Google Sheets Planbook

Looking for a new digital planbook?

School will be in session before we know it and many educators are scrambling to decide which tool to use this year while lesson planning. Over the past few years, I have tried creating lessons using Google Calendar, Docs and Slides templates. Each of these tools makes it super easy to create a template, edit, revise, share and archive lessons.

Last year I tried using Google Sheets and decided this is the tool that best fits my needs as:

  • Tabs may be duplicated each week
  • You may share an entire Sheet or Tab with admin or co-teachers
  • Images are now easily inserted
  • It’s easy to merge and wrap cells
  • Color coding is easy with the paint bucket

Here’s the link if you’d like to make a copy of the Template.

Which tool do you prefer for your digital lesson planning?

5 Back to (Elementary) School Ideas with the G Suite for Education


The first week of school is around the corner and we are all scrambling for some fabulous ideas for kicking-off the school year and staying organized. Here are five ideas using G Suite for Education!

1: This is Me: Collaborative Slide Deck

Question: How could we have students introduce themselves to classmates and receive instant feedback?

It is so important for students and teachers to introduce themselves and get to know their classmates. Consider asking students (or staff) to create a slide about themselves and add it to a collaborative slide-deck. Then, students and staff may offer comments and feedback using the Commenting Tool. Don’t forget to include your own slide!

Our district’s theme last year was “This is Me! Who are you?” Inspired by music from the movie The Greatest Showman. Students put together the most amazing performance that was recorded and actually went viral. Consider including a video clip of the performance for inspiration using the Google Slides template below. It is so important that we build a community within our school. Sharing our goals, differences, and similarities is a great way to kickoff the school year! Template

2: Student Questionnaire

Question: How could we learn about our students interests and learning styles and share the information quickly with co-teachers?

Receiving input and feedback from students (and parents) is so important for understanding learning styles, study habits and other pertinent information. Google Forms makes it so easy to sort and share the information. Template for elementary school

3: Organize and Share your Classroom Library Inventory

Do you forget which books are in your large classroom library?

Question: How could we make our library searchable by titles, genres and reading levels?

My colleague, Lauren Fitzgerald asked if it could be possible to create a large database of all our reading books, including the genres and reading levels. This would make it incredibly easy to search for materials while lesson planning and sharing with staff. Together, we decided it was time to digitize the classroom library using Google Sheets and

Searchable Database of Classroom Library using

The first thing we needed to do with create a spreadsheet of our inventory. We then inserted code on a sheet labeled “Template below”. (If you’d like to learn more, my next post will explain how to make this all happen.)

Photo of Spreadsheet
Second Sheet has Code

4. Digital Morning Meeting Wall

Question: How could I reinvent my Morning Meeting wall to free up wall space?

Is your Morning Meeting wall taking up too much space? Consider going digital with Google Slides! Not only will you save wall space, you’ll also be able to archive past walls to review throughout the year.

Blog Post: Read post and get the template for editing!

5. Digital Hall Passes

Question: How could I log and sort student hall activity more efficiently?

Do you struggle monitoring student activity using a notebook sign-out system? Consider going digital using QR Codes!

By linking a Google Form to a QR code, students can scan the correct code whenever they need to leave the classroom. All data is then stored into a spreadsheet. The information can then be sorted and shared with parents, co-teachers or administrators.

Want to learn how? Here’s the blog post.

If you want to sort the student responses into separate sheets you can do that! Here’s a video tutorial explaining how:

Looking for more ideas?

Check out last year’s post “10 Smart and Simple Ways to Kickoff the School Year with the G Suite for EDU”

Sparking Innovation

All of these ideas started by asking a simple question: “How could we…?” Special thanks to my colleagues for asking questions and imagining the possibilities.

New G Suite Feature: Add Audio to Your Slides

Google Slides just recently received the capability to add audio to your slides! Simply click on INSERT and select AUDIO to add a file from your Google Drive. Unfortunately, the ability to upload files from your computer is currently unavailable.

