Tuesday, August 21, 2018

Google Classroom Refresh: Where is the About Tab?

With a significant update to Google Classroom, one thing missing is the About tab.  I liked having the About tab and used is as a resource area for students.  I places links to my course syllabi, finished early choices, links to important external website, etc.  After thinking outside the box, I came up with a way to still have the same resources as before, just in different locations with the refreshed Google Classroom.


Even though the traditional About tab is now gone, you can still access an About area.  It is located in the Stream tab.  If you select About, you can edit an area to include the course description, for example.  Some have included links to items as well.  You will also notice the Class Code and the option to display the code in a projected screen.  To edit this area, you have to select the Widget.

Course Description in About


I add additional information for students to have as reference throughout the year.  With the original About tab gone, I utilized the Topics feature in the new Classwork tab.  I created an About/Resource Topic.  Next I added links, docs, forms, and other information as an Assignment.  I set the assignment with No Due Date and Ungraded.  Students can select the About topic for information needed throughout the year for any necessary resources.  

Since I created assignments, I plan to have students 'click around' the updated Google Classroom and Mark as Done each of the assignments listed in the About/Resources topic.

Saturday, June 23, 2018

Google Forms: New Themes & Fonts

One of the features I missed from the old version of Google Forms were the font choices and selection of theme colors.  Look no further!  Google is rolling this feature out to everyone!  Yes, you only have four font choices, hopefully they will add a few more, but they did expand the color selection and background color choices.

Add Custom Color icon

If you select the Add Custom Color icon, you can have even more color choices!

For additional information, select this link to Google's help.  This should jazz up those Form quizzes we educators are fond of!

Monday, August 28, 2017

5 Tech Tools to Connect with Parents Before School Starts

Before the first day of school, I like to send an email out to every parent introducing myself and what items of technology are available to help parents stay connected to my class. Here are my 5 favorites:

1.  Smore 

Smore is a site that hosts simple newsletters and flyers.  You can use it for free or they have special pricing for educators for more features.  Smore allows you to add links and videos to your pages.  I use this for my class syllabus, newsletters, technology tips, and more.  Smore creates a link and I add the link to my email for parents and on my About page of Google Classroom.  My favorite tip:  No copying!  If I find a mistake, I make the change and update the page!  

2. Remind

Remind is a free text messaging app to help teachers communicate with parents and/or students.  You can send images, links to sites or videos and messages of 140 characters or less.  This is a big hit with my parents as they only have to sign up once and messages are delivered to them.  It is especially popular with my students when we have a snow day.

3.  Google Guardian Summaries

If you use Google Classroom, you will love this feature.  In August 2016, Google added Guardian Email Summaries to Google Classroom.  Guardians can receive an email summary weekly or daily of missing work, upcoming work, and activities within Google Classroom from any teacher that turns this feature on.  Parents need to supply an email address.  Once parents receive an invitation, they may choose how often they would like to see an email summary.  Last year, I received positive feedback from parents/guardians about this feature. For more detailed information about this feature, check out this blog post

4. Google Forms

I teach 12 class on an A/B schedule with 330-380 students.  I had to figure out a way to collect emails from parents to set parents up with Guardian Summaries in Google Classroom.  Google Forms was the answer!  I set up a form asking for: Student last name, student first name, current grade, class title, class hour, and parent/guardian email address.  I include a link to this form in my email to parents so they can sign up ahead of time.  See my previous blog post for more info!

5.  Google Forms Add-on: Form Notification

Add-ons help with the functionality with Google Forms, Docs, and Sheets.  Even though you can set up a notification through Google Forms, I still like to use the Form Notification add-on for this project.  I can have an email sent to me after every 20 responses are collected or change it to every response.  I can also set up the notification to send an email back to the email address they entered confirming receipt.  My message says, "Thank you for responding.  Be on the lookout for an email invitation after school starts! You have 120 days to accept the invitation.  "  When I have time I go to my response collect Google Sheet and copy and paste parent emails into Google Classroom.

Putting it All Together

I crafted an email to put all this information together and copy and paste the message in our mass email feature through our grade book program.  See example below:
Select the image above to view the sample letter.

