Making Google Classroom Easy For You and Your Students!

Kindergarten Cafe

Welcome to Kindergarten Cafe - your home for teaching ideas, activities, and strategies across all content areas! I am Zeba McGibbon and I love creating resources for teachers and sharing my teaching experience with others. Kindergarten Cafe is aimed for kindergarten, but teachers of Preschool-First grade can find resources here for their students! I love to connect with other teachers so please reach out and say hello!

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I am new to Google Classroom this year and have been trying out different strategies to make it easy to use for me and my students. This year, I have been asked to teach 3rd grade, so my experience with Google Classroom is with students that can read, write, and type. However, I am hopeful that these tips will be helpful to teachers of all ages. Want more tips for younger children? Check out these posts on Seesaw and interactive Google Slides!

Classwork Topics

I try to think of topics that will help my students and myself stay organized when looking through all these assignments. I choose to do 8 sections: Weekly Information, Reading, Writing, Math, Science, Social Studies, Word Study, and Let’s Get to Know Each Other!

In the Weekly Information topic, students will find our schedule for the week (with zoom links and must-do lists), important links, and our monthly reading log (a Google Form) that they are asked to fill out every day. When I create something that I want my students to always have easily accessible to them, I will put it in the weekly information topic or directly into their weekly slides. I like to have my Weekly Information be the first thing that my students see when they go to our classwork page. You can easily move topics down and rearrange them so that the important one stays on the top.

In the Let’s Get to Know Each Other topic, I put surveys and back to school get to know you activities, like this All About Me slideshow.  

Creating assignments on Google Classroom

For my remote classroom, almost all of the assignments are created to be completed in class with me. So, I name each item what it is and include the date. For example, I say “Thursday Exit Ticket” or “Wednesday Word Study”.

For the work that I want my students to complete off of zoom independently, I label them “Asynchronous Science Thursday” so that the students can easily find that work, without my help. I try to be as consistent as possible with the naming and labeling of assignments to help my students be independent. If you have used Google Classroom in years past, you can add assignments from previous years!

When creating an assignment, there are three features that I love.

Make a copy

First, I love that I can have Google automatically make a copy for each student of an activity. When you first create the activity, (and it does have to be an activity, not a material) you can click where it says “Students can view the file” and change it to “make a copy for each student”.

Scheduling Assignments

Second, I love that I can schedule my assignments to appear at the block of time when we use it in class. When you are clicking assign, click the triangle to the right instead and you will be given the option to schedule your assignment. This helps me to plan ahead without overloading or confusing myself or my students.

Ungraded or Graded… that is the question

Third, I love the option to assign an activity and make it ungraded. I don’t love giving my students “grades” that they can see (they are 8 after all), but I do want a way to track how they completed their work. So, for many assignments, I can make them ungraded so that I can mark their work as completed and provide comments, without giving grades. You can also change any assignments to ungraded when you are reviewing them, but the whole activity will have to be changed to ungraded, instead of for just a few students.

What else can you create on Google Classroom?

On Google Classroom you can post assignments, quizzes, questions or materials for students. You can also share a comment with the class. I turned off comments for my class (to write in the stream), but they could start their own comment threads if you wanted. The material feature is great for sharing our weekly slides, because it’s something I want to share with them, but I don’t want to keep track of who completed it or write comments on their work.  I use the question option to ask my students to reflect on their remote learning experience. Some advice to you, is to only have one question per question post. I had posted three questions in one, and my students got very confused. If you want to ask multiple questions, I would use a Google Form!

When making an assignment, you can add items directly from your Google Drive, links, files from your computer and links to YouTube videos! Because you can add directly from your Google Drive, you can add Jamboard items, Forms (great for exit tickets or assessments), Docs, Slides, etc!

Easy Google Classroom Grading Strategies

It is a lot to keep up with all the different assignments and stay on top of the grading. I use the following strategies to help! My go-to place on Google Classroom is the “To Review” section. Here I can very quickly see my assignments and how many students have completed them. If I put a deadline on the assignment, then it will go in the “work in progress” section. Once I have viewed and graded all the assignments, I can mark it as reviewed and then it moves the assignment to “reviewed”.

When students have completed an assignment, I can click on the assignment in the “To Review” section. Here, Google sorts the assignments by turned in, assigned, and graded. I can also choose to sort by first or last name. As a short cut, I can click on one assignment to view, and then toggle back and forth between all the assignments. I can see right next to the student’s name, whether they have turned it in or if it has already been graded. This is also a great way to support a child if they are stuck on something. You can open up their assignment and watch them type or help them with anything.  

Returning, Grading, and Commenting

I like to switch through all the assignments to view them and write any individual comments about things to switch or edit. From here, I can choose to add a grade and then return the individual assignment. I can also return multiple assignments by clicking on the arrow and selecting return multiple submissions. Google will then show all the assignments I have looked at so far as available to return.

I can also go back to the main review page for the assignment, and I can write in all the grades quickly and easily and then return the assignments. Before sending the assignments back, Google asks if I want to leave a comment for the students. I can then leave a private comment for all the students I am returning the assignment to. I can say, “Nice multiplication” to all of them at once, but they only see the comment on their work. Saves me a lot of commenting!

What should students know about Google Classroom?

I like to teach my students a few helpful tips.

1. First this I taught my students was the difference between stream and classwork. This way they can easily find assignments that are new and assignments that have been posted for a little while, and may be buried in the stream.

2. Students should know how to check for missing work. The first way is to go to their side menu and click on “To-Do”. This will show them all of their missing assignments. They can also go to “Classwork” and see which items appear blue (those ones are missing) and which ones appear gray (those ones are completed.

If they are having trouble with this, you can check by student to see which assignments they are missing. Just click on “People” at the top of your classroom, and then click on the individual student you wish to see. You can also click on “Grades” to see a whole class view.  If the assignment is ungraded, it will show a check-mark if it has been turned in. From the gradebook, you can also change grades, add grades, or view and return submissions.

3. Students should know how to add a new Google Doc, Google Slides, photo or video upload to their assignment. They should also know how to take a photo with their device and insert it into a Google Doc or Google Slides. This way, no matter the assignment, they have a way to show their work to you.

Conclusion

Google Classroom doesn’t have to be overwhelming with these simple tips! These strategies have helped me and my students to be more efficient and purposeful with using Google Classroom!

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Emma Hayes

There I was in a hot yoga studio with plenty of bright natural light and bending myself into pretzel like positions for the very first time.

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