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Tuesday, September 8, 2020

Google Classroom: Top Tips for Music Teachers

My district used Google Classroom during school closures this past spring, and we're continuing with the platform for this school year as we prepare to return in a hybrid model. After spending some serious quality time with it the last several months, here are my favorite tips to get the most out of Google Classroom as a general music teacher.

1. Use Questions 

One of the best things I learned this spring was to post assignments as "questions" instead of "assignments". It works the same as an assignment- you can assign a due date and grading scale, or not, and include materials and links and a description- but instead of having to open or upload something like a Google Form or Doc to give an answer or tell you what they did, students can do it right in the post in Google Classroom. There are 2 choices for setting up the question: short answer, or multiple choice. My favorite trick is using "multiple choice" with just 1 choice that says "I completed ___ task", so once they have done whatever the assignment says (maybe watching a video and singing along, or uploading something to flipgrid, etc) they just click the button and mark as done. It it so much easier for young students- any time I can set it up as a question instead of an assignment, I do! 

2. Use Topics

Any teacher who has used Google Classroom for any amount of time will know that organizing assignments by topic is key! This year I am setting up one topic for my Zoom links, which students who have opted to stay home can use to join my live streamed class, one topic for emergency sub plans, where I have assignments that can be used any time of year posted as drafts so I can grab and post if needed without students seeing them in their pages, and the rest of the topics by week, where I will post each day's materials labeled by date. 

This year I have my own classrooms (which I prefer), but last spring I shared classrooms with the art, PE, and library teachers, so we had one topic for each of our subject areas and posted our assignments within those topics.

3. Get Your Own Room

After trying out both sharing one Google Classroom per grade with the other specialists, and being added as a co-teacher to the homeroom teacher's classroom and posting assignments there, I can say with confidence that the best solution in my opinion is to have a separate room for music. Yes, it means students have more classrooms to switch between, but as a parent of incoming 3rd graders I can say that in the long run, navigating different classrooms is far less confusing for students than digging through one classroom with so many different topics and assignments! If you have the choice, get your own rooms. 

One way to make the process of navigating multiple classrooms easier for young students is to add students to the room yourself instead of sending out an invitation code and asking students to find the rooms themselves. Yes, it's extra time adding hundreds of students to their rooms yourself, but it's pretty quick and easy to do and in my experience takes way less time than giving homeroom teachers the code to share, then re-share, then contacting families to try to connect with missing students. Once you add them to the room yourself, all students have to do is go to "classes" and it will be there waiting for them!

4. Google Slides

I experimented with all kinds of different formats for posting materials this spring, and I have come to the conclusion that Google Slides is by far the most effective and versatile tool for music teachers. I plan on using Slides for as much as I can! 
  • composition and other worksheets: students can drag and drop items or add their own text
  • visuals: I won't be able to project slides onto a board this year, even for my in-person students, because I'm on a cart. Instead I'm uploading the slides to Google Classroom so all of my students, whether they're live streaming from home or with me in person, can open the slides on their own screens.
  • embed video and audio: Slides make it easy to insert videos or audio clips I want to share in class, so just like visuals I can have students access those within Google Slides. If I need to share a recording of myself singing etc, I'll just insert the video into the Slides so that students are still only opening one file, rather than going back and forth.
I hope these tips are helpful for anyone using Google Classroom in a full distance or hybrid model this year! I know many teachers have been using this platform for a while themselves- if you have any other tips to share please leave them in the comments!

I'm continuing to compile all of my posts related to teaching through this pandemic in one page- whether you're looking for management ideas, lesson plans, or technology tips, this is the place to go (and check back often):