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Ten Tips to Teach Google Tools in the Elementary Computer Classroom

Ten Tips to Teach Google Tools in the Elementary Computer Classroom

For years, my school district has utilized the Microsoft Office tools.  Three years ago, our district switched us over to Google. Teachers had to learn to use Gmail as well as the Google tools available to us.  After using the Google package for a few years myself, I finally tried teaching the Google suite to the older students in my building– and they loved it!  My school is a preschool – 4th-grade school, and I guessed that the kindergarten and 1st graders wouldn’t be ready for this; however, I’ve found that using Google tools for 2nd, 3rd and 4th graders can be very effective.  Here are some tips I learned through my experiences.

1) Start Small

Google offers a lot of interesting tools, but don’t overwhelm your students when you begin.  Start with a small and engaging assignment. For instance, I started my second graders with a simple Google Document assignment.  They had to open a document, title it, and type three sentences. We discussed how they would not need to save the document as it saved on its own.  With the ease of opening a document and the exciting knowledge that they could not lose their work, the 2nd graders were sold.

2) Model, model, model

I find it extremely helpful to show the students over and over how to log in.  Our district set up Google log-ins for my students, but I realized that it took several times seeing how to log-in for students to understand.  So for the first few times, we use Google tools, I begin by modeling the log-in for my students. And as we learn about each product — Documents, Slides, etc. — I model how to open up the document and navigate.  These kids are like sponges, and pretty soon they are finding out things that I hadn’t discovered yet.

3) Create a log-in sheet for students

Another helpful tip is to create a short, easy to read log-in cheat sheet.  Place these where students can readily find them. This helps me when I’m helping a student on an assignment and don’t want to have to stop and re-teach the log-in process.  If it’s been a few weeks since we’ve used Google products, and students often need a reminder. Cheat sheets are a wonderful solution to this problem.

4) Show students the end result

It’s easier to sell students on Google products when you can have their buy-in. This happens when they see the usefulness of Google’s suite of tools.  In second grade, we created a Google Slides presentation that included a student’s journal entry and a video clip of them reading their journal entry aloud.  Then, we’d send these to their parents. My students were so excited to put this all together, that I had no trouble getting them to try out Google Slides once I explained the end result to them.  I also taught them to send the document to me, and they loved doing that.

5) Teach students the creative aspects

One reason my students like Google tools is that you can play around with the design, especially on slides.  They love changing the background and colors as well as adding images. They feel as though they’ve put their own unique touches on their assignment, and they are motivated to work on the assignment.  Students also enjoy learning to send their documents to others. In third grade, my students worked on a classroom assignment in the computer lab, and they loved getting to send their assignment back to their homeroom teacher, including a note to her as well.  

6) Create a Google Classroom

I finally learned the benefit of Google Classroom in the computer lab.  This is an easy way for me to check in on students and create assignments.  Students can comment on tasks, and I can respond to them. So far, I’ve only set up Google classrooms for my 3rd and 4th-grade classes, but I love the ease at which I can prepare a lesson.  In addition, it is easy to teach students how to join my Google classroom, and students can then use other Google products to complete the assignment I have created.

7) Use Google forms

After I began using Google Classroom, I figured out how to create surveys and quizzes to assess what students know and don’t know.  Students simply log in to Google, go to my Google classroom, and find the assignment. I paste the link to the form, students answer the questions at their own pace, and then I can pull up the responses.  It’s a great tool to see how students are doing.

8) Talk to students about the upside of Google

I like to tell students why each tool will be useful to them.  This seems to help them want to learn. Again, my 2nd graders enjoyed creating a document that they knew would be going to their parents.  Fourth graders, on the other hand, enjoyed the freedom of creating a Google Slides presentation, selecting the background, and adding appropriate images to match their content.

9) Tell students they can use Google at home

I tell my students that they can get to Google from home if they know their log-in.  This means that assignments don’t have to be completed at school. Students can work on tasks at home.  In addition, students can work on independent assignments at home and then share with teachers. In fact, over Christmas Break, I had a 4th grader send me a Google slide show she had made.  Students enjoy being able to use Google tools to communicate with their teachers.

10) Ask a trusted colleague for help

There is a 3rd-grade teacher in my building who is extremely knowledgeable in this area.  I asked her to help show me how to set up a Google classroom, and she did. If I have other questions, I just shoot her an email.  She was glad to help me, plus it is a benefit to her if I can help her students learn Google products. If her students can navigate Google in the computer lab, then they can tackle Google-related assignments in the classroom.  This is a win-win for me and for homeroom teachers.

If you are thinking about teaching Google tools to your elementary students, I say try it.  Use the tips above, tweak lessons as needed, and get your students started. You’ll be surprised how much they enjoy using Google tools and how quickly they learn to use them.  You may even be surprised at how much you enjoy teaching and using these tools. Best of luck!

Written by Crysta Baier

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