Edtech tips

Improving your virtual learning environment: A Google Classroom tutorial

Using technology for deep learning

 

Google Classroom is a free online application that enables teachers to organize all of their digital class materials into one designated area, creating a space for them to collaborate with learners in an easy-to-use virtual learning environment. This K-12 platform integrates all of the Google applications, (such as Docs, Slides, Calendar, etc.), allowing teachers to create, assign and collect assignments, as well as conduct lessons and collaborate with students through discussion boards, feedback and live meetings. Continue reading to learn how to incorporate this program into your instructional practice.

Steps to creating a class

With Google Classroom, you will create a different class for each subject or class that you teach. Your students may be enrolled in several different Google classes throughout the term. This could pose certain challenges for them because they most likely will have to keep track of several codes and passwords in order to log in and access course materials from their different classrooms. Hāpara, an instructional that enhances Google Classroom functionality, solves this issue with its Student Dashboard where students can access information from all of their Google Classrooms in one location.

Did you know that Hāpara Student Dashboard allows students to access all of their Google Classroom announcements, assignments and other course materials from one central location? This eliminates the issue of students having to navigate through several different class websites and remember multiple codes and passwords in order to log in.

Student Dashboard helps students organize and prioritize all of their learning tasks from Google Classroom and G Suite for Education into one easily accessible hub.

Learn more about Hāpara Student Dashboard

 

To create a class, you will first need to be signed into Google with your school Gmail account. After signing in, find the Google Classroom app in the Google Apps “waffle” button on the top right of the screen. In Classroom, click on the plus icon, where you will have the option to either join or create a class.

After you choose to create a class, you can add details such as your class name, subject area, etc. Once your class is created, the unique code will appear on the left side of the banner, so you can share the code with students and parents. They can then join by clicking on the plus icon and entering the code, or you can invite students using their student Gmail address from the ‘People’ tab at the top of the classroom page.

You can personalize the class banner by selecting from several theme options, or you can upload your own unique photo to use as a class background. To change the theme, click on ‘select a theme’ located at the bottom right side of the class banner, and choose a suitable image. If you want to add a customized image for your background instead, select ‘upload photo’ to insert an image from your files. 

At the top of the class page, there are four tab options to help you manage your class. The Stream tab lists all posts in chronological order, so learners can see announcements, posted assignments, and can comment or ask questions.

The Classwork tab organizes instructional content by unit or ‘topic,’ making it easy for teachers and students to access the assignments and previously studied topics.

The People tab lists the students enrolled in your classroom, and from this tab, you can invite learners to join your class, email the student directly and mute the student if you don’t want them to comment on posts.

The Grades tab displays the grades that a learner has earned for each assignment, and allows teachers to see if a student is missing any coursework. Hāpara also makes communication with students and grading even quicker and simpler by allowing you to email students directly through the Dashboard by clicking on their Student Tile. The Tile also displays all of the student’s assigned Google Classroom tasks, including the work they have turned in, and the work they are missing.

How to create assignments

Google Classroom lets teachers easily share, post, grade and offer feedback on assignments. To share an assignment with your learners, go to the Classwork tab, and click ‘create.’ From here, you will have the option to create an assignment, quiz, question, material or reuse a previously created post.

When creating an assignment, you can upload anything you created with Google’s virtual classroom tools in your Google Drive, such as a Google Doc, Slideshow or Sheet. You can also attach links and videos. From here, you can post assignment directions, categorize the assignment by putting in a specific topic, assign point amounts and due dates and either post it immediately, or schedule it for a specified time.

There are also options for students to either only view or edit a file. If you want to assign each student a copy of the assignment for them to complete and submit individually, select ‘make a copy for each student.’

Creating a quiz or a test is similar to creating an assignment. You can use Google Forms to create a new quiz, or you can upload one that you have already created.

The option to create a question can be used as a discussion board, in which you post a question, and students can respond to the question and each other. If you teach more than one class in a certain subject area, reusing an old post is particularly helpful because you can post the same assignment to a different class without having to recreate an entirely new post.

Hāpara further eases the process of sharing assignments with students with its Smart Share function, which allows teachers to share assignments from Google Classroom with individual students or the entire class. It can also help with differentiation by assigning modified assignments to specific groups of students, for example students with IEPs or English language learners.

How to manage assignments

Once an assignment has been posted in Google Classroom, there are several ways you can organize and manage your assignments in the platform. You can move an assignment or an entire topic by clicking and dragging it to the desired location. To edit or to delete an entire assignment, click on the ellipsis to make any necessary changes.

If the amount of assignments you have created begins to accumulate, you can archive older assignments by creating a topic entitled ‘old assignments,’ and move your older work to that folder to free up space within your classroom.

Grading can easily be completed from the assignment tab, where you can see which students have turned in their work, and assess it from there.

You can click on an individual student document, and leave comments, a grade and any other feedback, and the student can respond here as well.

Sometimes, if students submit late work, you may have to search back through several older assignments in your Classroom. Hāpara Teacher Dashboard and Workspace solve this issue by grouping all learner work in an individual Student Tile, so you can save time searching for late work and check on student progress by simply clicking on the Student Tile.

Google Classroom serves as an option to help launch and manage your virtual learning environment. It is easy to use for both teachers and learners of all subject areas and grade levels, and helps you share important information, collect work and communicate with your students. Start creating your own Classroom today to streamline your instructional learning environment.

About the author
Lindsee Tauck studied English Literature and Curriculum and Instruction at Montana State University in Bozeman, Montana. She has been involved in education for over 12 years, and has taught in a variety of locations, including: Chiapas, Mexico, Montana, Wyoming and south central Los Angeles. She has lived and worked in San Diego, California since 2010 and currently teaches high school English in Chula Vista, California.

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