As you probably know, Google Drive is far more than a place to store files online. It also includes a suite of versatile creation tools, many of which perform the same functions as the ones we use in other spaces. These include Google Docs, a word processing program that behaves similarly to Microsoft Word, Google Slides, a presentation program similar to PowerPoint, and Google Forms, a survey-creation tool similar to Survey Monkey. Although Drive also includes other tools, these three are particularly useful for creating rigorous, academically robust projects. If your school uses Google Classroom or at least gives students access to Google Drive, your students are probably already using these tools to write papers or create slideshow presentations, but there are other projects they could be doing that you may not have thought of.
Below I have listed 16 great ideas for projects using Google Docs, Slides, and Forms.
By the time a student reaches the later years of high school, and certainly by the time she’s gotten to college, it’s likely that she’ll be required to write an annotated bibliography, a list of resources that not only includes the bibliographical information of each source, but also a short paragraph summarizing the resource and reflecting on its usefulness for a given project. Usually an annotated bibliography is required as a part of a larger research paper, but it could stand alone as an assignment that tasks students with seeking out and evaluating sources just for the practice of doing so. And the research tools in Google Docs allow students to locate, read, and cite their sources all in one place. To learn more, see this guide from Cornell University Library on How to Prepare an Annotated Bibliography.
Instead of a book report, have students write a book review instead. This is certainly not a new idea, but publishing the work electronically allows students to enhance the final product with the book’s cover image, a link to the book’s page on Amazon, and even links to other titles the author has written or articles on related topics. For models and inspiration, elementary and middle school students can read student-written reviews on sites like Spaghetti Book Club. Older or advanced students might work toward more sophisticated, nuanced review styles like book reviews written on Oprah.com.
Because Google Docs is cloud-based, multiple people can work on a Doc at the same time. So students can work together on a story, a script for a play, or any other kind of group writing project. They can use the comments feature to give each other feedback and make decisions together. And because students can work from any location with an Internet connection, collaboration isn’t restricted to school hours; each group member can work on the project from any location whenever they have time.
Media-Rich Research Paper
Any kind of research paper can be given a big boost when done in a Google Doc, because students can insert images, drawings, and links to other relevant resources, like articles and videos. Using the research tools built into Docs, students can research their topics and include in-text citations with footnotes.
Super Simple Blog
If you don’t want to mess with actual blogging platforms, but want students to be able to experience writing blog posts that contain images and hyperlinks to other websites, this could be accomplished easily in a single running Google Doc.
Being able to organize information visually is an important skill, and students who understand how to build a table in Google Docs will have a skill for presenting all kinds of information in the future. They can be used as a compare and contrast exercise, to display data from an experiment, or even put together a schedule. Yes, you could do these things yourself, print them, and have students fill them out, but why not have students practice creating the tables themselves?
Because slides can contain hyperlinks to other slides, students could build a whole story where the reader chooses different options at key points in the story, leading them down completely different paths. The reader would consume the content as a slideshow, clicking on the links themselves as they go through. This could be a pretty massive undertaking, but we all know students who would be totally up for the challenge.
These could take a variety of forms: mini-textbooks, children’s books, cookbooks or how-to manuals, personal art or writing portfolios, even yearbook-style memory books. To learn more about the possibilities, see my post from earlier this year on Student E-Books.
Along the same lines as an e-book, students could use a similar template to create a PDF magazine or newsletter that is shared online on a regular schedule. The possibilities here are endless, useful for student clubs or sports teams, classroom or grade-level newsletters, or magazines put out by groups of students who share a common interest, like gaming systems, soccer, or books.
Imagine if we could enhance science fair projects with a looping video display that provides the audience with vivid visuals and text about our topic. Or imagine an art show, where a self-running informational slideshow could be placed beside an art display to share the story behind the piece and photos of the work in progress? This is possible and EASY in Google Slides: Simply create a slideshow, then use the “Publish to the Web” feature to create a slideshow that auto-advances and has no need for a presenter. Pop that up on an iPad or laptop and you’re all set. This mock-up of a slideshow on Coral Reefs shows you what it could look like (click the image to open in a new window).
