5 Ways to Avoid Disasters When Collaborating in Google Drive

Friday, December 2, 2016 / Leave a Comment
5 Ways to Avoid Disasters When Collaborating in Google Drive: Technology in the Classroom

How do you feel about having your students collaborate in Google Drive?

Having students collaborate in Google Drive is one of my all time FAVORITE features of the entire cloud service. However, the collaboration component can take some getting used to for both students and adults! I remember my very first experience collaborating with others on a simple Google Doc and I was shocked, excited and sea sick all at the same time.

Some teachers I have worked with in the past have been hesitant to introduce their students to the collaborative component of Google because they are worried students will delete each others' work, get off task or are afraid one student will do all of the work. Therefore, here are 5 ideas that will help your students avoid these types of disasters when students are working on the same assignment:

1. Color Code

5 ways to avoid disasters when students are collaborating in Google Drive. Tip #1: Have students choose a color font to color code their contributions to the assignment.

When students are quietly working in small groups or with another person in a far away land on the same Google Document, I like for them each to pick (or you can assign) a different font color to color code their ideas. I always have a small table available in the corner of the assignment so students can type their name next to the color that will distinguish their work. When students type what they would like to add to the assignment everyone will see who contributed which ideas. This is a great way to hold everyone accountable to contributing to their group work.

Here is an example from a group of students who collaboratively took notes on a research project about Ancient Egypt:

I always have a doc ready to go preloaded with this table (notice how yellow isn't a color?) This is the FIRST thing students fill out before working on the doc. If you are interested in trying this method then click HERE for a blank copy of this doc that includes the name color chart.

2. Sharing One Folder

5 ways to avoid disasters when students are collaborating in Google Drive. Tip #2: Share 1 folder with templates/assignments already loaded
When working with younger students who have a hard time with typing, THIS tip will save your sanity. We all know that it could easily take 1st graders 20-30 minutes just to login to a computer. Usernames and passwords these days have more characters than a Disney movie. Help us all if a child's username has the @ symbol, - hyphen or some other character that requires the hold of the SHIFT key. This all comes in time with LOTS of practice😄 Therefore, having younger students type another student's Google username into the SHARE box could easily take the entire class period. Side note: I DO believe this is an important skill for all students to learn....eventually.

To avoid the 30 minute hunting and pecking session that the Google collaboration share settings could potentially create with elementary students, simply make ONE Google folder preloaded with the template or assignment you want students to collaboratively complete.

For example, here is a folder entitled SCIENCE PROJECTS. Inside of the folder are 5 different blank Google Slide presentations I was able to create within seconds. I entitled each presentation with the group number so students would know which one to click on. Students visit the folder, click on their presentation and then the collaboration begins!

Don't forget💡 If you end up using this method you will have to change the share settings on the folder you create so students can access and edit the files. Click on the name of the folder>Share.

Click Advanced:

Next to Private click Change...

Change it to Anyone with the link CAN EDIT.

You will then be given the URL address that you can drop into Google Classroom, share via Google (if your school has created a Group address for your class), place wherever students go to easily click on links or turn into a smaller url using free tools like Tinyurl or Bitly.


3. Revision History

5 ways to avoid disasters when students are collaborating in Google Drive. Tip #3: Know how to locate and utilize revision history
The revision history feature should be every teacher's best friend and I am so surprised how many teachers still don't know about this hidden gem! Revision history can tell you who edited and at what times as well as allow you to revert to a previous version of the file.

To do this, open the document, presentation, spreadsheet or drawing and go to File>Revision History. On the left hand side of your screen you will see everyone who has edited the file, how often they edited and the timestamp:

To restore a previous version (say a student deleted a slide), click on the name and you will see the link to Restore this Revision:

You also might want to click on Show more detailed revisions at the bottom of this menu to reveal more edits:

Note: When you pull up the revision history and click on a name, text that has been added will be highlighted within the file and text that has been deleted will be shown with a strikethrough.  

