Emailing Large Groups of Students in 14 Steps

email a bunch of people


I like to have my students conduct peer evaluations. The advantages are that students can receive some form of feedback faster than I can give feedback to everyone. Students are able to see work samples from other students to give them ideas of ways they could improve. They do their peer evaluations against the rubric with specific guided questions to help them give good feedback which helps the reviewer to better understand the requirements and to provide quality feedback.

I use Google Forms to accomplish this. The problem is how to send out the feedback back to the students. If 30 students evaluated the other students in the class that is roughly 900 emails to send out. Copying and pasting each one is not an option.

Note that Gmail now has a limit of 100 emails a day, it use to be 500. If you are using a GAfE account, that limit is 1500. Hopefully your school is on Google Apps. Sometimes I can max that out if I am sending out feedback from all 5 sections of my class. In those cases I share the spreadsheet with other Google accounts that I have and I send it partially from those.

If you are using the NEW Google spreadsheets the scripts are no longer working. You now must use the Add-Ons. Luckily there is a mail merge script for the new Google Sheets.

Note: It is important when you want to do a mail merge that you have the email addresses of the students you want to send the emails to.

Step 1: Create a Google Form

Create your Google Form that your students will fill out. Make sure the data from this Form goes into a spreadsheet. I have my settings to automatically create a spreadsheet each time I create a Google Form.

Step 2: Duplicate the Data

I cringe at the idea of destroying data. Most likely I will need to clean up the data a little bit. On the spreadsheet tab duplicate the Form Responses tab. Double click on the duplicated tab and rename it. I usually name this “Data.”

Step 3: Move the Data Tab to the First Position

You can click and hold down the mouse button on a tab to drag the tabs around. You want to move this tab to be in the first position.
data tab

Step 4: Create a New Tab

I need to do a little manipulation, thus I need some blank space to work. Click on the plus icon at the bottom left next to the tabs to create a new tab.

Step 5: Copy the First Row

The first row in your data spreadsheet contains the questions you asked. Probably you want to connect the information in the peer evaluation with the questions that were asked. Highlight the first row and copy it.

Paste this into the new tab you created.

Step 6: Transpose

In a cell below where you pasted the questions, use the formula =transpose( .
This will switch the questions from horizontal to vertical.

Step 7: Paste Special

Now that your questions are vertical you will want to highlight them and right click. Choose paste special from the menu items and paste the values. This strips the transpose formula and leaves you with just the text.
Right click paste special

Step 8: Shorten Titles

It is easier to manage a mail merge if your column headers are a single word. On the data tab replace each column header. You can not duplicate the column headers, make sure they are unique.

Step 9: Copy and Transpose

You need to pair up your original questions with your single word. After you have renamed the column headers on the data tab, copy those values. Paste them on the spreadsheet where you transposed your questions.

In the column next to the vertical questions you will want to transpose the list of single words. Use =transpose( again.

You will also want to highlight this transposed list, copy, right click, paste special.

Step 10: Add << >>

In the next column you will want to copy the question list again. You can avoid this step by putting the short words to the left of the questions to begin with. I like having them in this order though.

In the next column you are going to want to append << and >> to the front and end of the single words. These are the merge tags for the “Yet Another Mail Merge” Add-On.


Obviously you want to replace the C5 with the location of the cell that has your first single word column header.
append merge tags

Copy and paste this formula for each single word column header.
Screen Shot 2014-04-20 at 9.27.36 AM


Some of the rows contain sensitive information such as the name and email of the reviewer. Some of the rows are data for me only.

Step 11: Craft an Email

Start a new email (Must be Gmail or GAfE email). You can use a merge tag anywhere you want to replace default text with what is in the spreadsheet. For example, I will have one column header titled “name.”

The merge tag is <<name>>.  You must flank the column header with << and >> in order for the mail merge to replace.

For my subject line I will typically do something like
<<name>>, your peer feedback from your project

Somewhere in my email I will paste the two columns from the spreadsheet. Hint to widen the columns widths in the spreadsheet BEFORE you copy/paste.

Step 12: X Out

You need to create a draft of the email. You do not send it to any recipients. Gmail saves your email automatically. You can close out of the email. It will be saved in drafts.

Step 13: Add-On

Back in the spreadsheet make sure you are on the data tab.

Add the Add-On “Yet Another Mail Merge.”
At the top is a menu option for “Add-ons.” Choose to “Get add-ons…” and type “mail merge” into the search. Install the “Yet Another Mail Merge.”
Screen Shot 2014-04-20 at 10.00.31 AM

Go back to the Add-ons and choose to start the mail merge.
start mail merge

Step 14: Choose Draft and Send

The first option is looking at your drafts. Find the draft email subject line that you want to send. For “Sender name:” you can type in who you want it to look like the email to come from. Usually I type my name, sometimes I get more creative. Click the blue button to “Send Emails.”
select draft


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A List of Twitter Educators by Subject Area

I teach pre-service teachers at Fresno State and I encourage them to develop their PLN on Twitter. A few of them requested Tweeps to follow that are subject specific.

