7 ways to use Google Classroom’s “Ask a question” feature

I’ve always been a big Google forms fan, but I will admit, when Google Classroom launched its “Ask a question” feature, I quickly became a bigger fan of this even easier and often more efficient option. For those unfamiliar with the feature, it is found right above the traditional “Create assignment” option. When you create a question, you can choose from short answer or multiple choice. Additionally, you can manage students’ ability to reply to each other and edit their original answer. It’s actually a super simple feature, but I’ve found innovative ways to use it to maximize peer learning AND improve my efficiency as a teacher. I still use Google forms for multiple choice tasks, but for short answer responses, Google classroom questions are the better option, for these two reasons:

  1. All student responses are compiled in one convenient spot, that the teacher and students can see. It’s easy to scroll through all the responses. Yes, a Google form compiles all responses, but responses are not automatically visible to all students. A Google Classroom question is much more accessible and user-friendly.
  2. Students and teachers have the ability to comment directly on the responses. This is why questions are a game-changer! I always loved Google forms, but I hated how I couldn’t easily comment and provide instant feedback for the students. Forms can improve efficiency, but they aren’t always the most practical option when you need to provide feedback. Questions make this possible!

I’m always finding new ways to use this feature, but here are my top 7 ways to use Google Classroom questions!GoogleClassroomQuestion1

BELL-RINGERS & EXIT TICKETS

Bell-ringers and exit tickets couldn’t be more simple with Google Classroom’s question feature. I know bell-ringers and exit tickets are not novel concepts, but Google classroom questions enhance their value and efficiency! If you activate prior knowledge through a bell-ringer, the students will benefit from being able to see everyone’s background knowledge through the question responses. You can easily do a “What do you already know about [insert topic here] and what do you want to learn?” question as a bell-ringer and then have students reply to their original post at the end of class with what they learned as a digital version of a “KWL” chart!

Using questions for bell-ringers and exit tickets allows you to use the data to inform your instruction. Sure, it’s not quantitative data on a spreadsheet, but it’s a perfect qualitative snapshot of what your students know at any point in the learning process.

When I pose a question as a bell-ringer, I can filter through the responses and use them to drive our class discussion that day. I can tweak my lesson plan and spend more time on certain concepts. Sometimes, while students are finishing the bell-ringer, I will reply, digitally or in person, to students. Even if it’s something as simple as “I love your insight here,” I’m already interacting with my learners within the first few minutes of class. With paper-and-pencil bell-ringers, the teacher is waiting for all students to finish before discussing or reviewing the question, but with digital questions, the teacher can begin interacting and differentiating as soon as the first response filters in. Feedback is instantaneous; there is no more “down time.” You can truly use every precious minute of the class period.

With exit tickets, I can informally assess what students learned during my lesson. When students know they will be held accountable with an exit ticket, they will be more likely to stay engaged throughout the lesson. I use exit ticket responses to inform my instruction for the following day. Sometimes, I’ll ask a very complex question as an exit ticket, just to see what students can do with it. I’ll frame it as a low-risk opportunity for them to “show me what they know” before I plan a lesson addressing the question. This helps me plan and differentiate because it gives me a baseline of what students can already do on their own.

Google Classroom question exit tickets are PERFECT for those days when you finish class early and have nothing else to do. It’s as simple as this: “Learning Reflection: What did you learn? What questions do you have? What can Miss G do to help you?”

DISCUSSION BOARDS

I also use questions as my own version of an online discussion board. When students have reading homework due, I will often start class by asking them to post one question. I allow them to post a question depending on their needs as a reader. If students are struggling, I tell them to ask a comprehension or clarification question, but I encourage advanced readers post an open-ended, analytical question. This forces them to be more active readers, and it gives me great data to inform my instruction. I also tell students to begin answering their peers’ questions if they finish before we start our discussion. This helps students learn from each other; if they can fill in the gaps of comprehension during these few minutes, then I can focus more om analysis during our in class discussion or lesson. Within a few minutes, students have learned from each other, and I know exactly what we need to discuss.  I can also quickly tell who hasn’t read the chapter, because those students post obvious or overly simplistic questions (or some even write, “Honestly, I didn’t read”).

Usually, I use the online discussion board as more of a springboard for an in-class discussion, but sometimes I’ll require my students to carry on a virtual discussion on the post for 10-15 minutes. This can be a great tool for those rowdy classes with loud voices that tend to dominate class conversations because the discussion board gives every student a voice and the opportunity to be heard. I’m always amazed at the insight from my shy students who would never raise their hand to participate. When we do these silent online discussions, I often jump in the comments and play devil’s advocate to challenge my students’ thinking.

