Google Apps “GAFE Smashing” activities — Part 4: To the next level

Ed Tech

Ed Tech | Monday, May 23, 2016

Google Apps “GAFE Smashing” activities — Part 4: To the next level

Smashing multiple Google tools together can create amazing classroom experiences. Check out these two "GAFE Smashes" for some new ideas. (Public domain image via

Smashing multiple Google tools together can create amazing classroom experiences. Check out these two “GAFE Smashes” for some new ideas. (Public domain image via

Using Google Apps like Docs, Slides, Sheets, Drawings and MyMaps give you access to features that can take your activities to the next level.

However, when you use them together — smash them — you can pull the best of several tools into one superb activity.

In today’s post, Karly Moura and Sean Fahey introduce you to maps with custom images and an interactive reading journal. They use multiple simple Google tools and show you exactly how to do it yourself.

Drawings and MyMaps

Submitted by Karly Moura (Twitter: @KarlyMoura)

How to do it: Getting a Google Drawing into a Google My Map is a little tricky since you need to get the image URL but it is worth it for getting something student created into a map.

After creating their google drawing students will need to get a URL for their drawing to insert it into a My Map.

Have students download their Google Drawing image as a .png or .jpeg file to their Google Drive.

Click to view full-size image.

Click to view full-size image.

Click on the image file then “Get Shareable Link” in the upper right corner of drive and copy the URL from there.

Click to view full-size image.

Click to view full-size image.

(Thank you Mandi Tolen and Justin Birckbichler for helping me see the easier way on this one!)

Once you have your URL you are ready to insert your image into your MyMap! In this sample MyMap a poster, made in Google Drawings is inserted into the map to showcase a few key features of the city. The GIF below shows how to insert your drawing into your map. You can also insert GIFs into MyMaps!

Click to view full-size image.

Click to view full-size image.

Applications for class: 

Sensational State Reports

  • A collaborative class map of the United States is a fun way for students to showcase their state report! Have students create posters, infographics, a word cloud, art and more to share all about their state. Students can add multiple pictures to one pin in the map to create a slideshow of images.

Virtual (or Real) Field Trip Reflection

  • Students can use My Maps to locate a place they have visited on a class field trip and share what they learned through a Google Drawing. Students can also “visit” World Wonders through the Google Cultural Institute. After their visit have students create a gallery of images and text to create a travel brochure highlighting the key points of their visit.

Take a trip with your favorite character or author!

  • After reading a book students can locate the setting of the story or find where the author of the book lives. They can make an infographic or poster in Google Drawings to create a unique book report and share with the class in a collaborative Google My Map.


Docs and Slides

Submitted by Sean Fahey (Twitter: @SeanJFahey)

How to do it: Use a Google Doc as a “homepage” to provide the links to students’ Google Slides document they are using as a digital journal. This allows other students to view and comment on these journals to promote peer collaboration and reflection in the classroom.

The steps are simple, but how you decide to facilitate it is entirely up to you!

  • Create a Google Doc with the names of your students. Here is a simple example.
  • Create a Google Slides Template for students to use that will fit the task. Here is a Slides template I made for a reading response journal.
  • Share the Slides Template with your students and have them make a copy or distribute it using Google Classroom. That is what I did. (If a new blank Slides document  will do, have students create one.)
  • Now for each students’ Google Slides document you need to get the shareable link to it with the permission “Anyone with the link can comment”.
  • Add this shareable link as a hyperlink to the student’s name in the Google Doc (highlight name, Ctrl+k to add the link, Ctrl+V to paste link, Apply).
  • This will need to be done for each individual student’s’ Google Slides document and name. What should happen is when you click on Student A’s  name it will take you to Student A’s Google Slides document. When you’re finished you’ll have something like this.

Find a home for your Google Document for easy access for your class. For me, I would put it in the ABOUT section of Google Classroom, but a class website could work too. Just make sure the sharing setting of the Google Doc is “view only” or students may accidentally make edits you don’t want.

Applications for class: 

This setup is not limited to a reading response journal. With a little tweaking this setup can work in many ways some examples could include:

  • Provides an alternative to a public blogging site or at the very least if you want to get your students into blogging publicly this would be a great way to teach how to write and comment on blogs.
  • Document results of science experiments. Students can take pictures, add them to the slide, and write a quick reflection about the results. Classmates can then comment about their experience and ask questions. This could be done for a whole unit or the entire year.
  • Journal Writing. I remember having a writing journal in 3rd grade. My teacher would give an interesting prompt to write about and respond to. (One I’ve remember all these years was, What would you do if you had a wallet that never ran run out of cash?”) Students could use this set up too as their journal. When the year is over, publish the journal as a PDF and share with family.
  • Working on math? How about have student keep track of the different types of problems they have learned to solve. They can take a picture of a problem the solved correctly insert it into the slide and add a short explanation or reflection of it for future reference.

I am sure the possibilities are endless. What other ways can you think of to use this smash?

Templates/resources:  For me, Google Slides is the most versatile app among the GAFE products. Don’t agree with me? Matt Miller has two EXCELLENT posts about it (10 Google Slides activities to add awesome to classes & 8 interactive Google Slides activities for classroom excitement) you should check out!

Also here is a great infographic by the edtechteam that explores other ways to use Google Slides.

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