A Twitter Win

This list by itself is a Twitter win. I had filled in a few Twitter handles and set the Google Spreadsheet to anyone can edit. You will notice how the list has exploded, truly crowdsourced. Some folks added additional columns and someone made the header look spiffy.

Add Tweeps

Do you know educators who are a good follow on Twitter? Tweeps who share resources, tweet about education and are willing to help other educators. Add to the list. Go to and type in a Twitter handle.

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What Do I Need to Get an A?

A plus!


How many times has a student asked you:

What do I need to get on the final to get an A?

Because I am a nerd, I of course create a spreadsheet to see how low I can score on the final exam and still get an A in the course. Another student in my class liked it so I created a more formalized one as a generic template. Have your students create a copy of this spreadsheet template so they can answer that question for themselves.

A Spreadsheet Template

This does not solve the issue in the slightest, but here is a template to help students to calculate what they need to get on the final to earn the grade in the class they desire.  You will want to make a copy of this spreadsheet:
Screen Shot 2014-04-17 at 9.54.44 AM


If you look at the bottom of the spreadsheet there are 3 tabs. The middle tab has the directions. The first tab is for calculating a what if grade based on total points. The third tab is for calculating a grade based on a weighted grading system.
Look at the tabs

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5 Chrome Extensions for Teachers – Part 10

Part 10 of my series on Chrome Extensions for Teachers.
Find the other 9 parts here: Part 1 - Part 2 - Part 3 - Part 4 - Part 5 - Part 6 - Part 7 - Part 8 - Part 9


easybibI love using EasyBib to create APA and MLA citations. This Chrome extension makes it even easier to build my bibliography. Instead of having to copy and paste the URL and opening the EasyBib website I can simply click on the extension icon. The EasyBib form pops up and pre-fills in the information.

Click Here to download the EasyBib extension.

Scroll to Top Button

scroll up Save classroom time by getting back to the top of the website quickly. Once you scroll down far enough the icon shows up in the upper right hand corner of the page. Click on it to scroll back to the top. Unfortunately this does NOT work in Google spreadsheet or Google Docs.

Click Here to download the Scroll to Top Button extension.


Screen Shot 2014-04-15 at 9.37.54 PM Too Long Didn’t Read. This extension summarizes an article so you do not have to read it all first. If you are reading a blog make sure you click on the blog post title or it will summarize multiple articles at once. You can choose what level of summary you want. Save yourself time in your trek to find resources for students or looking at articles provided by your PLN.

Screen Shot 2014-04-15 at 9.43.16 PM

Click Here to download the TLDR extension.

Check All

Screen Shot 2014-04-15 at 9.53.34 PMBeing a high school teacher with around 150 students I find I have to check a lot of checkboxes. Click on this extension to check all of the checkboxes. Better yet, use the uncheck all boxes option so you do not accidentally agree to save your password or other defaults on a website.

Click Here to download the Check All extension.


citelighter First you will need to create an account at

Toggle the Citelighter extension on by clicking on the blue highlighter icon. A toolbar will appear to allow you to capture information. Highlight the text you want to cite and click on capture. The text you selected will be copied into Citelighter. Any information such as article title, author, etc… that can be automatically picked up will be.
Citelighter Pop Up

Click Here to download Citelighter extension.

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Quick Web Navigation Tip: Space Bar and Shift Space Bar



When navigating a website it is quicker to hit the spacebar rather than scrolling down the page. This is also handy to keep your place. The spacebar sends you down a full screen length. This means everything on the screen is new information so long as you have not hit the bottom.

Shift Spacebar

The spacebar will leap you down the screen. Holding down the shift key as you strike the spacebar will move you back up the screen. Chances are you will accidentally hit the spacebar key while reading a website and lose your place. Shift spacebar will jump you back to where you were.

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Google Hangout on Air: Watching YouTube Videos

Watch YouTube together

One of the advantages the Google Hangout (GHO) has over Skype is the ability to watch YouTube videos together at the same time. I especially like this feature for online learning. When students are asked to collaborate together Google Hangouts can be a way for small groups to get together in real time. If the instructor creates or provides YouTube videos for instruction or to lead the discussions the small groups can watch the videos together in real time and discuss them.

Add the YouTube App

As you hover over the Google Hangout window options show up on the left hand side. If you do not see the YouTube app as one of the options click on the dot dot dot (…) and choose to “Add apps.” Add Apps

Find the YouTube app tile and choose to “Add to video call.” add YouTube app

Go to YouTube App

Each person in the hangout must manually choose to go to the YouTube app. You will want to instruct everyone in the hangout to choose this option.