I also use my discussion board strategy for days when I have a sub. It makes me feel better knowing my class can have a productive discussion even in my absence.

WRITING WORKSHOP OR WORK DAY “CHECK INS”

I use the writing workshop model in all of my classes, so for those days when students are all working independently at their own pace, I like to have some accountability and a way for me to check in with students, no matter where they are in the writing process. At the end of class, I will post a question asking students what they accomplished that day and what questions they have or what help they need. Then, I can address students’ needs by talking to them one on one the next day or simply responding to questions in the comments.  I’ll even link up resources if I’ve already answered a question and I want students to find the answer on their own. Sometimes, enough students ask similar questions that I will address their needs in a mini-lesson the following day. It all depends, but it helps me be a better teacher for them. I also encourage students to ask for feedback on a very specific part of their essay. Instead of writing something vague like “Will you check my essay to see if it looks good?” I ask that they frame a more specific question, like “Will you check my topic sentences to make sure they are clear?” This helps me give better feedback, and it saves me time. Throughout the writing process, I need to be intentional about how I target my feedback. If I am aimlessly scrolling through students’ docs, I will never be able to provide meaningful feedback, but if I know exactly what to comment on, I can provide better feedback and help more students. These simple “check ins” for targeted feedback have transformed my writing workshop.

CHECKPOINTS AND PEER FEEDBACK

In addition to using Google Classroom questions as writing workshop “check ins,” I use this feature to facilitate the entire writing process. In the pre-writing phase, I use questions to generate ideas and stimulate discussions. Additionally, students must submit their topic proposals via a question, so I can scan through each proposal and “approve” students’ ideas before writing. I approve ideas and provide feedback through the comments.

During the drafting process, I use questions as mini-checkpoints and venues for peer feedback. For example, students submit their thesis statements through a question and then provide peer feedback by commenting on each others’ thesis statements. After receiving feedback, students will revise their thesis statement again and re-post it as a comment. Then, I will provide feedback through the comments and the students will revise their thesis statements accordingly. We continue the loop of feedback and revision until the thesis statements are ready. When students have finished revising their thesis, they can look back on their drafts and feedback and literally see the sometimes-elusive writing process.

I also do the same kind of checkpoint with essay outlines. I require students to post outlines consisting of a thesis, topic sentences, and one strong and relevant piece of textual evidence per topic sentence. Once again, this makes it easier to provide feedback along the way. I will not let students start typing their essay on a Google doc until they have passed through the thesis and outline checkpoints.Essay Outline

 

ASSESSMENT

I use Google Classroom questions for some (but not all) writing assessments solely because it makes it so much easier to grade. I don’t do this for everything, especially not for long essays that took days to draft, but it’s perfect for short answer questions and timed writing assessments that I don’t need in Google doc form. With the question, I can easily scroll through all student responses, which is much more efficient than opening up a different tab for each student’s Google doc. If we are doing an in-class essay, I will actually instruct my students to type it out on a Google doc and then copy/paste it to the “question” posted on Classroom. I have them type it because it’s easier to format it correctly and spell-check in a doc. But when it’s finalized, copying/pasting it into the question makes grading so much more manageable. I can just grab a stack of rubrics and start scrolling. It’s life-changing for a busy English teacher!

SOCRATIC SEMINARS

A Google Classroom question is a great hub for socratic seminar questions. I have my students craft socratic seminar questions in advance, and then I ask them to copy/paste them over to a Google Classroom question. This way, all students can see the questions, and everyone can easily scroll through the list during the seminar. It also allows me to easily check questions the day before the seminar, to make sure it’s not going to flop!

LEARNING STATIONS

I also like to use Google Classroom questions for learning station tasks. As I mentioned in my previous post on learning stations, my stations are often hybrid: I usually have paper copies of the learning station activities around my classroom, but then have students respond via the Google Classroom questions.  I will create a different question for each station, so that once students submit their responses, they can see the responses from others. This is perfect for those groups that finish early; I just tell them to read through everyone else’s responses to see other perspectives or ideas. Early finishers can even respond to the peers’ responses, too. I love how the Google Classroom questions create a living “body of knowledge” where students can learn from each other.

This combination of ideas is what makes questions so appealing. Student responses create an incredible collaborative resource, a wealth of information on any given topic. It’s accessible and authentic, a collection of ALL of the brainpower in your classroom. This digital synergy can transform your instruction. I encourage you to experiment more with Google Classroom questions. If you have any other purposes for this simple but effective feature, I would love  to hear about them in the comments!

2 Comments

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