4. Add Tables

5 ways to avoid disasters when students are collaborating in Google Drive. Tip #4: Add tables to help keep students organized and focused
If students have a hard time clicking on the same doc and/or slideshow and typing at the same time, I like to add tables to help them stay focused and avoid that sea sickness I mentioned earlier that is caused by the cursor bouncing around when multiple people are typing. In fact, the first time I show students the collaborative feature in a Google Doc, I add a table with numbers. Students find their class number, click in the box and type their name. THAT'S IT. Their attention is focused on THEIR box and they have a specific location that will allow only their cursor (well, that's our hope) to click.

Here is an example of one of those docs with a table. Students had created their own website using CheckThis and the teacher wanted the students to have access to each other's websites. So students added both their name and the url of their website to this one Google Doc and then the students could click on each other's websites quickly and easily. This was a class of 24 third graders who all added their information to ONE doc. Since this was their first time seeing a collaborative Google doc in action, I called out their numbers slowly. When they heard their number they knew they could start typing in their box. Just like any skill/concept you teach, you have to go slowly in the beginning. When they start to pick it up then you can speed up the process on collaborating on the same assignment!

You gotta love the student who misspelled their name😂

5. Comments & Chat

5 ways to avoid disasters when students are collaborating in Google Drive. Tip #5: Teach students how to effectively use the comments and chat features

Teach your students how to effectively use the comments and chat features to communicate with their team members if they are not working near each other. I always tell students that the comments and chat are strictly for:

           💻 planning/brainstorming
           💻 asking questions
           💻 offering suggestions

We talk about how these features are important so we don't change or delete anything our team members have added that could eventually cause hurt feelings. Instead, by offering suggestions or asking for clarification on something they are able to open digital lines of communication.

For comments, highlight a word or words and click the comment icon that you see pictured to the left. It appears in the tool bar and it also pops up in a little bubble when you highlight a word or words. Type your comment in the box that pops up and then click the blue Comment button. To see exactly what someone is commenting on, click the actual comment and then the word or words are highlighted for the viewer.

For the chat feature, click the speech bubble that appears next to the icons at the top that represent who is working on the doc, presentation, spreadsheet or drawing:

A chat box will pop up:
Communicate back and forth!

Of course this comes with a little training so students don't get off task. What I like to do is have them "practice" for 5-10 minutes using the chat box with a partner and have a school appropriate conversation. I randomly jump onto their doc and add my own comments that pop up as well as add comments to the chat box. They are FLOORED when they find out that their teacher is always watching👀 Then we quickly review our digital citizenship agreement. This scare tactic usually helps minimize off task and inappropriate behaviors. However, just like any activity you carry out in your classroom, continue to monitor.

If you are still hesitant about the collaboration piece in Google Drive, try out one of my collaborative digital books. These no-prep activities are a great way to get your students working together on the same presentation but they each have their own, individual slide. I have one for every month!


The slides are already designed, in place and ready to go! Share the link with your students and they can create a digital book that you can email home or embed on your class blog/website!

When it comes to collaboration in Google Drive my biggest piece of advice is simply to start small. Once students understand how it works and get used to multiple people working on the same assignment, it will become second nature. Last year I was working with some 5th graders on an activity in Pixie (a drawing program). They wanted to know how they could share their work with a friend so they could work on it together just like they did in Google. When I told them that feature wasn't availble in Pixie they just couldn't believe it. They told me they would much rather use Google Drawing. Amazing.

There is so much value when it comes to collaborative work. What ways do you have your students communicate and collaborate in your classroom?

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My Favorite Way to Kick Off a Fractions Unit

Tuesday, November 29, 2016 / Leave a Comment

Teaching fractions can be daunting. Numerator, denominator, equivalent fractions, improper fractions..they are all unfamiliar words to the average primary student. Having students constantly repeat and work with these mathematical vocabulary terms is vital to their success. 
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Winter Themed Technology Activities Your Class Will Love

Friday, November 25, 2016 / Leave a Comment
Winter themed technology activities your students will love: Ideas for Laptops, Chromebooks and iPads

Are you looking for some FUN winter themed technology activities?

