Google Slides

Google Slides may be great for presentations, but it is also a great teaching tool when parent-teacher conference time comes around. I took it upon myself to conduct student-led conferences with the help of….. Drum roll, please… Google Slides.

I created this template with possible measures in the speaker notes for students to follow along. I also provided a student led conference sample for students to refer to, in case they need some ideas.

I provide my students 10-15 minutes to fill in each slide according to the criteria on the  template. By doing so, students are taking the responsibility to input their scores, strengths, weakness, and setting goals. Aren’t we all working on reflecting and goal setting?  Students were able to be creative by adding a personal photo and style when designing their Google Slide. Students took responsibility for their conference, and I saw a large turnout of parents who showed up. Don’t get me wrong, there were those few parents that didn’t come, but no problem. The slide presentation format made it easy for those students to conduct phone conferences or the presentation can be easily printed out to be sent home, it is up to your discretion.

Image of a student and parent at a conference

Using Google Slides, students are able to lead parent-teacher conferences.

As with anything, when you invest your time during the beginning stages it goes smoothly when it’s ready to be executed. Here were some of my observation from the first parent-teacher conference:

  1. Parents were attentive
  2. Students were excited to share
  3. Students encouraged parents to come to see their Slides presentation
  4. I was a facilitator of learning rather than being the guardian of knowledge
  5. Parent, teachers, and students walked away feeling positive

Note: I did not go over any behavior during the conference, all conferences were data-driven.  

We are moving toward 1-to-1 devices district-wide. Let’s move forward with making the technology and home connection.

If you feel you need some more clarification and help with Google Slides, no problem. Come to my December 19th PD at Adams, and I can support you.  Email me at, and I would be happy to provide a screencast video instructions based on your needs.

Skill Mastery: Walk the Walk and Talk the Talk!

By Adriana Cruces

Currently, our school is using a new textbook, as we have navigated through the textbook in our second year after adoption, it has been found that most of the specific skills to become proficient in the subject and level have been missed by the assessments given by the publisher and or are at a higher level of study since the adoption was a college-level textbook.

Untitled drawing (2)One particular idea has been brought to the table: using the textbooks as a resource and not as the main tool used to drive instruction.  Why not select and construct mastery assessments that each student be given with multiple scenarios of assessment for one skill and be required to pass and master the skill at least at an 80% rate. This could possibly set the stage for students to know that the particular skill, one, it’s not going away, and two is really needed to understand the skills and know how to apply them in order to move forward in a real-life situation.

As a reflective practice, I have asked the question: What are those essential skills that each student must master in order to function and be successful in the next level of study? And How can I provide real-life scenarios where each student must depend on knowing how to apply this skill that will allow them to internalize and retain the learned objective? Finally, how can I continue to spiral those skills to ensure the use of the skill becomes automated and mastered?

Image of students and teacher discussing work

Educators need to work together to identify which skills students need to master in order to be successful in the next level.

Together with all reflective practices, I have come to terms that one single textbook cannot be and should not be the main nor the only driving force that provided practice for students. But rather, as a district, as a department, and as a single classroom, we could study the possibility of finding which essential skills must students master at each given level of subject matter in order to go on to the next level of study. How will students show they can walk the walk and talk the talk!

I would appreciate feedback on ideas that would help construct data-driven skills based level assessments when individuality in each class and each school and each district will be a factor as students transfer from one class to another or from one school to the next school or even from one district to the next. On more than one occasion, I have discovered that although we believe we deliver quality instruction in our individual classrooms, if one student transfers from one class to the next, or one school to another, the delivery and expectations of each individual classroom  hinder students success, as there is no common ground currently for some subjects here at SUSD! Shouldn’t we as educators be part of solutions! Shouldn’t we walk the walk and talk the talk?


Data may be a four-letter word, but that doesn’t mean we can’t grow to love using it. Throw in the G-Suite of applications, and using data has never been easier or more meaningful.

Data can be dull

Before going further, let me acknowledge that not everyone loves data. I admit to having been on the receiving end of some deadly dull data presentations. I’m sure you can relate: It’s early in the year and we’re asked to look at several slides of charts, tables and numbers. (We likely have a printed version in front of us as well.) We are then asked to note how one subgroup moved up in one area (applause) while another slipped in a different area (groans of concern). It is not as if we don’t want our school to improve — I certainly do — but somehow studying numbers up and down a page is nowhere near as inspiring as any scene from “Stand and Deliver.”