Students can upload their own images and add text boxes to a slideshow to create an animated story, then record the slideshow with a Google extension called Screencastify. They can either record their own voice as narration, add background music, or both. There are so many different kinds of films students could produce: illustrated stories or poems, final reflections for a 20 Time or Genius Hour project, video textbooks on content-related topics, or news-like feature stories of school or community events. In this quick sample, I added music from YouTube’s library of royalty-free music that anyone can use to enhance their recordings:
Using the same screencasting software mentioned above, students could also create their own video tutorials by creating a Slides presentation on their topic (such as “How to Open a Combination Lock”), then recording the slideshow with narration. This would make a nice final product for a unit on informational writing or a way for students to demonstrate their learning at the end of a unit in science (“How to Take Care of Lab Equipment”), social studies (“How to Measure Distance on a Map”), or math (“How to Multiply Fractions”). Student-made tutorials could even be created to teach classroom procedures. And any tutorials students make could be stored for later, so other students can also benefit from them. Learn more about how Screencastify works right inside Chrome.
Whenever students need to gather data to support an argumentative essay or speech, let them gather data quickly and easily by creating a survey with Google Forms. Links to the survey can be sent out via email, QR codes, or through a post in a learning management system like Edmodo or Google Classroom. When results come in, students can use them to support whatever claim they are trying to make in their argument, or make adjustments based on what they discover in their research.
Have students provide feedback to each other’s presentations, speeches, even videos using Google Forms. Here’s how it would work: Each student creates her own form, asking for the kind of feedback she wants on the project. As other students view or the project, they can be sent to a form to offer praise or constructive criticism, which the creator would then be able to view privately and use to improve the project. Students could even use their feedback to write a reflection on their process after the project is done.
One great way to learn material is to create a test or quiz over the content. Have students use Google Forms to create their own multiple-choice, True/False, fill-in-the-blank, or open-ended quizzes on the content they are learning.
Visual Representation of Data Sets
Whenever people enter responses to a Form, Google allows the form creator to view responses in charts and graphs. Have students gain a better understanding of how data can be represented visually by accepting responses (or entering their own fake ones) into a Form, then looking at how the numbers are represented in graphs. This could work well as a series of math lessons.
Way Beyond Worksheets
Just this morning on Twitter, someone posted a comment along these lines: “A worksheet on a Google Doc is STILL a worksheet. Students should be using tech to create!” I’ve heard this sentiment over and over, and it’s exactly why I’ve put this list together. Google offers some incredibly powerful tools if we know how to use them. I hope this list has given you a few new ideas to put into your students’ hands. ♦
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This is wonderful.
This is my first year teaching in an alternative high school. All students have IEP’s as well as social and emotional disabilities.
I really want to focus on literacy as many are well below grade-level, ability wise.
Writing of course is a big part of literacy. I’m looking for ideas that they can collaborate on, via Google Docs, Slides, etc.
Any thoughts would be appreciated.
Check out Boomwriter: A Fun Twist on Collaborative Writing. Lots of good resources there that you might like. Also take a look at Student-Made E-Books: A Beautiful Way to Demonstrate Learning.
I am an RSP teacher in Anaheim. For summer school I am going to have them build a “Bucket List” in Google slides.
Thanks for compiling these resources. I use many already but haven’t tried Screencastify yet. My district uses Google Classroom, but the forms app is blocked on student accounts- I think because it’s a perfect medium for under-the-radar cyberbullying (“How much do you hate Linda?…A little, a lot, a ton…”). Before teachers plan a lesson using forms, they should make sure the feature is enabled for students in their district. In my district, students can access forms and create them but they cannot send them to other students.
Thanks, Robyn. Good to know!
I love these ideas! You are so creative and now I have GREAT ideas for my SS project! Thanks! XD
this is all true
Our district is allowing extra credit this year and I have always been totally opposed to offering extra credit. These ideas are worth extra credit, and my focus this year is on what the students can teach me and the rest of their peers.
This gave me some good ideas for culminating activities. Thanks!
