Teach How to Use Google Apps Without Losing Your Mind

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If you are anything like me, you are using Google Apps for basically everything. Heck – I used Google apps very often in my brick-and-mortar classroom too! I also create a lot of interactive activities with Google Slides (learn how I do that here!). One thing I learned by doing all that is how to teach Google apps to my students. Let’s get into it!

1. Think like a Kid

Whether you’re creating an activity from scratch or buying one of the awesome ones I have in my TpT store 💁🏻‍♀️ you need to think like a kid. Complete the task from start to finish as a student would. As you are going through the task, write down the technology tools you needed to use in order to complete the activity successfully. 

Here’s an example.

I want students to use my Digital and Interactive Math Word Wall as a reference when they are writing their explanations. Students need to learn where the hyperlinks are in the Google Slide deck. I know they are going to need to get back to the table of contents to search for the words they need. 

If you have the bundle and students have to look for more than one slide deck, they’re going to need to learn how to open a new tab and toggle between the tabs

You and I might think toggling between tabs and clicking hyperlinks is basic knowledge, but a lot of students will struggle with these tasks. If you plan to have similar tasks with tech, think about the micro-tasks that go into them and teach them explicitly. 

2. Teach 1-2 Skills at a Time

How frustrating is it when you are in a professional development meeting and your admin is throwing 100 different things for you to try in your classroom the next day? It’s pretty overwhelming, right? That’s how students feel when we try to get all the information out to them at once. 

Take this example –

When you teach students how to divide, you don’t show them all the different strategies at once. You spend one day on partial quotients, one day on area model, one day on repeated subtraction, etc. 

Teaching technology shouldn’t be any different. As stated in my first post of this series, the applications students are using outside of school are way more user-friendly than the ones they’re learning within the school. Be patient and don’t overwhelm students with all the things at once. 

If you plan on using a lot of drag and drop sorting activities (learn how to create them here!), then I suggest teaching students what to look for when sorting on Google Slides. 

If you plan on using fill-in-the-blank activities, you’ll want to show them what a text box is and how to change the formatting. This will help even when you give them a text box to type in. Somehow there’s always that one kid who never had a text box and doesn’t complete the work 🤣. This is teaching them to troubleshoot!

3. Teach the Toolbar

Every Google App has a toolbar along the top. Most of the features are the same. You will be grateful for teaching the toolbar to your kiddos. I can almost guarantee you that it will save you 3489573498569346 minutes (no exaggeration) of answering questions like, “How do I change the size?” and “How do I change the color?”.

You don’t want to teach the toolbar after a student cleared all the formatting and messed up the formatting of whatever it is that you’re sharing with them. Go through each button of the toolbar as an overview lesson and spend more time on the buttons you know students will need often – like the formatting options and inserting pictures and shapes. 

Don’t want to go over the toolbar all at once? Grab one of these reference posters from my store to hang in your room. This will definitely help curve the troubleshooting questions you will get. If you want a quick reference guide to the Google Slides toolbar for your students – grab that here!

4. Teach them to Troubleshoot

You and I both know the undo button is our bestie when it comes to creating lessons! I use that keyboard shortcut – Command + z all too often. Why shouldn’t students know how to undo their mistakes? Show them how to do that explicitly. Teach them to go to Edit → Undo when they make a mistake. 

Snag my keyboard commands posters on TpT here!

Another thing you can show them to help troubleshoot is reverting back to the original. Last year I had to do this several times for my students, but if I had taught them this in advance it wouldn’t have been an issue to take care of. To do that all you do is go to File → Version History → See Version History. Then you find the version you want (usually the original to start over) and then click Restore this version (in the top left). 

5. Let Students Explore

Give students the opportunity to explore the app before you give them any major curriculum tasks with it. Use Google Slides as a get to know you activity where students are to create a 5 slide presentation about themselves. Give them guidelines for each slide and then show them how to turn it into a GIF (I teach you how to do that here!)! This will give students the opportunity to play with the formatting and toolbar options. 

Here is a project I have my students do at the beginning of the year and it gives them a chance to explore Google Slides by creating a GIF. This project includes:

  • Guide to using Google Slides for Students
  • Video Tutorial
  • A rubric
  • An example of a completed project

Of course, all of this comes after you teach them how to turn in their work on Google Classroom. My friend Branda from therelevantclassroom.com has a great resource to explicitly teach Google Classroom to your students! 

Technology is a skill that should be taught the same way you teach students to multiply and divide. Students shouldn’t be expected to just know it the same way you weren’t expected to just know it. Use the tutorials in my project product to help you teach Google apps explicitly to your students. 

As always, thank you for stopping by!



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Hi, I'm Alexandra!

I am a fourth-grade math teacher turned elementary tech teacher. I help upper elementary math teachers like YOU get organized digitally and engage students with digital tools. When I’m not teaching, you can find me taking long walks with my dog, Frannie, or travelling (especially to Disney World)!