And let’s face it: Most of us got into teaching because of Jaime Escalante. Or John Keating. Or Erin Gruwell.

Like Gruwell, I want my students to become “freedom writers.” Like Keating, I want them to “find their own walk.” Like Escalante, I want them to discover the ganas to succeed.

Passionate teaching and data analysis can go hand in hand

Jaime Escalante may have put on a production every day for his AP Calculus students, but he was also mindful of the bottom line, especially pass rate and average score.

I have long taught AP English. Being passionate has never been difficult. Paying attention to the numbers has been more of a struggle.

I started focusing more on data after attending a Saturday AP seminar two years ago. That session made me face the reality that, although I loved teaching the class and many students seemed to enjoy it as well, the results needed to be better. When the goal is improvement, the first step is acknowledging the problem.

I decided I needed to do more than just give excerpts of released tests, only to forget the results the next day. I needed to record what I was doing, and I needed to record the progress of each student. How else could we establish a baseline and determine growth or lack of growth?

Using Google Sheets

All of my practice test data now gets recorded into one Google Sheets document. For those of you still using Excel, I urge you to shift to Google Sheets. This app includes almost all of the features you were using with Excel, including the same formulas, and it is much simpler. As with an Excel file, I create several sheets (which look like tabs at the bottom). The first is what you see below, a listing of the practice exam excerpts I have given, including a wealth of information about each: date administered, type of passage, number of questions, high/low score, average score/percentage, median score and number of students scoring 60 percent or higher.

8/22 Prose To the Lighthouse/Woolf (2012) 14 9 0 4.6 34.8% 4 2
9/6 Prose Life on the Mississippi/Twain (2012) 9 8 2 4.8 57.0% 5 7
9/21 Prose Portrait of a Lady (2013) – GROUP 11 11 4 7.8 71% 9 9
10/18 Prose “Pharmacy” (2013) – untimed/coaching 8 8 6 7 87.5% 7 14
12/6 Prose Northanger Abbey (2014) 12 11 3 5.7 47.8% 5 3
1/4 Poetry Shakespeare’s “Sonnet 60” (2013) 11 11 4 7.3 66.7% 7 8
2/10 Poetry Donne’s “Love” (2014) 11 11 2 5.6 46.6% 5.5 5
2/28 Poetry Pope’s Essay on Criticism (2014) 13 12 0 8 61.5% 8 10
4/18 Both Practice test (2016) 55 45 16 29.3 53.3% 29.5 6
Total, other than practice test 52.4%

After several months a table like this allows me to see the forest despite those pesky trees. Improvement becomes obvious, especially after the first test administration. What is especially impressive is the number of students scoring 60 percent or greater with each administration. A deeper analysis of that success also reveals the unfortunate reality that students near the bottom did not improve at the same rate as those near the top. This revelation helped me group students together, matching those who were more successful with multiple choice with those who struggled.

A more valuable sheet lists the progress of each student.

Name Avg 8/22 8/22 9/6 9/6 12/6 12/6 1/4 1/4 2/10 2/10 2/28 2/28 Avg PRAC
% PRO % PRO % PRO % POE % POE % POE % %
1 74.3 9 64.3 7 77.8 9 75.0 9 81.8 8 72.7 8 61.5 72.2 61.8 2
2 50 3 21.4 7 77.8 5 41.7 8 72.7 4 36.4 8 61.5 51.9 69.1 3
3 67.7 8 57.1 7 77.8 7 58.3 11 100 5 45.5 8 61.5 66.7 58.2 3
4 43.5 4 28.6 5 55.6 4 33.3 6 54.5 5 45.5 7 53.8 45.2 49.1 2
5 67.8 9 64.3 7 77.8 4 33.3 11 100 7 63.6 11 84.6 70.6 70.9 3
6 38.3 2 14.3 4 44.4 5 41.7 5 45.5 5 45.5 0 0.0 31.9 32.7 2
7 39.4 7 50.0 2 22.2 3 25.0 7 63.6 4 36.4 6 46.2 40.6 32.7 3
8 41.0 0 0.0 4 44.4 4 33.3 9 81.8 5 45.5 9 69.2 45.7 34.5 3
9 44.2 3 21.4 5 55.6 0.0 4 36.4 7 63.6 5 38.5 43.1 58.2 2
10 31.2 4 28.6 2 22.2 5 41.7 4 36.4 3 27.3 6 46.2 33.7 49.0 1
11 44.8 5 55.6 5 41.7 6 54.5 3 27.3 3 23.1 40.4 30.9 3
12 26.7 2 14.3 2 22.2 4 33.3 5 45.5 2 18.2 9 69.2 33.8 29.1 1
13 79.9 8 57.1 7 77.8 11 91.7 8 72.7 11 100 12 92.3 81.9 78.2 5
14 56.1 5 35.7 6 66.7 7 58.3 0.0 7 63.6 9 69.2 58.7 65.5 3
15 43.5 3 21.4 4 44.4 4 33.3 7 63.6 6 54.5 10 76.9 49.1 49.1 2
16 74.1 6 42.9 8 88.9 9 75.0 10 90.9 8 72.7 10 76.9 74.6 81.8 4
4.56 34.8 4.82 56.9 5.73 47.8 7.33 66.7 5.63 51.1 8 58.2 52.5 53.2

