Sunday, February 12, 2017

Spreadsheet Activities for all Subjects

Spreadsheets are often thought of as a tool for math or statistics. Something just for crunching numbers and making graphs. Although those are excellent uses for spreadsheets, there are so many other ways they can be used for teaching and learning in all subject areas.

Recently I did a webinar where we took a look at five main ways that spreadsheets can be used by students. There are certainly more uses than five, but these activities provide a nice variety to show how spreadsheets can apply to a wide range of subjects. The five activities include:
  1. Random Generators
  2. Educational Games
  3. Pixel Art
  4. Learning Databases
  5. Analyzing Data

For each of these examples I demonstrated how to do these activities with Google Sheets, although you can accomplish the same activities with Microsoft Excel or other modern spreadsheet program.

See below for the full video, as well as links to additional resources for each of the activities.

Webinar Video (1 hour)

Session Slideshow

Direct Slideshow link: Google Slides link


Session Agenda - Google Docs link

1) Random Generators

Google Sheets has a "random" function that can be used to pull random information from your Sheet. The function looks like this:


This can be used to generate lots of random items and numbers for learning activities including:

  • Random writing prompts
  • Random math problems
  • Random terms, people, etc.

As an example, I have created Google Sheets templates to randomly generate writing prompts with words (in one template) and with emojis (in the other template). These can be great to help inspire students when writing a story, journal entry, poem, or such.

You can access these templates and full directions on how to use them through the links below:

Below is the portion of the training video that covers this specific activity:

2) Educational Games

Google Sheets can be used to make interactive educational games. These can be games created by the teacher to help students practice, or they can be games created by the students as a way of demonstrating their understanding of the content.

One great way to do this is with the Flippity add-on for Sheets. This add-on allows you to create educational games and activities from data that you enter in a Google Sheet. The Flippity templates include:

  • Flippity Flashcards
  • Flippity Quiz Show
  • Flippity Spelling Words
  • Flippity Hangman
  • Flippity Mix & MAtch
  • Flippity MadLibs
  • And many more

You can install Flippity through the "Add-ons" menu in Google Sheets, or by using the link below:

Besides Flippity, another fun way to use Sheets for educational games is with Battlesheets. This is a Google Sheets version of the traditional Battleship game, and can be a fun way to teach coordinates, critical thinking, and tech skills. You can access the template and full directions on how to play Battlesheets through the link below:

Below is the portion of the training video that covers the Flippity and Battlesheets activities:

3) Pixel Art

Google Sheets can also be used to create Pixel Art, where you make images out of a small grid with limited number of colors. This can be used for many activities including:

  • General creativity - Have students be creative and make whatever they like.
  • Art - Have students create their own artistic works, or pixel versions of existing art.
  • Tech Skills - Great for younger students to practice typing, using the arrow keys, using the mouse, clicking and dragging, and more.
  • Characters - Making characters from a story read in class or for a story the students are writing.
  • Concepts - Illustrate a science concept they are learning.
  • Retelling - Show an event from history or from a story.
  • Mapping - Create a map of your neighborhood, state, country, famous battle, land forms, or such.
  • Fractions - Create pixel art and then determine the fraction each color represents of the whole.
  • Area - Create pixel art and then calculate the area in square units covered by each color.

You can access the 20-Color Pixel Art template and full directions on how to use it through the link below:

  • Pixel Art Activities for any Subject with Google Sheets - Blog post link

Below is the portion of the training video that covers this specific activity:

4) Learning Databases

Students learn a lot of content in school. This can include:

  • Characters in the novel they are reading
  • Animals in their elementary science class
  • Careers they are exploring in high school
  • Countries of the world they are studying
  • Artists and the works they created
  • Properties of geometric shapes

While they are learning new information they can use Google Sheets to help learn the content. They can:

  • Collect important details as they are learning, and build their own database of information, either individually or collaboratively.
  • Once complete, students can use the sorting and filtering features in Sheets to answer questions about the content they have been learning.

See below to access a blog post with several practical examples, as well as all the directions on how to build a learning database, and how to use the sort and filter tools to learn from it:

  • Have Students Build Learning Databases with Google Sheets - Blog post link

Below is the portion of the training video that covers this specific activity:

5) Analyzing Data

Finally, spreadsheets can definitely be used for crunching numbers. With Google Sheets students can collect and analyze numeric data relevant to their content area. This subject-related data can come from:

Once students have collected data they can use many Sheets features to analyze it, draw conclusions, and make predictions. This includes:

  • Built-in functions, such as AVERAGE
  • Hand-made formulas
  • Charts and graphs

For an example, see the blog post linked below where we see how students could discover the mathematical concept of pi by doing a class measurement activity, collecting the data in Sheets, and then analyzing it with formulas and graphs.

Below is the portion of the training video that covers this specific activity:


Spreadsheets are a powerful and flexible tools for student learning in all subject areas. If you have other examples of how you and your students have used Sheets in school, please share your ideas and resources in the comments below.

Post by Eric Curts. Bring me to your school, organization, or conference with over 50 PD sessions to choose from. Connect with me on Twitter at and on Google+ at


  1. Thanks for all of the tools and ideas on how to use them. I am putting the Flippity add-on to use today in my Research Skills class for middle school students. We just reviewed Internet search strategies yesterday and today we will put them to use in a Jeopardy-style game format using Flippity. Thank you Eric!

    1. You are welcome! Glad you could use the ideas right away!

  2. Thank you for sharing these ideas with us Eric. I think students will really like using the sheets in all of the ways you've shared. I look forward to trying flippity.