Boost your efficiency by following twelve of my favorite strategies on Classroom.
It was the fall of 2015. I was two months into a new teaching assignment when I received a tantalizing one-liner from my principal.
That email sparked some serious curiosity and experimentation, and I’ve been a fan and booster for Google Classroom ever since.
The platform has evolved significantly over the last five years. It’s still not a luxury suite or application, by any stretch — it’s better to think of it as a shell that fits over (and heavily utilizes) Google Drive.
Still, it’s efficient. And practical. And at its price point — zero — it’s an excellent option for schools looking for a learning management system. It’s a platform that continues to gain popularity as more and more schools across America move to 1:1 practices, Chromebooks, and life in the G Suite. It’s for those educators that I want to share some of the tips and tricks that I rely on to get the most out of this platform.
12 Google Classroom Strategies to Start Using Today
First, the Big One.
1. Hide and save (don’t delete) packaged and posted assignments that you didn’t get to during class time.
Currently, Google Classroom doesn’t allow teachers to hide already-posted assignments. This actually makes a certain amount of sense on the Google side of things when you think of all the ways that a single assignment posted in Classroom embeds itself across Google Drive and Calendar.
But it can be a painful problem for teachers. Take this scenario.
Let’s say I posted an amazing short story activity the night before my English class. The text is attached in .pdf. Two hand-picked video clips are also included, as is a collaborative reflection activity attached as a Google Doc. A supplementary resource in Google Slides introduces students to relevant literary devices. And I’ve posted a selected learning target and added instructions in the assignment description.
Phew. That took at least five minutes — maybe more — to put together all those resources and post them as an assigned activity.
But then the day happens, and we don’t get to the planned activity. Something else gets in the way, and we never get a chance to start into it.
I’m left with a tough decision.
Do I delete the post and create it again before our next class? Or do I leave the post up, simply change the due date, and accept the fact that some students may read the story, watch the clips, explore the Google Slides, and basically consume the entire activity before the next class?
There is a workaround for this problem.
What I’ve done is create a dummy Classroom called Staging Area. Any time I find myself in a situation like the one I described above, I use the Re-Post command to copy the entire assignment into my Staging Area Classroom. Then I delete it from the actual Classroom where it will eventually live.
That way, none of my preparation is wasted, and I’m not repeating the whole posting process the next day. My delightful short story activity is saved — no spoilers. Before the next class, I simply re-post the assignment from Staging Area back into the right Classroom, and we’re back on track.
2. Enable real-time feedback for presentations.
Do yourself and your learners a big favor by copying and pasting evaluation templates into every private comment in advance of presentations.
Include spaces for overall evaluation, success criteria, star and wish emojis, etc. with spaces for feedback for every student in your class. With all of this put in place before student presentations, I can give students accurate and informative feedback in real time — while they present. It means I’m not evaluating their presentations after school, and they’re not waiting for feedback.
Here is the evaluation outline that I pasted into all my students’ private comments before their last Genius Hour presentations.
3. Use emojis to code learning activities.
Begin every unit title and assignment name with a themed emoji,
… and give completed units and assignments a checkmark emoji to show at a glance that they’re behind us.
4. Include learning targets in every posted activity or assignment.
This isn’t as much a case of convenience as it is great pedagogy.
It’ll send you back to the unit plan or the curricular standards often, keeping you grounded. And it’ll always be present to remind students what the goal of each learning activity is.
“Why are we doing this?”
5. Get a quick sense of your students’ progress.
I often post self-assessments in Google Classroom, particularly in Math units. They’re a simple but powerful way for me to collect data on my students’ learning and progress, which informs my next moves.
By posting a multiple choice question right on Classroom, I get these results. Click on any bar, and I see which students selected that level of proficiency.
6. Share homeroom Classrooms with all teachers who teach the same grade level courses that you do.
This makes it quick and easy for teachers to keep tabs on where their peers are in the curriculum and see what they’ve been doing lately, and it’s also an easy way to share resources. If I drop into Chelsea’s Classroom and I like how she set up a learning activity, I can use the Re-Post command to drop it straight into my Classroom.
7. Share homeroom Classrooms with all specialist teachers.
Allow your language teachers, art teachers, and band teachers to drop announcements and resources into your Classrooms. Yes, your band teacher might have their own Google Classroom set up for your homeroom students. But if they don’t, having access to your Classroom makes a great alternative.
8. Post once to multiple Classrooms.
If you’re a specialist teacher, take advantage of this feature. You don’t need to post assignments separately in each Classroom. Post to all the relevant Classrooms at once.
9. Adjust Google Classroom notifications to silence emails and notifications from Classrooms that do not belong to you.
After sharing the previous two tactics about sharing Google Classrooms, this strategy becomes important. Turn off notifications from Classrooms that you don’t teach.
If you don’t take this step, you’ll receive email notifications from every assignment resubmission or every private comment that every student in every Classroom makes. In my building, some teachers and EAs have access to up to ten or even more Classrooms. That makes for an awful lot of notifications!
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.
10. Structure weekly times for your homeroom students to review email inboxes and organize Classroom assignments.
For most middle and high schoolers, email is boring. My 8th grade stepson would say ew. They’re not interested.
But Classroom facilitates valuable teacher-student dialogue through email. I can post feedback in private comments in Classroom that shows up for students in the form of an email. I can email selected students to remind them to submit an assignment, post announcements about upcoming events, or post self-assessment check-ins to monitor learning. Most or all of those communications run on email, so it’s important that students check their inbox once a week.
They won’t do it by themselves, and we can’t expect them to. We need to set aside 15 minutes or more each week to make sure this life skill is happening.
Some will say that email won’t be around forever, and perhaps they’re right. But it’s been working well for the last 25 years, and it’s not going anywhere anytime soon. Make sure your students learn how to optimize their inbox.
11. Create a school-wide Google Classroom.
This allows school-wide surveys, discussions, hot lunch order form submissions, student submissions of pictures for the yearbook, distribution of announcements, etc.
Full disclosure: I’m not using this at the moment — partly in an attempt to slow the flow of ideas I push on colleagues in a new teaching community. But I’ve set this up at a previous school and it works wonders.
12. 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. Conduct staff surveys quickly and efficiently. Post “assignments” like professional growth plans and allow “students” (teachers) to submit when finished. Or, post reporting resources and open up comments so that teachers can treat posts as discussion boards.
Google Classroom. It’s not a mind-blowing utility, but it works. Follow these strategies to get the most out of Google Classroom, maximize your time and energy, and better support your learners.