When you’re teaching languages online there’s some tools you’ll use more than others. A big one is Google Drive, which is why in this post, I’m digging deep and you’ll learn how to maximise Google Drive for online teaching.
Firstly, if you’re unfamiliar with Google Drive, you’ll need to sign up.
But rather than sign up directly with Google Drive, I recommend signing up to the Basic plan of G Suite (formerly Google Apps for Work). This not only includes 30GB free storage in Google Drive, but also gives you a business email address through Gmail, which is a huge benefit for the price of a cup of coffee or two per month.
As well as organise files (we’re talking image, text, video, PDF etc) into folders, there are three key things you can do with Google Drive that will play a crucial part in your business and show up right away when you click ‘New’: Google Docs, Google Sheets and Google Slides.
If you’re familiar with Microsoft Office, after months of using Google Drive, you’ll probably find yourself still calling these three (in order) Word, Excel, and Powerpoint. The three amigos.
Let’s start with how you can use these three key programs in your online language teaching business.
Worksheets and explanations
It’s always great when you have what you teach written down to give to students as a reference afterwards, but also to give them a chance to practise.
Chances are, if you teach face-to-face already, you’ve probably got a fair sized collection of resources you’ve created in Word. The good news is that you can upload these straight to Google Drive and when you open them, it’ll create a new version of the file that’s a Google Doc file. So that’s nice and easy.
However, if you don’t have any resources yet, no worries, starting afresh with Google Docs is a great way to ensure they’re easily accessible and transferable – Google Docs files can be saved additionally as Microsoft Word and PDF files among others.
Writing together during lessons and using comments to correct
Bringing Google Docs into the lesson itself, one of the best features that sets it apart from other word processors is that you can collaborate on documents in real time with other users.
Once you’ve given permission for students to access and edit the file, you will see what they write in real time and can correct it or add comments, that they’ll also see too.
This is so much better than writing something, passing it to a teacher and getting it back a week later when the comments and corrections mean nothing because you’ve forgotten what you wrote.
It’s also a great way to bring writing into an online lesson and still keep a level of interactivity, avoiding students working hard on their writing and you sitting there twiddling your thumbs. Woop!
Vocab page to add to each lesson
Keeping students learning with you, and therefore having them recommend you and give kick-butt testimonials, is all about giving that little extra. Creating a vocab list they can learn from is a great way to do just that.
Simply have a Google Sheets file (that your student has access to in their folder) open during lessons and make a note of any new words that come up and any tricky words that they struggle with.
You can then take this even further and use the list to create a custom Memrise course for your student or add links to pronunciation recordings on Forvo or that you’ve recorded yourself on Soundcloud.
All great ways to show your students that you really care about their progress and to keep them caring about it too.
Lesson record + financial records
From a business point of view, Google Sheets is the most useful of the key three tools, and one of the most essential of all the tools I use in my business.
I use Google Sheets to keep track of my lessons – what we study and what resources we use; my finances – invoices and income and expenses; and general blog stats and growth.
It makes things really easy to find and send directly to my accountant when I need to.
Once you’ve set up a document once to do the sums and all that jazz instantly, then all you need to do is simply add your data each time and the Google Sheet will do most of the work for you.
Another thing you might have from your face-to-face days, PowerPoint presentations will upload and convert to Google Slides if you’ve already got a supply.
However if you’re starting now in terms of resources, that’s good too as you can create your own on-brand theme for the presentations you make to explain things to your students.
The main difference between using Google Slides in your online lessons and shoving it onto a projector in a dark classroom of bored teens is that you have the choice of giving students different levels of access to the file, which leads nicely into the next thing you can do with Google Slides for your online language teaching business…
Whether it’s click and drag to match, filling in cloze exercises, identifying and circling mistakes in a text you’ve purposefully littered with errors or something else you think of once you get creative with it, students will love this.
It can be tough to stay focused for a whole lesson if you’re just being talked at. Give students a chance to click around and create for themselves and you’re giving them a chance to engage better with the rest of the lesson too.
Once you hover over ‘More’ after clicking ‘New’, you’ll see a whole host of extra tools Google Drive has to offer you. Woop!
Although not as key to your online language teaching as the three we’ve just discussed, it’s still worth knowing what you can do with them. Here’s some ways to get you started.
First student survey
The on-boarding process for new students is really important. That’s to say, you can’t just have students book a lesson and be done with it until the time comes and you realise you forgot to ask for their Skype ID.
Creating a short Google Form that you share with new students not only makes you look professional and shows you know what you’re doing, but it also gives you a chance to get that important pre-lesson info (such as Skype ID, time zone etc) without a crazy chain of emails back and forth, as well as a chance to learn a little about their language ability and how much they’ve studied before coming to you.
All valuable stuff to help you prepare for the first lesson with a new student.
If you choose to set students homework tasks to complete outside of lessons that involve them creating multiple files outside of Google Drive, creating a quick Google Form can be an easy way to make submitting their work super easy as you can uplaod images, video, YouTube links, and files to a Google Form. Yay!
X+O / hangman
Especially popular and useful with younger students, having a blank Google Drawings file at the ready is a handy way to have a plenary activity instantly.
The quickest way is to use the blank canvas for hangman (great for checking students know how to pronounce the alphabet too). But you could also prepare a X+O grid in advance with images (inserted directly using the ‘Insert’ option on the menu bar).
Create a Site with all attached files for each student’s lessons
If there’s lots of additional files to share with students for each lesson and you want to go beyond sharing a Google Drive Folder with them, consider creating a Google Site to upload to.
It’s really easy and uses a simple drag-and-drop style to allow you to share things easily and add a new page for each lesson.
However, although you can publish and disable it from appearing in search engine results, you can’t make it completely private to just the individual student. For that, I recommend using Teachable and hosting a hidden course for each individual student exclusively updated with content and homework from each lesson.
Encouraging students to blog
When I started to blog is really when things stepped up a gear for me in terms of language learning. It’s a great activity you can recommend to students who want to practise their writing and speaking and hold themselves accountable.
Especially helpful as you don’t have to be tech savvy to use and enjoy it.
Play with additional apps
Beyond the apps Google Drive provides you with itself, there’s also plenty of additional Google Drive apps created by other third-party companies for you to consider using. Here’s just a few of my favourite ideas…
Cloud Audio Recorder
Record audio to share with students
If Soundcloud is a whole new tool you’re not ready to use right now (spoiler alert, there’s a great guide here from Leo Listening), then the Cloud Audio Recorder tool is a great simple alternative.
Simply record what you want to share with students – pronunciation examples, dialogues, speaking prompts etc – and upload direct to their Google Drive folder.
Students record audio to share with you
If students want to improve their speaking, they can also use the tool as an easy way to record themselves talking and then add it to their folder for you to listen to and comment on.
Create vocab mind maps
Whether you create this in advance, do it within class, or set it as a homework task, MindMeister is a great tool to easily create mind maps.
This is perfect for grouping vocabulary into topics that make sense for individual students.
It’s also a simple way to make notes of grammar, pronunciation etc for student who learn better visually.
It’s wroth noting there is a limited free plan. However, there’s plenty of similar mind map apps on Google Drive. My best advice here is to use one app per student.
How do you use Google Drive for your online language teaching business? Share in the comments!