Add Videos to Playlist

Someone in the group needs a video to share with the group. If the teacher has specific videos for the group to watch the video links will need to be provided and one student in the group will need to add these videos to the GHO playlist. Click on the blue “Add videos to playlist” button. Add videos to playlist

One person in the group pastes the YouTube URL into the search and presses the search icon. Microphones of everyone in the hangout are automatically muted. Anyone in the hangout can add videos to the playlist this way. Click the blue “Back” button to see the videos.
search the video and mic is muted

Watch Together

This is intended to be a collaborative experience. If one person in the hangout pauses the video it is paused for everyone. Pressing the next or previous icon next to the pause button advances everyone to the next YouTube video in the collective playlist.

Recording Paused

Due to copyright issues with videos if the hangout is a Google Hangout on Air the broadcast will be paused during the shared video watching time. If the intent is to record commentary about a video while watching it, a Google Hangout on Air is not the way to accomplish this.

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We Have to Do Things Differently

Sir Ken Robinson


I was presenting at the Pearson CITE conference in Fort Worth Texas last week. The opening keynote speaker was the very funny Sir Ken Robinson. One of the things he said was:

“We have to do things differently, We have to move on from some of the practices we have come very comfortable with.”

It is when we are uncomfortable that we are learning. The other keynote speaker Ian Jukes had us clasp our hands together to see if our right or left thumb was on top. Then he said to do it again but with the other thumb on top. He pointed out that it feels uncomfortable and we have this urge to switch it back. Doing things differently is uncomfortable.

The world is changing and it is uncomfortable for a lot of people. We can not put the technology toothpaste back in the tube. The innovations that have been coming out fast and furious are changing what is possible. This is causing another shift in the types of jobs people are going to be having in the future. It use to be that the majority of Americans were employed in agriculture (70% in 1870). It is now less than 2% of the population that is working in agriculture. This changed the culture dramatically. We are now in shifting away from these jobs to more creative jobs.

Technology gives me instant access to information. Looking at my tablet there is a specialized calculator for just about any math function out there. Not only will it calculate the values for me in a fraction of a second but in some cases it will also show all of the steps. I could tell students to put away their devices and put my head in the sand and pretend this technology does not exist. However, the reality is that this not going away. Very soon everyone will have some sort of mobile device and the technology we currently have is only going to get better.

So now that almost anything you teach is on YouTube, that Siri or Google Now can give you all the information you need to know at the point you are wondering, what are you going to do differently?

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iMovie: Show Advanced Tools



As a teacher I like to add a little commentary to some of the video clips I am sharing with students. iMovie allows me to drag pictures into the timeline. I can then use my webcam to tape myself talking about the pictures or video clips I imported into iMovie. The picture in picture option allows me to have my video small on top of the the picture or video clip.

Advanced Options

iMovie allows you to do a green screen effect, picture in picture, side by side and other advanced features.
picture in picture


In the iMovie menu choose “Preferences…” and check the checkbox for “Show Advanced Tools.” This is a one time menu setting.
iMovie Preferences

show advanced tools

Drag and Drop

Once advanced tools have been enabled you can select video clips and drag them onto the timeline. For green screen, picture in picture, or other advanced features you want to drag the clip on top of another video clip. A green plus sign will signal to you that you are adding this video clip onto the current clip. Releasing the mouse will trigger the advanced options menu.

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Google: Sign Out Remotely




It is important to make sure that you sign out of any websites you are visiting when you are using a public computer. If you forget to sign out of your Google account you are able to sign out remotely.

Details Link

details In the bottom right hand corner of your Gmail is a link that says “Details.” This link allows you to see where your account is logged in.

Sign Out

After clicking “Details” a pop up window gives you the option to “Sign out of all other sessions.” This will log you out of the library computer you forgot to sign out of even though you are now back at home.
sign out

Show Students

When students are at school it is likely they will sign into their accounts on non personal devices. Showing this trick to students will help them keep their accounts safe. This is also an opportunity to talk about digital citizenship and online safety.

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Random Student Chooser Template

Screen Shot 2014-03-29 at 9.48.16 AM


CLICK HERE ( for a template to randomly call on students.

This template is created in Google Sheets. If you are logged into your Google account you can use the File menu to make a copy.

Notice at the bottom there is a tab labeled “Roster.” Click on this tab to enter the list of names of your students. You can use this for each period you teach or for different groups you might have. Delete the default student names and enter in the names of your students.

Back on the first tab (Chooser) select the period you are randomly drawing from and a random name from the list will appear.

The spreadsheet uses a random number formula. The formula must be refreshed in order to generate a new name. You can refresh the page or type something into the spreadsheet.  A box is provided to allow you to type a word. Type a new word in the box to generate a new random name. Suggestion to type a vocabulary word or something meaningful if you are projecting the random student chooser.


Instead of entering in student names into the roster page you could instead list discussion prompts or vocabulary words.

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