Monday, July 15, 2019

Summer Inbox Clean Up Tips

As a tech coach, I have had the privilege of serving hundreds of educators. In that service, I have caught glimpses of some totally cluttered inboxes. Many times, educators I serve tell me they didn't get a message I sent them. Below are some simple, helpful tips to de-clutter your inbox and not miss important communications. If you're receiving this blog post in your inbox, feel free to use some of these tips


As an educator, companies constantly solicit their products and services. One way or another, our email addresses end up on their mailing lists. As a result, the inbox is cluttered with updates and promotions. This clutter makes navigating your inbox troublesome and annoying. To begin eliminating your inbox of such clutter, start by opening one of these promotional emails and scroll down to the bottom of the message and, in the small, fine print, look for a place to click to "unsubscribe" or "change preferences".

When you click, you'll be taken to a new browser tab which will give you options to stop receiving emails from the company. Once you've get confirmation that you'll not receive any more emails, go back to your inbox and delete the message. If you have tons of messages like this, the process of unsubscribing will be a bit tedious, but well worth it the long run. As new messages of this sort arise, nip it in the bud by finding the unsubscribe button.


Think of labels, in Gmail, as folders for your messages. Often, a crowded inbox leads to you missing an important message. When you have a spare moment, create labels and move messages that need saving into the labels. Doing this will lessen the chance an message will get lost in the shuffle of a crowded inbox.

There are a couple of ways to create labels in Gmail. One is to, on the left sided tool bar, scroll to the very bottom and click create new label. Another way is to click the "Move to" button in the top toolbar above the messages. In the search bar that appears, start typing the name of the new label. It will say "Create new". Click "Create new" to create it.

To move messages to a label, when reading an email, click the "Move to" button at the top and choose the label to where you'd like to move the message. To move multiple messages, click the checkbox to the left of each message you'd like to move, then click "Move to" and select the label.


As educators, we often neglect to delete old messages. Our inboxes often exhibit traits of hoarding. Start with this simple criteria and ask yourself this question, "Is this message formal or informal?" If informal, my advice will be to delete it. Often, colleagues send us informal messages that often could have been a text message and didn't need to be an email. For those messages, delete away!

Google Hangouts, cellphones and informal communication

As educators, we usually want to keep communication among colleagues professional. In doing so, we often shy away from giving colleagues our personal cellphone numbers. I actually do give my cellphone number to colleagues, but totally understand why others don't. I like to give mine to them to colleagues because it provides an avenue for informal communication. Many questions people ask me don't need to be an email. Those types of communications are informal and will clutter and clog your inbox. By informal, I'm referring to messages about "what time" or "where" or any message you might get often in a text message.

If you're not comfortable giving out your cellphone number to colleagues, but don't want to clutter your inbox with informal communication, an app like Google Hangouts is a great alternative. If your school is using GSuite, Hangouts is already part of your account. No cellphone numbers are needed. From Gmail on your computer, on the left, below your labels, there is a "plus" button where you can initiate a private chat between you and a colleague. It is like texting, but through Google. Alerts for these messages appear at the bottom of your screen. If you're good at texting, Hangouts is for you. The best part is that these informal messages will not clog up your inbox.

Tuesday, July 9, 2019

Slide Into Booksnaps

With what do kids often dislike and struggle? Reading. What are kids these days seemingly obsessed with? Snapchat. Booksnaps take something kids don't like and struggle with, smashes it with something they love, and helps them engage in reading in a manner they didn't imagine. Don't just take my word for it. Check out what some of my students have said about Booksnaps.

"Booksnaps helped me understand a topic more thoroughly. Being able to use Bitmojis, I was able to better me sum up what was going on in the text instead of having to read everything blandly".
- Valerie Guzman, Class of 2020

"Doing Booksnaps, I got to annotate text and insert images that connected to that text. I also was able to explain my understanding in my own words. This really helped me because it made me read the text in a different manner, multiple times until I understood it enough to explain it with words and images".
- Melanie Figueroa, Class of 2020

For Snapchat users, you begin a Booksnap by taking a picture of text that resonates with you or is evidence of a claim or theme. You use the annotation tool to circle or underline the part of the text that resonated with you or is evidence. Use the text tool to rationalize why the circled or underlined text resonates or is evidence. You complete the Booksnap by inserting an emoji, Bitmoji or sticker to support what your circled or underlined and what you wrote as a rationale.

I know what many of you are thinking. We don't allow cell phones at our school. Snapchat is blocked by our network. What's BItmoji? Since Bitmoji is logged into via Snapchat, and Snapchat is blocked, how can we access it? Never fear, there are options for getting around those constraints.

Personally, when I Booksnap a book I'm reading for professional learning or pleasure, I use Snapchat. Actually, this the only thing for which I use Snapchat. When training teachers and students to do Booksnaps, I eschew Snapchat in favor of Google Slides. If Powerpoint is your preference, you can do the same with Powerpoint. If you're working with younger learners in Seesaw, you can do this with Seesaw (Check out this video for doing Booksnaps with Seesaw). For the purposes of this blog post, I'm going to explain how to Booksnap with Google Slides.

There are two types of Booksnaps I use frequently with students. One type I like to call a "Clue Booksnap". The other type I like to call "Picture Surprise Booksnap". Below, you'll find steps for teachers to create and students to engage with both types of Booksnaps.

Clue Booksnap: Teacher

The Clue Booksnap is way to get students to mark text, identify themes & claims, cite textual based evidence, rationalize and support thinking and more.

  • Start a slide deck template in Google Slides
  • Use Blank Layout
  • Screenshot a snippet of text (This requires you to have access to digital or scanned version of text)
  • Insert text box for clue (Clue should be what claim or theme of what you want students to identify evidence)
  • Insert text snippet image to slide (Be sure to know where on your computer the screenshots are saved)

Repeat steps for each Booksnap within the slide deck. I recommend 3-5 for primary grades, 5-8 for middle school and 8-11 for high school. Once your template has been created, assign via Google Classroom making a copy for each student.

Clue Booksnap: Student

  • Read text and scan for evidence of the clue
  • Use scribble tool to circle or underline evidence of the clue
  • Click line color button to change the color to orange. Orange is easier for teacher to see.
  • Click line thickness button and change thickness to 4px. This makes it easier for teacher to see.
  • Insert rectangle across width of text. Double click to type 1-2 sentence rationale
  • Insert 1-3 images or emojis to support your rationale (png preferred)

Picture Surprise Booksnap: Teacher

The Picture Surprise Booksnap is a way to get students to answer text dependent questions, color code, make inferences and think empathetically. Color coded text dependent questions should look something like "In (insert color), how did the character respond to the situation"? The picture surprise prompt should ask kids to "Copy and paste an emoji or image that represents how (insert character, person, group) might have felt when (insert scenario).

  • Start a slide deck template in Google Slides
  • Use Blank Layout
  • Screenshot a snippet of text (This requires you to have access to digital or scanned version of text)
  • Insert text snippet image to slide
  • Insert text box with questions and color coding “rules”
  • Insert text box for picture surprise prompt and arrow

Picture Surprise Booksnap: Student

  • Read text and scan for evidence of the clue
  • Use scribble tool to circle the part of text that best answers the question
  • Change line color to instructed color and line thickness to “4” (Makes it easier for teacher to see)
  • Copy and paste picture or emoji based on picture surprise prompt (png preferred)