Google Classroom does not do everything (yet!) but it does do several things very well. If you plan to use three of its strongest features (distribute resources, distribute and collect assignments, or create complete lessons), there are a few things to do before you use it with students.
#1 Prepare “static” resources
Let’s start small. Classroom is great for distributing “static” resources (articles or readings as handouts or website links). Gone will be the days of “I lost it,” “I wasn’t here,” or “You didn’t give me one.” “But you were in class when I handed them out!” “Well then, you must not like me.” You’ll want to get the resources “Google Classroom ready” and keep track of them for future reference.
How to get resource ready: Add the link or the document name to a document that has all the links and handout names in order. Copy the handout/document to Google Drive.
The details: Create a Google Doc (this will be a theme) in a Google Drive folder for the course and/or unit. In this document (called Readings?), copy and paste the link to each reading. For handouts, copy the documents (the PDF or Word file) to the same folder or create the document directly as a Google Doc. Add the names of each document to the Readings document. Keep the readings in order and you may want to add a brief description of each so that you can keep track of each one.
#2 Prepare your Fantastically Fun Fill-in Forms
(formerly known as worksheets)
Be honest. You would have cringed and completely skipped this section had I entitled it “Prepare your Worksheets,” correct? This is not the time or the place for “the worksheet argument” so let’s just leave it at this: What you create and distribute determines the difference between the two.
We’ll just assume that you have something to distribute that your students are going to complete that will help them learn. Google Classroom is great for this because you prepare one document (Theme alert - Google Doc) and without heading anywhere near a copy machine, distribute to everyone without [insert previously stated excuses here]. Then, students “hand in” completed assignments that are non-wrinkled, readable, not lost in backpacks, and contain no visible sweat/tear stains (therefore guilt free!) while you don’t have a stack of papers endlessly shedding little edges of spiral notebook paper scraps.
How to get the resource ready: Create a Google Doc with the question(s). You also may want a document that has a list of all the question documents or add them to the Readings document after the reading assignment they pertain to.
The details: Google Docs works very well for distributing assignments of this type. If you have an existing (wait for it, wait for it...) worksheet (or FFF-inF) copy it to Drive to convert to a Google Doc (or you may need to retype it). Skip a line after each question but there is no need to leave extra space for student answers because they will add as many lines as needed when they type in their answers.
The key comes when you distribute via Google Classroom. You’ll be distributing a Google Drive file. Therefore, you’ll select the document you created and you’ll select “Make a copy for each student.” Students have their own copy of the document to answer as completely as they would like. When they complete it, they “hand it in” via Google Classroom.
#3 Pre-organize an entire lesson
Currently in Google Classroom you are unable to save a lesson that you have created. Therefore, it’s important to have the sequence saved.
How to get the resource ready: Many lessons follow the “Read. View. Do.” format in some variation or form. Create a Google Doc for each lesson that contains the links and document names to the readings, the links to videos, and the document names for the “Do” part(s) of the assignment.
The details: When you distribute the lesson, you’ll create an assignment that contains each of these different parts. You may even want to include the Google Doc you’ve created (giving students View rights only) as an overview of everything the lesson entails.
Bonus: Purchase 50 Things You Can Do with Google Classroom by Alice Keeler and Libbi Miller. It is a great reference as you continue to use Google Classroom with your students.