Updated: Nov 14, 2020
Google Classroom is great for sequencing online learning for students, especially during a time of distance learning. Google Classroom makes teaching more efficient and meaningful by giving educators a hub for student assignments and feedback, student collaboration, and communication. Classroom also seamlessly integrates with other Google tools like Calendar, Google Docs, Slides, and Drive. It’s helpful for managing all of the documents that students need to learn, practice, and demonstrate their learning. But without being precise in its structures, both teachers and students can easily get lost or overwhelmed with the amount of information.
This article will explore 9 Precision Points to help you as a teacher make your Google Classroom more precise - so that you, your students, and your colleagues can have the best experience they can online.
If you haven’t already, follow these steps to create a class.
Inside of a classroom, Google classroom has four tabs. We'll refer to these in the 9 Precision Points below.
Precision Point 1: Use a playground class to create and test draft assignments.
Why: This prevents students from seeing assignments you publish before you actually want to publish them. If you create and publish assignments in your main class, your students get an email notification. If you want to hide it from your students, Google doesn’t allow you “un-publish”. That can be confusing for students. If you delete it, you have to create it from scratch again.
On the Classroom Home page, click the + symbol and then choose Create class with the title of “Playground”.
Create a dummy Classroom called Playground. For any assignment you have already published, but you don’t want students to see right now, use the Repost feature to copy the entire assignment into the Playground Classroom. Then delete that assignment from the actual Classroom. That way, you never lose your created assignment and you can just re-post the assignment from Playground back into the main Classroom when you and your students are ready for it. This also takes them off of the class calendar.
You can make assignments ahead of time. Just keep them in draft form and assign them when you want students to actually work on them. Only post assignments when you actually want students to work on them. You can still make assignments and save them as drafts. Try to number them so you know what order they should be posted in (and what order your students should complete them). You can schedule assignments to post. This will help you batch your work and assign it over a period of time. Do you want students to read a passage one day and answer questions another day? Create two different assignments for them and schedule them separately.
Precision Point 2: Don’t post ANYTHING in the Stream.
Why: Posting assignments in the Stream doesn’t link those announcements to anything else and basically just clusters up the Stream. When you post assignments, your students get an email. The same happens when you edit assignments.
Instead of sending emails or posting announcements to the class' Stream, edit each assignment and/or add comments to it. Your students will see when it is updated and that information magically remains with the assignment that it should be matched with.
Precision Point 3: Use emojis to code learning activities.
Why: Using a recognizable symbol helps build routine and familiarity.
You can use emojis and other symbols all over Google - Google Calendar, Google Drive, Assignment Titles, email subjects, Google Classroom rubric, Google Forms, etc! Give completed units and assignments an emoji to show at a glance that they’re overdue.
Try these examples and share the ones you choose with your class!
Read this: 📖
Type into this: 📝
Make a comment: 💡 or 📮
Past due: 🔚 or 🚧
Steps: 1️⃣, 2️⃣, 3️⃣, 4️⃣, 5️⃣
Do a google search: 👀
Submit via email: 📤
This relates to another sub-point: include all of the materials and resources students will need in the assignment itself.
Precision Point 4: Use the rubric for each assignment.
Why: It creates a shared template for feedback that will help you be more precise and equitable in giving feedback and grading as well as just save you time!
Of course, you have a method for what is acceptable student work. Using the rubric feature in Google Classrooms will make sure that you are returning to the objectives or standards, which keeps you grounded. Google Classroom also makes this available to students when you create one.
Precision Point 5: Organize your assignment by Topic.
Why: This creates a sense of urgency and structure for the assignments that your students see and helps you over time to see what worked and what didn’t by topic. It prevents your Classroom from being just a long to-do list.
As you create assignments, go to the right side menu to use the drop-down to create a topic.
You can create topics by subject (if you teach a self-contained class), dates, or days of the week for example. Whichever makes more organizational sense to you as the teacher and is easy to communicate with your students will be the best.
Precision Point 6: Encourage Class Discussions right in Google Classroom
Why: Online discussion can be motivating and encouraging for many students! Keep those important academic and social emotional conversations happening outside of a brick-and-mortar classroom setting.
Go to a Class > Classwork > Create > Question. Enable the the “Students can reply to each other” option from the sidebar
Teachers can use this function to start a debate among students. You can add a question, choose from the short answer or multiple choices, add instructions (In the instruction box, include the expectations, any reminders, and sentence stems. You can even keep your discussions organized by using topics), pin a file, and most importantly enable the “Students can reply to each other” option from the sidebar to post the questions and let the students discuss the topic internally. That's as good as a group discussion.
Precision Point 7: Give feedback and return assignments - especially if you want them to redo an assignment.
Why: Show your students that you are paying attention and care about their quality of work. If you don’t return an assignment, the students can’t see that you have graded it (or not) and learning (or at least completing assignments) can feel isolating.
This can also make grading easy to manage as your students complete work at different times. Set aside a specific time every couple of days to check assignments. Then use the “private comment” button to give compliments or feedback to students personally. If you don’t grade student work that still needs to be updated based on that feedback, the grade shows “done” instead of an actual number. That indicates to you that you need to check that work for updates easily. Check out how to "Return work or download grades" section of this Google Support page.
Precision Point 8: Share your Classroom with teachers and specialists who also work with your students.
Why: This makes it quick and easy for a group of teachers to keep tabs on where their colleagues are in the curriculum and see what they’ve been doing lately, and it’s also an easy way to share resources. You can easily use “repost” if you like a particular assignment from another teacher’s classroom to use in yours.
Doing this can make creating accommodations and modifications easy for all parties. You can identify students who need special accommodations by subject, by accommodation, by specific skill sets, or by grade level. If you assign by grade level or subject, you can have different versions of the same assignment. For example, color code the levels (blue, green, yellow) and then assign each student a color based on ability and/or accommodation. Then when they login to Classroom, they know to do their colored assignment. If you need to make adjustments throughout the year, just switch up the colors the students were given.
Precision Point 9: Turn off notifications from Classrooms that you don’t directly teach & the Stream.
Why: Otherwise you’ll get a notification about everything - posts, comments, turned in assignments, etc - from every classroom you are a part of in your email box. Also the Stream defaults to allow students to post and comment - you really only want them to comment on assignments.
Counter this by limiting notifications to just the Classrooms you teach. With that said, respond to private comments when you can. Some really good communication can happen there for some students. If you are a part of other people’s classrooms, this point becomes high priority. Here’s the steps for turning off notifications.
Go to Settings. Under General, next to Stream, click Students can post and comment and then choose Students can only comment—Students can comment on an existing post, but can't create a post.
Less known, bUT Helpful, features
Apps that work with Google Classroom: https://edu.google.com/products/classroom/apps/?modal_active=none
Use a comment bank: https://support.google.com/edu/classroom/answer/9093530?hl=en
Create class summaries for parents: https://support.google.com/edu/classroom/answer/6386354
For administrators: create a Google Classroom for teachers on staff, with administrators as teachers and teachers as students.
This is a great way to minimize email traffic. An administrator can conduct staff surveys quickly and efficiently, post “assignments” like professional growth plans and allow “students” (teachers) to submit when finished, and post reporting resources and open up comments so that teachers can treat posts as discussion boards.