Thank you so much for sharing these ideas about creating projects by using the Google Drive! The middle school I teach at implemented a 1:1 program last year with Chromebooks, so the students have easy access to all of the Google apps. I had always grown up using Word docs and I was a little hesitant to start using Google docs at first. After just a few weeks, I absolutely fell in love with it! It is amazing how you can access all of your docs, forms, slides that you create from any device you’re using and the fact that everything automatically saves is just the cherry on top. I am grateful for this feature, especially working in a middle school where it is easy for students to forget to save something before exiting out. Although I teach Math, I found a lot of your project ideas to be utilized cross-curriculum and I truly appreciate it. I got my feet wet last year and had my students create google slides presentations in groups. At the beginning of this year, I started with a google form I created where students answered review questions from 6th grade Math. I love that when you get the results from all of the forms, you can easily see which areas students are struggling in and which areas they are proficient in because it is presented the results in graphs and charts. I just learned recently that you can create quizzes now, which is awesome because all of the testing in my district is done on the computers, so this will help prepare my students. I want to borrow your idea of having students create peer surveys that they can post on Google classroom in order to gather information and analyze results. This is a great skill for students to have. Thanks again, I truly enjoy reading your blogs!
Be positive at all time
Great collection of resources! Easy to read and very helpful for teachers who often do not get the tutorials they need to instruct with GAFE. I particular like the Museum Kiosk idea. It will work great will my history classes.
Hi everyone! I also would like to suggest my own (free) templates site. Im designing these presentations using “free” resources from other sites such as FreePik, FlatIcon,… and I think the result is pretty good. I invite you to have a look. The site is https://slidesppt.com
In the section of student blog posts, can you clarify how all the students in one class could be writing and posting a running blog which everyone in the class can read and respond to ?
This is Holly Burcham, a Customer Experience Manager. The idea Jenn laid out here is to simply create a shared Google Doc where each student would basically be responsible for his/her own page (literally page 1, page 2, etc.). Within a shared Doc, everyone with permission can be in and typing at the same time. Once “posts” are written, students can go in and add comments to others’ work. The comments would show up in the margins and would be arranged by corresponding content, not time like a typical blog post.
But, as you can imagine, this could quickly become very convoluted and a bit messy. The thought behind using Docs as a student blog is more for writing practice, getting the feel for writing a blog post without doing the real thing…
So, if you’re interested in your students truly creating a blog, we highly recommend checking out Edublogs and Kidblog. Hope this helps!
How are these good for projects? you said that these are for kid presentations, all I see are essay templates and idea’s for teachers to map out their classroom jobs(other then the coral)
Hi, Isaac! I’m not sure what could be used to map out classroom jobs specifically from this post, and I think the ideas here go way beyond essay outlines–please get back to me to clarify exactly what you’re referring to, because we believe all the ideas here are good for student use. Thanks!
You might update this post. Google Forms now supports branching which would be much easier to create a “choose your own” adventure type experience.
Thanks for the suggestion. I can picture how that would work, yes, but I guess the aesthetic experience might be lacking in a Google Form. With Slides you have complete creative freedom to design the slides like a real book. I guess it would be a matter of personal preference?
Where do I go to find accessibility features of Google docs, slides, and forms? I am a teacher of the blind and visually impaired. This technology is wonderful but without the ability to navigate the site independently, my students are at a lost. Can you direct me?
Hi! A couple of things that may be of help: Go to “Tools” in the menu bar and select Voice Typing (use Google Chrome). You can also click on Add-Ons in the menu bar and add the Speech Recognition Soundwriter extension for free. Here’s a link to find more Google Accessibility features — you just have to spend a bit of time looking through the list to see what may be relevant to your needs. I hope this helps!
You can also combine Google forms and docs to simplify book reports for elementary students: https://electriceducator.blogspot.com/2016/03/elementary-book-report-machine.html?m=1
Is there an available rubric or assessment piece for the museum kiosk activity?
Hi Colleen! No, sorry, I don’t have anything on that!
Hi I am a teacher at a elementary school and I was wondering if you had any ideas for what I could do for an autobiography book report.
