If you are looking for a free, easy, user-friendly learning management system for your classroom, look no further than Google Classroom. As Google explains it, “Classroom is a free web service for schools, non-profits, and anyone with a personal Google Account. Classroom makes it easy for learners and instructors to connect—inside and outside of schools.” Classroom is a completely free platform that makes it incredibly easy to store files, go entirely paperless, and communicate efficiently and effectively with students throughout the learning process. I have gone completely paperless this semester with my Senior Dual-Credit English course, and they are absolutely loving it–and so am I!
Setting Up Your Classroom
Google Classroom is free for anyone using a Google Apps for Education Account and for anyone working at a school that has set up a school Google account. You simply go to classroom.google.com and follow the steps for setting up your classroom. If your school has set up an account, like mine, you will need to obtain your login information.
Once you have logged into your account, create a class by simply clicking on the plus sign icon in the far right of the toolbar at the top of your screen. You can name your classes whatever is most appropriate for your purposes, and can even include a section number, the subject, and the room number. You can also alter the theme of the class by sorting through the options provided on the theme button and even uploading your own background picture. After creating the class, you can add students by sending them an invitation via email or by giving them the class code, which Google generates for you. They will simply login using their school provided Google accounts, add the class, and get to work.
Here is a brief video tutorial that shows you how to set up a new class.
Store Classroom Materials
With your Google Classroom account, you also have access to Gmail, Google Drive, Docs, Slides, Sheets (which is like Excel), Forms, and more. You can create and save all your class materials in Google Drive and then share those materials with your students. When sharing, you have the option to share the file as a view-only attachment, a file students can edit (with this option, the changes one student makes will change the file for ALL students), or you can choose to make a copy for each student (use this option if you want student to edit and submit this as the assignment).
Each Classroom page has three separate tabs: stream, classwork, and people. Under the stream tab, you can make announcements for various reasons: general announcements you need to share, reminders of upcoming events and/or assignments/activities, share links and other materials, etc. You simply type your message in the box at the top of the Stream page, include and links and/or attachments you want, then click post. You also have the option of scheduling your post to publish at a later day and time (really comes in handy when you have time to prepare in advance). You can also reuse posts for other classes. If you want to send out the same announcement to multiple classes, just click the arrows in the righthand side of the post box and choose the additional class(es) you want to share it with. You can also enable the option to allow student to comment on announcements.
Under the Classwork tab, you can easily create a new assignment by clicking the “+CREATE” button. This will bring up a box where you title the assignment, type the instructions or a description, add whatever attachments and/or links you need, and set the point value and due date for the assignment. Remember, if you want students to edit and submit a particular attachment, you must create a copy for each student. Just as with the announcements, you can post the assignment immediately or schedule it for a later posting. In addition, you can also reuse assignments in multiple classes following the same protocol as when reusing an announcement.
There are a couple of other feature that allow for the organization of the materials you post under the Classwork tab. First, you can create new topics and organize your assignments by categorizing them to specific topics. I typically do this thematically by unit; for example, in my current Dual-Credit course, I have the topic headings 1984 and Fahrenheit 451, under which I organize all the assignments for each novel. You can also reorder the order in which topics are presented by clicking the three-dot drop down menu on the right of the topic bar and selecting either “move up” or “move down.”
Here is a video tutorial that shows you how to create and organize assignments.
There are also options for students to collaborate on projects. For example, this link shows you how to create a shared Slides assignment.
Using the Questions Feature
Another option available on the Classwork tab is the ability to post a question for students to answer. Just as with creating a new assignment, click the “+CREATE” button and choose “Question.” In addition to posting the question itself, you can also add instructions or a description, choose short answer or multiple choice, set the point value and due date, and categorize it to a certain topic. In order to create an online discussion among students, you can turn on the option that allows students to respond to each other. Again, you have the option to post immediately or schedule a later posting, as well as reuse for other classes.
Providing feedback to students is quick and easy on Google Classroom. To view a student’s submission, you simply click their assignment. In grading mode, you can add comments, track changes you make directly to their document, assign a grade and return the work. Once you return a student’s assignment, they will receive a notification that you have done so. If you want a student to make changes and resubmit, you can do that as well. With a quick glance, Classroom tells you how many students have submitted an assignment, which have yet to submit, and even which students submitted late.
In addition to using the various Google Apps, you can also integrate other apps, such as NewsELA and Quizlet, to truly transform your classroom into a digital learning space. Check out this link to see a list of other applications that easily connect to Google Classroom.
Google Classroom App
Encourage your students to download the Google Classroom App and keep their notifications on; this will allow them to receive notifications each time you post an important announcement or create a new assignment. It will also notify them if they have an upcoming assignment due they have yet to submit.
Google Classroom truly is incredibly easy to use, even for the not-so-tech-savy teacher. It provides a viable option for going completely paperless and has actually helped keep me more organized and on top of grading (and making sure all students are submitting assignments). I would highly recommend trying it out. If you’re still skeptical, do what I did and test it out on one unit with one class. I’m telling you, it will rock your teacher world.