15 Ways to Make Google Classroom Better for Everyone

15 Ways to Make Google Classroom Better for Everyone

15 Ways to Make Google Classroom Better for Everyone

15 Tips to Better Use Google Classroom

Today, I'm giving you another peek into my classroom, this time, to share tips for getting the most out of your Google Classroom. In this episode, you'll hear 15 better practices when using Google Classroom, from habits to technical tools. I've also had this show transcribed for your reference.

Sponsor – Hāpara Google Classroom is great, but as education standards evolve, a few things are lacking. Admin teams require better analytics. Students need a one-shot view of their tasks and want everything on one page. And as you know, teachers desperately need better monitoring capabilities. All of this is possible with the Hāpara Instructional Suite that organizes teaching and learning workflows in G Suite and Google Classroom seamlessly. Go to www.hapara.com/coolcatteacher to learn more about how Hāpara can help your school.

15 Ways to Upgrade your Google Classroom


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Transcript of Episode 708

by Susan Davis (Contact Us If you need transcription for your project)

15 Ways to Make the Google Classroom Experience More Excellent for Everyone

Vicki Morgan (producer): This is the 10 Minute Teacher Podcast Episode 708: 15 Ways to Make the Google Classroom Experience More Excellent for Everyone with Vicki Davis. 

Welcome to the 10 Minute Teacher Podcast, where you'll discover ways to become a more remarkable teacher today! Your host is author, educator, speaker, and mom the CoolCatTeacher Vicki Davis. Today Vicki gives you yet another peek into her classroom, this time to share her tips to get the most out of your Google Classroom. Enjoy!

Vicki Davis:  Today’s sponsor is Hāpara, the company that has helped my school make more out of Google Classroom. Stay tuned at the end of the show to learn how Hāpara can help your teachers, students, and administrators reach and engage more students.

Today, I would like to give you 15 ways to make the Google Classroom experience more excellent for everyone. 

Number 1 Establish Your Habits

So first of all, remember your habits and your classroom procedures. Harry Wong's The First Days of School, one of my favorite books, just because it helped me level up so much as a teacher to have those classroom procedures. 

When my students go into Google Classroom, I always want them to go to Classwork “View my Classwork.” The stream to me is not very helpful because it's like a stream of consciousness, and sometimes it's just not in the right order, but kids tend to gravitate to the stream. So number one, I always want them to go to Classwork “View my Classwork;” that's where I want them to start… and to check email. Those are two habits that I try to teach my students to do every day: Classwork “View my Classwork” or check email.

Now, I will say today we have a sponsor, Hāpara, and while they don't have anything to do with the content in it, my procedure has changed for what I want my students to look at every day. They have a Student Dashboard that you'll hear more about at the end of the show, which basically puts every classroom in one place. We've been looking for a simpler way, and the more excellent students go to Classwork or View my Classwork in all their classes, but sometimes teachers don't put due dates and throw students off because they don't see it on the front. They need one page to look at everything.

So, for us, we're using Hāpara, and students have a Student Dashboard. I believe it's mystudentdashboard.com. They log in with their Google account, and everything is already there for them. It's just a really simple one-pager. So think, how are my students going to find their information consistently?


Number 2 is consistency. 

It would help if you were consistent in your classroom and your school. When we went to Google Classroom as a school, we consistently said we would organize by date. So our date is our topic. I've started adding a bracket and what it's about. Now, I know that it's just massive, and you end up with all of these topics in there, but I like to organize it by date. Now, what happens if you have something you didn't finish today? I drag it up to the next day, and they know that's what we're working on in that class that day in order. So I do have it in the order that we're going to work on it. It just makes it simple for them to keep up to know how we're working through things in class. 


Number 3: Use due dates. 

Now, many teachers don't use them, and that's because they don't want it to show up on their to-do list if it's a bigger project, and it makes them feel like they haven't done it or haven't graded it or whatever. This is not about us; it's about our kids. It makes it easier for the students to put a due date, so put a due date, even if you have to keep pushing that due date out. You should use a due date, or if it's not something that has a due date, use material if they're not going to turn it in.

