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Expert Advice on Making “Google Classroom” Work

Previously, we published an email we received from a parent member of the SOAR community. This parents laid out all of the troubles she was experiencing with Google Classroom.

We asked for your help and advice on how this parent could solve her Google Classroom troubles; we knew your experience could help others navigate this struggle. The first several responses from teachers and parents were all in empathy… this frustrated parent is clearly not alone! 

google classroom

One teacher, Haley Behr from The Schools of Paragon in Austin, Texas, took the time to describe how she uses Google Classroom:

Hi there! I use Google Classroom every day, and have for the past 4 years or so. Here are some of my responses to the issues listed:

#1: The Chromebook: There is actually some small storage on most chromebooks. If you need to download a reading or textbook, you could store it on there. Also, if you’re kid is one of those that needs to have physical papers, I often post all of my classroom materials (daily) on the Classroom Stream. My kids are able to print out these papers for their own use.

#2: The “All-or-Nothing” Access Problem: There are some things that exist to allow to only block certain sites and monitor computer use remotely (Go Guardian, Hapara). What I think is more important is teaching internet use as a skill. Before computers, kids had to learn how to prioritize their time, focus on their work before doing “fun things”. While the internet makes this harder, it’s still the basic principal. I think this needs to be an explicit part of the curriculum.

#3: Organizational Disaster: Think of Google Drive as a 3-ring binder. Some kids might just stuff all their papers in there and never be able to find anything. SOAR teaches kids to keep the binder organized with binder tabs into different classes. Students need to be taught to do this with their Google Drive, as well. The Stream is more like a virtual classroom where you communicate with your teacher and classmates. You bring things from your Drive into your virtual classroom. This not something that Google Classroom would “do for you” just like a 3 ring binder won’t automatically make you organized.

#4: Confusing Timelines, Due Dates, and Tracking of Finished Work: Even without a document attached, students can press “Mark As Done”. My students use this everyday for assignments turned in both on Google Classroom and in person.

Overall, I think for Google Classroom to work successfully, teachers need to use it successfully. It sounds like this school needs to invest in both Google Classroom training for its teachers, as well as setting some standards and expectations for how teachers at their school use it. It would be a frustrating tool to use if the teachers aren’t setting it up the right way.

For it to work the right way, there has to be some front end work. This work would be especially difficult for teachers who rely on physical papers or books. However, Google Classroom has made my life 100% easier, in and out of the classroom. Here is how I use it:

Back End – Google Drive

Each of my classes has it’s own folder. Inside the folder I have the year separated into Trimesters and Weeks. Inside each week are all the documents I need for that week of teaching including notes sheets, worksheets, readings. and lesson plans. Each day (lesson plan) is a Google Slide. I project these every day for my kids. It includes warm-ups, transitions, discussion points, videos, notes, homework, etc.

Front End – Google Classroom

Every day I make an announcement with the date and a bullet point list of what we did that day. I then attach the Slide Show that I projected that day. If kids miss class, or need to go over notes, they have access to exactly what we did in class.

For every activity I want them to accomplish, I make an assignment. I attach all worksheets, rubrics, and assignments to that assignment so if kids lose papers, they have easy access to print it out again. No excuses!

The best tip I can give to parents and students is ORGANIZE your Google Drive and stay up to date on the to-do list.

Thank You, Haley!

Thank you, Haley, for sharing your response. Without help from teacher’s like you, we cannot achieve our mission of being the central hub in education.

Want to learn more about the SOAR system you can apply to Google Classroom, click here. 

To our students’ success,

Jessie S.

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