Saturday, June 10, 2017

5 Steps: Student Drive and Classroom Clean-Up

Many teachers are organizing and cleaning as they wrap up their year, but what about students? Teachers should help students not only clean out their lockers, but help students organize and clean their Google Drive and Classroom.

Step 1:  The Infamous Untitled

Open Google Drive and search for any untitled doc, sheets, slides, etc.  Rename the items or move to the trash.  To rename an item, right click and select rename.

How to Rename a File

Step 2:  Create Folders

Have students create a general folder for this school year.  For example, 2016-2017 or their grade.
  1. Open the folder up with a double-click.
  2. Create sub-folders for each subject, if desired.
  3. Drag and drop work into each subject folder or move the file
    How to move files in Google Drive
  4. Add a color to your folder(s) if you choose.  Pay attention to the awesome names of each color like Slime Green or Macaroni!
    How to Change a Folder Color
  5. Empty the trash in Google Drive
Tip:  Select a range of files using Shift + Click or specific files using CTRL or Command + Click

Step 3:  Organize Google Classroom Folder in Drive

Many students often forget that they have a classroom folder in Google Drive.  Now that I have completed my third year as a teacher using Google Classroom, I like to organize my folders within Classroom.  Students could do the same OR move their work out and into their previously created folder (See Step 2). 

  1. Create a folder for the year, 2016-2017 Classes or the year in school.  For example, 8th Grade.
  2. Select class folders and drag into the newly created folder.

Step 4:  If it isn't archived, unenroll!

August or even September hits and you, the student notices that your teacher(s) has not removed or archived their class and you are still enrolled.  No worries!  You can unenroll yourself and make that "tile" disappear!  You will still have your work in your Google Drive Classroom folder.
How to unenroll yourself from a class.

Step 5:  I'm Moving, Graduating or Changing Districts

No worries, Google has you covered.  Google Transfer helps G Suite districts by easily copying and moving your email and Google Drive files.

Want to move your items to a new Gmail or Google Account?  

Google Transfer is for you!  It will make a copy and transfer it to your new Gmail account.  Make sure all of your content transferred. (See comment on this post below)

Want to create an archive of your data?

Google Takeout will export the data you choose into a zip file.  

Friday, April 7, 2017

Google Slides: Insert Video from Drive!

Many districts restrict usage of YouTube.  This has been a real challenge when working in Google Slides.  Until recently, you could only embed videos from YouTube.  Now, you can embed videos from  your Google Drive into Google Slides!

Step 1:  Insert Menu & Select Video

Step 2: Choose Google Drive

Step 3: Select Video & Insert

Your slide should look similar to the image below with an embedded image of the video.  When you switch to presentation mode, you will be able to play the video.

Some of you may have the question, "How do I convert a video to an MP4?"  Here is a link to a video to help you out.  As always, make sure you cite your sources in your work.  After you convert the video, upload it to Google Drive and turn the link sharing on.  I personally set most of my videos to "anyone with the link can view" unless it is of students.

I am very happy about this update!  Bravo Google!

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Differentiation and Group Work in Google Classroom

Since the launch of Google Classroom, educators have been asking for a way to assign group work and ways to differentiate their instruction.  I even came up with complex directions for students with group work which was time consuming and tedious.  Many educators create multiple Google Classrooms to address the issue.  I saw one student's account had 12 different topics for their 5th grade class last year!  Google has heard us and answered us!  You can now assign work to an entire class, a group of students or even just one student! You can even post a question or an announcement to an entire class, a group of students or even just one student too!  


With this is new update, I am able to accomplish the following:
  • Assign group work
  • Accommodate assignment needs of students with IEPs, 504 and English Language Learners in a discreet delivery which is key for my middle school students
  • Adjust length of assignments for students based on need
  • Assign reinforcement lessons/videos to students struggling with a specific concept
  • Assign an extension activity to students who grasp concepts quickly and need an extra challenge
  • Assign questions or assignments based on a "book club" model with students reading various books in class in small groups
  • Vary math assignments based on concepts
  • Assign composers to specific students for a group research/presentation project in a music class
I could go on and on with listing the possibilities.  These are just a few that popped into my head.  The one item you may want to think about is document organization.  If you create variations on the same assignment, I suggest you come up with a system that clearly, yet discreetly identifies the assignment.  I prefer Alice Keeler's tip on numbering assignments (#001, #002, etc.).  You could take that one step further with #001, #001.1, #001.2 or #001a, #001b, #001c, for example.  This would keep all of the work together in your Google Drive and in numerical order.  I find Alice's numbering system helpful for myself and when speaking with students about work.  It is much easier to reference a number over a long title.

