Google Docs – Fantastic Time Saver For Holidays!

Holiday celebrations are one of those wonderful, and sometimes overwhelming, parts of teaching elementary school.  They can be SO much fun, but organizing them does take a lot of time.

I have always chosen to organize the celebrations myself, as I prefer to have some control over what we do at the party.  I like to balance out the activities, make sure they are fun and educational, and ensure that we have plenty to do.

I have also always spent a great deal of time working out how to get items donated for the parties.  Whether I sent notes with checklists, emails with specific requests, or sign up sheets, it always was cumbersome.  And of course, I needed to send reminders, keep track of who donated for which party, the list goes on…

This year Google Docs swept in on a white horse and saved the day!  Rather than micromanage the whole process, I decided to create an editable spreadsheet that I shared with all of the families in the class.  One email on my part, and they did the rest!  Each person that wanted to donate something simply filled their name in on the spreadsheet.  Everyone could access the document, everyone could make changes, and everyone could see what was filled or still needed to be filled – including me!  I didn’t even need to send reminders, because people could just check the document.

This literally saved me hours, so I wanted to share the process with all of you in case you want to try it too.  This is what you need to do:

1.  You need a google account.  If you already have a gmail account, you are all set!  If not, you do need to go to and set up a free account.

2. You need to access your google drive.  If you are doing it for the first time, you will need to download “drive.”  After the initial download, it will be available to you any time that you log in to your google account.  It is one of the options on the menu bar at the top of the screen,

3. Once you have clicked on your google drive, you need to hit “create.”  You will have some options (document, spreadsheet, etc.)  I used a spreadsheet for this.

4. You will then be able to create your spreadsheet that others will ultimately be able to edit.   I honestly have not spent any great amount of time learning how to format things in google.  However, I was pretty easily able to create a simple spreadsheet, as it is set up very much like Excel.  I think if you have used Word, Excel, Pages, or other basic document and spreadsheet programs you will not have any trouble.  Here is what my Halloween donations spreadsheet looked like:

5. You then need to “share” the document.  When you click on the share button, you will again have options.  The default position is private, so you will need to click on “change” to access the options.  You can make your document public (available to anyone).  Or you can make it completely private, available only to those with a link and a google account.  Read through the options and decide what you are comfortable with.  A tip:  I suggest going with the option of sharing with anyone that has the link.  This option does not require a login.  Since not all of my students’ parents have google accounts, I did not want them to have to create one just to add to my spreadsheet.  I only shared the link with them anyway, so for me this was perfect!

Here is the default screen, where you need to click “change”:

Here is where you can select your preferred setting:

When you are sharing, you will need to enter the email addresses of anyone that you want to send the link to.  If you already have a google account with contacts added, this is very simple.  You can access your contacts and simply click on those that you want to receive the link.  Otherwise you will need to manually enter the addresses.

6. Google Docs gives you the option of sending a message along with the link to the people you have selected.  I did this, as it gave me the chance to explain what I wanted everyone to do.  Here is a copy of the message that was sent along with the link:

7. Send! That is it.  Once the link goes out, parents can access the spreadsheet, add themselves, and review what they signed up for.  Literally one email from me, and the party planning was done!

This was a HUGE time saver for me this year, and it saved me headaches too.  I am now using a simple Google Doc for my volunteer calendar as well.  I am hooked!  Do you use Google Docs in the classroom or with parents?  How do you organize your parties?

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