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How I Organize My Google Classroom for Online Instruction

When I transitioned from full-time classroom teacher to hybrid school teacher (2.5 days/week in person and 2.5 days/week online) I quickly learned that teaching online forces you to become very organized, especially when posting daily work for students.

Additionally, where that work is posted makes a big difference. This year my middle school team made the transition from Blackboard to Google Classroom.

Google Classroom is a learning management system (LMS), and while there are plenty of others out there (Blackboard, Canvas, Schoology) I prefer Google Classroom for four reasons:

  1. It’s free

  2. It is intuitive and easy to use

  3. It integrates easily with all other Google products

  4. It’s awesome

If you’ve never used it before, start here. Learn the basics of setting up a class, students, and assignments, then come back when you are ready to start posting assignments.

Organizing with Topics

When my school started to transition from Blackboard to Google Classroom, one of the first worries teachers had was the lack of organization features. You can’t create folders on Google Classroom, or sub-folders, or sub-sub-folders, and some of my colleagues were worried that it would look like a chaotic mess, or worse, that students wouldn’t be able to find anything.

Instead of folders, you can create “topics” on Google Classroom, then drag and drop your assignments, questions, materials, etc, under the appropriate topic.

Your topics could be unit names, assignment types, or dates. We've tried a couple different strategies at our school, but what we've decided works best so far is the following.

Topic Organization

Topic 1: Week at a Glance

This is the top most topic in our classwork tab. The only thing we post under it is a “material” with a Google Doc attached, summarizing the assignments and events for the week ahead.

That “material” is always labeled “Week #” so that students and parents know which week we are on.

Topic 2: Week # - Unit Name

Each week we post a new topic and label it with the current week’s number, plus the name of the unit we are working on. There are a lot of these as the weeks add up, but the current week is always the one closest to the top (just under “Week at a Glance”) so it is easy to find the most current assignments.

3. Class Materials

At the bottom of our topics, we post a section for miscellaneous resources like the syllabus, helpful link, etc. that might need to be referenced at any time.

Assignments Titles

Because Google Classroom assignments aren’t buried deep in a series of folders and sub-folders, we’ve found that students complete more work on Google Classroom than they did on Blackboard.

Because we've wittnessed how important easy navigation is in completing work, and there is only one level of organization (Topics) in Google Classroom; we’ve also made the labeling of our assignments another key piece of our organization.

Each assignment is labeled in this order:

1. Week #

We post the “Week at a Glance” with the week number at the top, so the students always know what week they are on.

2. Abbreviation of the day of the week the assignment SHOULD BE WORKED ON.

That way, on a Monday, students can quickly look at all their assignments and know the ones labeled with an “M” are what they should be working on that day.

Additionally, it makes it really easy to refer back to assignments (and find them using the CTRL + F shortcut) because there will only be one “11M” assignment.

3. The type of assignment it is

I distinguish between:

-Do Now (everyday)

-Assignments (every online day)

-In-Class (when I post an activity for them during an on-campus day)

-Independent Reading (every online day)

4. The assignment name