Number 4: Use Icons to Simplify Understanding

So I have a short Google Doc. I tweeted out a picture of it not too long ago, and it had all the icons that I use. I have an icon for something when it's a lesson plan; an icon for the bell ringer has a green dot. So, if I have a bell ringer, and say “Hey, jump I there and go into the bell ringer,” and they can click on that green dotted icon and go straight to Nearpod or whatever it is I'm teaching with that day. https://nearpod.com/. Having those icons has really saved a lot of time because color and pictures help us retain what we need to do. Especially because I post my lesson plans, and I'll talk a little more about that in the future. They don't think it's something that they have to do.


Number 5 is to remember to use private messages. 

Private messages are the best way to converse about a particular item because it goes directly to everybody's email. It also gives documentation for people who may be coteaching, or if somebody's out sick, a teacher is, then other people can jump in and help. Also, I'm basically a teacher in every classroom in the whole school, so I can answer the IT questions that kids have when they use private messages instead of slowing things down. If a kid has a technical question, I use an Alice Keeler tip; I use many of her tips to put DAVIS in all caps, so I know that they want me to answer it instead of their regular classroom teacher. I want my teachers to know their job is to be a content expert and let me be the geek, and a lot of them are turning into geeks, too, but that's just an easier way to help things.


Number 6 is I share my lesson plans every day. 

I use Planboard; I've talked about that in a previous episode, but when I post that Planboard link to Google Classroom as material, if you take the hyperlink and paste it into the description, that hyperlink will go into the Guardian summaries.


This leads us to Number 7: Use Guardian summaries to your advantage. 

Parents really need to have those Guardian summaries, and when you paste links into the description field, if you have the permission set right, the parents can see those links. So my parents can see the links to those lesson plans, and I've encouraged them to go back and change their settings from weekly to daily during this time period when kids are out and other things are happening. 


Number 8 is don't grade too soon. 

First of all, if you give something a zero, it no longer shows up as missing for the student. You want to teach students to go to Classwork, View my Work, and look at that unless you have Hāpara. If you have Hāpara, they can click the little bell on the right-hand side, and all of their private messages and their items that have been graded pop there from all their classes, which is just really easy. 


But, inside Google Classroom, teachers need to go to Classroom, View my Work to see if they have work to do. If you don't give the zero and you hand it back, it will show up on their missing work report on their to-do list, and a lot of those kids look at the to-do list, which is why you want to have a date on it and not give it a zero and hand it back and get them to do it. 

If you don't put a date, sometimes it just doesn't show on that list. That did change for me and my teacher's side, and I need to see if that changed for students because that could be changing right now, but it's been a big problem.


Number 9: break down whatever it is you're doing into smaller video how to's. 

If I teach something in class, I will already have those videos ready, and I will paste the link to those in the description. So, if someone's at home, they can break down that assignment and do it in pieces. 


Number 10 is to keep common answers in a document. 

Now, I use Text Expander. One of the most common problems I have found with Google Classroom is what I call a browser mismatch. That little circle you have in your Chrome browser in the top will be one profile, and the little circle down in the main part of the browser will be another profile. So mom or dad might be signed into that browser, and the child has come and used their browser. This is a browser mismatch.


I have a video on my YouTube channel that I created that I send people, but how will I find that video? I actually use Text Expander, and I've already written about 10 of my most common problems in Google Classroom. (Editor’s Note: See Figure 1 below.)

All I have to do is browser mismatch is type “;browser” and that whole email explanation with a link to the video pops into the private message or the email. When the parent says, “my child can't do quizzes,” or “my child can't do this or that.” 

Figure 1 – My Instructions for a “Browser Mismatch” that I email to parents

So, Google can do odd things if there is a mismatch between who is logged into the browser and who is trying to log into Google Classroom. Basically think of the email address @scaeagles.com as a bridge to walk across. If it breaks, we can't connect the two apps.