For more information, check out Google Classroom's Help page.

Sunday, September 18, 2016

Google Classroom: Guardian Email Summaries

January 2017 Update!

Google Classroom rolled out the ability for guardians to receive summaries of student work and activities via email.  Guardians may choose a weekly or daily summary of the following:
  • Missing Work
    • Work that is late at the time the email was sent.
  • Upcoming work
    • For daily summaries - work that is the day of the email or the next day.
    • For weekly summaries - work that is due in the upcoming week
  • Class activity
    • Announcements, assignments and questions posted
See an example below:

Let's Get Started:

Step 1 - You need to turn the feature on!  Under the student tab, on the left side you will find the image below or Include this Class.  If may ask if you would like to add to all of your classes.

Step 2 - Invite guardians!  I teach an A/B schedule, with 12 classes and 380 students.  For me this was a task that seemed daunting until...Google Forms!  Yes!  Create a Google Form.  

Google Forms Tips:

  • Don't forget to set a data validation for the email address:

  • Make sure you adjust your settings so guardians/parents can complete the form.  I did not want to limit to 1 response because I teach multiple grades and do have siblings. 

  • In the response menu, create a spreadsheet to collect and view responses.
  • You can also choose the Google Form Add-On "Form Notifications,"  and set up an automatic response reminding guardians to look out for an email invitation.  You can also set up this add-on to notify you via email when you have 1, 10, 20 or 100 responses.  This will minimize you having to check the response form constantly.
Step 3 - After you send out your Google Form, via email, Remind, paper note with the link to your form).  Sit back and wait for responses to roll in!  Once you collect responses, you will copy the email address the guardian/parent supplies and paste next to their name in Google Classroom: 
Select invite next to the student name and paste the email address.

Once you invite guardians/parents, you will notice (invited) next to the guardian email. Guardians will have 120 days to accept the invitation.  After 120 days, the invitation expires.  I suggest you make this known. This indicates an email was sent and waiting for the guardian/parent to accept the invitation.   If Guardians would like to adjust their email summary settings and choose one of the following:
  1. Daily Summaries (sends out at 5 pm every day)
  2. Weekly Summary (sends out at 5 pm on Fridays)
  3. No Summaries
Guardians will need to create a Google Account.  A Gmail is NOT required.  Guardians may use any email domain of their choice, but they create a Google Account.  Here is the LINK to the page they would need.
It will also send an email notifying students through their G Suite for Education email that a guardian email summary was set up.  I like this feature as a safety check to double-check that this is really their guardian/parent email.


  • Guardians cannot view or access the Google Classroom stream.
  • Guardians do not have to have a Gmail, but they do have to have a Google account.  Use this URL https://accounts.google.com/SignUpWithoutGmail?hl=en  December 2016, guardians may use any email domain.  Gmail or a Google Account is no longer required.
  • If guardians/parents do not receive a summary, you may not have posted anything new to Google Classroom
  • Your G Suite for Education Administrator can turn-on settings so that once one teacher enters an email for a guardian/parent, any other teacher that chooses to use the feature guardians/parents will automatically get summaries from other teachers.
  • Here is a help link for guardians/parents: https://support.google.com/edu/classroom/answer/6388136
  • Here is a help link for students: https://support.google.com/edu/classroom/answer/7075223  This might be useful to explain this to students.
  • Here is a help link for teachers: https://support.google.com/edu/classroom/answer/6388126?hl=en&ref_topic=7062675
Overall, guardian summaries is working well with guardians/parents who have chosen this option.  They are also getting summaries from my colleagues who are piloting this with me.  I hope to roll this feature out to more of my colleagues now that I have this detailed blog post about it!  Once I set up my Google Form and sent out via Remind, it has been very little work.  I spend a few minutes each day inviting guardians/parents as they sign-up.  The rest is left up to the guardian/parent.  I now offer communication about student work through our online grade book and guardian email summaries.  I also use Remind to communicate with students and parents.  Give Guardian Summaries a try!