But is Google Classroom really necessary when they could just share a Doc? Yes it is! With Google Classroom students can organize their Drive by subjects, quickly see assignments and due dates, and receive feedback and grades on assignments. Teachers can send students links to websites and grade work submitted electronically. Students and teacher will need individual Google Accounts.
Teacher and Student Set Up
First I suggest you create a new class for each subject you teach. It's a bit more initial setup but well worth it in the end for the organization. With just one class like I had this year, it quickly clutters the teacher's drive. One of the great benefits of Classroom is it organizes all your Docs, Sheets, etc. by the subject for both student and teacher!
For some extra personalization, You can change the background header if you choose, but Google is so smart if you type "Writing" it will automatically use an image of a chalkboard with writing. I change mine to match the colors I assign each subject in class "Get out your purple folder or Go to your purple Google Classroom".
You can also modify it so students can create posts, respond to comments, or as I do, disable comments. Mine would type silly comments back and forth until I discussed how I can SEE EVERYTHING YOU DO ON GOOGLE! The best was I was at home with my sick child and I was getting email notifications with each of their comments while they were working with the sub. I typed from home "Get back to work and I'll talk to you tomorrow" and that was the end of that.
Get to Work:
Now the fun stuff! Classroom takes your Docs, Slides, etc. to the next level. Say you want your students to write during their literacy rotation. Without classroom, I would have to remind them to create a Doc, write, and make sure to share it with me in addition to the directions for the assignment written on the board! Now with classroom, that's all done for me.
Say you want your students to go to a specific website but it's sooooooo long to type out. Create an announcement with the hyperlink! You can schedule posts for a specific time or save for the future. You can also reuse posts if it's a reoccurring announcement (say homework is due every Friday) and ask questions if you want your students to comment. Make sure to have a discussion on appropriate commenting!
What else can Classroom do?All that is great, but what else can Google Classroom do for me? You can monitor student progress, enter grades, and give feedback all online!
The teacher can click on each assignment and see all work submitted and in progress on an assignment. No more, "What You've only done one paragraph and it's due tomorrow?" You can see all their work at any time. You can assign students a grade from 0-100, provide feedback, and the student will see this grade and any comments on the assignment in their Drive.
Classroom or Drive? Where Do I Go?
In the beginning I would relate "Classroom" to the actual classroom where students go to get the assignment and listen to directions. In Classroom you can discuss with others if you enable commenting. "Drive" is like your binder you keep in your desk. The teacher can see it but no one else. When looking for your work you've done in the past, look in Drive. When looking for your agenda and new work, go to Classroom.
On the student Classroom dashboard they can see what assignments are due and allow them to "Turn It In" for a grade. I often did not have my student "Turn It In" because after they do so, it changes the sharing settings so only the teacher can view and the student can not edit. For older students this would be beneficial so once it's due, they can not make edits for grading, but for my younger students it was a hassle to change the settings back and forth. Do what works for you.
On the student Drive dashboard it has all their work in the subject folder they created it. With Classroom, students won't have their writing mixing with math and social studies in their Drive, it's all organized. For writing I would often tell my students to go to their Drive, Writing Folder, and pick one piece of writing to edit and publish.
Come back for more!
Google Classroom takes the already great Apps like Docs and Forms and makes them easy to implement even in the youngest of classrooms. If your students can read directions and type basic words, they can do it! I plan on starting my year in First Grade with classroom and seeing all the great things they create!
For more in the Google series, see these great tutorials: Classroom, Slides, Forms, Hangouts, Drive, Docs, Grade with Forms