Addressing Student Questions

Google Classroom provides the capability for private messaging between students and teachers, as well as more public conversation that is open to the entire class. Depending on the situation, a teacher may decide to establish a public or private line of conversation with a student or multiple students. Outlined below are detailed steps to communicate with students through each route. 

Public Questions via Announcements

What are Google Classroom Announcements?

The Announcements feature in Google Classroom is a great way to cultivate dialogue among students. You can use it to not only post important updates, but also to field questions from students that will be visible to the entire class.

Announcements are found on the homepage of each Google Classroom course, as is the field to post a new announcement. Before beginning, ensure that your students have permission to post and comment to the Announcements board. To do this:

  • Click the tool icon in the upper right-hand corner of the course page. This will take you to the Settings page
  • Under the General section, find the option for Stream, and in the associated drop-down menu, ensure that the option, “Students can post and comment,” is selected. This option is the default in a new course; however, there are situations where teachers have turned off posting and commenting features for students.

Posting to Announcements and Replying to Students

To post a question, comment, or announcement to which students can respond, enter your message in the open text field near the top of the Streams tab of your course page. There is a drop down menu to select which course(s) you would like to post the announcement to, as well as a menu to select which students see the message. By default, the announcement will be posted to the course that you are currently in, and be visible to all students in the course, but you may also identify additional courses to broadcast the post. If you need to attach files to your announcement, select the paperclip icon at the bottom-left corner of the announcement field and choose from the options of posting a link, file, document from your Google Drive, or a YouTube video. You may include more than one attachment in any one announcement.

To respond to a student’s post in an announcement thread, click the curved arrow icon to the right of their comment. Google Classroom will automatically insert a tag for that student in the reply field. You may add additional students to the reply by typing “+” followed by their email address. Follow the tag(s) with your reply and click the “paper plane” icon to post.

Order of AnnouncementsBy default, the list of announcements is in chronological order, with the most recent original post appearing at the top. If the teacher edits an announcement (by clicking the option button to the right of the post, then Edit), the revised post will then appear at the top of the order. Besides editing an announcement, the teacher may also change the order of the posts by pushing a particular announcement to the top. To do this, select the “options” icon (three vertical dots) to the right of the post you would like to move, then Move to Top.

Private Questions via Email

Messaging via Google Classroom is a convenient way for students and teachers to communicate outside of the more public Announcements page. To access this feature, click the People tab at the top of the page. Here, you should find all your students listed in alphabetical order by last name. You may choose to email a particular student by selecting the options button (three vertical dots) to the right of their name, and then Email Student. You may also decide to message multiple students at once by checking the boxes to the left of their names, clicking Actions, and then Email. A simple way of contacting the entire class at once is to choose the check box just above the list of students, then Actions, and Email.

Note that when emailing a student, Google directs you through Gmail and sends the message from your account. However, student replies are channeled through your Zimbra account. So, even though you sent the message via Classroom, be sure to monitor your Zimbra inbox when expecting a student response.

Students will have the same option to email you directly from Google Classroom. They cannot, however, email their classmates from the course. Also note that unlike the teacher, all of the students’ correspondence will be housed in and channeled through their Gmail account.

Alternative Solutions

Students can can use Gmail to send an email directly to a teacher’s Zimbra account. 

This information is part of a larger series on creating & delivering multimedia based content with LPS tools. The entire list of resources can be found here.