Why add audio?

  1. Add audio recordings of thinking and explanations.
  2. Add narrations to presentations or digital books.
  3. Add audio directions for younger students.
  4. Explaining diagrams, maps or information.
  5. Add music to enhance presentations.

How may I add audio?

There are hundreds of audio recording tools available, however I prefer to use the Chrome extensions Cloud Audio Recorder or Mic Note as they will save audio files directly into my Google Drive. This will make it simple to insert the audio into my Google Slides.

Step 1: Add the Chrome Extension Cloud Audio or Mic Note

Step 2: Open the app and record audio

Step 3: Save audio into Google Drive. Cloud audio will do that automatically, while Mic Note will need you to switch the Option to Google Drive.

Step 4: Open Slides and go to Insert- Audio. You’re done!

Video Tutorial

Ideas? I’d love to hear from you!

Tips and Tricks for Google Slides Picture Books

Why Google Slides?

Teachers and students are loving Google Slides for digital storytelling projects. For years, Google Slides was known for presentations but now educators have found dozens of innovative ways to use Google Slides in the classroom. Google Slides allows students to collaborate, add music and videos, receive feedback, insert images, work from a template, research information, and add animations and transitions.There are so many features that allow even the youngest students to create a pretty impressive picture book. Hopefully, this blog will provide you with many different ideas.

In this blog, we are going to look at a presentation created by my 8 year old son as an example.

1. View the Presentation

View the presentation by clicking here. You should hear audio and narration.

2. Adding Music

There is a fun “hack” to add music and narration to finished slideshows. First, go to INSERT-VIDEO and choose a video from YouTube or your Google Drive that has music. Then, resize the video to make it as small as possible and place it in the corner of the slide. Next, change the video format settings so that the video starts playing as soon as you present the slideshow. You do this by clicking on the video and selecting FORMAT in the toolbar. Now, you may checking off the box to autoplay. Your music will now start automatically once you click PRESENT.

I selected “Mute audio” for the video on Slide 7 so that you could watch the action taking place, but not necessarily hear all the distracting and unnecessary audio. You may also set the start and end time for video playback.

Set Format for Video Playback

3. Inserting narration

We used the Screencastify extension to record my son narrating each page. Screencastify is normally used to create a video of your screen, but we are simply using it to record the audio while narrating the digital picture book. Then, we will follow the steps noted above.

My son named each Screencastify video as Slide 1, Slide 2, and Slide 3 etc. so that we would easily be able to locate them while inserting them into the presentation. He then used the brand new Screencastify Add-on to insert the videos into each page. As mentioned above, we then resized the video and set the formatting to allow the video to play as soon as the slide appears.

Another option would be to use Screencastify to record the entire slideshow at once instead of page-by-page. Then, you could share your presentation as a video.

NEW Screencastify Add-on

4. Using a template with placeholders

We did not use a theme for this presentation. I did however create a template for my son to use by copying and pasting text boxes with image placeholders for editing. To edit each placeholder, we clicked on the shape and selected REPLACE IMAGE in the toolbar. This allowed my son to easily add images without having to resize and crop them. It also added some uniformity throughout the presentation. I created different placeholders using the cropping tool. Or, check out for some awesome FREE templates.

Click on shape- select REPLACE-IMAGE

5. Creating and Adding Clipart

Clipart was created using ABCYA’s Paint program. My son quickly sketched his clipart and then saved it as a PNG file. This made it simple to click and drag the png file into the digital storybook. Or, we could have selected INSERT-IMAGE-UPLOAD. Did you notice the spelling “Mikey Mouse”? 🙂 ABCYA Paint is a great option for elementary school students.

In lieu of actual photographs, we could have created a picture book completely using student created clipart. Another option would be to add photographs of illustrations by selecting INSERT-IMAGE-CAMERA and taking a photograph. also has many copyright-friendly images with citations included.

