Hey busy teacher! Do any of these images match how you’re feeling? What is your #teachermood right now?
This school year has been such a whirlwind…. Do you find yourself feeling overworked, overwhelmed, and just overall over it? In a normal year, you are tasked with more than you can do, and now you have masks, hybrid schedules, and social distancing among a million other things to juggle. I get it!
Today I want to share with you something that saved my sanity, and I hope it will bring some relief to your work life as well. Whether you are teaching virtually, blended, or something else all together, there is one thing you NEED to ensure your class runs smoothly. Two words: Google Classroom. Even if you are providing just face-to-face instruction, Google Classroom can be used for so many things.
No matter if you are in upper or lower elementary, Google Classroom will make your life easier! Trust me. And the best part is that it can be used even for the youngest of elementary students! “Are you kidding me?” I can hear some of you now… “These FIVE-YEAR-OLDS cannot use Google Classroom.” Give me just a few minutes to change your mind.
Kindergarteners and firsties alike will love interactive reading and spelling games. Plus, you can assign and insert links to other digital platforms—for example, Boom Learning, Vooks, or Seesaw. Worried about your littles not being independent readers just yet? There’s an extensio for that! I especially love Read & Write for Chrome. (Psssttt…. It’s FREE for teachers!) It has a ton of features including a text to speech read aloud. It can even read text from images! This is a great tool for emergent readers who haven’t quite yet mastered phonics, sounding and blending, and/or sight words.
Differentiated Instruction with Google Classroom
With Google Classroom, you can provide your students with practice assignments and differentiated instruction in one convenient, easy to use location. Each student performs at a different level, and they need to receive an education that reflects this! Remember that there are different ways that you can differentiate for your students – you can differentiate the content, the process, the product. There are several reasons why Google Classroom should be a go-to tool for busy teachers like yourself when it comes to differentiating instruction to meet the needs of your learners!
First, Google Classroom allows you to create leveled assignments and send them to individual students. Although the default setting is to assign work to all students, it’s extremely easy to differentiate and assign specific work to individual students. With a few clicks of your mouse, your students can each be working on the content they need to master. You can even assign students completely different types of assignments, thus differentiating by process as well!
Second, it is an excellent tool to use if you have multiple students at the same level. When students upload an assignment to turn in, they are given the option to upload a file, drawing, link, slides, doc, or sheet. It allows students to complete a specific task or objective in a way that works best for them! By giving them choice in how they present their work to you, you are differentiating the final product in which they present their learning.
Third, since everything is digital, this means fewer papers for you to take home and grade. No more taking that teacher bag home, just to leave it sitting in the corner of your living room until the next morning just to return it right back to your classroom untouched. Get rid of your teacher bag for good! You can even build assignments using Google Forms that grade themselves! Plus, young students will love using a laptop or Chromebook to complete assignments. Win-Win-Win!
Make Your Life Easier with Google Classroom
Google Classroom has a fantastic feature that allows you to grade and return assignments to students directly on the site. You can type comments and leave feedback to students, whether they did an outstanding job and you want to brag on them, or they need to correct something and need some scaffolded support from you.
Once you have your classroom all set up and have added students, it is easy to track and upload assignments. There are several ways to keep your virtual classroom organized. Google allows you to create “topics” which are kind of like folders but not quite folders. They’re more like headers that function like folders…
These are some ways you may want to consider setting up your topics:
- Organize assignments by unit or modules
- Weekly Assignments (However, after several weeks of school, this setup could become overwhelming. Choose what works for you)
- For young elementary kiddos, I recommend sorting by subject! (Ex: ELA, Math, Social Studies.)
Get Hands-On in Google Classroom
I know what you might be thinking… Won’t Google Classroom take the place of hands-on, authentic learning? And the answer is a resounding NO! Digital learning will only enhance your in-class instruction. Blended learning includes both face-to-face interaction AND digital assignments. Design your lessons so that your students have the best of both worlds and utilize the available technology to ENHANCE your in-person instruction.
Did you know that you can assign students digital manipulatives to use during your lessons? There are tons of FREE virtual manipulatives out there just waiting for little learners like yours! You even have the ability to facilitate higher-order thinking, problem-solving, and team work through student collaboration with shared Google Docs or Slides for group projects! Yes, I have witnessed FIRST graders doing this, and it is one of my favorite options!
Google Classroom doesn’t replace authentic learning but instead brings different options to the table for both students and teachers. YouTube is a great go-to for educational resources. But sending young students directly to the site can be a little unnerving… You don’t know what kind of ads they’ll get, and they’ll have all those other videos in the sidebar. In Google Classroom, you have the option to post a YouTube video with students, but without the ads. Pretty great, right?! No more worrying about what ad could pop up or when students will click off onto the next, unrelated video. An extra bonus: Google Classroom is even parent-friendly! You can invite them to check their child’s grades and keep up with the latest announcements by signing them up to get email digests of upcoming and missing assignments.
So, if you have yet to explore the world of Google Classroom, I suggest you do it, like NOW. I’ll even one-up that… I CHALLENGE you to give it a try! Honestly, what’s the worst that could happen? This year has been so tough on educators and students alike. Let Google Classroom do some of the heavy lifting for you and alleviate some stress from your #teacherlife! Keep an eye out for some upcoming posts on other tips and tricks for Google Classroom, and check out my freebies page of amazing resources! Simplify your classroom and your to-do list by making the digital switch!