By Rebecca Takacs
There is a constant drive for teachers to be more digital in their instruction. Let’s face it, there are a variety of digital platforms that we can use to help our classroom run efficiently, but some of these platforms are free while others can be costly. If your district is a Google Suite district, then let me open your eyes to Google Sheets. Before I started using Google Sheets for student assignments, I used it only to collect information for student growth objectives and other sorts of data. Three reasons you should consider using Google Sheets in your classroom are that it can be self-assessing, formatted for your assignment, and versatile.
When you format Google Sheets so that it self-assesses, it opens up space for you to spend more time individualizing instruction for struggling students or to enrich other students. Self-assessing Google Sheets allows your students to see whether their answers are correct. If you are a math teacher, there is no way to show work, but I have had my students show their work on a whiteboard or on paper.
Google Sheets become self-assessing when you apply a conditional formatting rule. It is important that the rule is formatted carefully. You know if it works if the cell changes to the color of your choice. This has worked wonders for my students because they get the instant feedback when working on their assignments.
The second reason that you should use Google Sheets is that it can be modified and formatted perfectly. If you’re a perfectionist, you can format the size of the cells so that everything is the same size. On other Google Suite products, I have struggled to make everything neat and formatted precisely. Being able to merge cells and change the width of the columns and rows, has allowed every piece of my assignment to look neat and straight.
Another option to formatting is making sure pictures fit perfectly in the cell. Google Sheets has the option to insert a picture into a cell, and as you merge them the picture gets bigger. This allows you to keep everything in line and nothing seems out of place.
The beauty of Google Sheets is that it can be used for a variety of assignments. For starters, you can use it to create simple worksheets. But as you get comfortable with Google Sheets, you can create more interactive assignments such as pixel art, mazes, crosswords and word searches. These assignments require more time and preparation because they include a variety of components. Nevertheless, the assignments are raved about by students, and they enjoy completing them.
Another way you can use Google Sheets is to have students use it as a spreadsheet for calculation. In my seventh-grade class, I used Google Sheets to have my students keep a running log for their businesses. They learned how to create formulas and calculate their net profit. The students enjoyed this assignment, and it gave them a useful life skill.
Google Sheets can be across grade levels. I encourage you to search YouTube for a variety of videos on how to create assignments with Google Sheets.
Rebecca Takacs is a math teacher at Highland Park Middle School. She is a member of the NJEA Early Career Network. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. For more information about the Early Career Network, visit njea.org/earlycareer.