Google Classroom: Creating a Discussion Board

Google Classroom Sheets Discussion Board

While I want threaded discussions in Google Classroom, I do not want them in the stream. Multiple student responses will clutter up the Google Classroom stream quickly. I always say “the answer is always a spreadsheet” so I created a way to use Google Sheets for a threaded discussion and use it in Google Classroom. It is not perfect, I’m a teacher not a programmer.

The advantage to using a spreadsheet for discussions is… it is a spreadsheet!! Google Sheets are in your Google Drive, easy to locate. It can be embeded into another website or linked to from just about anything. Information in the spreadsheet can be sorted and organized. Formulas can be applied, Add-On’s can be used, charts can be generated. Since the discussion board is not in another platform, it is easy to save the discussion board.

Since a spreadsheet has tabs, this allows you to conduct multiple discussions over the course of a unit.


Go to to create a copy of the template.

Google Classroom

After creating the copy of the template attach it as an assignment in Google Classroom as “Students can edit file.” This explicitly shares the spreadsheet with the students. This way their name will show up in the revision history so you know which student made edits when. Google Classroom also protects the privacy of the students. The spreadsheet discussion board is closed to people outside of the class. Posting the discussion board in Google Classroom also makes it easy for students to locate and keep coming back to for repeated discussions.

Attaching a spreadsheet from Google Drive in Google Classroom as “Students can edit file” allows for all the students in the class to contribute to the same spreadsheet. As new discussion prompts are added to the discussion board, the same spreadsheet can be attached to a new assignment in Google Classroom. This ensures the discussion is located at the top of the stream.


After making a copy of the spreadsheet, you will want to go to the “Discussion Board” menu at the top and choose “Start Discussion Board.” This will require that you authorize the script.
Start Discussion Board


It will then prompt you for the first discussion topic and freeze the template cells so students can not edit the template.
Prompt for Question

Discussion Tab

A tab on the spreadsheet will be created that has the same name as the question. The question will also be placed at the top of the sheet. You may want to rename the tab, to make the name shorter, by double clicking on the tab.
Discussion Board

This creates a discussion board that students can respond to.

You can create multiple discussion boards by going back to the first tab and clicking on the add discussion button or by using the “Discussion Board” menu along the top. Choose “Add Discussion Topic.” A new tab will be created on the spreadsheet. Newer topics are placed to the left of older topics.
Discussion Topic added

Attach in Google Classroom

In Google Classroom create a new assignment and click on the Google Drive icon.
DIscussion Board attach in classroom

Browse your Google Drive for the discussion board you created. Change the default from students can view to students can edit file.
Students can edit

Locate Tab

Students need to locate the tab of the discussion they want to respond to. They can click on the “Big Mac” icon in the lower left-hand corner, next to the plus icon, to find a list of the discussion tabs.
Find tab at the bottom.

Select a Row

The script for this spreadsheet discussion board will insert a row below the row the student has selected. If the student clicks one time in any cell in a row and clicks the response button a new row will be inserted and their email address will be captured in column A. Students will type their own name into column B.
Response Button

Respond to Question

Two columns have been set up to allow students to either respond to the question directly or to respond to another student. Students will use Column C to respond directly to the question. Column D can be used to distinguish from initial posts.
Respond to Students

Students Can Not Delete Other Students Responses

The script is set up to not allow students to edit the responses of other students. However, they will be able to edit their own responses. Students are also NOT able to delete a discussion board unless they created the question.
Protected Cells

Attach Files

Files can not be directly attached into a spreadsheet. However, hyperlinks to the Google document in Google Drive can be placed in Column E.
Create a Hyperlink


One trick for creating hyperlinks is to type a short description of what you are linking to in Column E. Press enter. Click one time back on the cell with the text. Use Control K to create a hyperlink. Paste the URL where the text will link to in the “Link” box.


Students can subscribe to changes in the discussion board by going to the “Tools” menu and choosing “Notification rules…”
Notification Rules

The students can then choose to receive an email after each student response, or receive a daily digest.
Daily Digest


I do not currently have grading features natively built into the spreadsheet. I recommend that when the discussion board is closed to click on the blue share button in the spreadsheet and REMOVE the students as editors. Change to viewers or remove all access. You could also make a copy of the spreadsheet to allow you to sort organize and filter the student data without messing up the discussions.

Use Column F on the discussion board to mark a score for the students. Using a pivot table you can add up the students total points or count up how many times they posted. You can also use the chart options under the insert menu to create graphs of student participation.

Digiprove sealCopyright secured by Digiprove © 2015