Winter is here! I have compiled a list of FUN techie activities your students are sure to love while also keeping your classroom activities academic.

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5 Top Email Services for Kids and Teens

Friday, November 18, 2016 / 1 comment

Are you looking for an email service for your child?

5 Top email services for kids & teens: Digital Safety

E-mail has become a main form of communication in today's world, both in our professional and personal lives.  Kids and teens are wanting to hop on the bandwagon by creating their own e-mail accounts and even some school districts are giving elementary and middle school students a county approved e-mail address. Other districts turn off the e-mail capability (mainly for younger students) if they have access to Google Apps. Kids and teens will still find a way to create an e-mail account so our job as teachers and parents is to make sure they make educated decisions when it comes to this digital form of communication.
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5 Crafty Extensions Chrome Extensions That Will Improve Your Teaching

Friday, November 11, 2016 / 8 comments
Crafty's Extensions are AMAZING digital tools for all classroom teachers. These Chrome extensions will help improve your productivity and efficiency during any lesson. If you are not familiar with Chrome extensions, check out THIS post of mine on the collaborative Technology Tools for Teachers blog.

5 Crafty Chrome Extensions That Will Improve Your Teaching. Use on laptops or Chromebooks: Technology in the Classroom

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Top 10 List of Technology Themed Read Aloud Books

Friday, November 4, 2016 / 7 comments
Even though I am "The Techie Teacher" there is nothing I like more than a good read aloud book. Kicking off a lesson in the reading corner with my students was one of my favorite things to do as a classroom teacher. As I merged into the role of a Technology Integrator, "story time" became obsolete in my world. I really felt like something was missing.

10 technology themed read aloud books for tech inspired lessons. Digital citizenship, online safety, powering down, cyber-bullying, cyber-safety, 3D printing, coding, evaluating websites and technology moderation are all topics covered.

As I started collaborating and planning lessons with teachers, I scoured the Internet for read aloud books that we could use for various elements of our lesson. Not EVERY lesson I carry out with teachers involves a read aloud; however, you better believe if an opportunity arises, I break out the books😛
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The Techie Teacher's Thanksgiving FEAST for Followers: FREEBIES & GIVEAWAY

Tuesday, November 1, 2016 / 5 comments
 The Techie Teacher's Thanksgiving Feast for Followers: Educational Technology Freebies and a giveaway!

Happy November! I am SO thankful for all of my wonderful followers and all of my blogging friends I have made over the years. Getting to know and interact with you via blog comments, Facebook, Instagram and Twitter has been overwhelmingly amazing. I love learning from YOU and hearing about your classroom experiences.

I am hosting a Thanksgiving Feast for my followers throughout the month of November. My plan is to serve YOU a chance to win some of my favorite tech accessories (check out the end of this post) as well as offer a FREE resource each Friday throughout the month of November. Each item will remain FREE for 2 days only. I don't want YOU to miss a single one. Be sure you follow me on TeachersPayTeachers by clicking the star so you are notified when the products are posted.
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Free Digital Teleprompters to Assist with Video Recording

Thursday, October 20, 2016 / 6 comments
Free digital teleprompters (websites & apps) to assist with video recording when using technology in the classroom.

Having students create videos about topics they are studying is one of my favorite activities. It involves research, communication, collaboration, organization and planning. If you have never witnessed children video taping each other, brace yourself. Often times it can be painful to endure because they frequently "mess up" or "forget what to say". But let's be real. WE adults do the same exact thing! To help ease the video taping frustrations for everyone, I have compiled a short list of FREE digital teleprompters your students or YOU could use when recording a video.
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How to Customize Padlet Walls: Plus FREE Graphic Organizers!

Wednesday, October 12, 2016 / 6 comments
Padlet is one of my favorite collaborative web tools to use with students that I have used for years. I love how versatile it is and how one can access a Padlet wall on laptops, Chromebooks, iPads and Android devices! If you are not familiar with Padlet then click HERE.

Free graphic organizers and tutorial on how to custom Padlet walls. Great for communication and collaboration when using technology in the classroom. Works on laptops, chromebooks and iPads.