  1. Here's a YouTube video to make sure your browser is set up correctly. Please use Chrome. – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BB8SpBdVWKk

  2. Click on the assignment that is not linking properly.

  3. When it takes you to the site – Edpuzzle, Quizizz or whatever the site is. Click log out.

  4. Click on the assignment again.

  5. When it takes you to the assignment, complete the assignment.

  6. Email the teacher to make sure it went through.


The other common problem many times kids have is, for example, in a Kindle, they need to use the Silk browser, so that's an issue I have in there. Sometimes for Quizziz or IXL, it's better if a child goes directly to the site, clicks, logs in with Google, and then goes back to the teacher's assignment and clicks and goes through. 

I have those typed out very clearly and put into that. You can also put them in Google Docs, or if you use Gmail, they have canned responses, and you can use those canned responses. Or even ask your IT director to write those canned responses for you, really look at them, and then all you have to do is click it and respond to it if you're using Gmail.

Number 11 is to take those common answers and put them on a class website or a school website. 

We have a student help site and a teacher help site, and I have it there for those who will use it. Again, some people will email you, so that gives you the canned response or the Text Expander to help you make your Google Classroom experience more excellent for both you and your students.


Number 12 is to consider due times. 

Now Parkinson's Law is that students will expand the time that they take based upon the amount of time they have. So if your assignments are due at 10 pm, they're going to work until 10. If they're due at midnight, they're going to work until midnight. If they're due at 3, they'll work until 3. 

All my assignments are due at 3:30 pm. You could say, “what about my kids who are at home, sick?” Well, they know that they're going to have additional time, and I'm not going to count it late, but I want the work done during the day. 

I typically don't give homework; I want it done during class because there's just a lot of stress going on. I know other classes may want to make them due later. You can decide if you want to allow it later, but I would consider having a much earlier due time. Now don't do it on Friday night or Saturday night or Sunday night because those kids will be doing homework on Friday or Saturday, and parents are going to be complaining. 

So I know you're trying to be helpful by giving more time, but really try to help the kids discipline themselves because I think by human nature, I think most of us are procrastinators, even me and probably you. Especially me.


13 Consider When You Post (And Schedule Posts Instead)

The other thing is to consider when you post. So I messaged a friend the other day, and I'm a teacher in every single class in my school, and they were posting some assignments at a time that was kind of an odd time. 

A lot of kids have notifications turned on, so if you're working late at night… like at midnight on a Friday night… and you post an assignment, then that child will get a notification at midnight and say, “Hey! Ms. Davis assigned me something at midnight.” 

Well, no, you don't have to do it at midnight, it's for next week. 

So I always use schedules. Now the problem with the schedule is you can't post it to more than one class at a time. So what I do is I go ahead and schedule everything for next week. 

Now, remember, topics don't show until they have a task underneath them. So if I schedule everything for next week to show up on that day, I usually do it about 10 minutes before class starts because I also don't want them doing it in another teacher's class. I have heard of students doing that. 

If you post at 8 o'clock, and they have another person's class at 8, they might really find a victory in going to your class, and it's already done. If you want to do it early, you can, but just remember that they might think they need to start on it right then. So I always put my posting times about 20 minutes before class starts or 10 minutes before class starts. So, you know, if they finish another class earlier, they might start early if they want to. Usually, they don't, but they could. 

Number 14 is to respond quickly to questions. 

I want to help students know that I am there. The other thing is I want to prevent what I call helpless hand-raising. Now the form of helpless hand-raising they'll do in Google Classroom is, for example, I had a student last Saturday message me at 7 pm that he couldn't do such and such and he couldn't do anything until I did whatever. 

So I responded to him, I said, “I'm at the movie. I'll be responding later, but you have everything you need to get this assignment done, and it should be done.” I talked to him later about, “Hey, I have the weekend. You have the weekend.” 

Suppose they know that I'm paying attention. In that case, I can usually stop that behavior, but if they know that you're going to ignore it all weekend… and yes, you need your weekend too… but I have still found that responding quickly and pointing to resources I already have like “Hey, I already posted a video on that check this week.” They can't go back and say, “Hey, Mom and Dad, I couldn't work on it because Ms. Davis didn't respond.” 

Respond quickly to those questions, and you'll get less and less of those because they know you're there.


Now, Number 15 is to Show Attachments on the stream.

