4 Modalities of Google Classroom Feedback

Any teacher who has read Harry Wong’s The First Days of School knows one of the book’s hard and fast rules: never grade student work with a red pen. I would add that rule’s G Suite for Education corollary: never use negative stickers to give feedback on a Google Jamboard Jam.

Animated GIF depicting inserting thumbs down and "x" stickers into a Google Jamboard Jam.
Don’t do this to your students’ Jams!

Before Google Classroom, teachers brought home stacks of student assignments and hand wrote feedback with a pen (red or otherwise). As someone who struggles with organizing papers, this killed me as a teacher. I struggled to stay organized and give useful and timely feedback. Thankfully, Classroom empowers teachers to give students feedback on their work using four different modalities with neither printing nor photocopying required by the student or the teacher.

Before we explore them, please do not take this as a suggestion to use all four of these modalities of feedback. Teachers should consider what works best for their workflow and how their students respond. Having said that, it is great that Google Classroom gives teachers options for feedback beyond writing on printed assignments.

Feedback Modality 1: Text

Text comments are the easiest way to give feedback in Google Classroom. Classroom has its own comment feature. The comment feature native to Google Docs, Drawings, Sheets, and Slides works as well. A teacher can click any of these three options when reviewing a Google Drive assignment to give text feedback.

Screen shot showing three ways to give students feedback in a Google doc.
All three work!

There is one caveat. Students see teacher text comments as they work on an assignment. Once students submit an assignment, they are unable to see comments until a teacher returns it to them. Here is a visual depiction of this:

Screenshot showing that text comments are invisible to students when they have submitted work and it has not yet been returned.
Students see comments for work assigned or returned. They do not see comments for work they have turned in and has not been returned.

Please watch this video for a demonstration of using Google Classroom to give students text feedback:

Classroom offers more than just text comment feedback. However, it is important to understand how text comments work in Classroom because they are the basis of two more modalities of feedback.

Feedback Modality 2: Audio

Vocaroo is a web-based audio recorder. It is great for feedback in Google Classroom because it renders a link to an audio recording. Think of this as very similar to a Google Drive sharing link. Simply go to the Vocaroo website and press record:

Screen shot of the Vocaroo website. Use the circular red button to record your voice.
Press the record button. It’s that easy!

Then click “Save & Share”:

Screen capture of Vocaroo's share screen. There is a URL. Teachers copy that to their clipboard to share with students.
Vocaroo generates a sharing URL.

Copy the URL Vocaroo generates. Then paste it into a Google Classroom comment:

Screen capture of
Pase the Vocaroo URL into a comment box and click “Post.”

Please watch this video for a demonstration of using Vocaroo to give students audio feedback in Google Classroom:

Feedback Modality 3: Video

If a teacher is comfortable doing so, they can go beyond audio feedback with video feedback. Use Screencastify to screen record going through an assignment and giving feedback. Screencastify generates a Google Drive sharing link. The link is very conspicuous after a Screencastify recording ends:

Screen capture of the "Copy shareable link" button in the Screencastify edit screen.
The “Copy sharable link” button is very conspicuous.

Simply paste the link into a Google Classroom comment:

Screen capture of a Google Drive link pasted into a Google Classroom comment field.
The Screencastify-generated Google Drive sharing link in a Google Classroom comment.

Please watch this video for a demonstration of using Screencastify to give students video feedback in Google Classroom:

Feedback Modality 4: Handwriting

Google Classroom also enables old fashioned written feedback. The advantage here is that written feedback saves to Google Drive so students do not need binder and backpack organization skills to keep track of their teacher’s feedback. For teachers to give written feedback in Google Classroom, they need to use the Classroom mobile app on phones, tablets, or Play Store enabled Chromebooks.

While viewing student work in an assignment, click on a file. Then click the edit pencil in the upper-right corner of the screen.

Screen capture of the edit pencil in the Google Classroom mobile app.
The edit pencil in the Google Classroom mobile app.

This opens a new version of the file as a PDF in an editor. The editor enables the teacher to annotate with a highlighter, marker, pen, and typed text tools:

Screen capture of written feedback on a Google Slides presentation in the Google Classroom mobile app.
This student receives written feedback on their Google Slides presentation in the Google Classroom mobile app.

Once all feedback is written, click the save button in the upper-right corner of the screen:

Screen capture of the save button in the Google Classroom mobile app.
The save button in the Google Classroom mobile app.

There is now a PDF with the written feedback added as a file to the assignment. This PDF is saved to Google Drive! This is how it appears in the Classroom mobile app:

Screen capture showing the annotated PDF with feedback added to the assignment.
The annotated PDF is added to the assignment.

Please watch this video for a demonstration of using the Google Classroom mobile app to give students written feedback:

What do you think? How do you give students feedback with Google Classroom? Please comment below or tweet me, @TomEMullaney.

Does your school, organization, or conference need professional development to help teachers make the most of Google Classroom? Have a look at some of my offerings and connect with me on Twitter.

Photo from pxhere.

14 Comments

  1. Thank you for these tips. I needed to boost my feedback within google classroom and this is perfect. I am excited to share it with colleagues.

    Like

  2. Hi Tom,

    Your instructions for using Vocaroo to generate a URL for private messages is great.
    But the link is NOT CLICKABLE by students within the “private message” section.

    They have to copy and paste it into their browser, (which is not a huge deal, but it would be much better if they could simply click on the link.

    Any suggestions?

    Like

    1. Hi Thersa, I just tried this. I left the URL as a private comment and a comment in a Google Doc. Both were clickable hyperlinks. I am not sure why your students are experiencing this. Be sure no text is up against the URL. Could that be it?

      Like

  3. Thanks for this! I was looking for a way to give verbal feedback to my students while they are working from home, and Vocaroo is perfect for us.

    Like

  4. Thanks for this suggestion! Do I need to save the Vocaroo file in Google Drive? Or is it doing this already when I click Save & Share?

    Like

    1. Hi Laura, thank you for the question. The Vocaroo file does not save to Google Drive. It saves to whatever server Vocaroo uses to save recordings. That is why I say in the video to not use student last names or identifying information because I do not know what Vocaroo does with the recordings. As long as the audio is about the assignment and does not identify the student, it is harmless to record with Vocaroo.

      Like

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