If you've never used Google Classroom before, the best way I had it explained to me is that you have all of your files in your Google Drive (like your "My Documents" folder on your computer). Google Classroom is how you share those files with your students and how they interact with them. You can make announcements, create assignments, distribute handouts, host discussions, complete quizzes, and a host of other activities in your classroom.
If you're new to Google Classroom, I recommend creating a "test" classroom and playing around with it before you launch it with your students. Click buttons, create things, delete and edit them, etc. That's the best way to get to know the lay-of-the-land.
Your "Stream" is like your home page. This is where new posts appear (assignments, questions you pose to the class, and announcements). While you cannot create an announcement and instantly post it to all of your classes (I have separate classrooms for each class), you can "re-use" a post from another class. You create these posts by clicking the "+" sign on the bottom right-hand corner. Other things that appear here are Topics that you've assigned to various posts (like blog post categories), items that are due soon, and any comments that people make on the posts. Remember that the "Stream" tab organizes posts by date - old information will move down while new information will appear at the top. Anything that you want to "park" in one location for the entire course should go under the "About" tab.
The second tab is "Students". Here, you can get the class code for students to join your classroom (they do so by going to classroom.google.com, logging in, and clicking the "+" sign, then entering your code). You can see the students who have "joined" your class and send them an email (click the three dots on the row with their name). You can also set posting and commenting permissions for the entire class (drop down arrow at the top-right) as well as remove, email, and "mute" selected students (check the names you want, then click the "Actions" button near the top). I haven't played around much with the "invite guardians" button, but I've been told that the email has to be exact - if you're copying and pasting, be sure not to include any spaces before or after the email
Finally, there's the "About" tab. This is for anything you want to have in one place during the entire course. Edit your course description, see where the folder is with any class-specific documents (this is automatically created for you), and you can see the calendar of due dates (I need to play around with the calendar more). For me, the most important item is the "Add class materials" box. Here, I can park any information that I want my students to be able to access at any time. Like the "Stream", new boxes are added at the top of the screen, so if you want your sections of materials to appear in a specific order, be sure to add the sections you want to appear on the bottom first and create the sections you want to appear at the top last (I would love it if Google made it so you can re-organize this page without deleting and re-posting). Each section can have multiple items added to it, but these are added to the bottom of the list - so add individual items in the order you want them to appear. These can be file attachments (uploaded or linked from Google Drive), media, or links. My About tab currently has the following materials:
- Course Information (section)
- Link to lesson plan outlines (link)
- Grading rubrics (Google Drive file)
- Course expectations and Syllabus (Google Drive file)
- Make up and extra credit
- Link to Make Up Work form (created via Google Forms)
- Link to Extra Credit form (created via Google Forms)
- Study Resources
- Class Stories (I link to blog, but you could use a Google Drive document that you update with each story - I recommend typing the story at the top so the most recent story appears first)
- Quizlet Flashcards (link to the class's personalized set with their vocabulary)
- Handouts and Notes (link to a page on my external student website, although you could create a section with links directly to the files OR to a shared Google Drive folder, which is what I will likely do in the future)
- Songs in Spanish (link to a page on my external student website with music videos for Spanish class)
- Señor Wooly Website with the class code
- Link to SeñorWooly.com
I'll finish with an explanation of how I use this every day with my students:
- Any assignments students have to do outside of class are posted in the Stream. They get notifications in their classroom (and on their device if they install the app!) about anything that is new as well as reminders about upcoming due dates.
- I post any announcements in the classroom, such as when grades are updated or if I need to remind my students about something. Again, students get these notifications in their Google Classroom dashboard as well as device notifications from the app.
- Students who are absent or who want extra credit use the make-up form to submit the work (see my student website for more information).
- Students communicate with me by posting comments on anything that they need help with. There are public as well as private comments.
- Students have instant access to their class stories, which I create embedded readings for as well as audio recordings and include the artist's drawing. Our evolving class library is now in their hands!
- When I assign something, students can submit work directly in the Google Classroom. Perhaps you want them to do a free-write and submit it electronically? They can type it or write/take a picture of it, and then attach the document or photo to the assignment and turn it in. You can create a Google Form that automatically grades the questions or simply organizes them for you to review their answers. You can leave feedback on the assignments and it allows you to collaborate - you can set assignments so that students can only View the assignment, all students can collaborate on the same assignment, or each student gets their own copy of the assignment to work on and submit. I'm very excited to experiment with more ways to use these options...
There are so many possibilities with this kind of technology. I cannot wait to explore more, and I'm lucky to have a Google Classroom expert in my building. I would love to hear your ideas as well and will continue to post more as they evolve!