The beginning of the school year is the perfect time to jump in and start using Google Classroom. It is easy to navigate for you and your students. New to Classroom? The easiest way to get yourself set up is to search YouTube for some easy-to-follow videos.
Now that your physical classroom is up and running, let’s talk about using Google Classroom to help you work smarter and not harder.
When you assign work in Classroom and you make a copy for each student, you will now have multiple copies of the same Doc in your Drive. When you create your original using a Google Doc, click on the star next to the title. This will make it a template and much easier to find when you need it down the road. In order to find your original, simply do a search in your drive using the search terms “is:starred” and all of your templates will show in the results.
I learned early to create some kind of standard form of numbering my assignments. I have seen people use #001 or #AAA to keep their assignments organized and easy to find in the Classroom Stream. Numbering your assignments will make them much easier to find.
Google Classroom has a feature that connects each assignment to a student calendar. However, this feature works only for assignments with due dates. You can leverage this calendar feature by making everything an assignment in Classroom. Even if you are simply reminding students to bring something to class, read a chapter, or that tomorrow is an early dismissal, make it an assignment with a due date. Now it will automatically show up on their calendars. Teach your students early on to check their Classroom Calendars frequently so they never miss a due date!
There are no shortcuts expressly designed for Classroom but Alice Keeler, a Google Classroom aficionado, has pointed out that this combination of keyboard shortcuts really helps cut down on some time clicking in and out of each students work when providing feedback and/or grading it.
It may not seem like it saves you much time, but if you teach middle or high school and have upwards of 100 students it is worth giving a try.
You can provide your students with all the feedback in the world but if they never open up the assignment again they will never know. Here is a quick tip to notify your students when you want them to see your feedback and/or react to it in some way. When you are finished giving your feedback in the comments box, type the + character on your keyboard. Then begin typing the first few characters of the student’s email address. His or her full email address will appear. Take a moment to make sure you have the correct student’s email address, then click on the blue “comment” button and your student will be notified via email. If you teach your students early on to check their email frequently, this can become a valuable tool in assisting them with revising and editing their work.
If giving online feedback is not your thing and you prefer to print out your students’ work in order to comment, here is a tip to save you some time. Use the app from the Chrome Web Store called PDF Mergy. This feature will allow you to print all of your students’ work in one step, instead of having to click on each individual student’s work. You can find a great video on YouTube with directions that will walk you through it at goo.gl/ffKE97.
Classroom enables the use of the up and down arrows with the platform, making it easy to move from one student to the next when entering grades.
At this time, Classroom does not integrate with online gradebooks like PowerSchool or Genesis, and it’s time consuming to flip back and forth between your online gradebook and Google Classroom. There are a few extensions in the Chrome Web Store that you can use to split your computer screen. I prefer Tab Resize. It offers various configurations for splitting your screen so you can view your gradebook and Classroom within the same tab to make transferring grades a snap.
Early on, I put my grades in Google Classroom just because the option is available. Then I had the unfortunate circumstance of making a mistake when transferring a grade from Classroom to my online gradebook. Because of a typo, I shorted a student some points. It was then that I realized I was doing double work by putting grades in Classroom AND the online gradebook. So to save some time and potential errors, my students know that if I have graded an assignment that they completed in Classroom they look for a “1” in the grading section. This signals them to check the online gradebook.
Keep in mind you don’t have to grade every single thing you put in Classroom. Sometimes you may want students to practice a skill, brainstorm ideas, or simply work through the process. If this is the case, you can change the grading value to “ungraded” on the Student Work screen. The default setting is 100 points, but if you click on the down arrow you can easily change it to a different value by simply typing it in.
This is just the tip of the iceberg of what you can do with Google Classroom. Look for these two articles about Google Classroom in upcoming editions of the Review: “Liven up your Lessons in Google Classroom” and “Thinking Out of the Box with Google Classroom”.
Chrissy Romano Arrabito is a third grade teacher at Nellie K. Parker School in Hackensack. She is a Google for Education Certified Trainer who tweets @TheConnectedEdu and blogs at www.TheConnectedEducator.com. Romano Arrabito can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.