The Electric Educator: 5 Ways to improve your use of Google Classroom

Sunday, January 7, 2018

5 Ways to improve your use of Google Classroom

5 Ways to improve Google Classroom

Google Classroom is an outstanding tool for managing your classroom. Without it, simple tasks like sharing documents, tracking late assignments, and organizing class discussions would be very difficult.

Here’s the deal, most teachers are only scratching the surface of what they can do with Google Classroom! Posting assignments and receiving student work is just the beginning.

Today I would like to share 5 advanced ideas for getting more out of Google Classroom!

1. Use your “About” page.

The “about” page in Classroom is prime real-estate. Unlike the stream, the about page is “static” which means you can organize resources by importance. Only you, the teacher, can post to the about page so it doesn’t get cluttered by class comments or student posts.

How can you actually use your about page?

I recommend including anything that students are regularly asking you about or resources they need to reference on a regular basis. This may include login instructions to access your online textbook, a link to your school’s online grade book, extra credit opportunities, equations, formulas and other “cheat sheet” type information or enrichment activities.

That’s not all...

Rather than posting each of these resources individually, create a Google Doc on which you list all of these resources. There are two benefits to packaging resources this way:
  1. Your about page won’t become cluttered
  2. If you manage multiple sections of the same class, you can update all of your classes by updating the Google Doc rather than updating each class.
Here are two “about page” templates ready for use:
Make copies, add your own resources and post them to your about page!

2. Organize your stream with topics

The topics feature in Google Classroom will organize posts in your stream.
Why does it matter?
Google Classroom - Stream Topics
Teachers and students have both complained that the stream in Google Classroom gets crowded and overwhelming. Google hasn’t included a search feature for Google Classroom (awkward!). At this time, your best strategy is to create topics.
Topics are especially important if you have a year-long or very active class as the stream quickly becomes flooded with assignments.

The easiest way to organize your classroom posts is by unit. Topics are listed alphabetically, so you may want to list them as “unit 01” if you have more than 9 units.

Keep your topics to a minimum. If you have too many, they become difficult to manage and navigate.

3. Embrace Emoji 🤔

Using emoji characters in email and other text communication is not just some frivolous “millennial” activity; emoji can actually be quite useful for classroom teachers.

A recent experience pointed this out to me.

I took an online course from Tony Vincent. Tony consistently used emoji in his assignments to call out important details and tips. I had never seen someone use emoji to effectively. It was great!

Consider using emoji in your directions, assignments or instructions to help break up long sections of text and emphasize important actions such as “👁️ watch this video...”, “⚠️ watch out for...” “🤞don’t forget to...”
Adding emoji to Google Classroom
Here’s what you need in order to get started:
Install this emoji extension for Google Chrome.
The next time you want to insert an emoji, just click the extension, select your emoji and copy / paste it into the text field
Bonus: Tony just announce a new course “Classy Videos” that will start in January. I enjoyed his Google Drawing Class and would recommend anything he offers! More info here.

4. Schedule Announcements

Google Classroom has three types of posts - assignments, questions, and announcements. One of these is not like the others!
Announcements have some unique characteristics:
  • Announcements don’t have due-dates so they don’t show up on the class calendar.
  • Announcements aren’t sent to guardians
  • There is no way to track if students have read announcements.
Here’s the thing - because I can’t track which students have read my announcements and they aren’t sent to guardians, I only use the announcement feature for non-critical information. Here are two ways that I use it:

First, I try to connect with my students on a personal level with fun messages.
Marc Seigel has a whiteboard in his classroom on which he writes #wordsofawesome. These messages could easily be added to Google Classroom as well.
Google Classroom takes the hassle out of daily classroom routines and procedures which leaves us more opportunities to connect with our students on a personal level. Scheduling encouraging announcements is one way you can do this.
Marc Seigel (@daretochem) shares #wordsofawesome to his class every morning.
Ashlie O’Connor (@oconnorashlie) schedules fun holiday messages with BitMoji.
The second way I use announcements is for assignment reminders.
Are your students working on a big project like a research paper or class presentation? Students can get overwhelmed by big projects with far-off due dates. Use the announcement feature to schedule checkpoints along the way.
Here’s how to get started:
  • First, I create an assignment with the final due-date of the project. This is an important step so that the assignment shows up on the class calendar.
  • Next, create several (weekly?) announcements with statements like “There are now 3 weeks until your final project is due. By this time you should have identified your primary sources and begun working on our outline. If you need help, please come and see me during lunch or after school...”
Scheduling announcements is the secret!
The key two both of these uses of the announcement feature is to create the posts when you have time, and schedule them for a future date. Schedule as many encouraging announcements as you can in 15 minutes.

When you are planning your next big projects, schedule your reminders at the same time using the announcement feature. Do it now so you don’t have to think about it later!

If you have never scheduled a post in Google classroom, watch this video!

5. Record directions with Screencastify

My final tip may be the most helpful because it solves a complaint that I have had for many years.

Have you ever written out step-by-step instructions for a technology-related tasks? It’s super difficult and highly annoying! That thing that takes you seconds to do is an 8-step process that fills up 1/2 of a Google Doc!

Instead of writing out these instructions, record them using Screencastify!

Screencastify is a free screen recording extension for Google Chrome. You can use it to record what you are doing on your screen while you talk students through your instructions.

Not convinced?
The next time you are schedule to be out of the classroom, use Screencastify to create your sub plans! Talk about a time saver!

When you record and post directions using Screencastify students can watch it on-demand. They can pause, rewind, and follow along as many times as needed!

I use Screencastify so much that I upgraded to their premium version. At only $24/year it’s a great deal! You don’t NEED the premium version of Screencastify, but if you use it regularly, it’s worth the $24 to upgrade. If you are interested in upgrading, use this link and Screencastify will buy me a cup of coffee!

Why do these ideas matter?

By using these 5 ideas you can spend more time connecting with your students. Technology will never replace teachers, but it can free us up to do what we do best - helping students see their potential.

Have some tips of your own? Please leave me a comment and share your ideas!


  1. Nice and useful tips!

  2. Thanks for sharing this! It makes me feel pretty good about how I use Google Classroom. I frequently used Screencastify and schedule announcements when I am out of the classroom. I was surprised to learn that announcements do not get shared with parents. I just assumed the parents could see their student's entire feed. That is great to know for when I need to get important info home. I also just downloaded the emoji extension👍 I'm excited to use it! Thanks a lot.

  3. Thanks Sir, I have checked emoji extension but they have too many ads and suck my browser. then i found this one i think Emoji Extension For Chrome works better then others.


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