Help! It’s been a few weeks into this distance learning thing, but your Google Classroom still feels like it could use a cleaner look. Or maybe your students are still struggling to complete all of your assignments because they “didn’t see that one.” Keep reading to see important ways to organize your Google Classroom.
It’s important to keep Google Classrooms organized so that our students can find everything they need. Similarly to keeping our physical classrooms organized so that students know where to turn in work, find writing utensils, know where to sign-out to use the bathroom, and so much more.
Instead of thinking about your Google Classroom as a daunting confusing task, think of it the same way you think of your physical space. Get it organized so everyone can access things at their fingertips.
Here are some tips to help you for the remainder of the year. It will also help you begin thinking about how you want to organize your Google Classrooms for next year.
#1 Topic Organization
This is probably the biggest and most important way to keep things clear for both you and your students. I’m guessing many of you already use Topics within your Google Classroom but may feel that it’s still not working for you. There are lots of ways to use this feature. Check out the ones below and decide which one feels the best for you.
OR, maybe it will inspire your own system. If so, leave a comment below to let us know your strategy!
Unit, Chapter, Lesson
Create a topic for each unit you work on with your students and label the assignments and materials appropriately so that your students can find things easily.
If you have several lessons within each lesson, or you utilize chapters in a textbook, you could add in another layer of “coding” to your topic. For example, ONE of your lessons contains several activities and you want to keep them organized. You could label it in this way:
TOPIC = Unit 3 – Lesson 1 – American Revolution
If you use this method, you could also label each assignment similarly, by writing the first letter of Unit and Lesson, followed by the assignment title.
ASSIGNMENT TITLE = U3-L1-Intro to American Revolution
I have seen several teachers move to this way of posting in their classrooms, especially while distance learning. They create a new topic each week. For example:
TOPIC = Week #10
TOPIC = Week of 4/13/20
Then all of the work they would like their students to work on for that entire week is posted with this topic label.
It can certainly create a lot of topics as you move throughout the year, but if you are okay with that, then this might be a good system for you.
“But some of my assignments take longer than one week!”
You can simply move it to the next week as you post new assignments.
This is the system I use in my classroom and it works really well for me. It takes a few extra steps once assignments have passed, but it’s worth it for my students to know exactly what to work on. Students already have so many classrooms & assignments to manage, the easier I can make mine, the more likely I will have a high completion rate.
I keep a MOST CURRENT topic at the top of my Classwork page where I post everything that should be looked at and worked on for today. This includes any lessons that may not have been completed the week before by students that still need to turn it in.
Sometimes I will even number them so that they know the order that I would like things to be completed in. Plus, it’s a way to model prioritizing if you explain why they should work on certain things first within the instructions.
After the due date has passed, I move it into a different topic for “storage” or later reference for students.
Type of Assignment
I use this system in combination with the MOST CURRENT topic I explained above.
When I move an assignment out of the MOST CURRENT topic, I will generally move it into a topic that represents the type of assignment it is. This is so that when students want to redo something or reference their work later, it is easy for them to find.
TOPIC = Attendance
TOPIC = Brief Writes
TOPIC = Do-Now
This system seems to be the best for elementary students, since they are usually dealing with one classroom for several subjects. However, I still recommend using it in combination with either the Most Current concept or the Weekly topic strategies mentioned above.
Use the Most Current topic to post the assignments that are due this week. Then next week move them to their respectful subject areas for easy reference. I would also encourage labeling your assignments in a way that lets your students know which subject each pertains to. (see the next section)
#2 Labeling Assignments
Once you have figured out the best way to label your topics, consider how you label your assignments as well.
Some schools, especially middle schools, may have teams of teachers that work a group of students. This kind of scenario makes collaboration on how you organize your classrooms much easier. A system like this seems to work really well for this situation. It makes things consistent for the students when all of you are able to post your assignments that same way.
