From Flash Cards to Book Clubs, Google Docs Are a Great Asset for Activities
There is no doubt that Google Docs is revolutionizing classrooms. This centralized platform of creation and collaboration makes group projects and teacher feedback easier. It also streamlines parent-teacher communication, making it easier to keep busy parents informed of their child's progress. Perhaps you have already integrated Google Docs and need ideas, or maybe it’s time to make use of this extraordinary tool. No matter where you are with the totally integrated paperless classroom, here are 25 hacks to start you off on your Google Docs journey.
1. Writing papers
Google Docs allows students to work on their projects anywhere, and the revision history function shows original work plus any edits. When students submit research papers through Google Docs, teachers can offer immediate feedback and request changes. Once a paper is finalized, the teacher can provide an assessment of it. And if the work is an especially good example, the teacher can publish it for other students to see.
2. Reading journals
Gone are the days when students carried multiple composition notebooks so they could reflect on their reading assignments. Google Docs replaces the lowly journal by providing an accessible platform for these entries. Since Google Docs works from a central location and is accessible by laptop, desktop, and tablet, students can write entries in real time and receive comments from teachers just as quickly. This makes the application a great way to allow students to write as ideas occur to them.
3. Parent communication
Collaboration is not just for students and teachers. Parents are an integral part of the education process, and Google Docs helps them to stay involved. The spreadsheet app gives teachers many ways to facilitate communication. One idea is to create a tracking sheet for homework assignments, so parents are always in the loop with their child's projects. Google Docs also includes translation functions, in case parents have a first language other than English. This ensures that any topic brought to parents’ attention is not misunderstood.
4. Sign-up sheets
The spreadsheet function can also translate into a sign-up sheet when it’s that time of year for parent-teacher conferences. Having an organized, centralized location where parents can check on your availability and work with that in their own schedules serves to streamline what can otherwise be a lengthy process of "phone tag." Sign-up sheets also work for students when it comes to choosing research topics, adopting a role in a project, or even indicating what they will bring to a small classroom party.
5. Lab data
Google Docs is not just for writing assignments and research papers. You can also use it for lab-based science classes. To help groups collaborate better and give teachers access to project status, Google Docs can also create forms to fill out data. Just have students determine the proper field, and as the assignment moves forward, enter the resulting data. Besides allowing for easy collection, the forms share, analyze, and graph data. Not only will students be able to show the results of their projects, but they will also have a look at how research labs work in the real world.
6. Flash cards
Want an interactive classroom session featuring flash cards? Google spreadsheets also allow for the graphic display of words or questions, and then you can reveal answers with a click. Far from the paper flash cards of days long gone, this colorful, interactive presentation is guaranteed to engage students. Vocabulary lessons can make great use of this feature: Display the words and see if students know their definitions. Right or wrong, clicking the "answer" button will show them the correct answer.
7. Class assessments
Assessments are being used more to see what students are learning. They are given in the beginning of the year to see what has been retained, but they also take the place of pop quizzes after students learn complex concepts. Math, vocabulary, and spelling can all be test subjects through Google forms. Students will fill them out and, once finished, receive an "exit" ticket so they can see their results. Teachers receive the data, too, so they can see the weak or strong spots in the lesson plan.
8. Student interest surveys
Sometimes learning opportunities need to be fun. Planning field trips around student interests will help to increase their engagement. Send out surveys that ask about summer activities, favorite sports, and even career ambitions. If you are trying to decide between three museums to visit, use the surveys to see which one generates the most student curiosity. Surveys allow for a customized learning experience that students will eagerly anticipate.
9. Field trip planning
If you are taking students to visit a research facility or even a zoo, it can be a struggle to ensure the educational elements are not lost. After all, students are often just happy to be out of the classroom. You can use Google Docs to bring up subject areas relevant to the field trip, so students can collaborate on how they will explore them. For example, if a student is doing a project on the optimal horse diet and your field trip involves visiting a large animal hospital and research facility, you can have that student submit questions regarding best hay types, grain for energy, and even how to avoid fatal digestive conditions.
10. Book clubs
Encouraging reading is important at many schools. Want an easy way to track progress? The online reading record allows students to enter their name, book titles, author names, and the number of pages in the book. Another option is for students to enter their reading for the day: Instead of entering books as they finish them, have students enter a page count for that day and the number of minutes spent reading. This allows teachers to track reading progress better, and also gives students an objective means of seeing where they are with their reading goals.
11. Sharing lesson plans
Besides collaborating with students and parents, teachers can also work more efficiently by collaborating with one another. If a particular lesson plan turns out successfully, teachers can make it available on Google Docs for other teachers to borrow, adjust, and use. There is never a good reason to keep a good thing all to yourself. The more students a plan benefits, the better!
12. Student reviews
If a student is struggling with multiple subjects, teacher communication proves to be essential. Use Google Docs to create easy forms, so all involved teachers can give their feedback on the student. It can help to establish patterns of bad days, improved focus, or the lack of a pattern. For example: if a student stops struggling in math but experiences a downturn in English, something should be examined. Finding tendencies makes it easier to help students, and Google Docs makes it easier to collect this data.
