Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Engaging Quiet Students with Google Forms

When I was a student (many, many years ago) I dreaded class participation. Now don’t get me wrong… I loved school. I was a straight-A student who excelled in all my subjects, loved to learn, and took the most challenging courses.

I just didn’t like to talk.

You see, from the time I was a little child into my early teen years, I used to have a stutter. Some days were better than others, but one thing that always brought out the stutter was speaking out loud in class. When a teacher asked a question, I most always knew the answer, but was hesitant to raise my hand. And nothing was worse than the teacher having each student in class take turns reading from the chapter in the textbook. The closer it got to me, the more nervous I became, trying to determine which paragraph would fall on me and which words I would undoubtedly stumble over.

And I am sure I was not alone. For a wide variety of reasons, student may be reluctant to speak up and participate in class:

  • Perhaps they wrestle with a speech impediment.
  • Maybe they fear they do not have the right answer or a valuable contribution.
  • Or they just need more time to think before they are ready to answer.
  • Or maybe they are shy.

Thankfully today technology provides us with more tools for students to participate in class, share their ideas, and ask questions. One great option is to use Google Forms. See the rest of this blog post below for some ideas on how Forms can not only involve the quiet kids, but improve class engagement for everyone.

Giving Answers

Here’s the traditional situation. The teacher is standing in front of the class, dry erase marker in hand, next to the white board. He asks the class a question.

“Using just adjectives, how would you describe the protagonist from the novel we are reading?”

Some students drop their heads, others look anywhere but up front, still others try to seem busy. Then there are the students with their hands up. Of course it’s the same students who always have their hands up.

After a pause as the teacher waits for anyone different to volunteer, he finally gives up and calls on the same students as always who quickly give their answers. As the first students answer, the remaining students begin to drop out since “their answer was already taken by someone else.” In the end only a few students actually participate as the other willing and unwilling students get shut out of the process.

How could this have gone differently?

One option would be to use a technology tool to collect feedback from all the students so everyone would be involved. For example, the teacher could have created a very simple Google Form with the same question, “Using just adjectives, how would you describe the protagonist from the novel we are reading?”

The Google Form could then be given to the class in several ways. It could be:

  • Emailed out to the students
  • Shared as an announcement in Google Classroom
  • Pasted into a shared Doc
  • Made into a QR Code or a shortened URL
  • Pushed out to students through the “Share to Classroom” extension

By using a Google Form in this manner you can improve student engagement in many ways:

  • Everybody gets a chance to participate.
  • No one “takes” anyone else’s answer, since the responses are not being spoken aloud.
  • If a student is uncomfortable speaking, they can just type in their answer.
  • If a student needs more time to come up with an answer they are confident with, they can take their time to submit their answer.
  • If a student has more than one idea to share, they can submit multiple responses, rather than just getting called on once.

As the end result, the teacher will now have feedback collected in a Google Sheets representing the ideas of the entire class. Having all the results digitally, rather than written in dry erase marker on a board, the teacher can do several things:

  • Create charts and graphs from the words.
  • Create a word cloud to show which words were most commonly suggested from the class.
  • Export the word cloud or chart as an image you can bring back up for discussion or compare to other class periods.
  • Make a more visually appealing and engaging representation of the student ideas than a simple list on the dry erase board.

The important thing is, all of the student can participate, and the final results are more valuable as a better representation of the ideas of the entire class.

Asking Questions

In addition to engaging quiet students when a teacher is asking questions, you can also use Google Forms to make it easier for students to ask the questions they have. With a simple Google Form, students can have an easy way to submit questions, concerns, or comments to their teacher. Below is one example of how this could be done.

  • First, create a Google Form.
  • In the form add a “Paragraph” type question with text like “Please type in your question, comment, or concern below.”

  • Optionally feel free to add other questions, but the shorter the form, the more likely a student will fill it out.
  • Be sure to have the form automatically collect the student’s email address so you know who is submitting the question. 
  • You can do this by clicking the gear in the top right corner of the form and checking the boxes for “Restrict to [your school] users” and “Collect email address”.

  • Next, turn on the option to get notified by email any time a student submits the form so you know when a student has a question or comment.
  • Click the “Responses” tab and the more actions button (three vertical dots).
  • From the drop-down menu choose “Get email notifications for new responses”.

  • Finally get the link for your form. Click the “Send” button in the top right, choose the link tab, and copy the link.

Now that you have the link to the student feedback form, you just need to make the link easily available to your students. You can do this in several ways:

  • Make an easy to remember shortened URL using a service such as or
  • Make a QR code that students can quickly scan with their phone (you can even print out, laminate, and tape it to the students’ desks).
  • Put the link on the “About” page in your Google Classroom.

This Google Form will now provide one more easy and safe way for students to ask questions of their teacher. This can be helpful for a student who would rather not ask the question in front of the class, and for schools or grades where students do not have Gmail turned on.


Although sometimes people think technology can be impersonal, if used correctly it can actually increase ways for people to connect and communicate, especially for quiet students. A Google Form is just one tool that could be used for this. What other tech tools have you used to help increase your students’ feedback and participation? Please share any ideas in the comments below.

Post by Eric Curts. Connect with Eric on Twitter at and on Google+ at


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