Go to the Gear and In Your Class and Show Attachments and Details because that will show you how many things are in there and how many have been turned in. At a glance, it'll make your stream more useful, but also, learn to use the To-Do, and remember that if students turn work back in, that you need to go into the Reviewed column. I also like that now they're showing things that don't have an assignment date, which is very useful. There are a lot of things out there that I did record. Alice Keeler recorded with me a Google Classroom Duo Bootcamp, where we show the student and the teacher side of things. That's on my YouTube channel at youtube.com/coolcatteacher, and that will help you also.

Summary of Google Classroom Best Practices and Tips

But these are some of the most common issues that I think will help you if you can do those. So 15 ways to make the Google Classroom more excellent for everyone. 

  1.  Create Habits
  2. Be consistent across the school and your classroom.
  3. Use due dates
  4. Use icons for things in your classroom so they can know what to use for each.
  5. Use private messages
  6. Share your lesson plans and put the link in the description.
  7. Make sure those links are in the description, and make sure your parents are subscribed to guardian summaries daily.
  8. Don't grade too soon, hand them back, and don't put in those zeros because then it'll make them hide on you until you absolutely have to
  9. Break it down into videos for how to's and short little videos; if it's a super long video, they don't see it or won't watch it.
  10. Keep common answers, or use canned responses; I use Text Expander, a little app for my Mac.
  11. Have a class website or a school website with common answers
  12. Consider your due times and Parkinson's law and the tendency to procrastinate, and be consistent with those.
  13. Don't post in times that will be a distraction or send a message that you want kids not to have personal time because you want to have personal time.
  14. Respond quickly to questions to try to get kids to focus on having school during the school day
  15. Learn how to master that to-do and turn on the attachments and details.

I hope this helped!

Today's Sponsor: While Google Classroom is great, a few things are missing. Admin teams are now wanting better analytics. Students say they need everything on one page so they can get a one-shot view of their tasks. And teachers desperately need better monitoring. All of this is possible with the Hāpara Instructional Suite that organizes teaching and learning workflows in G Suite and Google Classroom seamlessly. Go to www.hapara.com/coolcatteacher to learn more about how Hāpara can get your students and teachers the help and support they need.

Subscribe to the Show

Get Credit! Some schools, districts, and organizations allow credit for listening to podcasts. Whether they do or don’t, to get the most out of listening you can use this Podcast PD Template Hyperdoc. Just make a copy and adapt it for your use or print it. If you don’t have Google Docs, just use this PDF.

Vicki Davis – Bio

Vicki Davis is a classroom teacher and an Instructional Technology Director. She blogs at the Cool Cat Teacher Blog and hosts this podcast. See www.coolcatteacher.com/bio for her full bio.

Disclosure of Material Connection: This is a “sponsored podcast episode.” The company who sponsored it compensated me via a cash payment, gift, or something else of value to include a reference to their product. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I believe will be good for my readers and are from companies I can recommend. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

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Vicki Davis

Vicki Davis is a full-time classroom teacher and IT Director in Georgia, USA. She is Mom of three, wife of one, and loves talking about the wise, transformational use of technology for teaching and doing good in the world. She hosts the 10 Minute Teacher Podcast which interviews teachers around the world about remarkable classroom practices to inspire and help teachers. Vicki focuses on what unites us -- a quest for truly remarkable life-changing teaching and learning. The goal of her work is to provide actionable, encouraging, relevant ideas for teachers that are grounded in the truth and shared with love. Vicki has been teaching since 2002 and blogging since 2005. Vicki has spoken around the world to inspire and help teachers reach their students. She is passionate about helping every child find purpose, passion, and meaning in life with a lifelong commitment to the joy and responsibility of learning. If you talk to Vicki for very long, she will encourage you to "Relate to Educate" or "innovate like a turtle" or to be "a remarkable teacher." She loves to talk to teachers who love their students and are trying to do their best. Twitter is her favorite place to share and she loves to make homemade sourdough bread and cinnamon rolls and enjoys running half marathons with her sisters. You can usually find her laughing with her students or digging into a book.

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