Setting Up Your Google Classroom™ Classes

Google Classroom tips from a veteran user

Google Classroom™ Tips: Setting up your Google Classroom™ classes

After over ten years of teaching in a 1:1 classroom, I've used numerous websites, servers, and apps to share work digitally with students. So far, Google Classroom™ has been one of the easiest ways to securely assign and share work from various devices. (It wasn't always like this when we switched to iPads®, but since then, Classroom™ has made vast improvements for Apple® compatibility.) 

If you are looking to use Google Classroom™ with your students, I'll be sharing some tips I've learned through my experience teaching high school English (these tips can be used by ANY teacher of ANY subject or grade level). This first post is about setting up your classes. 

There are a couple of different ways to create classes. I've tried it both ways and will share my experiences with both. I see the benefits of both options but every teacher/classroom is different, so I encourage you to find the way that works best for you. 

Google Classroom classes
An example of my Google Classroom™ classes.
    Option 1: Create a Google class for each class period you teach. I used this option this past year and it worked quite well. In an eight-period day, I teach six classes and one study hall. This past year I had four sections (or class periods) of English II, one section of English IV, and one section of General English IV. I was also a sponsor for the senior class, so I created a "Class of 2017" class to share information. Our principal uses Classroom™ for our teacher evaluations each year, so I was a "student" in those classes.

Google Classroom Classes Sample 2016
My archived classes from 2016.
     Option 2: Create a Google class for each different prep you teach. I used this option the first year of using Google Classroom™ to avoid having to repeat writing the same assignment over and over again (at the time, the option to select multiple classes for the same assignment had not been added). For example, I only had to create three Google classes instead of six: one for English II (which included all my students from three different class periods), one for English IV (which included students from two class periods), and one for General English IV (which included students from one class period). Some teachers who just had one class prep only had to create one Google class.

  PROS of Option 1:

  -You can easily see if everyone in the class has turned work in. This prevents you from becoming a broken record, reminding students to turn in their digital assignment. "Don't forget to turn in...oh, everyone in this class has turned theirs in. Great!"

Example Classroom assignment

  -If one class/section covers the material at a faster rate than another, you don't have to adjust the due dates. (We all know how easily one section can get ahead of another; last year it seemed my morning classes were constantly cut short for various school assemblies, wellness checks--eyes, hearing, lice!--and school pictures, etc.)

  -If you are transferring scores into your grading program, your scores are already listed alphabetically by class period. This makes it much easier to transfer scores into your grading program. (I like to just look at the scores and input them down the line.)

Classroom scores example

  -When you create an assignment, you can create it for multiple classes so you don't have to re-type it for every class. You can easily use the drop-down menu and check off all the classes you want to assign it to. This was not always the case. The first year I used Classroom, it was beneficial to have just one Google class for my three sections of English II to avoid having to re-post the same assignment.  

Google Classroom assignment options
Google Classroom™ allows you to share the same assignment with multiple classes.

  PROS for Option 2:

  -Having just one class for each subject/prep is less work. (Initially, at least.) Even though Google made it easier to share assignments with more than one class, I can't tell you how many times I forgot to use that feature last year (but it was many times). When I wanted to share a link to a YouTube™ video, or to a Quizlet™ list, or to a No Red Ink™ assignment, doing it all at once was much easier.

  -It's faster to see how all of your students in that class, as a whole, are progressing. For example, checking the progress of an assignment means just looking in ONE class, rather than three or four (or how ever many sections you have).   
Checking the progress of an assignment in Google Classroom
Quickly check the progress of an assignment on Google Classroom™.
  -A larger number of students allows for greater discussions and/or polls in Classroom™. When I want to have a discussion on Classroom™,  it's beneficial to have a greater number of students in the class. Some of my sections are very small (I had one class with only three students and one with just six students last year!). It was very hard for the students in those smaller classes to have more diverse conversations. Most of our online discussion fell flat. The best responses happened when I allowed all of them to respond to one another (via Blogger, since I had separate classes in Google Classroom). They truly enjoyed the interaction with students outside their section. 
  Another benefit is when you want to poll ALL of your students enrolled in one prep (i.e. all of my English II students), you can just create one question in the class and get the results from just that one poll. Using Option 1, you would have to compile the results from all of your classes, which may take longer and you don't have that immediate feedback.

Share with all students or pick which ones get the assignment.
Choose to share with ALL students, or just some, for differentiation.
  -Google allows you to choose which students you want to share an assignment (or announcement or question/poll) with, making it easy to differentiate within one Classroom class. Let's say that you teach math and have four sections of Algebra I--two in the morning and two in the afternoon. You set up one Google class for all four sections. One day you had a morning assembly, so your morning classes did not meet. You don't want them to get behind, but you won't see them until the next morning. To solve this problem, you have one of your students in an afternoon class video your lecture and your instructions for the assignment. In Classroom, you create an assignment with the instructions and attach the video (more on how to do that in another post) and assign it ONLY to those students who missed your morning class (and those who may have been absent in an afternoon class, as well). 
  This feature was added last year and made my life much easier for students who were absent. The only problem was that I had to do this multiple times for each section because I could only check off students in that particular Google class. 

Differentiate assignments or share with students who were absent in Google Classroom.
You can share links/assignments with select students in Classroom.

I am sure there are other benefits for both options that I am missing. If you have some to add, please share in the comments below. Whichever option you choose for setting up your Google classes, there are many benefits. Look at your class schedule and decide which would work best for you. If you teach in a 1:1 school, Google Classroom™ is a secure, safe, and easy way to share and collect work from students, as well as a great way to connect with them.

You may have noticed that I am a student in a few of the classes shown. We use Google Classroom™ for teacher evaluations and for professional development, as well. It's a great way for administrators and fellow teachers or presenters to share information, documents, and even assignments with the staff. Share this with your administration if this is something you'd like to implement in your school. I can provide additional information--just contact me through Blogger or Google+ or one of the many social media sites I'm on. You can also see how it works through my Student Growth form for teachers and administrators.

Track student growth easily

Here are ALL of my Google Classroom™ posts:

Tips for secondary teachers on how you should set up your classes (pros and cons of having one Classroom per subject or one Classroom per class period).

Google Classroom Tips

Includes tips and tutorials for creating new classes; customizing the look of your classes; adding new materials/online text; adding students; and adding co-teachers, teacher aides, or access for special education teachers. 

Includes tips and tutorials for creating assignments, announcements, and topics. Also has tips on how to save and delay posting and collecting work for students.

Includes tips and tutorials for creating questions, the types of questions available (multiple choice & short answer), allowing students to interact and respond to one another, and how to easily reuse posts from class to class and year to year.

Google Classroom™ is a trademark of Google Inc. Use of this trademark is subject to Google Brand Permissions.

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