6. Auto-Advance Each Slide

When you publish a slideshow, an option appears that allows you to set the timer to auto-advance each slide. Due to the length of his narration, we set the timer to 5 seconds. You can also check off the box to restart the presentation when finished. Finally, this option makes it easy to copy the embed code and add the presentation to your blog or Google Site.

Advance slides using File-Publish to Web

Do you have any tricks for creating picture books with Google Slides?

Tour Creator in the Elementary Classroom

What is Tour Creator?

Last year, Google released the web-based Tour Creator that allows users to create interactive 360 degree tours right from their computers. Photographs may be uploaded from the Google Street View app or directly from a computer. Users may add points of interest, photos, text, audio recordings, and ambient music to their tours which may be published as public or unlisted. Teachers and students have been really excited about using Tour Creator as teachers may now create their own virtual reality experiences for students.

Slideshow Tutorial

If you are not sure how Tour Creator works then check out this slideshow tutorial below.

Adding Audio Narration

Users also have the option to add audio recordings to enhance their tours. I used to narrate and download an MP3 file so that students may listen to narration independently using a shared link. At the elementary school level, I found this step necessary as I do not want struggling readers to miss out on any information during the tour. Plus, the students really get a kick out of hearing a recording of their teacher during the tour.

The goal for most teachers is to provide the virtual reality as a center that students may use independently. Otherwise, the teacher would have to guide every center rotation to read the text and advance the slides.

Tip: Include guest speakers such as principals, parents, students, and co-teachers in audo recordings.

Add Ambient Music Using YouTube

Teachers may also add ambient music to their tours. Consider adding classical music or even sounds from nature that coincide with the photographs. I used YouTube to search for and download copyright-friendly music.

Share Using Google Expeditions

Teachers may now add their tours to Google Expeditions by publishing their tour as either public or unlisted. Once the user logs in to Google Expeditions, they will then see an option to select from the “Library”. Here they will find the tours created using Tour Creator. Please note: I had to update and reinstall the Google Expeditions app to see the new Library update. The user may now download the tour onto the device.

The Good

  • Google Expeditions allows teachers to GUIDE tours with students following along. This method allows the teacher to keep students at the same pace while they discuss different scenes as a class. This is fabulous especially for elementary students.

The Bad

  • If you share your tour using Google Expeditions, the audio and narration will only play on your teacher device.
  • Teachers have to login to Google Expeditions on the devices in order to share their tours.

Share Using a Link

If a user shares their tour by copying and pasting the link, then the audience may view the tour independently while listening to the audio and ambient music on their own devices. Since we only have 8 devices in our school, teachers and students would use the devices in a small group setting. It would be ideal for the teacher to share information via an audio recording, while allowing students to explore independently at their own pace. This method also frees the teacher from having to GUIDE the center as they would using Google Expeditions.

How do students access the link?

Students are not allowed to open the devices at our school. Therefore, teachers would have to use Google Chrome to access the website or Padlet wall in advance of the lesson. To make things easy, I allowed teachers to email me the link to their tours and I posted it on my website. I also remind teachers they must TURN ON the narration and music before giving students the device.

Final Thoughts

I am really excited to create virtual reality tours using Tour Creator.
It is intuitive and easy to use.

Since our building only has 8 headsets to use for virtual reality, teachers plan to use the headsets in a small group setting as opposed to a whole class lesson. I was disappointed that Google Expeditions only played the audio through the teacher’s device. For that reason, we will most likely be sharing a link with students so that they may navigate the tour independently while hearing the teacher explain points of interest with the audio.

I’m hoping Google Expeditions will soon allow users to share tours with independent navigation and sound as an option on the student devices.

Google Sheets Holiday “Shopping”

Teach an introductory lesson to Google Sheets by doing some holiday shopping!

Link to Template (Click TEMPLATE in the right corner to make a copy)

Screen Shot 2018-12-18 at 5.23.07 PM

What will students learn?

