Students ‘get’ Google Drawings


google draw

This flexible learning Google App is hard to find and I can’t figure out why.  It’s the app I turn to the most, both in preparing visual content and preparing places for students to show their thinking in a collaborative way.  It is great as a way to set up a question and have groups simultaneously adding ideas to the same document – real time!  As teacher, I watch the magic happen on the SmartBoard.  However, more than anything, Google Drawings is a user-friendly playground for students to CREATE! Text boxes, super-easy image insertion, and features that are common to all other GAFE (Google Applications For Education) Apps make this a program that students are excited and comfortable using.  It auto-saves to Google Drive like always, so I am always looking for more ways to use it in my room.

A few notes and ideas I’ve collected over the last six months of ‘playing’.


  • Select the nine dot icon.  Choose ‘more’ and then ‘even more from Google’ links at the bottom of the app list.  Scroll down on the left hand side of the screen and you’ll find the icon buried in a list of apps I don’t use.


  • By creating a Drawing for the class, I can rid myself of printing worksheets.  Items like this bring ‘worksheets’ to a whole new level.  Namely, these are collaborative in nature.  Many heads are better than one, and students need to work together to not only share the technology to work on these tasks, but need to share ideas and find consensus.  Students take care of one another and share their ideas.  So instead of struggling on a one-on-one task, learning new skills is done in a way that is fun, ‘techie’, and real-world realistic (e.g., teamwork life skills).
  • Share these (via Google Classroom if you like) with individual students to collect for a diagnostic assessment, or use as a formative assessment piece, giving students a social way to learn new concepts with peers.  Best practices and unique approaches to problems are always celebrated and I really like to capture students doing cool solutions to problems and re-teaching the class with their novel approach.
  • Bump up the fun by sharing the document with all your student groups and give them all edit access.  Set the timer for an appropriate time and watch all groups enter their thinking real-time as all other groups are doing the same thing on the same screen.  Really cool – and students need to read other groups’ ideas as they go so they don’t repeat comments or images.
  • Instead of groups typing text boxes (written ideas), have them do a picture insertion task. See the mass estimation task above.  Set the parameters on a blank screen and watch students use the ‘insert image’ button to very quickly access their own Google Drive or the whole Google universe for a fast image insertion.  Instead of creating a time-consuming drag and drop SmartBoard file, why not have the students create the drag and drop?  A favourite task of mine.


A student can upload a photo from an iPad or a Chromebook to use later as a digital backdrop to make annotations (making tracks of words, images and arrows on an image).  They open a new Google Drawing, select the insert image button, and upload from their Google Drive.  They can resize the image to take up the full Google Drawing screen.  Then then can start typing text boxes over top, explaining their thinking and labelling elements for the teacher. Callouts, lines, arrows and shapes make this a flexible way to digitally mark up the photo.  It can then be viewed by the teacher (who can do direct comments online for the student to see), or uploaded into a blog or Google Site as an e-portfolio artifact.

For shared reading/writing, upload a piece of text and have students annotate the actual text image.  In the example above, students in groups were asked to create text boxes to re-write sections of the text they thought needed bumping up.


As I mentioned, this a go-to app in our classroom.  The students likely know the ins and outs better than myself and are always eager to teach each other new tricks.  Some examples of ways we use Drawings as ways to demonstrate learning:

– Create a ‘menu’ for a meal from an ancient civilization – include images and a variety of fonts to capture audience interest.
– With your group, quickly sketch together a procedural writing piece on how to…. include images to support your writing
– Create a bar graph or tally chart to track results of a mathematical experiment
– Students create their own ‘worksheet’!

We use GAFE all the time and gravitate towards the loose approach this format gives us. It’s similar to the way SmartActive software works, which is a bonus.  I find Google Docs more limiting in formatting options and unless students are writing more than one page of information I would stick with Drawings as a more user-friendly alternative.  Give it a try – I know you’ll enjoy using it. Come and ask questions if you want to learn more!