Making Lessons With New Google Sites

Students don't enjoy visiting so many sites to complete a lesson. To help them out a bit, I'm using New Google Sites to organize content, skills, expectations, and assessment.

From the beginning, I want my students making connections and actively building their own knowledge of historical events and their significance. Then, as soon as possible, they need the chance to practice skills intended to be applied during the project phase of a unit or lesson cycle.

My design goal with Sites is to take advantage of the different font and background styles to make the parts of the lessons clear to my students at first glance. The routines I want them to develop throughout the course should be apparent when the page loads.

1. Questions

The question should stand out on the page. The example below uses the darkest background in the theme and the only one with white font. This style dedication to essential questions points to the focus of each unit.

This particular question is asking about the conditions in which people challenge authority. The first content they see is a short video on the history and impact of the printing press. The follow up questions – to the right on the full view and below on the mobile view – prompt students to think about other technologies that have impacted humanity like the printing press.

2. Content

Following the structured inquiry, similar to the one Trevor MacKenzie describes, we used this next section to take notes on the background of Galileo's heresy accusations. I used to teach this part with a reading for homework and a slide presentation for lecture, but now I talk through what happened, using the paintings for my visual aid. Students who miss class or have trouble processing my explanation aurally can read the short text provided.

The question with the solar system background was another design choice that I made to distinguish the question because it is more of personal response than a question about the background. It's important to place questions that bring students back to themselves. It allows them to stay connected to the content, developing empathy for the people of the subject matter.

3. Skills Practice

This section includes three documents embedded in the page. I put the questions next to the documents because the mobile view places the content on the right below the content on the left (second image).

Although I made a Docent for this particular lesson, I still included the document analysis questions on the site to have options. For example, I may want my students to answer the questions in their notes and insert hyperlinked text to documents. Or, perhaps I could have them answer the questions on Google Classroom or submit them via Google Form.

4. Application and Creation

At this point, my students have connected with the essential question, built background on the historical subject, and analyzed documents from the period. It's time to apply what they've learned and make a product that brings it altogether.

The example below is from the third lesson in this unit on modern revolutions. By the third lesson in a unit, the students have enough background to do more learning by doing. The directions are an embedded Google Doc. The nice thing about using Docs is not having to update the website when I make a change. The change can be made to the doc, and the site and everyone with the doc in their Drive receives the update.

Some call this project-based learning. I would too, but this timeline doesn't address a real problem relevant to the community. That project would be more about comparing the conditions that led to the French Revolution to our current conditions and producing a public service announcement, for example.

5. Guided Inquiry

The last lesson in this unit introduces guided inquiry. This type of inquiry prompts students to write questions related to given topics and issues. By coming up with the questions and finding the answers, they have found the problems and responded to it.

The ability to place text side by side works really well for this activity. The funny thing is that I was inspired to make this an inquiry activity because of the design that was emerging as I created this page.

6. Assessment

Google Forms didn't work out so well when my students opened the form. It gave them access to edit the form, not the usual sent form view. When they entered the information by without opening it in a new window, the form work as intended.

The advantage to including the assessment is in the transition time saved. The site transitions for you. You could also include a link to a Quizlet quiz. If your students are in a class you created and the deck is added to the class, Quizlet will put their data in the right place, even if the deck is assigned to multiple classes.

7. Reflection

We can't do a project without reflecting. In fact, the reflection is the most important part. It's where I provide the most important feedback my students will use to become lifelong learners. It's the stuff that shifts them from point chasers to knowledge seekers.

The questions we use are the same for every reflection and are the minimum requirement. Again, I used an image background because it's a special moment for them to document what happened and be honest about their role in completing the work.
  1. What did you do? Describe the product and process. 
  2. What challenges did you face? How did you overcome them?
  3. What did you learn?
  4. How can you use what you learned in a setting beyond our classroom? Include a hypothetical example related to life after high school but not related to academic institutions.

Thanks for reading. 

Check this video on the New Google Sites.