon for Forms is purple).  Here is a written explanation of how to create a form and here is a video that explains it:

Here is a link to the form I created for my students.

If you decide to try this, you can share the form out several ways. You’ll need to make sure you get things set up properly. In Settings (the small gear icon), make sure you have unchecked “Restrict to West Vancouver Board of Education Users.” Also, make sure you have unchecked “Limit to 1 Response”. Then make sure you Save.

Once you have done that, you can click the Send button. To get the link, click on the little link icon and copy the link. You can now send this out to your families via email or put the link on the About page of your Google Classroom.

As students start filling in the Google form, you will start getting responses. If you go to your original form, you will see there is a spot where you can see the responses.

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If you click on the word RESPONSES you can look at the responses in a variety of ways. One of them is a spreadsheet, like this:

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Hopefully you found this useful! Look for a future post on using Google Forms for quizzes. Have a safe, happy and restful break. Merry Christmas, Happy New Year and I’ll see you in 2018!

Google Classroom

google suite logo

I am starting my 3rd year of using Google educational tools in my classroom and professional life and I have to say that I am a convert….I’ve gone totally google-y! Sure, Keynote and HaikuDeck make cooler presentations than Slides and Pages is better for those who like their writing to have flair. Excel is a more powerful spreadsheet tool than Sheets and Photoshop is a more powerful image editing tool than Google Photos. I get all of that. BUT!!!! Google works on all platforms and it is solid and dependable. And as a teacher who works in a BYOD environment, that’s as good as gold!

I do use almost all the G Suite tools in my classroom, but I think my favourite is Google Classroom. Classroom is the one tool that Google really designed with us in mind and they’ve worked hard over the last few years to listen to feedback from teachers like us and to modify and improve Classroom to make it work for us and what we do.

As usual, Google announced some changes to Classroom this August. Most of them are fairly small and ones you might not even notice. The other thing they did, however, is create a whole website with tips and videos and advice from other teachers on how to set up Classroom and how to best use it. The site is called Welcome to Your First Day of Classroom and it’s got great content! There are how-to videos as well as PDF step by step guides. And for those of us who tweet (or who lurk in the bushes and watch the other birds tweet) you can learn even more by following their Twitter feed.

So…..are you convinced? Are you ready to become a Google-groupie? Or are you already there, like me? What do you like about Classroom? Leave a comment telling the rest of us what you like and the first 5 West Van teachers or admin to do so will get some cool Google stickers!

Password Responsibility

The first year I taught with laptops, I kept track of every student’s password for everything we used. My thinking was that if they couldn’t remember their information, at least I could quickly help them. Well, after a few years of that I realized that all I was really doing was making more work for myself and teaching them that they didn’t need to be responsible for their passwords because anytime they forgot, I would step in and fix it for them. Smart kids – not so smart teacher!

Fast forward to now and I make it very clear to my students that it is their responsibility to look after their usernames and passwords. Originally, I had them write the info in their planners. However, I very quickly realized that 12 and 13 year olds don’t use their planners so much, unless you force it on them and that’s not a battle I am willing to fight. For the past four or five years, I’ve used a sheet of paper I’ve created, with room for them to record urls, usernames and passwords. They are supposed to keep that in their binders, in the homeroom section. I even give them a plastic protector sleeve to keep it in! Here’s what it looks like:

password sheet

Not bad! It works really well except for the 3 or 4 kids in every class whose personal organization style can best be described as Pig-pen-like.

This summer, while surfing on Pinterest, I found another password sheet I really liked, created on Google Docs. It came from a blog called Ladybug’s Teacher Files. I liked it because it’s colourful (which pleases me) and because while I was bemoaning the fact that I lack access to a colour printer I realized (call me slow) that I could just share this with the kids through Google Classroom and they could keep their own copy in their files! That means that the only information I really need to keep for the kids is their school Google credentials (’cause yes, there will inevitably be those same 3 or 4 kids who forget even that!). By the way, yes I do realize the other one could be handed out digitally as well…it just took looking at someone else’s idea before that occurred to me!

colour passwords

So, for those of you who think it’s time your students were more responsible, here’s a link to an editable version of the first tracking sheet and the second. Just please remember to make a copy for your own drive before you start editing! Use and enjoy!