The 2012-13 academic year was my first year out of college, and I began my career in education as a first grade co-teacher. Entering the elementary school environment, I felt somewhat overwhelmed by the number of special procedures that I was required to know off-hand, and at first found it difficult to physically find all of the materials that I needed throughout the day. I knew that I couldn’t rely on paper notes, as they were too hard to sift through, so I began taking notes using Google Docs. Docs sustained me throughout the year, but as I began preparing the documents to pass on to the next co-teacher, I realized the easiest way to keep these notes useful would be to create a Google Site. The classroom site serves not only as a sufficient tool for helping learn remember daily procedures, but it also serves as a digitally searchable roadmap for the classroom’s materials and the first grade curriculum.
Much to my surprise, with a few photographs and a bit of organizing, I was able to turn my notes into a digital map of my classroom, completely searchable from top to bottom. By splitting the curriculum into “Lessons” and “Organization”, and carefully documenting the structure of the classroom as well as the procedures for different classroom materials, I was able to create a series of pages and sub-pages that mapped out all of the necessary supplies for language arts, mathematics, science, and other subject areas. Hyperlinking between pages allowed me to demonstrate connections between subject areas and the physical locations of classroom materials needed to teach them. For example, knowing that the spelling folders were in the bottom drawer of the file cabinet made organizing spelling lessons far easier.
The greatest benefit of taking the time to organize the classroom into a Google Site was making the room searchable. Can’t find the markers? Just type in “markers” in the search bar at the top and you’ll see a list of all the drawers and cabinets that have markers, and what kinds of markers they have. Need stir sticks for hot chocolate? Searching for stir sticks will tell you exactly where they are. This was a phenomenal tool for me because it lessened the pressure of finding day-to-day objects in the classroom, and allowed me more time to structure my lessons.
There are a few warnings I would give prior to creating such a digital map, the first and foremost being the privacy of your students. If you visit the classroom Site that I shared in this article, you’ll notice that there are few pictures and those that are on the site have black boxes to cover up faces and names of students. We take privacy very seriously at our school, and I would recommend you think very carefully before posting any information about your classroom. I have also removed the times of day at which we attend different subjects to further protect the privacy of my students. Please be wary of the sharing settings on your Google Site, as you may or may not want to share outside of your school network.
Overall, the benefits to creating a Google Site for the physical and curricular aspects of our classroom greatly outweighed the risks. I loved teaching first grade with Michele Jackson, and her organizational skills and teaching styles have inspired me as I begin my career as a technology teacher for grades K-3 and Google Education Trainer. Striving to preserve a consistency in our resources across the classroom allowed for the Google Site to remain useful and reliable for co-teachers in years to come. Hopefully the site will expand and include an ever-growing amount of information about the joy of teaching in first grade!
About the Contributor
Sam is a Technology Teacher for grades K-3 at the Greenwich Country Day School and is thrilled to be a part of the Google for Education Connecticut Summit this Summer! He recently became a certified Google Education Trainer, and loves to teach students about coding and multimedia editing, as well as working with faculty on how to integrate technology effectively in elementary age classrooms.
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