Data sparks discussion

You might be wondering at this point, “Isn’t this just a big dull table with numbers, much like what put you to sleep at the beginning of the year?”

Well, yes and no. Aesthetically, it’s not attractive, I’ll give you that. But these are my students. In my view I see names, not numbers, in that far left column, and I want every one of them to be progressing upward as we move to the right. I want to see the greens of improvement and the bolded numbers that indicate 60 percent or more. I share the story of growth (or stagnation) with each student, and we use the numbers to spur discussion: What is causing the improvement? Why do you do better on poetry than prose? Why are you continuing to struggle?

Without hard data staring us both in the face, it is easy to just generalize that “We are all improving.” In fact, some students need to try new strategies.

If you look to the far right you can see that not every student passed the test. (A score of 3 or better is considered passing.) But I can tell you, at least anecdotally, that all students took this process seriously because it was so systematic. Also, I am happy to report that this group of students from Stagg scored higher than the national average.

The data listed in this way also reveals surprises. Students 7, 8 and 11 all passed the test even though the practices leading up to the May exam would not have predicted that. (On the other hand, anyone would have expected Student 1 to have passed with flying colors, and yet somehow he did not.)

Since the numbers were so strong last year and the growth so dramatic, you can be sure I have used these numbers to motivate my students this year. Yes, data can motivate.

Process is simple

Creating this table is easy. Most of it is just inputting numbers next to student names. The formulas are basic, easy to learn and (best of all) easy to duplicate. For Student 1, for example, the formula needed to come up with his average is as follows:


To create the same formula for the other students, I follow these steps:

  1. Copy Student 1’s formula
  2. Highlight the entire column from Student 2 through Student 16
  3. Go to the pull down menu: Edit > Paste special > Paste formula only

Voilá. All of the student averages are now in place.

I have students keep their own data in their notebook, but what I keep in this Google Sheets document allows for greater analysis. Having so much raw data is like recording your weight daily — and doing it honestly. If you have a genuine desire to lose weight, then staring at the scale and recording that number everyday and then examining your long-term trends will cause you to reflect upon what you need to do to make the desired change. Similarly, if a teacher wants to make a difference with his or her students, recording data is an honest reminder of where they are and the extent of their progress. The ideal scenario, of course, is students who want to do better working together with a teacher who has the same ambition. Success may not be guaranteed in that scenario, but it is a lot more likely.

I have thousands of files in my Google Drive. And that is no exaggeration. Probably it’s many thousands. Only a few do I mark with a star, effectively bookmarking them (or designating them my “favorites”). My data file is one of those special few. I use it that often.

New year, new uses

Starting this year, I have expanded the use of this document. I now have sheets for essay scores, lit term quiz scores and writing conference comments. This document allows me to keep a comprehensive record of my students from the first week of school.

This is my 33rd year teaching, and I can assure you the passion is still here. I’ve been doing this so long that when I started teaching, the movies referenced at the beginning had not even come out yet. I admit to tearing up then, and still now, at the end of this movie.

Passion is great. It may even be the most important quality for a teacher to have. But if we want results, we need to do a bit more.

Google Sheets is a great way to start.