Colleagues from Barlby High School share what they’ve learnt from using Google Classroom during lockdown’
I had never really used Google Classroom much other than adding the odd bit of work on for students who had been self isolating during the autumn term, but to be honest I did find it all a bit overwhelming.
During this new year lockdown I have learnt a lot. Through trial and error I have found that for my subject (MFL) creating slides for students to work directly onto works the best in terms of making it as user friendly as possible for the students. You just have to make sure that when you click to add the file for them to work on, that you pull down the menu to make a copy for each student, or they can’t type on it. I put a lightbulb clipart on the slide if it is for information and a pencil on the slide if students need to fill something in. I do this every time so students are used to it now. I also write the instructions as clearly and simply as I can and put a big red box where I want their answers. Having all the work including reading materials on the same slides and not a separate document has meant students don’t have to flick between several things.
An added and very useful bonus is that slides saves their progress as they go along and I can see live by clicking on any student what they have typed so far that lesson – I don’t have to wait until the hand in date is the work spans several lessons and I can immediately issue merits. If they have a question they are able to ask me for some help on a certain number slide and I can go type a message to them as an individual while they are looking at their slide. I often also go through while they are working maybe half way into the lesson and just type a quick smiley face on their comments if they are working well or the word ‘work?’ if they are taking too long to start – which usually spurs them on either way. To save time I have also been creating answer documents and saving them as PDFs which I then put on the class stream a few days after the work is due, so that students can self assess, which they like and it saves an awful lot of time rather than me marking every single error on every piece of work.
As a PE teacher approaching his half century I never dreamed I would be teaching human reproduction to Year 7s online!
I was totally new to Google this year, but saw the possibilities for tidying up documentation for the paper chase that is Level 2 BTEC Sport and allowing staff / students to access the information outside of school. I started this process in lockdown 1. Then came the realisation of just what Google can do (and that when you can’t do it, you just have to Google it and you will find a 2 minute video that tells you how).
I am an old dog learning new tricks and I am enjoying it because these new tricks are more effective and more efficient than what I was doing before.
Have you ever explained at length the next task to students, only to realise you were on mute the entire time and you’ve actually just spent the last two minutes talking to yourself about what they need to do next? Me too! I was on maternity leave last year when staff were beginning to use Google Classroom to set work and liaise with students so when January the 5th came and we had to teach all of our lessons online, I really didn’t know what I was doing. The first few days were a haze of learning to juggle taking a register which was open in a different tab to the Google Meet and making the same mistake over and over again of playing a video through my lesson that the students declared ‘laggy.’
The one thing that saved me and my students’ progress throughout all of this has been my faculty and school’s approach to teaching lessons as close to ‘normal’ as possible. Rather than setting tasks and giving students a large amount of time to complete them, I’ve instead structured my lesson in the same way I would if they were sitting in my classroom. I’ve set starters, assessed their prior understanding, shown them how to do something with their input before giving them independent learning time to demonstrate their understanding and progress. Students are rewarded with merits for their contribution and I always have a close eye on what they’re completing live in my lesson by setting Google Docs for them to work on. To summarise, my IT skills are rather basic but by planning, delivering lessons and assessing learning in a similar way to how we would in school, we can see progress from students comparable to that that we’d see in the classroom.
My son uses Google Classrooms at his Primary School, so fortunately I had a pretty decent handle on how it all worked. Being able to see the platform working from the ‘other end’ was really helpful. So if you are able to set up a ‘dummy’ account or similar, that really helps understanding how students access assignments. For live lessons, I moved pretty quickly towards creating individual copies of the assignment for students. For example, a Google Doc or Slides to complete the lesson activities on. This has enabled me to pretty much set exactly the same work and activities I would if in the classroom, and therefore keep some sense of structure and purpose. But what has been most powerful about working like this, is being able to monitor the work being completed ‘live’. This means I have been able to check progress and engagement during the lesson, offer some differentiation and give feedback as students are working etc. – all of the things I would be able to do in the classroom. Ultimately the students are receiving, I think, as close to a normal classroom experience as is possible. This possibly explains why attendance and engagement has been really good.
My other useful discovery was the Google Mote extension. Like most Google applications it’s pretty intuitive to use. Once you have downloaded the Chrome Extension, Mote allows you to make voice recordings, and add them to Google Docs, Slides, Classroom and assignments (and probably more!). I have used Google Mote to provide feedback on assessed pieces during Remote Learning. I simply recorded what I wanted to say, and students got the audio recording added to their assignment which they could play back when they were responding to the feedback. This could be done for individuals or for the whole class. In conclusion, I wouldn’t say it was any more or less effective or efficient than other ways of leaving the feedback, but it provided some much needed variety for students….and me!
What worried me most about online learning was not being able to model answers as well as I could in the classroom, as well as check understanding of students. The chat function on Google Meet, whilst often useful, can be distracting for students (since they can talk to each other!). I have found using applications such as https://whiteboard.fi/ particularly useful to combat both of these issues in one. You can invite students to a ‘class’ and model answers on your whiteboard (particularly useful in Maths when trying to show inequalities, square roots, quadratics, cubics etc), as well as check their working on their own personal whiteboards.
I began using Google Classroom to set assignments for my Year 11 students to aid them with the completion of their coursework. What I quickly realised, was that it made tracking the work completed manageable by making use of Google Docs and chasing the work not completed. Through Google Classroom, the teacher is able to email students to make them aware of deadlines looming and check the progress of tasks completed. Since lockdown, this has filtered through to all years and during live lessons (through Goggle Meet), the teacher is able to open the documents assigned to students and engage in live feedback directly on the piece of work. Prompts can be given live to either support students in the completion of the task or help students begin! In using this facility, I have seen an increase in the work submitted and a much higher standard of completion.
I have found the G Suite invaluable throughout lockdown. The variety of tools and ways to interact and support our pupils has been a Godsend. Initially, I used a lot of pre-recorded lesson content with screen casts and this was a fairly effective tool in terms of providing a point of reference for our learners and a way to direct our pupils towards helpful information and encourage independence. I feel that this approach has really started to pay off as my pupils often revisit older assignments if they are struggling to recall/retrieve some of the content from earlier in the term. I often run any tasks where pupils were doing extended writing ‘live’ this way I can literally drop into their document whilst they are working on it and give them real-time feedback. In many ways this is more effective than looking over their shoulder as that can be off putting for some pupils. The best part about the G Suite is that it is evolving and new ways of implementing learning activities are emerging all the time.
I have found the Google Classroom platform to be really helpful in setting, marking and tracking student work and engagement. When setting assignments and tasks for each lesson, I’ve found it organised, and clear and easy to point students in a clear direction. Whilst students are working on a task that I’ve set, I love that you can open up each of their documents, and comment live on their work, providing support, addressing misconceptions, and providing helpful feedback. This has also been a good way to provide more scaffolding for students that are struggling as I can support them live on their actual work. I love the private comment feature to provide more summative feedback on a piece of work when it’s being marked. Another feature that I’ve found so helpful is where you can click on an individual student, and see all their work, what has been submitted, what’s still missing and any back and forth communication between me and a student on a selected piece of work. It’s a great snapshot picture of where the student is at and how they’re doing, as it provides a “one stop” record of all their work. I’ve used this often when communicating with parents.
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