12 great ways to start using Google Classroom now

Ed Tech

Ed Tech | Thursday, August 21, 2014

12 great ways to start using Google Classroom now

12 great ways to start using Google Classroom now
12 great ways to start using Google Classroom now

Google Classroom is a powerful yet simple place to manage everything you do with Google Apps in the classroom. Here’s where I’m getting started with it. (Google Classroom screenshot)

After waiting all summer, Google Classroom is finally available to all Google Apps for Education teachers and students.

Google’s venture into the world of learning management systems seems to be a pretty solid one. My first impressions:

  • It looks and feels like a Google product (which it should and which is a good thing)
  • It’s clean and simple (which hopefully will make it easy to use)
  • It provides a home base for everything you do in Drive

For those of us that used lots of Google scripts (i.e. Doctopus, gClassFolders) to manage our classes — and for those of us that didn’t know those existed! — Classroom should make life easier.

After taking Google Classroom for a spin, here are some features I know I’m going to take advantage of:

1. Set the class theme. This was the first thing I did after creating my classes. I love the breathtaking photos and the color schemes that go with them. Several photos will be a perfect fit for certain classes (i.e. there are a few nice ones for science).

2. Use the “About” page to provide information and important links for/about your class. After opening your class in Classroom, click the “About” tab at the top. Your “About” page can be a central hub for your class with clickable links (make sure to use http:// before links) and information students will need throughout the year.

google classroom 2 announcements

Click for a larger version of this image.

3. Attach YouTube videos, Google Drive files and links to announcements. What better way to show students what you want them to do or inspire their work than with a video? Create a video to teach a new concept, to excite students about a new project or provide answers to frequently asked questions. Or choose a video available on YouTube. Attach photos from the classroom from your Google Drive in an announcement. There’s a LOT you can do with this feature!

4. Choose how to deliver files to students in assignments. If you include a file to distribute to students in your assignment, you choose the editing rights they receive. Select whether to let them edit the file or only view the file. You can also make each student his/her own individual copy of the file (so everyone isn’t typing notes on the same document).

5. Start a conversation/backchannel in announcements. When you post an announcement in Classroom, anyone in the class can comment on it. Post a conversation starter and let students reply to it, creating a digital conversation. Backchannels like this are a great way to make sure EVERY student is comfortable to contribute … not just the ones that are willing to raise their hands in class.

6. E-mail students from within Classroom. Using the “Students” tab at the top, send an individual student e-mail by clicking the mail button to the right. Or highlight several students and e-mail them at the same time. There’s no need to leave the app to send messages!

7. Provide an example of the work you’d like them to do. Within the description of an assignment, provide a link to an example you want students to emulate (and again, remember the http:// so it’s clickable).

8. Provide a collaborative space for students to work. Distribute a place for collaborative class notes. Create a Presentation and give everyone a slide as their own space to work on a class activity. If you create files that everyone can work in, teamwork takes place online.

google classroom 1

Click for a larger version of this image.

9. Track student progress with submission history. Follow the changes students made to their assignments by clicking a student’s assignment in the “Assignment Status” section (after you click on the assignment) and “See submission history.”

10. Revisit previous work in your class folder. Classroom creates a new folder for submitted student work in your Drive when you create a class. It creates a new folder for each assignment so files aren’t jumbled together (like they were in your “Shared with me” or “Incoming” folder when students shared them with you!).

11. Toggle your e-mail notifications on and off. This is a nice feature if you don’t want an e-mail every time something happens in Classroom. Change it under “Settings” when you click the menu button at the top left of your class (the three lines button … sometimes called the “hamburger button”).

12. Give Google your feedback. Use the little button in the bottom right corner to send Google your praise, your frustrations and your suggestions. You never know if the next feature they unveil could come from you!

What are your favorite Google Classroom features? How will you be using this new tool? Share in a comment below!

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  • hjgh says:

    why can’t i use my original gmail.must it be an educational gmail.

  • Rebecca Root says:

    I’m thinking of trying GC for the Drive integration features, but I have a communication question. In my district, student google accounts don’t have email turned on until middle school, so my 4th and 5th graders have lots of the google apps, but not email. Within GC, is there a way for students to send a direct message to me, or for me to send a direct message to them? That’s a feature in Edmodo that we use a lot, precisely because the kids don’t have email.