Students will learn how to enter data, enter basic formulas, use FUNCTIONS, and create a graph by following the directions in the second tab. They can even checkoff the items as they work using the checkboxes.

Screen Shot 2018-12-18 at 5.25.38 PM.png

Where do students “shop”?

Students shop using this imaginary inventory. Shop for toys, household items, electronics, or even clothes and personal items!

Screen Shot 2018-12-18 at 5.38.40 PM

How can I differentiate for different learners?

This activity is geared towards students in Grades 3-5. You may differentiate the activity by using different templates linked using the Tabs at the bottom of the Sheet. For example, if you want a template with the formulas or headings already inserted, you could use the tab labeled “Differentiation with Formulas”.

Screen Shot 2018-12-18 at 5.27.59 PM

What do students graph?

I added this easy activity for students to graph sales of popular toys. Then, use the checklist below to analyze the data and enter formulas!

Screen Shot 2018-12-18 at 5.39.53 PM.png

How may I assess learning?

Use this nifty exit ticket to assess learning! Add questions, tasks and activities as needed! You can pretty much turn Google Sheets into an activity pack! Or, add a rubric on a new tab!

(Example Exit Ticket Tab)

Screen Shot 2018-12-18 at 5.31.31 PM.png

Do your students do any “holiday shopping” using Google Sheets? I’d love to see your lesson!


Evaluating the Authenticity of Websites

The Objective

This month, students in grades 3-5 evaluated the authenticity of three different websites. We know students must learn to evaluate websites as they often believe anything and everything that they read online. Students forget that anyone may create a website, so it our job to question whether or not the author is creditable. Also, students must be reminded that some websites may have creditable authors, but the information may now be outdated. Or, the website’s purpose may be to entertain or persuade, rather than to inform. If we are going to teach students how to use search engines and conduct research, then we must show them how to evaluate the search results.

The Lesson

Each class had roughly 15-20 minutes to explore the websites on their own. Fourth and fifth grade students had received the same lesson the year prior, only they were presented with a different website.

I introduced the following (fake) websites by stating that I would appreciate some student opinions before I started a project.

  • Third Graders: Dog IslandPreface: My dog has been acting up. Should I send her on a vacation to Dog Island?
  • Fourth Graders: The Northwest Tree OctopusPreface: I found this amazing creature online and realized it was endangered. Should we start a school fundraiser?
  • Fifth Graders: All About ExplorersPreface: We will be learning about different explorers this year.  Would this website be a good resource for me to recommend to teachers?

Assistive Technology: Read and Write for Google Chrome Extension

Since not all students are able to read at grade level, I reminded students to use the Read and Write for Google extension to help them read text aloud and define words. We used the highlight collector to highlight important information to support our opinions and then collected the highlights into a Google Doc. I find this extension to be extremely helpful with any and all reading activities.

The results were far from shocking.

Grade 3: Third graders decided I should NOT send my dog to Dog Island as it did not seem like a nice place. However, they did not question the website’s authenticity.

Grade 4: Fourth graders voted to save the Northwest Tree Octopus.  Only a couple students seemed confused while learning that this octopus lived in a tree. But, they still did not question the websites authenticity. Only one student raised their hand to share that they thought “something is wrong with the website”.

Grade 5: Roughly a quarter of the fifth graders picked up on the false information. I politely asked those students to hold their thoughts until after I asked the class to vote if we should use this website as a resource. The majority of the students still voted YES!

Action Taken

After I revealed the objective of this lesson, students laughed and pretended like they knew the websites were “fake” the whole time. But, in reality they absolutely did not. We then talked about how we can evaluate websites for authenticity and brainstormed many different ideas.

Students then used this Google Sheets checklist to go back and evaluate the authenticity of the website using the 5 W’s:

  • Who wrote the information?
  • Where did the author get their information?
  • What is the purpose of this website?
  • When was the site last updated?
  • Why is this site useful for your research?

