Work Smarter NOT Harder with Google Classroom!

12 Sep

The First in a Google Classroom Series

Original article published in the September issue of The NJEA Review.


The beginning of the school year is the perfect time to jump in and start using Google Classroom. It is simple and easy to navigate not only for your students but for you, the teacher. New to Classroom? The easiest way to get yourself set up is to search YouTube for some easy-to-follow videos if you are not sure where to start.

Now that you’re Classroom is up and running, let’s talk about using Google Classroom to help you work smarter and NOT harder.


  • Make a Template –  When you assign work in Classroom and you make a copy for each student you will now have multiple copies of the same Doc in your Drive.  When you create your original using a Google Doc click on the star next to the title. This will make it a template and much easier to find when you need it down the road.   In order to find your original, simply do a search in your drive using the search terms “is:starred” and all of your templates will show in the results.
  • Create a Naming Convention – Something I learned early on is to create some kind of standard form of numbering your assignments.  I have seen people use #001 or #AAA to keep their assignments organized and easy to find in the Classroom Stream.  Numbering your assignments will make it much quicker and easier to find.
  • Make Everything an “Assignment” – Google Classroom has a nice feature that connects each assignment to a student calendar. However this feature ONLY works for assignments with due dates.  You can leverage this calendar feature by making everything an assignment in Classroom.  Even if you are simply reminding students to bring something to class, reading a chapter, or telling them that tomorrow is an early dismissal make it an assignment with a due date and it will automatically show up on their calendar. Teach your students early on to check in with their Classroom Calendar so they never miss a due date!


  • Keyboard Shortcuts – There are no shortcuts expressly designed for Classroom but Alice Keeler, a Google Classroom aficionado, has pointed out that this combination of keyboard shortcuts really helps cut down on some time clicking in and out of each students work when providing feedback and/or grading their work.

This shortcut allows you to make a comment on their work quickly and easily.


Then you use this combination to close out your comment when you are finished.


Finally, this keyboard combo takes you directly to the next student.


It may not seem like it saves you much time but if you teach middle or high school and have upwards of 100 students it is worth giving a try. I promise once you get the hang of it you will save more time than you would have thought.

  • Notify Students of Feedback – You can provide your students with all the feedback in the world but if they never open up the assignment again they will never know.  Here is a quick tip to notify your students when you want them to see your feedback and/or react to it in some way.  When you are finished giving your feedback in the comments box type the + character on your keyboard and then begin typing the first few characters of their email address. Their full email will populate. Click on the blue “comment” button and your student will be notified via email. If you teach your students early on to check their email frequently this can become a valuable tool in assisting your students with revising and editing their work.
  • Easy Printing – If giving online feedback is not your thing and you prefer to print out your students’ work in order to comment here is a tip to save you some time.  Use the app from the Chrome Web Store called, PDF Mergy.  This neat feature will let you print all of your student work in one shot instead of having to click on each individual student’s work within Classroom which can be quite time consuming.  You can find a great video on YouTube with directions that will walk you through it here


  • Easy Navigation for Grading – Classroom has now enabled the use of the up and down arrows with the platform.  This makes it easy to move from one student to the next when entering grades.
  • Split your Screen – At this time, Classroom does not integrate with online gradebooks like Power School or Genesis. It can be very time consuming to flip back and forth between your online gradebook and Google Classroom.  There are a few extensions in the Chrome Web Store that you can use to split your computer screen. I prefer Tab Resize. It offers different configurations of splitting your screen so you can view your gradebook and Classroom within the same tab to make transferring grades a snap!
  • Don’t Grade in Classroom – Did you ever think about not putting grades in Google Classroom?  Most people see it as an option and feel they have to use it because it is there just as I did early on.  Then I had the unfortunate circumstance of making a mistake when transferring a grade from Classroom to my online gradebook. Because of a typo I shorted a student some points.  When I stopped to think about it I realized I was doing double work by putting grades in Classroom AND the online gradebook.  So to save some time and potential errors my students know that if I have graded an assignment that they completed in Classroom they look for a “1” in the grading section. This signals them to check the online gradebook.  If they do not see anything they know that it has not been graded yet.
  • Change your Grading Values – Keep in mind you don’t have to grade every single thing you put in Classroom. Sometimes you may want students to practice a skill, brainstorm ideas, or simply work through the process which can be more important than the product at times. If this is the case then you can change the grading value to “ungraded” on the Student Work screen.  The default setting is 100 points but if you click on the down arrow you can easily change it to a different value by simply typing it in.

This is just the tip of the iceberg of what you can do with Google Classroom.  Look for two more articles about Google Classroom.  “Liven up your Lessons in Google Classroom” and “Thinking Out of the Box with Google Classroom”.


Chrissy Romano Arrrabito

3rd Grade Teacher

Nellie K. Parker School, Hackensack Public Schools

Google for Edu Certified Trainer