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Raise your hand if your learners have turned in a Google Docs assignment. Was it an essay, summary or another straightforward assignment? Since Google Docs saves progress on its own, and learners can access it online, it certainly works well for word processing. But there are all kinds of engaging ways you can implement Google Docs for learners. Whether you share Google Docs in Google Classroom, add them to a Hāpara Workspace or include them on your class website, Docs can be interactive and personalized. Check out these Google Docs activities for learners across subjects.
One of the benefits of Google Docs for learners is that it increases their productivity because they can access their documents from any device. It also keeps them engaged if you choose a meaningful activity. One way to do that is to use Google Docs for collaboration. Learners don’t need their own separate documents, nor do they need to sit together in person. Instead, you can share a Google Doc with several learners in a group and they can all access it online and work on it simultaneously.
Ideas include collaborating on a story, online research, a speech or scientific experiment results. You can also share one Google Doc with learners across the class and ask them to add their responses. For instance, at the beginning of the year, you can ask learners to share their favorite animal, song, TV show or after-school activity. Everyone in the class can then see the responses, allowing them to get to know one another.
2. Annotate text
There are several Google Docs features for learners that go beyond typing. One of those is the ability to annotate text. For example, if you have an article about a current event, you can copy it over to a Google Doc and have learners add annotations. You may want them to identify “aha moments,” topic sentences or significant details and explain their thinking. Learners simply highlight the text and add a comment.
You can also highlight text yourself and add a comment with a question. From there, learners can answer the question, and then you can reply to continue the discussion.
You can also add Google Drawings within a Doc for learners to annotate. Learners can label the parts of a plant in science, a map in social studies, parts of a paragraph in language arts or explain their problem-solving steps in math.
3. Take notes
Another way to use Google Docs is for taking notes. Learners can store them in a folder in their Google Drive and access them at any time. No more lost notes! Online you can find free Google Docs templates for learners such as:
4. Revise writing
Having learners write in a Google Doc means that it’s easy for you to leave comments about making revisions. Both you and the learner can also see the revision process by accessing File Version History. So instead of stapling together paper drafts, you can see all of the drafts within one document.
Learners can also use the Suggesting feature in Google Docs so that their edits are visible in green. You can then accept their suggested edits or not.
5. Have a scavenger hunt
Want to keep learners’ interest? Try an online scavenger hunt! Create clues and send learners around the internet to learn more about an event in history, a science topic, steps for a math activity and more.
You can add scavenger hunt steps to a Google Doc and share it with a team or individual learners. You don’t have to start from scratch, though. There are scavenger hunt Google Docs templates for learners, thanks to educators around the web!
- Scavenger hunt Google Docs template for learners: Use this template for any scavenger hunt.
- Google Docs scavenger hunt: If you want students to learn more about how to use Google Docs itself, make a copy of this template.
- Google Docs scavenger hunt for third grade: This template also teaches learners about how to use Google Docs, but it’s geared toward elementary.
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6. Create a table
You can also insert a table in a Google Doc to share with learners, which is especially helpful in math or science. Here are some ways to use tables:
- Insert a table and fill it out with data.
- Insert a table with some of the cells filled out by including data, text or images. Then ask learners to fill out the rest of the boxes.
- Add a table as a graphic organizer for learners to complete as they read.
- Ask learners to create their own table.
7. Identify and highlight
Another way learners can interact with text in a Google Doc is by highlighting in different colors. You can include text in a Google Doc and instructions for learners about what to identify and highlight. Some examples include:
- Highlight topic sentences in one color and supporting evidence in another color
- Highlight adverbs
- Highlight the main argument
- Highlight cause and effect in different colors
- Highlight the character’s motivation
8. Use voice typing
Some learners may need to use voice typing due to a 504 plan or IEP. Or some learners may benefit from brainstorming by recording their voice first before typing a draft. Google Docs includes this feature. As long as a learner’s device has a microphone, they can take advantage of the voice typing feature.
Here are the steps:
- Select Tools.
- Select Voice typing.
- Select your language.
- Click on the microphone icon.
- Start speaking.
9. Practice social and emotional learning
You can also use Google Docs for social and emotional learning, as suggested by Kasey Bell of Shake Up Learning. In the Insert menu at the top of Google Docs, select Dropdown.
This allows you to create any kind of drop-down menu in your Google Doc. In this case, you can add a range of emojis or words related to feelings. Ask learners to select their current feeling as a way to check in and practice self-awareness.
10. Give feedback on formative assessments
Of course, once you share Google Docs activities with learners, you need to provide formative feedback. This ensures that your learners are clear about the learning goals, understand if they’re on the right track and can get support when they need it. It can be challenging, though, to follow along with your learners’ progress when you have tons of Google Docs in your Drive.
Hāpara Teacher Dashboard is a one-stop hub that shows you all the recent Google files your learners have been working on. Each learner has a Student Tile on your Teacher Dashboard. From there you can see which Google Docs (and Slides or Drawings) they’ve modified recently. Then with just one click, you can open a file and leave a comment with formative feedback. No more searching for learners’ files!
Bonus: Use Google Slides for digital storytelling
There are many ways to use Google applications in your classroom. In addition to Google Docs, Google Slides can make assessments engaging and motivate learners.
For instance, learners can write a story in a Google Doc individually or in a group. Or they can use Google Slides for digital storytelling. This is a fun activity for summer enrichment, the beginning of the school year or any time of the year.
For example, you may want learners to practice their narrative writing skills related to theme. Provide them with a choice of themes, or support student voice by asking them for theme suggestions.
Learners can then create a character, and on the first slide, add a picture representing the character. In the notes section, they can also describe character traits. In the next slide, learners can develop a plot diagram for their narrative. Then in the slides that follow, they can build their digital story, adding text, sound, images or video.
This is a great way to tap into student agency because learners are able to choose what interests them. You can also add the activity steps to Hāpara Workspace, create differentiated tasks for groups and ask learners to upload their Google Slides digital story there.
Learn how to use Google Docs and Slides
Now that you have engaging ways to implement Google Docs for learners, you may need help getting started. Luckily there are simple step-by-step training guides available online. Try these for beginner and more intermediate tips:
- Get started with Google Docs: This page is part of Google for Education’s educator training center.
- Google Docs for beginners: This interactive Google lesson is for anyone new to Google Docs.
- Annotate text in Google Docs: This is another interactive Google lesson that will show you how to add annotations.
- How to use Google Docs with English Language Learners: This video covers Google Docs features that provide support for ELLs in your class.
- How to create an interactive Google Doc with lines to fill out: This video shows you how to insert tables for learners to fill out.
- Google Slides training: This Google training includes Slides tips and tricks for educators.