    • Matt Miller says:

      Hi Rebecca,

      You’re right … Classroom focuses a lot of that communication on email, but there is still a way to do communication within Classroom. I personally have never taught in a school that gives students email addresses, so learning this tip has helped me. If students add a comment to an assignment without clicking into it, it’s a comment that the whole class can see. But if they add comments after clicking into the assignment, it’s a private comment that only the teacher can see. That works a bit like a direct message. This also works from the grading side … students and teachers can swap private comments through graded work. Other than that, Classroom is set up for email (even though some schools, like ours, don’t offer that).

      Hope that helps. Best of luck to you!


    I read 12 great ways to use google classroom. I like the idea of tracking students progress and being able to revisit their assignments and return work to students.

  • Kelly says:

    I love Google Classroom!!! We use it daily in the classroom. In fact, I was able to post a questionnaire that my students respond to daily, about their learning, classroom experience and learning for the day. It has been a wonder full.

    I would like to suggest that you include a calendar for important classroom dates , long term projects/assignments and lesson planning. It would be very helpful.
    Thank you,
    Kelly Wedume

    • Matt Miller says:

      Hi Kelly — It’s been months since you left your comment, but apparently many Classroom users agree with you. Google has promised a calendar feature soon (not available yet as of this comment, but supposed to be coming soon).

  • Jen says:

    Is there a way to add an icon in apps for students to easily access Google Classroom?

  • Steve Jang says:

    I am using Edmodo for 3rd period, GClassroom for 4th period computer science.

    A feature I would like to see is randomizing quiz questions. This discourages cheating and I can create practice tests for the students to use again and again.

    Edmodo has this “randomization” feature but I haven’t seen it in GClassroom (using Google Forms). Hope they add that feature.

  • […] 12 great ways to start using Google Classroom now | Ditch That Textbook “Google Classroom is finally available to all Google Apps for Education teachers and students. The venture into the world of learning management systems seems to be a pretty solid one. First impressions: It looks and feels like a Google product and so is familiar to most. It’s clean and simple (which should make it easy to use) It provides a home base for everything you do in Drive” The author then briefly explains 12 ways she would use some of the features in a classroom situation. They offer ideas worth considering. […]

  • Bine Faure says:

    Can two teachers collaborate in the same classroom? I can’t see they can?

    • Matt Miller says:

      I don’t believe that’s possible (yet!). Although, I’m still learning about Classroom, too, so if I’m wrong, I’m hoping someone will jump in and correct me! 🙂

      • Noble O. says:

        As of April 2015, two teachers CAN collaborate in the same class. In fact, the added teachers can do almost everything the main teacher can (except for deleting the class).

  • […] 12 great ways to start using Google Classroom now […]

  • Andy Streit says:

    Thanks Matt! Exactly what I was looking for.

  • […] 12 great ways to start using Google Classroom now | Ditch That Textbook […]

  • Don says:

    I need an exam module for online exams and a grade book for students to track their grades and then I can replace blackboard with google classroom.

  • Great post but there’s one thing I’m wondering about and that is Classroom providing ‘a home base for everything you do on Drive’. The way I see it, Classroom focuses on the teacher -student workflow and does not (and is perhaps even not supposed to?) replicate everything you do on Drive.

    • Matt Miller says:

      Right, it doesn’t replicate what you do on Drive. You continue creating in Drive … this is just the place where students can see the assignments, have discussions, turn it in, etc. Classroom integrates with Docs, Sheets, Slides, etc., so it’s not reinventing the wheel.

  • Charlie Gerancher says:

    I plan to utilize Classroom in my computer classes with students. I have been using GAFE with grade 3 students for three years and grade 2 students for one year. I’m especially looking forward to creating classroom discussions. I’m planning to try to use Classroom as the starting point/portal for class. We’ll see how that works out. On a different note, I’m going to try to use Classroom in my technology coach role as a conduit for getting ideas, resources and how-to info to my staff. Again, we’ll see how it goes! Rock On!

