Google (in the) Classroom: How to Maximize Efficiency AND Engagement Using Tech
Having devices in the classroom for students can seem intimidating. How often should you use them? How do you use them?
I remember being asked this in interviews five years ago. “We have iPads/Chromebooks, how would you use them in the classroom?” Far too often, teachers with devices use them minimally and in ways that don’t enhance learning. I’m a big believer in the SAMR model (read up on that here.) Our devices are made (and were purchased by your districts) for more than typing notes instead of writing notes.
I want to preface this post telling you about the structure of my classroom. We are 1:1 with Chromebooks, but I was 1:1 with iPads in the past and still used the ideas you’ll read about. Most of these can be done with just a few devices per classroom as well.
-Escape Activities: One of my favorite things about Google Forms is the ability to create response validation. Basically what this feature does is to have the form do a certain thing depending on what the student selected or typed. In my case, I love creating forms that don’t let them go onto the next page unless they type the exact correct answer. More information on that can be found here.
I used this idea to create my own version of “escape activities.” I’ve done a few typical escape or “break out” activities and the prep is… well, a lot. This type of escape activity is ready-to-go and requires zero prep for my students minus the optional printing of sheets. They still have the ability to crack codes, think outside of the box, and problem solve with meaningful content that I’m wanting to assess. Also, any escape activity I create can be found pretty cheap in my Teachers Pay Teachers store. I also created a “create your own” template to make your own which can be found here.
-Digital Exit Tickets/Quick Checks: Another way I use Google Forms multiple times a week is by creating and using digital exit tickets. These are great quick assessments and even help me form my math station groups (more information here.) All you have to do is create a form with questions related to the content you want to assess. I like to then put the responses into an automatic spreadsheet (click on “Responses” then the Sheets icon) to quickly see the overall understanding of my class. I can then make groups of students easily on what types of interventions they may need. And if you dread grading physical papers like me, it’s a great way to keep data organized and make grading quick. You can also make each form a “quiz” and have them be self-graded, but I try to do more short answer/paragraph than multiple choice, so I don’t like this option for my teaching style.
-Morning Check-Ins: Morning check-ins is an easy, digital way to individually “check in” with every student each morning to ensure well-being and understand them as people. I will say I don’t do these regularly anymore as I have a different morning routine, but they are a great way for busy classroom teachers to get daily insight on each child. Did they have a rough morning at home? Is a friend being not-so-friendly to them today? Are they anxious about a test? You can also find out fun things about your students too. I do implement these still for anytime we have a substitute and if I just have a doctor’s appointment or conference, I can quickly check-in with them as needed via Google Classroom even when I’m gone. It’s pretty nifty. Technology is neat. My friend Halee does check-ins daily and talks about them on her blog in depth here.
-Digital Task Cards: Task cards are great and versatile, but students being able to manipulate elements on them and keep data of understanding in one place is even better. You can create your own on Google Slides or Powerpoint then add editable elements that you want the students to manipulative after. Here’s how:
- Create the part of the cards you don’t want to be editable–the background, the question, any images, etc. Each card should be a separate slide.
- If on Powerpoint, save as a “Powerpoint Picture Presentation.” If on Google Slides, save each slide as a PNG.
- Upload into Google Slides. If you created the originals in Powerpoint, just import the Powerpoint presentation, open in Google Slides, and then “Save as Google Slides” under the File menu. If you created the originals in Google Slides, you will create a new slide for each card and set each PNG image as the background.
- Add in the editable elements. These could be text boxes, math manipulatives, or whatever else you want students to be able to change.
- Add as an assignment in Google Classroom and have it make a copy of the template for each student. Then you can see what they do on them individually within your Classroom folder in Google Drive.
If making them isn’t your forte or you want them ready-to-go, there are plenty of digital task cards already made on Teachers Pay Teachers, including some math ones in my own store.
-Graphic Organizers: Putting graphic organizers on Google Slides has allowed them to always be accessible to my students. When they want to write a story during Work on Writing time (I use the Daily 5 model in my classroom,) they can just pull up the organizers and use one they want to develop their idea. I also have students use them throughout reading instruction. While they are useful for whatever story we are using for our curriculum, they are also great assessment tools for independent reading. Having them ready-to-go digitally allows students to use what organizer fits their book’s genre and content along with having the results readily accessible to me to assess as needed. You can upload photos of organizers you already use for a curriculum, create your own, or download my entire pack that’s ready-to-go.
Obviously there are also more traditional ways that I use Google Slides. My students create presentations on Genius Hour projects, collaborate on science units, and more.
So this is nothing groundbreaking, but I love using Google Docs to have students type rough drafts. The comment feature allows me to add in comments as students are working or after even the revising stage when they claim their piece is perfection. I like to add in questions that provoke them to think about how they could improve certain areas. Sometimes I do this in real time, and other times I will do this after we are done writing for the day and then they can enter the next day with personalized guidance right where they are writing. It’s also helpful since I use the Daily 5 model for ELA instruction. Students can work in partners during Work on Writing to write a story and work on different parts.
The possibilities are endless when it comes to using the Google Suite to enhance instruction and the best part–it’s free! However, I have uploaded a lot of what I use in my own classroom to make your life a bit easier. Check out my Teachers Pay Teachers store for ready-to-go resources.