Pre-COVID school shutdown, I was pretty familiar with how to manipulate Google Slides to facilitate distance learning. I had even made a few digital interactive assignments in the past. But what I didn’t know was that there are a lot of teachers who struggled with this. I feel it is definitely my job to give you some direction on how to do this!
If you’re reading this and thinking, “I don’t use Google on my campus!” … I’m sorry! I’ve found Google is the most widely used platform at this point, and there are a few things I think you’ll still find valuable (there are similar features on Powerpoint).
If you want to download my sample digital activity to follow along and see some of the features, click here!
GOOGLE SLIDES VS. POWERPOINT
When you start making digital interactive assignments, this might be the first question you have. There are pros and cons to using both programs to create editable Google Slides. The bottom line comes down to this: both allow you to get to the same results, just with different steps. Google Slides is already included in your G-Suite for Education. I personally like Powerpoint because I can use fonts I downloaded onto my computer but other than that, Slides will work just fine. More on why it doesn’t necessarily matter which program you start with in a little bit. (If you don’t have Powerpoint, don’t go out and buy it – use Google Slides!)
WHAT KIND OF ASSIGNMENT SHOULD I MAKE?
Next you have to decide what you’re going to put on your slide. What is the goal of the assignment? Big question – I know. Are students using this as a worksheet or simple Q&A? Include want more spaces for writing or typing. If you’re using it as a review or instruction, you may want links to click and videos to watch. Can students drag and drop vocabulary or pictures?
STATIONARY BACKGROUND & ELEMENTS
Of course we want our students to manipulate some elements on the digital interactive assignments you’re creating. But there are certain things we may not want them to change or move. A title, the background, directions, or tables may be an example of this.
I solve this problem by creating two files of the same assignment. The first file (if you use Powerpoint, this is where can use it). I start with is what I want to be stationary and immovable by students on the activity. It will be the background to the assignment I am giving them.
Let’s say I am giving them vocabulary on landforms and they have to look up the definition, write it down, and find a picture of that type of landform in real life.
The following items should probably be stationary: a border, clipart or an image, the title, directions, and a data table for students to organize their work. You won’t want students to move, delete, or alter these pieces. Of course, some students won’t if they’re not stationary, but others definitely will.
SAVING YOUR BACKGROUND
Create the bones of the digital slide you want to give to them. If you downloaded the example I created, this is slides one and two. Anything you want students to be able to move or type into should be included on this slide.To make this a stationary background, save the slides as a JPEG image. To do this, click File > Download > JPEG (current slide). This means you’re turning the slide you just created into one flat image.
Now create your second file. If you used Powerpoint for the first part, you’re going to want to make this on Google Slides. The image you just downloaded will be the background you add to the slide. Right-click your new slide and select “format background.” Drag and drop the JPEG into the box, and that image will be the stationary background for your slide.
If you’re a Microsoft based school, you can still add a JPEG to a background in a Powerpoint file. Use the Format Background feature to add your picture, and then add features the same way I’m getting ready to talk about!
ADDING EDITABLE FEATURES
Now that you have the bones of your assignment, you can start adding your editable features. There are a few I’ll highlight. Don’t forget, you want to include the directions for whatever you want them to do on the slide in the stationary background.
In this case, we want to add text boxes for students to type in. You might think – can’t they add text boxes themselves? Yes, but it is so much easier for you to add them. Add a text box wherever you want them to write and size it to fit the dimensions of the space. Try making this box a light color to show kids they’ll type there or add an outline.
DRAG & DROP
Since drag and drop is versatile and you have a lot of options, you can do this a few ways.
Add pictures or clipart to the slide that students drag and drop to a specific spot. This is helpful for sorting or identifying objects. (If you make digital products for TPT, be sure you check the seller’s TOU before you add movable clipart to your digital interactive assignments!)
The next drag and drop feature is vocabulary words. You can just add a text box with the prewritten for students to drag and drop. There is a downside to this. They’re not as easy to move, and students can change the words by retyping in the box if they want!
To fix this, I like to type vocab words on a blank slide, take a screenshot of the word, and then add the screenshot of the text as an image. When you do this, it is no longer editable to the students.
This is something you can use to categorize, resequence, and create a scaffolded venn diagram… anything you want them to manipulate on the screen.
This student using the square shape to add layers of the Earth to a grid, creating a scale diagram.
This really depends on your lesson or assignment, but you can use shapes for a lot of things. I’m going to use my example of the square shape. I asked students to fill in a grid showing the layers of the Earth with the correct scale.
You can add shapes to the slide and ask them to copy and paste the given shape to add more. The line shape can be used for graphing.
Because there are so many possibilities for this one, I’m going to leave you with those ideas and tell you to think outside of the box!
ADDING LINKING FEATURES
Sometimes it’s just not possible to include everything you want in a Google Slide. This is where links come in. You can add two types of links: outside websites and other slides in the file.
LINKS TO OUTSIDE WEBSITES
Let’s circle back to links to outside websites. I’m going to talk specifically about a video, because there are multiple ways to do it. The second and third way work for any link, anywhere on the internet!
Add a video directly onto the Google Slide presentation. Add this on top of your background. Click Insert > Video and search on Youtube for the video you want the kids to watch. This adds a square thumbnail of the video onto your slide, so be sure you have space for it.
If you’ve seen a different colored font in a paragraph that takes you to a website, you’ve seen a hyperlink. Highlight the word you want to add the link to and click Insert > Link. Add the link you want the kids to go to in the space provided. This option works great when you’re typing onto the presentation the kids edit (and the words are not a part of the stationary background).
LINKS ON A SHAPE
Did you know you can add a link to a shape? This is best when you want to link to something, but the image or text is on the stationary background. Create a shape – use a colored outline and a transparent fill so kids can see through it. Highlight the shape, click Insert > Link and add the link to the site. Drag the shape over where you want students to click. When they do, a notification pops up under the shape with a link.
I used this assignment in the spring. The background is completely stationary, so I added a transparent shape with an outline over the words I needed to add a link to! It helped students so much!
LINKS TO OTHER SLIDES IN THE PRESENTATION
Just like you’d add a link to any website on the internet, you can add navigation to different slides in the presentation. If you have instructions on the first slide with nine slides of activities, you may want to add links to other slides to help students navigate.
Add this the same way you would using option 2 or 3 above, but when you’ll see when you click Link, click the option underneath the link box that says “slides in this presentation.” Select from any of the slides you want to link to!
Pro Tip: I always add a link to the websites kids are using in the speaker notes! But it’s one more fail-safe in case something goes wrong!
Now assign them!
Finally, you’re done creating your digital activities! Double check everything – make sure your directions are clear and your links work. Then assign your digital interactive assignments and watch your student’s progress!