Teaching in the age of a pandemic – part 4b: Hacking Google Slides to foster interaction with content and with each other

I have so much to say about the HyFlex model that I decided to split my post into two posts. For set-up and expectations, click here. For hacking Google Slides, keep reading:

As a teacher, I rely essentially on relationships, stories, and reading to bring the language to life in my classroom. I occasionally use technology but it is not central to my teaching. But when I started teaching HyFlex (and the same applies for fully virtual teaching obviously), it became evident I had to find some kind of a compromise between my philosophy of teaching and engaging students at home.

My choice was to hack Google Slides as a “post input tool” for students to interact with content and with each other. I chose this because:

  • It is EASY and CHEAP for me to create or copy templates,
  • My students ARE ALREADY FAMILIAR with Google Slides,
  • I can monitor what my students are doing on my screen, as they are all working in the same slide deck.
  • Why not Nearpod or Pear Deck? Because I don’t want the students who are in the classroom to be on their devices the whole time they are with me (they might as well be at home then).
  • Why not Jamboard? Because my school said no 🙁

In a nutshell: I prepare a slide deck that I share in edit mode with my students so they can interact with it. After our input session, I share the slide deck with my students and they work individually, in pairs, or in groups. Here are some concrete applications for Novice Learners but there are tons more:

  1. Class Vote or Gallery Walk: I just presented nine (9) New Year’s resolutions and now I want to organize a class vote. Students in the classroom walk around the room and place stickers on their favorite resolution(s). Online students also get to vote!
  2. Cloze Activity: I told a story and we co-created a retell. The next day, I want my students to read the retell again and do a cloze activity.
  3. Matching print to image: I just did a Movie Talk with my 5th graders and now I am asking them to work in pair to match sentences to the corresponding images. (In this example, I am sharing the final product, once students have worked on their slide. I hope this helps you visualize the interaction)
  4. Comparing and contrasting: We just read about French people’s new year’s resolutions with my 7th graders and now I want them to compare and contrast our class’ resolutions with the resolutions of French people.

My applications are pretty basic (there are some really fancy ones out there) but they achieve the essential goal of interacting with content and with each other without introducing another tool or generating a ton of work for me.

Check out https://www.mrspark.org/free for more awesome ideas on how to turn Google Slides into an interactive communication tool for your students during HyFlex or Virtual learning!


  1. Merci Cécile, pour ces bonnes idées ! Just wondering, how do you do MovieTalks in the hybrid format? My experience with showing or watching videos on Zoom has not been great. Do you make an Edpuzzle and just let each student do it independently?

    • Actually, I never use videos for Movie Talks. I use stills from videos which I put in a Google Slideshow. I have kept doing Movie Talk, but I place the key vocab in a box on the slides. Are you attending Comprehended? I explain how I go about it there: https://www.comprehended.co/. If you are not, I am happy to send you an example!

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