Keep Things Organized – Tips for Organizing Google Drive

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Organizing Google Drive for you and your students can be challenging. When assessments and assignments are assigned through Google Classroom, you may get lost in the mountain of documents. For your students – especially for those who aren’t tech savvy – it’s even more challenging. As we approach the end of the school year, here are a few lessons I’ve learned from online teaching about how organizing your Google Drive early saves you time and effort.

Keep Your Naming Conventions Consistent

I’ve been guilty of naming files with general names. For example, in the first two months of my online teaching, I named one of the assessments “CLB 5 Assessment”.  It was not a problem until I needed to organize Google Drive. What was “CLB 5 Assessment”? When was it done? What topic or theme was it about?

The convention that works for me is Level, Skill, Type, Number of the Task, and Real-world Task Name. For example, I might name one of the files “CLB 5 Reading AT #5 How to Set Financial Goals”.

  • Level: CLB 5
  • Skill: Reading
  • Type: AT (Assessment)
  • Number: 5 (This is the fifth test.)
  • Real-world Task: How to Set Financial Goals
Photo credit: Bei Zhang

You can also use the same convention to create a file for lesson plans, homework assignments, etc. In this way, it is easy to track the level, topic, and number of the tasks.

Create Individual Folders for Your Students

For students who find that organizing Google Drive is way beyond their technological knowledge, helping them organize might be a good idea.

Step 1: Create individual folders for each student.

The formula that works for me is to create a main folder named “Students’ Files”. Then, create sub-folders for each of the students. You can decide if you want to have sub-folders organized by class, such as R/W class or L/S class. I find that having all students together makes my life much easier as some of the students are in both classes. This way, I don’t have to create two folders for one student. Under each of the students’ folders, create sub-folders for the skills they are being assessed, so you know which skills they have been learning.

Step 2: Add Shortcut to Drive

After creating all the folders, it’s time to move the documents to where they belong. First, I tried the “Move To” feature, but found that these documents were not movable, as my students were also the owners. Then I tried “Make A Copy” of each document, but then my Google Drive was flooded by ton of google docs. This is when I discovered “Add Shortcut to Drive.” Right click on the documents you want to move. Then, click on Add Shortcut to Drive. Then you will be able to choose where you want to move it.

Photo credit: Bei Zhang

There won’t be additional documents created in your Google Drive. It also won’t affect the owner (your student) of the document.

Photo credit: Bei Zhang

After you have finished everything, you can share the folders with your students. They will have all the assessments they have done in one folder.

I only organized assessments and skill-using activities to keep the folder clean and easy for my students for future portfolio evaluations when they need to show the tests to their teachers. You can also organize their skill-building activities in the same way so the students can have their e-binders of learning evidence. In addition to helping students, you can organize your teaching materials in a similar manner before you archive your Google Classroom. This way, you can also track what you have taught and when and recycle the appropriate materials.   

These are two of the lessons I have learned since I started teaching online. I wish I had known the importance of organizing Google Drive earlier so I wouldn’t have left it until the last minute and created unnecessary stress.

What are your tips for organizing Google Drive and keeping your Google Classroom clean?

Hello, my name is Bei Zhang. I am delighted to be part of the team to share my ideas and experience. I am currently working at Huron University College as an English Language Learning specialist. My job there is to help international students with their academic English language skills. I also teach ESL and LINC at Thames Valley District School Board, and ESL at London Language Institute, a private language school in London. I graduated in 2018 with a master’s degree in Education Studies from Western University, focused on applied linguistics and teacher education. I also have a background in human resources management. I hope that my unique perspective of teaching ESL in different educational systems can benefit the TESL Ontario Blog and our members.


4 thoughts on “Keep Things Organized – Tips for Organizing Google Drive”

  1. Good organization shortens the path to the goal, or so someone once said! I also create a “Drive Guide” doc where I outline all of my naming conventions, so that I don’t forget. I keep that doc on my main drive page.

    While the file retrieval process in Google Drive makes finding files a lot simpler, it also takes time to get used to. So to save you headaches, create that master doc which outlines how you save and organize FILES and FOLDERS and what, if any , colour coding scheme you use.

    Just my two cents! (Your future self will thank you.)

    1. I miss you so much Jen!! Thank you a lot for sharing your tricks! Creating outlines of how things are saved and organized is definitely a brilliant idea!! Especially for someone like me who tends to be pretty forgetful. I need to have a mini version of you in my pocket!

  2. Thanks for sharing your tips. I really like the idea of creating the folders for each student and then linking student assessments. As you said, this will help the students who have not yet learned the ins and outs of using Google Drive. And as you mention, linking the assessments to the file when grading each assessment will “save” time rather than going back to do it later.

    Also – great idea, Jen, to make a master document for how you name the files and documents.

    In my online class (CLB7-9) I encourage students to make a folder called PBLA and then save or make a copy of their assessment to put in it. I usually show them at least once in a term how to do that. I notice that during the last two or so years, many students are becoming more savvy and finding what works for them which is also a good thing. 🙂

    1. Thank you Beth 🙂
      That’s really a good idea to let students go through the process. Your students must be really grateful for it. I’m actually thinking about doing so for my lower level students. Maybe have a lesson once a week to show them how to work on their technological skills. It’s also part of learning process.
      Thank you!

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