Thursday, August 6, 2015

Figuring Out Google Classroom

Google Classroom is a Google product that is available for schools that are a part of Google's Apps for Education program. Our school did not get access to Google Classroom until midway through the school year, last year, so I am looking forward to implementing this useful tool with my third graders this fall. This is the first in a series of three posts about Google Classroom. Part 2 explains how to set up a class, and part 3 explains how to set up assignments.

What Is Google Classroom?

Google Classroom is a way to manage assignments, projects, and assessments within a classroom framework. Teachers can create classes and then invite students (via their school-provided Gmail accounts) to join. Within a class group, teachers can post announcements, list assignments, provide spaces for classroom discussions, and provide feedback and/or grades on assignments and projects.

I am most excited about the ways that Google Classroom streamlines the use of Google Docs, Sheets, Slides, etc. Each class that you create generates its own folder within Google Drive. Each assignment or project that you create then gets its own subfolder within the class folder. This makes it very easy to quickly navigate to a given assignment.

In My Drive --> Classroom --> Name of Class --> Name of Assignment

Any time a student creates or edits a file for an assignment, that file automatically gets saved to the correct folder, and you can enable an option that also appends the child's name to the end of the file name. The sharing settings are also enabled automatically, giving you as the teacher immediate access to all student files.

Gone are the days of "But I thought I shared that file with you" missing assignment excuses and of scrolling through an infinite number of "Untitled Documents" trying to find a given student or a given project. Magical.

How I Envision Using Google Classroom with Third Graders

This year I am delighted to have access to a classroom set of Chromebooks. This is not a true 1:1, as the computers will stay in the classroom and be shared between two classes, so students will not be able to take computers home. However, through Google Classroom and Google Drive, students will be able to access their files from any computer.

In previous years my students typed final drafts of their writing and social studies projects in Microsoft Word and saved them onto USB flash drives. This enabled them to work on files both at home and at school.

As you might expect, there were a lot of problems with this approach. Flash drives continue to get smaller and easier to lose, especially as backpacks seem to be getting larger and more voluminous! (My favorite lost flash drive story involved a flash drive that got shut into the middle of a book and was not discovered until a few weeks later when another student decided to read that same book!) Kids also had trouble remembering to save files to the flash drive itself and would get home only to find out the file was saved to the hard drive of the school computer.

Now, with Google Classroom, I can set up an assignment for each writing project, for example Writing 01: Personal Narratives. Students can access Google Classroom from within their Gmail account. They will get an email from you each time a new assignment is posted, or you can have them sign into Classroom directly, using the same email address and password as Gmail.

Once they click on the assignment, they will see your posted instructions. Clicking the "Your Work" tab at the top brings them to a page where they can create a new file or upload a file from elsewhere. Clicking on Create -> Document generates a new blank Google Doc. Clicking the title of the Doc opens it in a new page, and the student can get to work typing! (As mentioned, the document is now titled the name of the assignment - name of the student.)

When they are finished, they can either close the tab or click the "Turn In" button if they are ready to turn in a completed assignment. Turned in assignments can be given a grade value, or you can leave comments.

As a teacher, you can access student files through Classroom or Drive. You can use the "Comments" button to leave comments or you can write directly into the document. (You may want to change your font color if you type directly into the document, to make it easier to see what you have written vs. the student.)

How Do You Use Google Classroom?

I am really looking forward to exploring more of the functions and features of Google Classroom. While the easy connection with Google Drive seems the most useful for what I hope to accomplish with my third graders, I am sure that there are many other great ways to use this new program. (For those interested in learning more about using Google Drive products with students, check out Debra Rosenquist's helpful article over at the new #cyberPD web site.)

This is the first in a series of three posts about Google Classroom. Part 2 explains how to set up a class, and part 3 explains how to set up assignmentsClick here to see all posts about Google Classroom.

Please share your thoughts and ideas in the comments below!


  1. Very informative article. Setting up all assignments in goggle docs is an excellent idea. Presently I have Assignments scattered in moodle, dropbox, notability and acrobat reader!

    1. Yikes! That would confuse me as a teacher, let alone a student. I'm planning to put together a bit of a series on setting up / using Google classroom, so I hope you'll check back. I really think it can help simplify things!

  2. I think you will find Classroom very useful since you will have the Chromebooks. I'm still undecided about trying it again, especially since my students don't have daily computer access. You and I really need to compare notes this year!

    1. Definitely! I'd love to keep up our collaboration and even get our classes connected. We'll be using KidBlog again this year, and I started a class Twitter account that we may dive into too.

  3. We're a 1:1 school with Google accounts, but we do not use Google Classroom. I will have to find out why not. Thank you for this post :)

    1. I think Classroom rolled out in the middle of the school year last year (we didn't get access to spring), but it is DEFINITELY something you'll want to use this year!

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