With Google Sites, kids can build collaborative websites. Just create a Google Site. Add the directions and a page for each student. Then you can sit back and watch. In no time, they’ll create a professional-looking website.
What’s cool about Google Sites? All students can work on one website simultaneously. (However, only one person can work on one webpage at a time.) So your class can collaborate to build a content-based website.
Start with a Brief Research Project
When building a collaborative website, begin with a short research project that can be broken into many parts. For example, I wanted my students to research diseases. Since there are more diseases than students in my class, it worked well for a collaborative website.
You can also form groups and give each group member a different part. For example, when studying Native Americans, assign a different tribe to each group. Within a group, ask different students to research homes, clothing, food, shelter, and traditions. The group can work together for their cover page and supply maps that show where the tribe lived.
Any content that can be split into parts works well for this activity!
How to Build Collaborative Websites
Create a Google Site
First, make a website with Google Sites. You can use either Classic or New Sites. At the end of 2021, Google will phase out Classic Sites. However, New Sites still do not have as many features. Therefore, I’m still using Classic (but I’ll show you how New Sites look and work too).
Type Brief Instructions
Second, add directions. When you put them on the home page, kids can click back and forth. Or you can put them directly on each student page.
Add a Page for Every Student
Classic Google Sites
To add pages, simply click on the plus icon at the top of the screen. Give it a name, hit create, and you’re done.
After you’ve created one student page, customize it however you want. For example, I left this webpage blank but will allow others to comment. (To change page settings, click the gear icon and choose “Page settings.”)
For subsequent student pages, click the gear icon and hit “Copy page.” That way, your customization will carry over to the other pages.
When you create or copy a page, you will be asked to select a location. For the disease website, all pages are at the top level.
What if students are working in groups? In that case, add a page for the group (e.g., Iroquois) and add pages for individual members (e.g., Food, Clothing, Housing) under that page.
What if you put a page in the wrong location? No worries! Click on the gear icon and choose “Move page.” Then you can put it where you want.
New Google Sites
Working with New Sites is much easier. Just select Pages in the bar at the top right. Then click on the plus sign at the bottom of the page. Name your page, and you’re ready to go.
Once you’ve created the first student page, it’s time to format it. With New Sites, page features are added in sections. You can choose templates or add single features (text box, image, etc.) The objects populate the screen from top to bottom in the order you’ve added them. But you can click and drag to rearrange them at any time.
For this project, I wanted each student to add a picture and write about the disease. Therefore, I chose the template with one large picture to the left and writing to the right. Since I didn’t want them to add an additional title, I deleted that box.
Every student would use the same format, so I simply duplicated the slide and renamed it for each disease. To rearrange pages, simply click and drag.
How to Manage Collaborative Websites
Make a Copy
Once you get the site just how you want it, make a copy. This is important! Your copy can be copied every year (or every period) for different sets of students. But once you’ve shared that original website, kids will start typing on it – and you’ll have lost your clean copy.
Again, it’s much easier with New Sites. From any page, click on the circle with three dots at the upper right. Then choose Duplicate site.
Share with Students
Classic Google Sites
Now it’s time to share with your students. Yes, you will have to type their Gmail addresses into the box. However, you can copy and paste. Or better yet, copy and paste an entire group.
Make sure you add a comment so kids receive an email from you.
New Google Sites
To share in New Google Sites, hit the blue Publish button at the top right. Then follow the directions below.
Note that you can go back and change the settings. Just click on the person with the plus sign in the upper right.
Explain Rules and Consequences
For this project, everyone works on the same website. You know what that means. Naughtiness abounds. Lay the groundwork. Anyone sabotaging another’s work will be kicked off the site.
And let them know up front that you can find out who the saboteurs are. Here’s how you do it.
As noted, you can use this feature to revert to an earlier version. This feature is great for kids (or teachers!) who accidentally change or delete their work.
For New Google Sites, follow these directions to see revision history.
Provide Note Taking Sheets
Since this is a collaborative project, note taking sheets are a must. Once all (or at least most) of the students finish, ask them to learn from others’ work.
Powerful Learning with Google Sites
Collaborative websites like this provide powerful learning. After all, kids are constructing their own knowledge. They’re collaborating. And when they’re done, they have something awesome to show for it.
Google Sites offer opportunities for directing student learning. You can create independent learning modules, webquests, PBLs, novel studies, and eBooks. Sites provide a great platform to supplement learning, organize research, direct homework, and even flip your classroom. What are you waiting for? Build a Google Site today!