13. The in-box form
Teacher's in-boxes can fill up quickly, especially when final papers or large projects become due. Teacher John Miller invented an excellent way to manage this. Using the Google Forms function, Miller created a simple form for students to fill out with a link to their project in their own Google Doc folder. The form fills out a spreadsheet, so rather than an inbox full of emails and attachments, the teacher receives an updated list of links. This makes it easier to access student projects, give real-time comments, and request any revisions.
14. Brainstorming charts
Many students are visually inclined and can see their own ideas better in a graphic presentation. Shapes, arrows, and text boxes often work better for such students than spreadsheets and lists. Using the different graphics in Google Docs, students can see a flowchart of their ideas. In group projects, other participants can add to the charts as the app tracks revision history. The tracking also shows who contributes, which eliminates the age-old problem of one or two people doing most of the work in a group project.
15. A self-grading quiz
Few students enjoy quizzes, but one that offers immediate feedback can increase their motivation. Using Google Forms, create a quiz with multiple-choice questions, and then take it yourself to enter the correct answers. Place the formula into the spreadsheet, so the technology grades the quiz for you. When students finish, they can check their score immediately. It’s a good idea to assign anonymous identifiers to students, so that they can avoid humiliation on their bad days.
16. Project templates
With projects taking many forms, templates can give students a place to begin. If the project involves a presentation, offer a template so students can customize from a basic structure. You can also use templates if you prefer papers or other written projects to take a particular format. Consistent formats encourage good habits, and also make grading much easier.
17. Class notes
Students may sometimes have to miss class due to illness or family matters. If students have a lengthy absence, they will need help catching up with lessons or staying in the loop with lessons. In such cases, keeping class notes on Google Docs can be extremely helpful. If the absent student has a friend who is willing to share notes, they can take advantage of a Google public template for this purpose. The absent student can read the notes from her Google Docs platform at her leisure, and still keep up with lesson plans.
18. Share articles
Is your advanced placement history class currently reviewing the first U.S. colonies? Use Google Docs to share the latest discovery on the Jamestown site. Not only do you have a quick way to distribute new material, but you can also give students a heads-up that the lesson plan is changing. With the rate that information is shared these days, keeping your lessons current will keep students engaged. They are likely reading what is online as well, so staying current also means avoiding embarrassment.
19. Presentation availability
You want students to pay attention and take notes, but sometimes they can miss something. Google Docs allows you to make your presentations available for students to review again. This can work in many subjects, including math and science. A complex calculus equation may lose your students the first time, but if they are able to review your presentation a few more times, they may finally understand it. Also, they can communicate with you as they review, which ensures better mastery.
20. Peer editing
Receiving feedback is a necessary skill, but so is giving it. With the availability settings in Google Docs, peer editing of written material is a snap. Depending on your classroom dynamics, you may wish to consider making the authors of the material anonymous. However, feedback should not be anonymous. Students are more likely to give productive insight if their identities are revealed, and teachers can also comment on the relevance of the comments.
21. Tables for classroom discussion
With their different cells, spreadsheets can be awkward, and documents start off as intimidating empty space. If you are planning a classroom discussion and want to track points (yet keep them on track), use a table. Add headings as signposts to different discussion points, and fill in the ideas as the discussion reveals them. When the session ends, make it available to the class in Google Drive, so students can revisit the discussion.
22. Themed distractions
Most of the time, you discourage distractions. Sometimes, though, they provide a needed break, and in classes (like homeroom) where there are benefits in students' getting to know each other, distraction themes can be helpful. Using any DOC types, whether a presentation slide or a form, ask students to collaborate on one document with answers to a predetermined question. One could be: "I am unique because . . ." and students must fill in the blank. Questions can also involve pets, career ambitions, or favorite sports teams. Change themes around so that everyone feels included.
23. Website evaluations
Students need to develop skills to become good information consumers. One way to develop these is through website evaluations. Compile a form that asks questions about a web address, the intended audience, ease of use, information quality, and the type of information discovered. As you collect these evaluations, prepare a lesson plan on websites and how to tell which ones are reliable.
24. Real-time discussion
Google Docs also integrates well with other Google apps. One of these is Chat. If students are collaborating on a research paper, presentation, or chart, they can use the Google Chat app to make changes to the item and also talk about it as they work on it. While comments and revision history are generally very helpful, sometimes it is easier to discuss items while working on them.
25. Improved supervision
There is no doubt that toxic dynamics can arise in classrooms. While this is not a pleasant aspect of teaching, it does happen. The only solution is to put a stop to it early. One nice element of the Google Docs system is that all shared communication is kept on record. If feedback is unproductive or students use the peer review and collaboration system as a way to bully another, this is all subject to your discretion. You can stop it, save it to share with parents, or use it as evidence in disciplinary actions. And if students are aware of this ability, they may never need to use the platform as a means to intimidate in the first place, which will also make the learning experience more pleasant.
Google expands its apps every day, and these classroom resources are really just the beginning. New templates are frequently released by both Google and its users, expanding that library even further. While these hacks remain useful, many such as assessment and lesson creation can be done in a more in-depth level with your Mimio tools. Learning can be enjoyable and even more effective with the latest technological developments.
Read more about using Google Docs in the classroom from WeAreTeachers.
Learn more about the MimioMobile app for assessment and collaboration.