Tuesday, November 29, 2016


Anyone who spends more than just a basic amount of time around social media begins to realize that hashtags are way more than just something which can be simply (and at times thoughtlessly) included in social media posts.  Hashtags can be an extremely powerful tool in bringing people together (who otherwise wouldn't be connected) as well as a potentially dynamic way to share a collective story via social media.

Through this perspective I began reflecting on how Cherry Creek Schools tells our all-encompassing story via social media.  Hashtags such as our department's #CCSDTech, our STEM and Innovation Department's #CCSDSTEM, and our district's use of #GreatNeighborhoodSchools via our communication department's Twitter feed serve somewhat smaller group needs extremely well, but we can undeniably do one better as a whole.  We're a large organization, but not too large to come together and rally around what really matters... and that's us.

I invite you to consider including the hashtag #ThisIsCCSD in your posts when you would like to contribute to the collective story Cherry Creek Schools tells on social media.  The vision is for someone who would like to know more about what CCSD is all about to click on the hashtag and experience what we all do, who we all are, and what we all value.  This is something we can rally around and something we can, without a doubt, be very proud of.  The stories are already there.  I see them all of the time.  All that's left is to make sharing a priority and simply include the hashtag.

Let's tell our distinctive and unique story.  Our audience is ready.  Let's inspire them.  


Tuesday, November 15, 2016

I'm Thankful for Google Drawings

As Thanksgiving draws near, I know some of you are looking for creative, innovative ways to engage your students for the short two day week before Thanksgiving break. 

Recently, as I was researching some new ways to use Google Drawings in the classroom, I stumbled upon a blog post by Kacey Bell (@ShakeUpLearning) about the idea of creating online Magnetic Poetry. Instead of using a magnetic white board and magnets with words, Kacey created a Halloween Magnetic Poetry template in Google Drawings. It was a huge hit, as you can see if you check out what people were saying about it on Twitter. Some teachers used this as an independent writing activity, and others had students work together on one drawing to come up with some great collaborative poems and stories. This could also be used as a whole-class activity using an interactive whiteboard. 

Kacey Bell did not have a Thanksgiving template created for Magnetic Poetry, so I found one from Jamie Forshey, another teacher blogger, and adapted it a bit to my own liking. When you click this link, it will force you to make a copy of the Thanksgiving Magnetic Poetry drawing. 

Feel free to share the link above with your students, or you can make some changes first. You might want to change the picture, or add or remove some of the words to adapt the activity to the grade level you teach. The words are actually pictures so they look more like magnets, but you can easily add more by typing words into a new text box with a white background. To remove words you do not want in there, just click and delete. When your drawing is ready, you can force a copy to your students by first changing the end of the URL to say "copy" instead of "edit," then sharing the link with them. Remember that they will need to share the drawing back to you if you would like to have access to their work. This pro tip can be used for any Google Docs, Sheets, Drawings or Slides. 

Of course, if you are using Google Classroom, you can send a copy to each of your students there instead of forcing a copy using the method above.  

I hope this activity not only serves to engage your students in a creative activity before Thanksgiving, but also sparks more ideas for you to use Google Drawings with your students. Please use the comment button below to share those ideas with our followers!

Thursday, November 3, 2016

Guest Blog: Google Hangouts by Melissa Abels

Thank you to Melissa Abels, 3rd Grade teacher, for being our CCSD Tuesday Tech Tip guest blogger!  Melissa has done incredible work with engaging students in a collaborative inquiry based learning experience using Google Hangout.  We asked if she would share her experience and insight implementing a Google Mystery Hangout

As a 3rd Grade Teacher, Google Mystery Hangout was the perfect interactive addition to really �show� students the five different Regions of the United States! Google Mystery Hangout is essentially like �Skype� or �FaceTime� with another classroom somewhere around the world. Students ask questions back and forth to determine a class�s location based on inferences, mapping skills, and clues from the other students.


After teaching about the five different regions of the United States, I set up a Google Mystery Hangout with another classroom in each of the five regions (Southeast, Northeast, Midwest, Southwest, West). My students were able to use their knowledge about each region�s characteristics to ask questions, determine the region the Mystery Classroom was in, and then use geographic clues to determine the state in each region. My students were able to ask the other class questions about what it�s like living in that region, the weather, sports teams, etc, which were questions the Social Studies Curriculum wouldn�t answer. I love that my students were able to get answers to their immediate, real-life questions through this awesome tool.

Getting Set Up

Before we �Hungout� with other classrooms, I had to coordinate with another classroom around the country to find a time and date that we could get our classes together. Give yourself enough time to do this! The communication process with other teachers about dates and times that might work took longer than expected. Be sure to keep the time-zones in mind!

Test out the connection and volume before it is time for the actual Hangout. Sometimes being able to hear each other got a little tricky. Test volume, speakers, and connection first. Also make sure that you are connected so your students will be able to see the other class but also so that the other class can see your students.

Google Mystery Hangout is a lot like 20 questions. Students will ask yes or no questions back and forth to determine location. I recommend playing a few games of 20 Questions with your class for them to get the idea.


When it is time to hang out, you want all students to have a job so that they all contribute to the success of the team. Assign or let students pick jobs before the Hangout actually starts so that you are prepared as it begins. My jobs were:

  • Greeters: These (2) students say hello, introduce your class, determine who wants to ask questions first
  • Inquirers: These (2) students ask the questions from your class
  • Answerers:  These (2) students answer questions from the other class
  • �Yes� Sign: This person holds up the �Yes� sign if �Yes� is the answer to the question as the answerer answers it
  • �No� Sign: This person holds up the �No� sign if �No� is the answer to the question as the answerer answers it
  • �We are thinking� Sign: This person holds up this sign when your students need time to collaborate or talk
  • Think Tanks: These (2) students put all of the clues together and determine what question we want to ask next
  • Question keepers (2): One person records questions your class has asked while the other records questions the other class has asked.
  • Mappers: These (2) students look at a United States map of just the states as well as one with physical features to help give new information about what to ask to the Think Tank.
  • Clue keepers: These (2) students record what we already know in an area where all students can see.
  • Runner: This person moves between the Think Tank and the Questioners. Once the Think Tank decides what we want to ask, the runner tells the Questioners. 
  • Photographers: These (3) students circulate around during the Hangout taking pictures of students at work.
  • Problem solvers: These (2) students work together to synthesize all information and get to guess the other class�s location. 
  • Closers: These (2) students thank the class you Hungout with, summarized the session, and provided information about our classroom, school, city, and state.

After the Hangout

After the hangout, I had students journal to me about how they thought it went, what they liked, and what they would change. It was a great reflective piece to know more about how this process was for them and if anything needed to be changed before the next hangout.

 Tips and Tricks

  • Remind your students not to wear clothes that would give your location away (Ex: A Denver Broncos shirt).
  • Go through examples of what the students might ask to help determine location (Bigger scale questions at first and then more specific ones.)
  • Hangouts will usually take about 15-20 minutes.
  • Prepare �Yes,� �No,� and �We are thinking� signs ahead of time
  • Remind students that background noise makes it very hard for everyone to do their jobs
  • The Hangout runs very quickly! Do not be hesitant to take the time that you need. 
  • It will seem chaotic for the first few Hangouts while students learn their roles and their jobs. It�s not! They are just excited and collaborating!
  • Always have a backup plan in case a Hangout falls through.
  • Adjust jobs as needed. Add jobs that students see a need for.

CCSD Bright Spot: 5th Graders Create YouTube Style How-To Videos Using WeVideo

When Technology Teacher Jen Sevy from Fox Hollow Elementary kept hearing her 5th grade students explain how they learned to do things they...