Teacher Tech blog with Alice Keeler

Paperless Is Not a Pedagogy

Alice Keeler

Creating Classroom Discussions with Google Sheets

Creating Classroom Discussions with Google Sheets

Screen Shot 2014-02-20 at 4.53.09 PM


Here is an easy way to get started using spreadsheets in your classroom. I use Google Sheets to have students enter in their voice on a discussion topic. I can project the entire spreadsheet to the board and see students entering their answer in live time. This gives every student, including the quiet students, an opportunity to provide their input. Rather than taking turns one by one to answer a question, classroom minutes are saved by having everyone “shout out” their answers at once.

This is My Cell

The advantage to using a collaborative spreadsheet over a collaborative document is the cells of a spreadsheet make it easy for each student to have their own space. It is easy to have a cursor war in a collaborative Google document as two students are trying to type in the same space. When students click on a cell in a Google spreadsheet the cell obtains a colored border, warning other students to stay away and find their own cell.
Colored Cells


Multiple Discussion Topics

Another advantage to using a spreadsheet is the ability to create tabs. At the bottom of the spreadsheet is a plus sign allowing you to create additional tabs. For each tab I will write the discussion prompt, thus setting up the discussion in advance. Double click on the tab and you can rename the tab to something meaningful. This helps you to direct students to the correct tab.
Add a tab

Organize Student Input

Once students have typed in their response someone (you or a student) can start to organize the comments into themes. Click on a cell and hover the mouse over the edge of the cell. The cursor arrow will switch into a “grabby hand.” Once the icon is a hand hold down the mouse and DRAG the contents to another cell.
Grabby Hand

A Record of the Discussion

As an added bonus you now have a typed record of what was discussed in class.

Anyone Can Edit

A key to making this happen is to click on the blue share button and change the setting to “anyone with the link can edit.” Simply share the URL of the spreadsheet with the students and they are immediately able to start typing their input into the spreadsheet.


You may be interested in using a script I wrote that will generate the tabs for you. RosterTab (Click Here) will take a list and generate a blank sheet with each tab named from the list. This can be particularly handy if you have multiple discussion topics you want to go through during the class period.


Another script I wrote, TemplateTab (Click Here) does the same thing as RosterTab; however, you are able to create a template so that each sheet of the spreadsheet follows the same formatting.


CLICK HERE for my template for classroom discussions. The template is set up with wider columns and rows to allow for longer student answers. The cells along the top have been merged and filled in yellow to allow you to have a place to write the discussion topic for that tab. Edit the template tab to reflect the style you would like to use. On the first tab write out a list of discussion topics that will become the tab names. ONE or TWO words is best for a tab name. Click on the button on the first tab or click on “TemplateTab” menu up at the top next to the Help menu. Run the script to make a copy of the template tab for each item in your list. DELETE the roster tab and the template tab after you have run the script.
Classroom Discussions Template

7 thoughts on “Creating Classroom Discussions with Google Sheets

  1. Alice,

    This is a great idea. I have been searching for a way to get all students’ input without taking the entire class time to do it!

    One question about this method: What do you see as the advantage of doing it directly into the spreadsheet as opposed to having the students fill in a simple Google form?


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