It’s October and your school year is well underway. You have perfected your workflow in Google Classroom, so now is a good time to think about ways to live up your lessons as you use it with your students.

Put your students at the helm

Google Classroom is the perfect  vehicle for students to provide evidence of their learning. If you are moving in the direction of making your classroom more student-centered, you might consider assigning more open-ended tasks. For example, instead of a quiz or test at the end of a lesson, section or unit, you could assess your students’ understanding by asking them to choose how they want to show what they know.

Student work is not always in a digital format, but students can use a Chromebook, smartphone or a laptop to capture video and images. They can create a 60-second video, a voice memo, a slide presentation, a playlist of music, or a digital representation of their sketchnotes. Students can also post links to their blogs, websites, or other online venues. I especially like it when students create screencasts or short videos to explain their thinking or how they solved a problem.

All of these examples of student work can be posted in the Stream on Google Classroom to share with the entire class, or attached to an assignment that is shared with the teacher alone.

Students can share their work with you by clicking the “ADD” button to add a file from their Drive, a link to a website, or a file from an external source. Students can also click on “CREATE” and begin working on a Google Doc, Slide, Sheet or Drawing to demonstrate their knowledge.

Make learning fun

One of my favorite ways to engage students is to use talking avatars.   Voki.com is one of my personal favorites. A Voki can be easily created by a student or teacher. You can personalize your avatar and add sound.

When you “publish” your Voki, you can copy and paste its link into the Stream in Google Classroom as an announcement or assignment. If you give your students the privilege to post and comment in Classroom, they can simply click the “ADD” button to post links to their Vokis in the Stream. This way they can share what they have created not only with you but with their classmates as well.

Vokis created by the teacher can be used to present directions and make announcements that you would otherwise type into the Classroom Stream. Talking avatars can be used in an English language arts class with students showing what they know in lieu of the traditional essay, report or slide presentation. A Voki can also be used as a digital storytelling tool. If you teach a foreign language, you can have students practice speaking and writing using a Voki. In a social studies class, students can choose the Voki of a historical figure and speak from his or her perspective. In science class, pose key questions and have students work in small groups to craft an answer using a Voki.

Comic strip creators can be used in a similar way. Powtoon, StoryBoardThat and Strip Generator are a few that my students found easy and fun to use. Once the comic strips are created students can post the links in the Stream or attach them to an assignment.

Engage your students in real time

The “Create Question” feature allows you to ask questions and get immediate responses from your students. Use the “+” button to add your question to the Stream. Before you click “POST,” you have the option of allowing students to see their classmates’ answers. You can choose whether or not you want to allow your students to reply to each other’s posts. You can also give your students the option to edit their answers after they submit them.

Here are some ideas for how to use the Create Question option.

  • The Do Now or Exit Ticket: Simply ask a question and use your student’s responses to guide your instruction. The teacher can easily see who is struggling and needs more practice, who can move on, and who is ready for a challenge.
  • Self-monitoring: If you are teaching your students to take on more responsibility for their learning, give them the opportunity to reflect upon their work.
  • Jump start a discussion: Instead of just writing a question on the board or asking for a show of hands to take the temperature in the room, pose it in Google Classroom.
  • Get feedback: If we ask our students to reflect upon their work shouldn’t we do the same? Ask your students a question to help you reflect on your teaching. Student feedback is invaluable to a student-centered classroom.

These are just a few ways to liven up your lessons using Google Classroom. I challenge you to try at least one idea you found here and put it into action this school year. Come back next month for the final installment in this Google Classroom series, “Thinking Out of the Box with Google Classroom.” 

Chrissy Romano Arrabito is a third grade teacher at Nellie K. Parker School in Hackensack. She is a Google for Education Certified Trainer who tweets at @TheConnectedEdu and blogs at www.TheConnectedEducator.com. She can be reached at cromano223@gmail.com.