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Educators are often intimidated by Google Sheets and stick to assigning Google Docs or Google Slides assignments. But Google Sheets activities for students are easier to put together than you think! They’re also engaging, create opportunities for critical thinking and allow learners to be creative. Check out these learning activities and tips, and you might just turn out to be a Google Sheets fan.
What can learners do with Google Sheets?
Meaningful reading log
If you’re an English language arts educator, you’ve probably assigned a reading log at some point. It’s wonderful to encourage the joy of reading, but oftentimes kids will fill out reading logs with basic information. When they have to keep track of the number of pages they read and the number of minutes, reading may start to feel like a chore.
Instead, a reading log should help learners more deeply engage with the text. To do this, create a three-column chart in Google Sheets for learners. From there, they’ll keep track of surprising moments, how they connected to characters or real people, questions they have, choices they disagree with or predictions they’ve formulated. Learners will make note of the event, question or prediction in one column. Then in the third column, they’ll write a quick thought.
You can set up the reading log by adding in a drop-down menu in the first column. You can also ask learners for ideas on how they want to engage with the text so it becomes a personalized process.
Physical activity log
If you teach health or physical education, healthy routines are most likely part of your curriculum. Ask learners to keep track of their physical activities outside of school by inputting them into a Google Sheet.
Rather than just tracking the type of activity and number of minutes, ask them to record how they felt before and after running, doing soccer drills, shooting hoops, swimming, playing hockey, hiking or taking a walk. Then, over time, ask them if they see a pattern in their emotions tied to physical activities.
An ongoing Google Sheets assignment for learners is a vocabulary journal. You can use this across subjects since reading and vocabulary are part of any course. In each row, learners will add a vocabulary word they come across when reading their textbook, online articles or literature. In the next columns, they’ll add a definition, any Greek or Latin roots and a picture that represents the word.
Something to keep in mind is that when learners look up definitions in dictionaries, they often don’t understand the definitions. In this case, they still don’t understand the meaning of the word and you’ve just created busy work for them by copying down a definition. It’s best to point them to a kid-friendly dictionary and have them make a note in their journal if they need more clarification.
Technology Integration Specialist Joli Boucher created a super fun Google Sheets fill-in story activity. In Mad Libs style, learners type in their own adjectives, proper nouns, numbers and more to build a story. Joli’s example is a Halloween activity, but she details the steps for creating your own fill-in story. After learners complete the activity, ask them to share with a partner or the class. Design one for any holiday or event to engage learners and hear some giggles around the classroom.
Doctors as detectives
The “Doctors as Detectives” activity is actually a full lesson plan The New York Times Learning Network featured. Each learner is assigned a disease to research. Then they create a spreadsheet with symptoms and historical facts. Afterward, their partner uses their Google Sheet to do some detective work and figure out the disease, using complex thinking to determine the answer.
Math mystery puzzles
An elementary educator in Texas created interactive math activities for learners. In these Google Sheets practice exercises, learners select a question from a drop-down menu and then type their answer into a box. The activity will let them know right away whether their answer is correct or not.
A “mystery puzzle” with a picture also reveals itself piece by piece as learners correctly answer questions. This is a great way for learners to practice foundational math skills or to review at the beginning of the year. You can also share puzzles based on learners’ abilities. On the educator’s website, you can download the free Google Sheets activities for students.
Matt Miller from Ditch That Textbook came up with an idea for science classes to collaborate with classes from other parts of the city, state or country. In Google Sheets, the classes collect data about the weather where they live. This gives them a global learning experience and a chance to compare and contrast data.
Educator Brittany Washburn created a Google Sheets activity for learners to collaborate on pixelated art. Learners change the sizes of columns and rows and add colors to cells to create images. Group members can create images of historical architecture, a diagram of the parts of a plant, a fictional character, a map, the Earth’s layers and more.
Games can be a way for learners to practice critical thinking skills and problem-solving skills. You can set up a Battleship game for learners (or they can set it up themselves!) in Google Sheets. Just like the classic game, learners will use strategy to determine where their opponent’s ships are on the Google Sheet. This could be used as enrichment or as an activity for learners who finish an assessment early.
Flippity offers templates and step-by-step instructions for transforming Google Sheets into flashcards and instructional games. Some examples include:
- Quiz show setup
- Spelling word manager
- Word scrambler
- Click and drag objects
How do you share Google Sheets activities with learners?
Once you have a Google Sheets activity ready for learners, what’s the best way to share it with them? You can add each student to the Share settings, but that takes a lot of time (that you don’t have as an educator). Hāpara makes it very easy to share Google Sheets activities with your learners. In Hāpara Teacher Dashboard, there is a “Share files” feature. It allows you to quickly share any Google file or create a new one. You can also share it with a single learner, a group or the entire class for differentiated instruction.
Hāpara Workspace is a tool that allows you to place all of your learning content for a lesson, unit or project into one spot. Students can explore the Workspace at their own pace, and you can add Google Sheets activities for groups or individual learners for differentiated instruction.
How do you learn how to use Google Sheets?
If you need some help understanding how to use Google Sheets features, there are free training options available online. Here are a couple to get you started:
- Google Sheets for educators video — This video is a great way to learn how to sort and filter data, add formulas, create charts and graphs and add conditional formatting.
- Google for Education training — This online hub for educators has a series of videos and interactive lessons to help you dive into Google Sheets
How do you teach learners how to use Google Sheets?
Some learners have technical skills, but they don’t all understand how to use Google Workspace for Education apps. While the activities above can help them gain some Google Sheets skills, you may want to set aside some time for them to take a deeper dive.
Google’s Applied Digital Skills training offers a lesson with teaching materials, so you or your students can learn the basics of Google Sheets.
It also includes games to make learning these skills more fun. For example, share the Make a Word Game with students to play with a partner. As they play, they’ll learn how to use Google Sheets formulas and functions.
Google education expert Alice Keeler also has a guide for students all about Google Sheets. She covers the four basic skills they should gain so they can use spreadsheets in any class.
✔️ Get creative with Google Sheets to boost class engagement.
✔️ Use Google Sheets for collaborative activities.
✔️ Share Google Sheets activities to develop critical thinking skills.
✔️ Use tools that make it easy to share Google files.
✔️ Set aside some time to learn about the features of Google Sheets if you need support.