There’s a lot of digital tools available to teachers, and as a teacher who isn’t too far removed from college, I’d have to say that Google Classroom (and the entire Apps for Education suite, really) has been life changing for me. I spent my entire college career, like most people who have been at a university in the last decade, using some sort of online learning management system (LMS). For Ball State University, it was Blackboard.
In the world of teaching English, though, I think we can all agree that we typically get the short end of the stick when it comes to grading. It seems like it never ends, at least for me!
In comes Google Classroom: the greatest thing to enter my classroom in—well…ever!
My school district uses Google Classroom across the board (at least in the middle and high schools), but the best part about it now is that you can use your own personal email address to set up a Classroom even if your school doesn’t use it. It’s a phenomenal way to start incorporating technology into your classroom, whether you have 1:1 iPads, a BYOD policy, or you just want to make material available to parents at home.
There are a few key features of Classroom (and the entire G-Suite) that I’d like to highlight for other ELA teachers.
Discussion posts are probably the most obvious feature that would relate to ELA. And while they’re a quick way to check for understanding from students, you can set it up in a number of ways depending on your needs for the assessment.For example, for my Honors students, I often give them bell-ringers to work on that are journal responses to material we’re reading in class. It’s a quick way to assess whether they understood the reading, but it’s also a good way to ensure they are the ones who read and didn’t just get the “Sparknotes” version from the kid in class who always does her homework.You can set up the discussion posts so that students can post and edit their work, they can only post (no editing), and even decide whether they can comment on/reply to one another’s posts. The one feature I do like most, though, is that the students cannot see what others have posted until they make their own initial posts. This definitely helps cut down on cheating and just “browsing” other students’ posts to patch their own together with others’ work.
These can also be quick exit/entrance slips or a way to get students to quickly look at each other’s work. I used the discussion feature this year to have students share their thesis statements for an essay. Both the students and I commented on the posts to give feedback on whether the thesis met all requirements, give suggestions on how to revise, etc.
- Rubrics for grading
This one isn’t technically part of Google Classroom, but it sure does make grading long essays and projects a breeze! If you haven’t tried the Doctopus and Goobric extensions for Google Chrome and Google Sheets, you’re missing out! I won’t go into elaborate detail on it because it’s better to see for yourself (video below!).
My school used to use My Big Campus, which had a great rubric feature, and this was one thing I dearly missed when we switched to Google Classroom. So, I was thrilled when I found this alternative for grading. One minor drawback to this tool is that you can only use it on your laptop/desktop version of Chrome. The iPad doesn’t allow for Chrome extensions, which is what the Goobric portion of the tool is, and the Doctopus extension for Sheets is pretty extensive, so it, too, doesn’t work on the iPad.
Watch the video below to see how it works!
- Encouraging Peer & Teacher Feedback
Nothing makes an ELA teacher’s eye twitch more than thinking about grading that stack of newly submitted essays. You know that the students deserve ample feedback, but you don’t know if they even pay attention to it sometimes.Enter Google Docs/Slides commenting. This isn’t anything new—you could comment in Word. The difference with the feedback system in Docs/Slides is working in SUGGESTION MODE! Once you have students switch to this mode, everything they write on a peer’s paper is added as a suggestion. In addition to being able to see the feedback in real time, the students can then go through each comment and individually select whether to accept or reject the suggestions. If you regularly do peer review as an assignment/activity, maybe you could even have students write responses to each suggestion explaining why they did/did not accept them (just a thought!).
I know there are many other cool things that tech-friendly teachers are doing out there with Google Classroom and the G-Suite. Please comment with other cool techniques you’ve discovered for making the most of Classroom!