There really are so many things you can have the kids do — I would first think about what you’re expecting the kids to be able to do in the end. What will actually be assessed and what will they be accountable for? (I suggest checking out Understanding Backward Design if you haven’t already.) From there, they can choose how to present what they learned, meeting the assessment criteria. I think using some of the ideas in the Slides section of the post could work really well, especially Student Made E-Books, or making a short film.
Madison, I love the idea of using Google Slides for autobiography book report. I’m thinking about Jennifer’s Slides suggestions and just tailoring it to your book report criteria/rubric. Thoughts?
thank you very much!!
Thank you! I can’t wait to explore some of these options more. This list is very much appreciated! 🙂
I really appreciate your kindness and your efforts and I’m going to try everything you have mentioned in this wonderful article
Thanks. Higher Ed ESOL Prof -no lesson prep for me… but I DO have my reading list for the next several (10-12) hours! All suggestions added to the original post are appreciated.
I am a huge fan of Google resources, but you have showed me some new ways I can use these. Thank you for sharing!
Thanks for some great ideas! I have another suggestion that I have used before- my students really liked it- a collaborative Google Slides presentation. I did this for types of organic molecules as an intro to organic chemistry. Each pair of students in the class was assigned a specific molecule to research. They had to create 1 slide with some specific information and add to a collaborative google slides presentation that I shared on Google Classroom. When the slideshow was complete, they could all access it, and they used it to take notes.
Great suggestion Susan! Thanks so much for sharing this idea.
I am wondering if I can find similar google instructions to send to my students now that we are teaching remotely and 90% of them probably don’t know how to use Google. This would be a fantastic use of their time.
Take a look at Jenn’s Google Drive Basics video course! I think it’s got what you’re looking for – it’s for teachers and students!
I am thinking about doing a Rap Challenge in which they (as teams based on which class period they are in) create lyrics using WWII vocabulary we have used.
I create raps for my students and my though was that I would take parts of ALL of their submissions and create a WWII rap to add to the collection they have heard already.
Which of the Google Drive features would be my best bet for collaboration like that while the students are all working from home?
Hi Jim! I think this could be done in Google Docs pretty easily, as they are just writing a script, correct? If you want to share video or audio, you can just put these files into a shared folder in Drive and give all students access to those files. I hope this helps!
An innovative way to eliminate paper.
Hi! I love this site. I am beginning to use technology in my higehr education classroom. Could you help me to suggest some kind of game to use in Communication Skilss? Thanks a lot
Hi! Check out our Gamification Pinterest board and see what might be relevant. Hope this helps!
I’m a college student (who is now a nanny which brought me to this page) and for the screen recording, I highly reccomend Loom over Screencastify. In my experience using both during the remote learning period, the video quality is much higher on Loom, the user interface is easier, and you can’t edit Screencastify videos in an external editor like iMovie. (I had to do a group presentation and since partner lived in Kuwait we used this vs Zoom, etc. to record the presentation since we weren’t recording at the same time. It was very difficult to figure out how to merge our parts of the presentation into a single file.)
Also with screencastify the time limit per video on the free version (5 min I think) was frustrating as my work was longer. May not be a problem for students but for educators using the tool who don’t have the premium, this could be highly inconvenient. With Loom there isn’t a time limit.
What an adventure for me, who’s relatively new to this google drive thing. Mind blowing resources. It’s amazing. I’m excited as to what I can do with and in google drive. I’m definitely taking it one day at a time, will surely enjoy this ‘CRUISE’. Thank you Jennifer.
What does it mean to type I am from Germany?
Hi Flannery! It can mean a few different things depending on the context–either typing on a keyboard or the “kind” of something (“What type of ice cream do you like?”). We’d love to give a specific answer, so please let us know which part of the post or which comment you saw that you’d like more clarification on. Thanks!
Thanks for sharing these ideas. July 2021
I love all the awesome ways to incorporate technology in the classroom. This post had so many options to choose from and some that I personally loved when I was in school. There are so many different ways to make learning fun with technology!
So glad you enjoyed the post!