When working with the Weekly topic idea or the Most Current topic idea you might label your assignments like this:
Week/Subject – Type of Assignment – Assignment Name
Example = 11M – Do Now – Vocab Review
This would mean to the student that it is Week #11 and the subject for the assignment is Math. It is a “Do Now” assignment about reviewing vocabulary.
If all of the teachers in your team are doing this, I can imagine it works really great!
Posting one document that explains all of the work students need to complete for the whole week is a great idea. Use task cards to streamline your delivery of assignments.
You can then post links to the assignments within the task card and have ONE place for your students to go for all their weekly work. However, if you would like to keep track of, or grade assignments through the classroom then you will want to post these assignments separately under the Weekly or Most Current topic.
Here is an example:
If you want to link directly to this assignment within your task card, see the video below on how to do this!
Plus, CLICK HERE for a free template in Google Slides of a task card that you can use today!
Sometimes I don’t assign any topic to an assignment, information, or question. I do this when there is something I want to show at the top of the Classwork section for students to complete or look at FIRST!
When this item has “expired” or no longer an important item, I will then assign a topic to it so that it can live elsewhere in my classroom. This way it can still be searched for using the topic labels on the side.
We are very visual beings. Studies show that we will remember approximately 65% of the visual content we encounter, but only 10% of the textual content, therefore, it’s a good idea to add a little 🎨 “visual arts” 🎨 to your classroom.
I started using Emojis 😃 at the beginning of my assignments to help give another layer of categorizing. My students really like them 👍🏼 and it differentiates between my Joke of the Day posts 😹, and my writing assignments ✏️.
You can access emojis really easily.
- Through an emoji keyboard, app or extension (if you are using a mobile device or Chromebook)
- Emojipedia – where you can search, copy & past emojis to your heart’s content
- Try Ctrl + Cmd + Spacebar if you are using a Mac computer. This will bring up your emoji/symbols icons to use right at your fingertips.
If you don’t like emojis then you could use word cues in front of each assignment. If an assignment is related to an exit ticket, then you could label the assignment:
EXAMPLE = (EXIT) Egyptian Review
#3 Classwork vs. Stream
If you haven’t figured it out yet, you can move things around in the Classwork section! This is super helpful when creating new topics or moving assignments from one topic to another. Here, you can see me using it to move an assignment from my Most Current topic to the one it will live in once my students have completed the task.
There are a lot of different ways to post in Google Classroom. Be sure to check out the many different types of assignments you can create and which ones to utilize for each task.
I don’t actually use the Stream very much in my Google Classroom. However, it can be a great place to “connect” with your students and show that you care.
The first thing I do with my Stream is “Hide Notifications” of assignments.
Just click on the settings wheel in the top right corner of your classes page and choose to “Hide Notifications in the Stream.”
This will clean up the stream so that there are ONLY announcements posted from you or your students and it forces them to visit the Classwork page to find all of their assignments. Which is where they are organized for them because that’s what you just worked on. 😉
So now, in the Stream, you can:
- Ask them provoking questions for a mini discussion
- Post selfies to let them know you are thinking of them and that there is a human on the other side of the computer.
- Post a Joke of the Day and have them guess what the punchline is.
- Share silly memes that will lighten the mood in this stressful time.
#4 Consistency is KEY!
Whatever you decide to do, it is important that you stick with your system so that students know what to expect. My students expressed their frustration when some of their teachers were “trying out” different ways of organizing their classrooms. It got confusing to them. Just when they felt they understood how to navigate that teacher’s classroom, the teacher tried something new – again.
So, if you’ve recently changed your format, you might want to plan to implement them next year. That way your students (and you) will be able to stay sane for the rest of this one.
If you haven’t done anything to change your Google Classroom yet this year, consider some of these tips! Our teaching is different now with distance learning. Therefore, our organization should look different as well.
REMEMBER: You’re doing a great job! Stay organized so you can stay sane! And give yourself a break! No one is expecting perfection.
Good luck, and let me know how you are organizing your Google Classroom in the comments below!