The simple guide to starting your elementary class with google docs (in less than 10 minutes)

To kick off my new blog, I will be writing a series of posts on how to start implementing google docs in an elementary classroom.  I teach third grade, but these ideas could easily be used for older or even younger grades.

The thought of one google account for every student in your class is overwhelming at first.  If you have 20 students, that’s 20 usernames, 20 passwords, and 20 kids who may not understand the nuances of creating and sharing documents with other people.  The key is  simplicity: in the beginning, use one google account for your entire class.  Here’s how you can get started in 10 minutes:

Step 1 – Create a google account for your class.  I used a dormant account from when I was teaching 2nd grade, so we are “seisen2b.”

Step 2 – Show your students how to log in with your class username and password at

Step 3 – Teach your students how to create a new document.  (for those of you new to google docs, simply click the red “create” button and select “document”)

Step 4 – Have students use their own name in each of their document titles.  This will allow teachers and students to easily identify documents.

That’s it!  Your students can now work on their writing at home, in the computer lab, with laptops…anywhere they have internet access.  You’ve also made the editing and revising process much easier and reduced the amount of paper used.

In my next post, you will learn how to use google docs to get students collaborating on projects.

This entry was posted in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

27 Responses to The simple guide to starting your elementary class with google docs (in less than 10 minutes)

  1. Josie says:

    Jeff at last an easy to understand common sense approach taking action in the classroom. I will be following and trying to implement the stages as you pull me forwards with our use of computers in the classroom I can finally put away my class USB’s.

  2. Hi Jeff,

    I am doing something similar with my class, but I am doing a class blog with a single gmail account. I would have done docs, but I wanted them to learn how to comment, and I wanted them to be able to post by email.

    Come to think of it though, I may also introduce Gdocs.

    Thank you for the idea!

    • Jeff Lewis says:

      Thanks, Thomas, I have student blogs on my list of things to try someday. I’m trying to go slowly but surely though, so it will have to wait. I will look you up for advice when it’s time to move in that direction.

      • Mick Huiet says:

        We are rolling out WordPress blogs with kids this week. My wife has done it the past two years in 5th grade. I love this disruption!
        Let me know if want to see them.

        • Kim Rivera says:

          I would love to see how your WordPress Blogs are going! I am always looking for ideas to share with my teachers..please share!

  3. Vivian says:

    You’ve saved me heaps of frustration trying to figure out what is the most stream-lined way to do this. Thanks!

  4. Mick Huiet says:

    This is great, but I’m still on the fence as to go ahead and create individual accounts that kids will have for ever, or one class account. I only have 15 kids, and some of them have google accounts tied to their Apple IDs.

    We just got an Edmodo for the class up and running. I need the collaboration piece quickly for revision of writing and social studies projects immediately. We’re 1:1 iPad, and kids are supposed to all have Pages by tomorrow, but that probably won’t happen. That’s why I am leaning to GDocs and all the skills that they would learn along the way through this even with the Great Firewall of China blocking us at home. I have 30 minutes of work time to decide!

    • Jeff Lewis says:

      Hey, Mick, my class has already moved on to having individual accounts for each student (through our school), so I’ve seen both sides of it. The nice thing about starting with one account is you can get your students used to it and then give them individual accounts later. Did you make a decision yet?

      • Mick Huiet says:

        Thanks a million Jeff. I ended up swinging back to creating a class account. It was smooth and sweet. Minimal directions other than the Login and Password. Told them what I wanted them to do, and in 30 minutes everyone had created a folder, added a new doc, imported their essays, chose someone to share with, and a few learned how to comment which wasn’t in the lesson plan! Mick

  5. Mick Huiet says:

    Does anyone work with GDocs and iPads? I got everything set up, input content, the boys who figured out sharing could not get back to it. We can’t comment on each others’ docs. Any direction would be greatly appreciated. If commenting really works on iPads, it’s another victim of the Great Firewall.

    • Jeff Lewis says:

      Hi, Mick, sorry for the slow reply, but I tried out google drive on my ipad, and to my knowledge, commenting is unavailable. I’m sure this will be added someday, but for now it looks like you’ll need a desktop version to make comments.

  6. Natalie says:

    Hello, Jeff! I am looking to introduce Google Docs in the classroom next year. My problem with the single login (and any login) for lower elementary is the age minimum allowed to set up a gmail account (13). Is there a way to disable the email portion of the account and only utilize the drive portion? Have you encountered any issues with parents on this? I want to keep in line with our county’s acceptable use policy. Any input is greatly appreciated and thanks for your blog – very easy to understand and good information!

    • Jeff Lewis says:

      Hi, Natalie, thanks for the comment. I look at your situation like this: with a single login, it is your google account, not the students’. You are simply letting them use it for access to the drive. Of course, they would be able to access the gmail part of the account too, but if you create a new account for your class, there won’t be any messages anyways. And you can tell them not to use it.

      When I tried this with my class, I had them log in directly from It was their first experience with google drive, and I don’t think any of them realized there was an email account that went along with drive.

      To answer your other questions, I haven’t had any parent issues, but I explained to them what was going on. Later in the year my entire school switched to google apps for education (and yes, they all have their own email now). I’m not sure if you can disable that, but I will check with our tech people and get back to you.

  7. Flavio says:

    Hello Jeff,

    Congratulations. I started to use Google Drive with 2nd grade and to do not create a Gmail account from them I created a Google Drawing in my Drive and I copied the link from this file and I saved it in the 2nd grade folder as a .txt file using the notepad (we have the students folder). I taught the students how to open this file, how to select all the file content and how to copy and paste this link in the navigator (Firefox) address bar.
    They were very excited working all of them on the same draw at the same time. You can create one page in your website and set up link there for the kids access and work together, so they can access it at home too. You can do the same with the Google Docs too. The only bad thing working with Docs in this way is that we should create one link for each students.
    It was a good experience for them and for me.

  8. JTYRA says:


  9. Jennifer Torgerson says:

    I really want to try to do some writing using google docs in my first grade classroom. I have been confused about how to do this without having individual accounts. I was told that if too many kids tried to log in using the same account it would shut down. Is this correct or can a whole class of users log in under that one account?

  10. Catherine Kolodin says:

    If you have 30 students using the same user name and password, will Google Docs shut down and not work?

    • Jeff Lewis says:

      Hi, Catherine, it’s been a year and a half since I did this (now all students at my school have individual google accounts), but when I tried it there were about 20 students in my class and we never had issues with Google Docs shutting down. Have you heard about that happening for someone else?

  11. Kate says:

    Thanks, I was already beginning to create individual email address for student 1 through…, then frustrated after email 1, said let me see what’s on the net about this and wah-la, you! Tonks!!

  12. Joel Turvey says:

    I am interested in setting up Google docs for my middle school language arts classes. (We are not a Google Apps for Education school yet.) My question about creating one account would be whether a student would have access to other students’ documents in the account and could change other students’ documents anonymously. Thank you for your post.

    • Jeff Lewis says:

      If you only have one account, then students would be able to change other documents anonymously. Teaching middle school, however, I would bet most of the students already have their own gmail accounts, so you might be able to go that route.

  13. shazia jaffri says:

    It’s a great idea. I teach grade two. I will do it today as up till now I was just working on the collaborative docs prepared by me and shared on the class Edmodo account. This is my today’s reflective log’s topic as well.
    Happy learning

Leave a Reply to Josie Cancel reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *