10 Google Classroom Hacks

Updated: Jun 6

Guest Blogger James Robinson

When I think about where we were one week ago, many of us were thinking the usual:

“Did I make enough photocopies of that task?”

“What book will I use for my reading rotations today?”

“Should I go to the toilet before I start this next block?”

“Oh no, do I have parents in class helping today?”

“I’ll just check the staff calendar to see if there is anything extra on today”

“Where did I leave my drink bottle and keys?”...

Fast forward only a few days and the questions seem to have not only changed completely but also increased ten fold...

“Have I given editing rights to students?”

“Did I schedule the post for today?”

“What class did I publish that material in?”

“Are my instructions explicit enough, yet simple to follow?”

“How can I make this bigger so I can read it?”

“Did I answer that child’s comment clearly enough?”

“Will the students be able to follow this task?”

“How do I make a collaborative document?”

“What is a good way for students to learn remotely, but not be on a computer all day, yet still have accountability to tasks?”

“What is my password to this website? It is normally just saved on my school computer!”

The questions go on, and many teachers have needed to adopt a new teaching style overnight. The professional learning and development that has swept across our country has been remarkable. I stand proud to be part of such a flexible, resilient and cohesive teaching community. To all my fellow workers on the ground, keep doing what you are doing, continue building relationships and don’t underestimate the impact your teaching still has on your students.

For those who have taken on using Google Classroom, here are some of my top tips to help you save time and some features I have discovered to make your teaching load a little easier:

Scheduling posts

This may seem simple, but it can be a massive time saver! When you go to post anything like material, assignments, questions and so on, you can do this at any point in the day and set it to post at a particular time. For example, my school does a morning check-in and an afternoon sign off. As you all know, time flies when you are teaching so it is really handy to have these set up so that you can continue working with students or planning and know that your information will be shared with your class.

So when I start my day at 5.00 am, 6.45 am, 7.13 am...etc I can say good morning to my class but have this set up to post at 9:00 am. I can also have my afternoon reflection and sign off set up ready to post at 3:00 pm so that students can continue being in their routine (routine and consistency is so important for our learners).

To do this, you set up your posts as usual but go to the little drop-down arrow to the right of the assign/post button and select ‘schedule’ here you can then set a date and time for your information to be pushed out.

Using an iPad to do your marking

How fun is it when you find out something by mistake? I was sitting on my iPad last night checking through some student work and needed to comment/edit a section of their work. I realised that if I tap the pencil icon in the app while viewing their slides, it opens a new window and I can then annotate directly onto their submissions and mark just like it is a workbook. When finished you save this document and google returns a PDF to them with your annotations and marking. How awesome is this!?

Comment banks

Here is another simple time-saver. As we are needing to flick between many documents for students, if you have something you comment on frequently like, “Remember to check your order of operations”, “Great work here using google slides to visualise your story”, or “Please go back and reread the task”, you can have this ready in what is called your comment bank.

To do this, simply open up a piece of work from a student (like how you would to comment, grade and return). Once here, you can go to a tab on the right of the screen to open your comment bank. Here you can enter as many comments as you like. Then when you comment using the comment tool like normal, you can put # and your comment bank will drop down. It is then as easy as clicking on the comment you want and posting it.

Classwork topics

As you are working more and more on this digital platform, you may notice that your class work is getting larger and larger. When posting assignments, you have an option to give the assignment a topic. This is an excellent way for you to organise your work so students can navigate your classroom with more ease. It is also easier for you to find tasks as they are then grouped together how you like.

Rearranging Assignments

Once you have posted an assignment, you can rearrange the order they appear for your students. Say you post some really important material, and you want your children to see it first, all you need to do is simply click and drag it to the top of your topic, then it will be the first in the list of tasks/materials for your students to see.

Grading time saver

This isn't really a hack or anything, rather something my grade team has taken on board. We decided to set all our tasks to be marked out of 5, and each number would represent a grade. Much like A - E (or Extensive - Elementary) marking. If and when we need to write reports, we will have this data ready to go to help us.

Guest Blogger James doing his online roll call

Morning roll call

There are several ways to check in with your students. I am alternating between two roll call methods: -The first is I post my good morning message in our class stream and include the link to a google doc (I have already made sure I have the correct editing rights on here… I learned that the hard way!) where students type ‘good morning’ in any language next to their name in a table. The students have been having great fun exploring all the different ways to say ‘good morning’. -The second is posting a question in the classwork feed. Here you can simply post a question like a google form. You give a question, and they can respond in short answer by writing ‘here’ or ‘good morning’, or you can set it to multiple-choice and they can click their answer.

Reusing posts

I learned this one from one of my excellent grade partners and it was a massive game changer! If you are working across multiple classes, this is a handy tool to use. Let’s pretend you are working collaboratively across your grade, and each teacher is responsible for a particular KLA. If you work with four different classes and need to post the same material for each class, then all you need to do is make one post in your first class with everything set up. Once you have posted it the first time and adjusted the due dates, the schedule, the marks, etc. Next, you can move into your other classes by selecting ‘reuse post’ under the create button in your classwork tab. Then you simply open up your material, question or assignment from your first class and select that. Google will instantly open all the information into your current class and after you have checked everything is set, you can post. Sadly, I have not been able to work out how to reuse announcements for class streams… YET!

Google form quizzes

A quick way to assess student learning is to give them a little quiz, maybe at the end of a lesson or the end of a topic. You can simply do this by posting a quiz to your classwork page for students to answer. These can be anything from multiple choice answers to typed up responses. You can even have the google form release the marks back to the students so they can see how they progressed. Depending on your setup you can also lock the google form so students can’t flick between different tabs while they are working through the questions (though this isn’t available for everyone).

Google Classroom app

For many schools (Primary in particular) I think the challenge has been finding a system that is consistent across most of the school while also being accessible to all students. It is very challenging designing or implementing a system while factoring in the abilities of a Kindergarten student compared to a Year 6 student. Obviously, students in the younger years will need a lot more support from their parents or siblings than older students. As a team, a few teachers tried using the Google Classroom app yesterday to submit photos as evidence of student work and found this could be a simpler way for parents to share their child’s work. To do this, all the teacher needs to do is assign a task in their classwork tab, and when parents get this notification, they can select to upload a file. It doesn't have to be a google slide, a google doc, or something in their drive; it can be a simple photo already on their phone. Once they post the photo and submit, the teacher can then quickly see the work and give feedback.

Marking in the app is also a lot easier as you can annotate work with a stylus as if it were just an ordinary workbook! Immediately I felt back at home. Google classroom then saves this as a PDF and returns it to the student along with their original submission.

With all this said, looking outside of our current Google Classroom, we as educators have delivered the best lesson to our students over the recent days. We have displayed resilience, modelled growth mindset, shown authentic learning, and have been active problem solvers! To all our amazing educators, you have worked wonders!

Looking for some resources you can use in your Google Classroom? We have a range of digital resources in our TpT store and also these digital learning grids that are perfect for self-guided or parent-lead learning:

What to read next:

Surviving Learning at Home

Awesome learning activities using only UNO cards

Times table games and activities that kids LOVE

10 Habits of a Positive Teacher

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