    • Amanda Dudley says:

      Have you blogged about your experiences with Classroom? I’m curious from an Elementary Media Specialist’s perspective. I love that you are working on this with students this young. I totally believe it is possible, but I’m trying not to reinvent the wheel!

  • I have found Google Classroom disappointing. I love edtech and always try everything I can get my hands on. Nothing compares to Moodle’s strength and versatility. MBC & Google Classroom have the advertising angle but what they offer just doesn’t come close to Moodle.
    In Indiana you can house your moodle courses (for free) through Rose Hulman. http://www.rose-prism.org/moodle/

    • Matt Miller says:

      Taura — Thanks for your comments about Google Classroom and Moodle. As a former Moodler (and user of Rose-Hulman’s PRISM, too), I can see where you’re coming from. Moodle has so many features you can add to your class, and I found that once you get the hang of how it’s laid out, you can set up a class the way you want it to be. I found Moodle to be cumbersome in building the class … seemed like it took forever to add new features to a week module. I didn’t use many of the things you could add to a Moodle class, but I know of a few teachers in my district that are 100 percent Moodle backers. For me, it was the strength of Google Apps (collaboration, speed, integration with other things, etc.) and not so much the flashiness or super functionality of Classroom. I suppose both could be used together (link to Google Docs through Moodle). Either, way, this is what I hoped for when writing about Classroom — seeing multiple viewpoints about the different options. Thanks for speaking up! — Matt

      • Mary Barcroft says:

        I am an avid Moodle champion, but I have found the move over to Classroom, while integrating my Moodle site to be almost seamless. I still do my testing in Moodle, because I like it better than Google forms. It is very simple to put a link to the quiz in Google Classroom to keep the kids anchored in one form. The one perk I miss is a visible calendar, but it is my impression that the Google team is working on that.

        • Matt Miller says:

          I used Moodle for several years, and I could definitely see the testing feature being stronger over there. I think you’ve found a nice marriage of the two systems, Mary — especially if you have years of tests built up in your Moodle site!

    • Charlie Gerancher says:

      I think how one views any tool is very individual and depends upon your purpose. For example, I disagree with your characterization of Moodle. I have used several LMS tools over the years and found others I prefer. My favorite was EDU 2.0. It was far more powerful and versatile than Moodle for me. And, it was far easier to set up because it does not require an installation process. In my opinion, Google Classroom is NOT trying to be an LMS. It is more of a way to simplify the organization of folders in your Drive for students and teachers without the use of scripts. Now, having said that, one must also realize that it is a newborn tool. How it evolves will depend upon input from users. Over time it may grow into something that resembles a traditional LMS. I actually hope that does not happen. In fact, I have been debating it’s use. I like to teach my students to create and organize their folders as well as sharing of folders and documents. Classroom is in its infancy. Give it time to mature.

  • Robert says:

    I’ve got that, too. what is the cost of Apps for Education?

    • Chad says:

      Google Aps for Education (GAFE) is free for all schools. http://www.google.com/enterprise/apps/education/

      • Robert says:

        is it required that it be a whole school initiative or can it be piloted on a small scale?

        and where / what is the cost? There has to be something somewhere. I know some apps are paid but there has to be more.

        • Matt Miller says:

          Based on this deployment guide (https://docs.google.com/document/d/1ixVHcT85nhaU8yYUzi4SEaEMocqkRSSC_Y5GpUtUCVI/edit), it looks like it has to be a whole school/district initiative. You could use Google Apps on a small scale by having students sign up for their own personal Google accounts, but the school/district wouldn’t have any control over it and you couldn’t use Classroom (has to be a GAFE district to use Classroom).

          Google Apps for Education is a free service that Google provides. Much like so many of its products, Google wants people to use and get comfortable with its services so we will rely on Google for everything, hence boosting the company’s profile/visitor count/profits. The more that Google can hook us into depending on it (even from school age), the better positioned it is. So it gives away some of its best services (i.e. Google Apps) for free. In the end, Google makes its money, but not by charging people for Google Apps.

  • Robert says:

    How much does it cost? I think there is a per email address charge and I know of the unique domain charge but I cannot find anything beyond that.


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