Evaluating Website Google Sheet Template: Click USE TEMPLATE to modify.

Evaluating Websites PDF: If you choose to print hardcopy

Screen Shot 2018-11-14 at 9.41.48 PMConclusion

Not only was this lesson extremely important; it was also extremely fun! Many students laughed as they exited the classroom stating, “You got us again, Mrs. Boucher! Not next year!” Hopefully, they are correct.

How do you teach students to evaluate website authenticity? Have any great resources you’d like to share?

How to Write a Quality Comment

Fortunately, there are quite a few apps that allow students to leave quality comments for instant feedback to classmates’ projects, work samples or blog responses. Timely feedback is extremely important for student learning. However, the quality of the feedback is equally as important.

We need to teach students HOW to leave quality feedback for their classmates in order for it to be effective. Simply stating, “Good job!” is not enough.

Students must learn to dig deeper and write comments that include some of the following:

  • Compliments: Praising the author for their ideas.
  • New Information: Connections, questions or new information not mentioned in the post.
  • Digital Citizenship:  Students are quick to share personal information such as phone numbers, family details or thoughts about school. Or, they may be overly critical of their classmates. We must remember to teach students digital citizenship during our daily lessons.
  • Editing/Revising: The world of texting has definitely impacted the quality of digital responses. Students must spell-check and proofread before responding.

The following infographic may be helpful for teaching or revisiting key points. (Click to access template for editing)

Commenting Etiquette (4).pngWhat Should Students Do After the Feedback?

Often, students receive feedback and that is the end of the learning experience. Students must have time to:

  1. Respond: Have a discussion with their teachers and/or classmates.
  2. Review: Was the feedback useful? Can they make changes?
  3. Reflect: How did the feedback help the student learn? What would they do differently next time? What goals can they set for themselves?

How do you teach your students to write a quality comment?

4 Easy Ways to Integrate Tech During the Global Read Aloud and Collaborate with an Authentic Global Audience

According to the Global Read Aloud‘s official website, the Global Read Aloud was created back in 2010 with a simple goal in mind; one book to connect the world!

Although it may be easy to purchase the books and participate in the readings during class-time, educators may find it difficult to determine how to use technology to connect with like-minded educators and collaborate with classrooms around the world.

Here is an easy to follow infographic filled with 4 easy ways to connect your classroom and participate in the #GRA18 this year! The event starts the first week of October and runs through mid-November.

Just click the image for a copy!

Copy of Global Read Aloud.png

Are you participating in the Global Read Aloud this year? Are you using technology to collaborate with a global audience?

10 Smart and Simple Ways to Kick off the School Year with the G Suite for Education

Educators across the globe are inundated with tasks they hope to accomplish prior to the start of the upcoming school year. However, thanks to the G Suite for Education, there are many smart and simple ideas teachers can do right now to streamline their workflow, increase communication and share learning.  This blog will explore 10 smart and simple ideas for using the G Suite for Education this school year!

10 G Suite Ways to Kick Off the School year (4)

Infographic for blog. Click image for PDF.

google-calendar-logo.jpg1. Keep Track with Google Calendar

Google Calendar makes it extremely simple for educators to share and organize their calendars, create and add appointment slots, schedule Hangouts, add important test dates or events, and invite collaborators or participants. Users may share their calendars by embedding it on their Google Sites website or by sharing the calendar using Google Classroom.  Google Calendar also makes it simple to add district or administrative calendars to your calendar allowing you to to view multiple calendars on one page.

2. Create a Community with Google Classroom


Sharing and posting assignments has never been easier! Google Classroom allows educators to set due dates, provide instant feedback, send and receive private comments, and update students and parents on missing assignments. Teachers may also  post announcements, blog questions, surveys, and quizzes all within Google Classroom. Students are able to join their teacher’s classroom by either an email invitation or a class code. Teachers may share administrative privileges with co-teachers and/or choose to keep parents involved by inviting them to join and see their student’s work as well.

