12 ways to use Google Classroom’s newest features

Google has released some great new features for Classroom. But what can we do with them? Here are some ideas. (Sketch by Matt Miller)

Google has released some great new features for Classroom. But what can we do with them? Here are some ideas. (Sketch by Matt Miller)

In fall of 2014, Google released Classroom to anxiously awaiting teachers. In a year’s time, those teachers put Classroom to work, with students turning in more than 70 million assignments.

Google released a handful of useful updates to Classroom recently and some others in the last few months that let teachers and students do even more fantastic learning.

It’s nice to see these updates, but I’ve found it often leaves teachers wondering, “What can I do with those changes?”

Good question! Here are 12 ideas for the classroom that these changes have made possible. As you read these, I’d love it if you thought about ways you or other teachers are using Classroom. Post those ideas as a comment at the end of the article!

Prefer to see how to put these ideas into action? Check out the interactive YouTube videos I created to accompany this post. Click on the embedded video below or here to see a list of all 12 ideas. Then click on the one you want to watch to be taken directly to a short video (about 80 seconds).

1. Create exit tickets and bellringer activities. Want to do some quick assessment at the beginning or end of class? Classroom’s new question-driven discussions let you post a question where students can post replies to answer it. (Worried about students copying each other’s answers? You choose whether students can see each other’s replies.)

2. Host an out-of-class viewing party. Is there a TV show, a live performance, a play or some other event that’s noteworthy to your class? Let students interact by adding a question in your Classroom and letting them reply in real-time with their reflections and observations. Add a single “Post your ideas here!” question or add several different types of questions to elicit answers on different specific topics.

3. Find and post evidence. Students can make all the assertions they want, but if they can’t back them up with solid data, they’re less than useful. Give students free roam of the Internet to find sites with data that supports or refutes what you’re talking about in class. Add a question where they can post links to their findings in a reply. When finished, the class will have a body of Internet research that any of them can go back to.

4. Offer video reflections. Another great use of the new question-driven discussions feature is a private place to comment on videos. When you post a new question, add a YouTube video that students can watch (or a link to a video on another video-hosting site if YouTube is blocked). When students watch that video, they’ll have a dedicated place to take whole-class notes, post opinions or answer questions.

5. Create new assignments from templates. Do you find yourself posting the same kinds of assignments or announcements in Classroom? If so, the new “reuse assignment” feature can help. Create a template that models the kind of assignment, announcement or question that you commonly use. (Maybe create a brand new class called “Templates” as a place to house it.) Then, when you need it, use the “reuse assignment” feature, find that template and change it as necessary before posting it. Save time and effort!

6. Create an easy reminder with a couple clicks. If you’ve assigned an activity or posted an announcement a while back, it can get buried under other posts in your classroom feed. To bring it front and center to students’ attention, use the “bump post” feature to move it back to the top. For longer projects (several weeks or months or an entire semester), bump that assignment once every week or two to keep students aware of it.

7. Embed a class due-dates calendar in a class website. If you have a class website using Weebly (my favorite), Google Sites or something else, adding a due-dates calendar can be a nice feature. Using these instructions from Google Support, you can take the calendar that Google creates for your class and embed an interactive version of it directly on your site. (Note: The Google Classroom calendar integration had been promised soon but had not yet been released at the time of publication of this post.)

8. Post a quiz or test. Google Classroom has lacked options for assessment, but a new feature will allow teachers to add a Google Form to Classroom. Google Forms, Google’s survey tool, let teachers ask different types of questions and gather them in a spreadsheet. It’s a quick and easy way to gather student feedback or assess students’ progress. If the quiz/test data is from multiple-choice, true-false or matching questions, a great Google Sheets add-on called Flubaroo will grade that quiz/test and provide you a grading report with detailed results. See more about Flubaroo here. (Note: Google Forms integration also had been promised soon as of publication of this post but had not been activated yet.)

Over the summer, Google released several other new features that teachers may have missed. Here are some implementation ideas that go with those new features:

9. Host discussions and activities across multiple classes. With Classroom’s new co-teacher feature, multiple teachers can be teachers of record for a class within Classroom. Set up a shared class in Classroom for multiple classes and add all those classes’ teachers as teachers of record within Classroom. Then, those classes can interact together, bringing more students into class work and discussion — and hopefully better conversations and collaboration!

10. Create an all-school or all-grade-level forum. Imagine a class in Google Classroom where students could interact, share ideas and see postings relevant to them. Create a class for an entire grade level or — if you teach in a small school like I have — an entire school. Set as many teachers and administrators as you’d like as moderators. Ask students questions and leave replies as viewable if you want interaction or not viewable if you want them private. This all-school or all-grade-level class can be a useful hub for student activity!

11. Use a photo to create an assignment. The cameras on smartphones and tablets make taking a quick picture a snap. Take a picture of the whiteboard/chalkboard after a good class discussion and pose a question or make an assignment based on it. Take a picture of something relevant to class and start a conversation about it. Pictures are powerful and connect to our brain differently than words. Harness that power!

12. Use the class photo as a bulletin board. The ability to change the class header photo in Google Classroom is not that new. But this may be a new way to use it! Use a tool like Google Drawings to create an image the size of your class header photo. Type reminders and important information on it. Save it as an image file (probably a JPEG or PNG … try 1500 x 400 pixels under File > Page setup > Custom …) and upload it as your class header photo. It will provide timely reminders to students whenever they access Google Classroom. Change it regularly to keep information updated and interest high!

Question: How else could these new features in Google Classroom be implemented? How are you or other teachers using Classroom best? You can leave a comment by clicking here.

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10 thoughts on “12 ways to use Google Classroom’s newest features

  1. Thanks for these tips, Matt! They are helpful insights to the ever-changing, ever-improving Google Classroom!

  2. I teach Public Speaking and I have students create their own rubric based on performance goals, record presentations on their personal devices, and submit them using Classroom along with the outline for the speech. Since the rubric is a Google Doc, I type my evaluation while they are speaking. Each student then has a “packaged” assessment product for each completed major presentation. Perfect for parent viewing!