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Onomatopoeia Lesson with a Fall Themed Mentor Text

Friday, October 7, 2016 / 8 comments
Fall is FINALLY here! It surely did take awhile to show up, even here in Michigan. But now that it is here, I am so excited to celebrate with The Reading Crew to bring you our annual Fall Mentor Text link-up. Each blogger will be offering lesson ideas to use with a fall themed mentor text. We also will be giving away a copy of each book to ONE winner. Be sure to enter the Rafflecopter at the end of this post.
The fall mentor text, Wonderfall, is a great read aloud for modeling onomatopoeia.

To be honest, when I signed up for this link-up I had no idea what book I was going to choose. I couldn't think of a single fall themed book that truly excited me that hasn't been covered in previous link-ups. I drove to my local Barnes & Noble here in Ann Arbor, Michigan to take a look around.

As soon as I walked into the children's section, I saw the most beautiful book on display, Wonderfall by Michael Hall.

I grabbed a copy and stared reading. Immediately I was intrigued with how each page contained a title (single word) that substituted the suffix -ful with -fall. Wonderfall, Peacefall, Dutifall, Plentifall, Beautifall.....

The short poems that make up each page tell a story about a single tree that starts to prepare for the winter and the things it observes along the way. As I read each page, I was able to hear, see and feel the simplicities that fall offers each year. Michael's use of onomatopoeia to describe fall happenings is remarkable and is reason why this would make a fabulous mentor text. I don't want to give away the ending but it surely is adorable!

As I was standing in line to purchase this book, I turned to the back to read the author's bio. To my surprise the bio talked about Michael Hall growing up in Ann Arbor Michigan (where I just moved in June) and the things he enjoyed about the fall season in the beautiful state. It was meant to be...

Here is how I will use this text to teach the figurative language component of onomatopoeia.

Use the web tool (it now has a FREE app too!), Answer Garden, to have your students collaboratively brainstorm ideas about the kinds of things they see happening in the fall. Simply create an Answer Garden room and share the url with your students. When they submit their answer, it will pop up on everyone's screen in real-time. A garden full of ideas will start to emerge on the screen.

Once students have added their ideas, discuss what type of sounds they might hear when these fall activities occur. Use this opportunity to introduce onomatopoeia and talk about how good authors use this type of figurative language to provide sound effects for actions being described to make their writing more expressive and interesting You could even play a guessing game by having students close their eyes and visualize what they hear when you play the following sound bytes that are examples of onomatopoeia:

Once students are familiar with onomatopoeia and you have activated some of their background knowledge about fall, read the book Wonderfall twice. The first time you read it, read it just for fun. Enjoy the beautiful pictures and the story of all the different events that happen during the fall.

Create the onomatopoeia responders pictured to the left by printing out THIS sheet, cutting and gluing the circles to popsicle sticks, pencils or straws. Give one to each student. Read the book a second time and have students listen out for examples of onomatopoeia. When they hear onomatopoeia examples, they should raise their responder in the air. This makes for a cute keep sake that your students can take home and hopefully explain to someone what the responder was used for in school 🙌

One of my favorite things about this book is the extra non-fiction pages at the back that explain the behavioral adaptations animals start to exhibit in the fall as they prepare for the winter. Hibernation, migration and dormancy are all mentioned. For a fun cross-curricular activity to wrap up this lesson, check out my Behavioral Adaptations in Google Slides product. This will be FREE for one week only.

Behavioral Adaptations Student Activity in Google Slides

The main page of this slide contains images of migration, hibernation and dormancy that have clickable links that take the students to the vocabulary slides. The slides that are linked in are blank templates for students to fill in information about each type of behavioral adaptation as well as images/videos to match. BUT WAIT...they must start their description with an example of onomatopoeia that would go with the topic. Here is an example of a finished presentation:


You can purchase this book from my Amazon affiliate link below:

Enjoy this beautiful season!

Enter the Rafflecopter here and then be sure to check out the other Fall Mentor Text posts:
a Rafflecopter giveaway
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