Do you sometimes have a problem keeping on top of all those materials that teachers are expected to deal with? All the assessment forms, student work, permission forms, and parent communications are enough to make even the most organized elementary teacher lose something.
When I discovered Google Apps for Education, or GAFE, that problem was solved. Well, at least partially solved. Being the perpetually scattered person, it didn’t take much for me to become a Google addict. It helped me to get much more organized. Many of those papers I used to have all over my desk are tucked neatly away in my Google Drive. Even if you’re not as disorganized as I was, I believe every teacher should use it! It gives you one less thing to think about.
Then Google Classroom came along and helped me with the student work pile! I was officially in love.
In my quest to make using technology simple and seamless, here are seven easy things to do with Google Apps. (Yes, you get a bonus! I added one later.) So sit back and relax. Maybe grab your coffee and think of a way you can incorporate one of these tips in your classroom.
1. Share Lesson Plans
I worked in a modified departmentalizing situation where two of us taught reading and science and the other two taught math and social studies. (Not the typical split, I know, but we weren’t an average group of teachers!)
My partner in planning and I did our unit plans using GAFE and shared the document, so we both had access to it. I had never liked the idea of co-planning, but I was won over easily since this worked so well for us. We each brought something to the table to make fabulous plans, and I (being disorganized) always had the lessons quickly accessible in my Google Drive. I couldn’t misplace it! This collaborative tool was a huge time saver for us.
We used a simple Google Slide and put a table on it. Since we were doing a rotation based blended learning format during reading, we went through the lessons for the week and inserted the activities. When we finished it, it was accessible to both of us. We could easily make changes if the schedule was interrupted by snow, assemblies, or anything like that.
The planning document allowed us to keep track of which materials we still needed. I also changed the color of the text to indicate what we still had to do. If the text was in purple, I knew I had to create that resource. If it was blue, it was something we needed to print. My partner took care of most of the printed materials, and I took care of developing the technology components.
Our science planning was completely different. We created a Google Doc and listed the activities in order the way we were going to do them.
Click on the caption below the picture below to download a planning guide like the one we used. There’s a ready-made blended learning model planner and a small-group planner. You can change the number of days by adding and removing columns, and you can type in any box. When you open the file, it will ask you if you want to make a copy. Say ok and it will appear in your Google Drive and you can edit it to suit your needs. Share it with your team!
2. Translate letters home
My school was a pretty homogenous population, so we weren’t always prepared for students who came from non-English speaking homes. When I had one of those students move into my class, I was thankful for Google Translate. I took the letters I sent with the rest of the class and pop them into the program. Voila! Google Translate changed them into Spanish. Maybe it wasn’t always a perfect translation, but it was close enough to keep those parents in the loop.
3. Digital Exit tickets
Instead of using slips of paper for exit slips, use a Google Form. Post it on Google Classroom if you have it. The kids can click on it, fill it in, and submit it. Then you will have all the kids’ answers right in front of you on one sheet. Digital exit tickets worked especially well since I had two different sections of reading and science. I had a complete set of data right in front of me to check for misconceptions, or to make sure I hadn’t missed anything with one group that I did with the other. It’s also a simple, quick way to create review groups.
Here’s a quick 3-2-1 form for you to use with your kids. Click on the caption to download.
4. Party Planning/classroom supplies
Do you have an end of the year or other celebration planned? Need food or supplies? GAFE to the rescue! Create a Google Sheet and share it with your parents. They can access the document, look at the list, and decide what they would like to donate. Then all they need to do is put their names in the spaces to indicate their donations. You can check it to make sure everything is coming. This sheet is an easy way to gather supplies, and it will save you tons of time.
5. Voice Typing With GAFE
If you want to write something but don’t feel like typing out all the words, you can use the voice typing feature on Google Docs. It’s faster on a day when your fingers don’t seem to want to hit the correct keys like mine do sometimes. I think it’s better for lists and other non-formal documents because it doesn’t always recognize the required punctuation. It does, however, work very nicely for children who struggle getting their ideas down on paper.
If your kids have a writing assignment, do it on Google Docs! Google Docs is the word processor app of GAFE. If you use Google Classroom, it will put all of the assignments in one folder. Even if you don’t, ask the kids to share it with you clicking on the share button and viola! (If you need more information about sharing in Google Apps, click here to read my blog post on it.) You have all their writing, and not a single paper to take home. You can also use the comments feature to encourage the kids to fix mistakes.
7. Google Classroom: My Favorite Part of GAFE
The addition of Google Classroom to my classroom tools was one of the best things that ever happened to my teaching! Google Apps for Education, including Classroom, is FREE for schools to use, so why not use it? I don’t understand why people pay for an LMS when this one is FREE. (Did I mention it’s free?)
I know there are some of other learning management systems are more robust, but Classroom is beginning to close the gap. As an elementary school teacher, I felt it had just about everything I needed. The only thing I missed when I started using it was the ability to differentiate lessons within a class. I could only post assignments to the entire class. Of course, Google came through with the capability to assign to individual students or groups.
If you post your assignments on Google Classroom, the kids can mark off or submit their work as they complete it. You can then tell at a quick glance who has and has not turned something in.
You can also keep parents in the loop by linking their email addresses with their child’s account. I added my email to one of my student accounts. The picture below shows one of the subjects and a list of the assignments from the week. It also lets the parents know if their child has turned them in or not.
There are so many other awesome things you can do with Google Classroom, but I promised to be quick and simple, so I’ll save them for another time. I’d like to encourage you to try it if you have access.
Do you have another time-saving tool in GAFE, or did you have success with one of these? Let us know in the comments section below!
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