3. Join a Community with Google Plus or Twitter

It took me a few months to get the swing of things using the social media platforms Google Plus and Twitter, but the payoff has been substantial. Use Google Plus to join a community of like-minded educators and find out about the latest practices, newest download.pngtools, upcoming events, or best resources. Post a question and crowd-source hundreds of answers within minutes! Personally, I have found Twitter to be my favorite resource for personalized professional development. Join thousands of educators online in Twitter Chats and save resources right into your Google Drive!

4. Take Inventory Using Google Forms and Sheets

google forms.jpeg

Google Forms makes it simple to share a survey with students using a link, QR Code, email, or Google Classroom. Take inventory in students interests, learning habits, goals, concerns, learning styles, and questions. Share a Form with parents and learn about their questions and concerns as well. Collect contact information, volunteer availability, and even have parents sign up for conferences using the Choice Eliminator Add-on which will allow parents to select a time while only displaying available slots. All survey results will be archived into a Google Sheet allowing you to sort, share and filter.

5. Create a Website or Portfolio with Google Sites

Logo_of_Google_Sites (1).pngThe new Google Sites makes it extremely easy for educators to add information directly from their Google Drive by dragging and dropping files. Add text-boxes, images, calendars, and more all while creating a fabulous website for your class. Or, use Google Sites to have students create a learning portfolio. Direct students to add required pages such for classes or topics, customize the colors and artwork, and embed video reflections. Privacy settings are customizable allowing students to share their site with the world or just a select few.

6. Unleash Your Inner Artist Using Google Drawings


Google Drawings is a perfect tool for designing and personalizing your Google Classroom or website header. Also, consider creating a business card for your email signature, favicons for your websites, memes for your social media posts, posters for your classroom, or edit and customize your favorite images.

google docs.jpg

7. Share News with Google Docs or Google Slides

Collaborating, sharing and receiving feedback has never been easier thanks to Google Docs. Create your classroom newsletter template first by adding columns, images, headers and footers. Share with a co-teacher or admin for feedback and collaboration. Make a copy of the template for editing each month while sharing and archiving past newsletters using Google Classroom. Or, you can embed the Google Doc right in your Google Site. Students and parents will be so excited to receive your newsletters.

8. Stay Organized Using Google Drive


Now that you have created all these amazing surveys, images, Docs, Forms, and Sheets you will need to stay organized! Google Drive allows you to create folders and drag and drop files with ease. Place files into multiple folders using Shift Z. Share files with co-teachers or administrators with privileges to view, copy or edit. Color code your folders and and emojis for that special touch!


9. Stay Connected with Gmail

Gmail is the perfect communication tool for educators. If you’d like to delay sending your emails, you can easily schedule the emails to go out at any time using the Chrome Extension Right Inbox for Gmail. Add custom signatures and auto-response messages using the Settings.  Or, request a “read receipt” to see the date and time important emails were read.


10. Class Introductions Using Google Slides

Google Slides is one of the most diverse apps in the G Suite for Education. While many people use Google Slides for presentations, it is also a fabulous tool for jigsawing information or gathering formative assessment data. One smart and simple way to use Google Slides during the first few weeks of school is to have students import a slide introducing themselves to the class using a collaborative slide-deck with editing permissions.

Example: A teacher shares a collaborative slide-deck in Google Classroom entitled “Class Introductions” with editing permission granted to all students. Students then create a new slide of their own introducing themselves. Once finished, they add their slide to the collaborative deck by clicking on FILE>IMPORT SLIDES. Now, students may read their classmates’ slides and offer positive feedback, comments and questions. Don’t forget to add your slide as well.

In Summary

The G Suite for Education has so many useful applications that may help teachers streamline their workflow, get organized, communicate information, take inventory, and stay connected. I hope a few of these ideas have inspired you to kick off your school year.   How are you using the G Suite to prepare this year? I’d love to hear from you!