Google Classroom is designed to make your life as a teacher easier, not add another to-do list to your ever-growing pile of things to do. There are some very simple things to do to make your Google Classroom simple, engaging, and organized.
Before we dive too deep into the nitty gritty of organizing your Google Classroom, in a moment I'm going to have you pause the video and consider these two things. The first is identifying the purpose of your Classroom. What are you solving by having a Google Classroom for your students? During the Covid-19 pandemic along with remote and hybrid learning, Classroom has become an essential tool to use. Why would you consider continuing to use it?
The second is to keep in mind the perspective of this Classroom. The bottom line of this is that the Google Classroom that you are setting up is not really for you, it's for your students! Sure you'll both benefit from it, but if you maintain your perspective that it's for the kids, your students are going to be more organized and have the tools available to them to set them up for success. And we all know that organized students make happy teachers!
So with those two things to consider, pause the video for a moment and jot down some thoughts. What's the purpose of your Classroom? And how can you make sure you are designing your classroom to be student focused?
OK, as we continue with this section, keep in mind that the main areas we are going to focus on in this section include:
- The Stream
- Managing Topics
- External Resources
The Stream is pretty straightforward, and it should stay that way. Think of The Stream as your facebook feed for you and your students; a reverse-chronological order of posts, announcements, links, questions, and impromptu discussions. The Stream is not really for any "official classroom business", aside from the occasional reminder or announcement. It's also a great place to continue to build your classroom culture by encouraging students to post questions, thoughts, and ideas while reinforcing positive digital citizenship habits.
This can be done by checking two settings. Both of these settings are in your individual classroom settings, so when you are in your classroom, click on the settings gear in the upper right corner. Scroll down and under the General section, check out the settings for Stream. Your three options are:
- Students can post and comment
- Students can only comment
- Only teachers can post and comment
My recommendation is to make sure the top option is enabled; Students can post and comment. This gives your students a great opportunity to explore appropriate online discussions and a learning opportunity to deal with those times when a student may not exactly think before they post.
The second setting to check on is directly below that setting called "Classwork on the stream". My recommendation for this one is "Hide notifications". I think the initial reaction of teachers on this is "huh", why? Well, my reasoning on this is that students need to get in the habit of visiting the Classwork tab to keep track of their work. When students rely on the stream to be reminded of upcoming assignments, they may miss or forget about other assignments. They tend to just keep scrolling through the Stream to get access to the assignments, when they should just be going to Classwork. If they never appear in the stream, they will always go to Classwork for work, and use the Stream as the communication tool it's meant to be.
Speaking of the Classwork tab, that brings us to the next item on the agenda; managing topics. Just like the Stream, the Classwork tab can be a mess of disorganization if you let it. To help keep it from becoming just a dumping ground of all the assignments you've ever given in Classroom, you should keep them in neat little topics. You can actually organize by topics (like American Revolution, War of 1812, Industrial Revolution, Civil War, etc.) I find that it's easier to make your "topics" just be according to date - like Week of September 13, or October 11-15).
I suggest this for the sake of clarity and because it's easier for students to keep track of. Kids are not inherently long range planners. And they don't really care or need to understand where in the curriculum they are working right now. But they do know that this week started on the 27th and ends on the 1st. Make a new topic for each week and put your assignments and materials that are relevant for that week in there. If you have material or links that span over multiple weeks, you can always drag and drop them to the new week.
Finally, you have a whole bunch of go-to websites, apps, and tools that you have added to your repertoire. Chances are, depending on your content area and/or grade level, you'll have the students gravitate towards one or more of these frequently throughout the year. You'll want to create a separate topic from your weekly ones to put these go-to resources. You can name it what you'd like and if you want to be super cool, use some emojis!
OK, that was a lot. And you might not use all of these tips right away. Pick one that you think would work for you and implement it right now. Take a look at the Padlet below and pick which of these organizational tips you could use in your Google Classroom tomorrow. Comment below the one you picked to explain how you think you'll use the tip and why it will be helpful in your Classroom.