Megadesk: Getting organized for a new year

Teachers have a LOT of information to keep track of, and I’ve always loved figuring out organizational systems. I used to have a massive binder with a page protector for each student, which contained their interest survey, parent contact info, IEP/ 504 documentation, parent communication logs, etc. It worked pretty well for years and years until a pandemic happened and my binder was locked in my classroom while I was teaching from home.

Last year I took the same idea, but put Google Forms and Google Sheets to work and named it Megadesk. It’s nothing revolutionary and I’m certain that teachers everywhere are doing the same thing, but it’s been really helpful for me (and especially since I have a Student Teacher this semester, convenient for her to access too). Here’s what it looks like, copies of my forms and a few google tricks to pull it together smoothly and use it most efficiently.

If you’re an Office fan, you’ll recognize the Megadesk moniker. If you’re not an Office fan and you’re feeling left out, here you go. I don’t want anyone to feel left out!

Megadesk is awesome because it puts all kinds of info into one place.

Parent Info Form:

The first Homework Assignment (only assignment, really!) of the year is to ask a parent or guardian to fill out a form. I ask for contact information, contact preferences (phone call, email or text using Remind.com), and any other information that will help me teach their kiddos. I love the insights that I get from parents-they are pure gold! No one knows the Little Darlings better than the ones who love them the most- so let’s ask them how we can best support their children. These are the insights that would take me weeks or months to discover and I love that it starts the year off with the message that we (the parents and I) are on the same team, concerned about what’s best for their student.

Click here to make a copy of my Parent/Student contact info form, to be filled out by parents. A word of warning: Be sure to read the form carefully and substitute in your information, syllabus, levels, etc! To make this easy, look for the <<< >>> to replace your info 🙂 And of course, add in any questions specific to your teaching situation that would give you helpful information.

What about Parents/ Guardian’s who don’t fill out the form?!

Here’s what I do:

  1. Assign it as a homework assignment. Some kids will take it to their grown up in charge to fill out. Most won’t. It’s OK, no need to panic.
  2. Send out an email to ALL guardians through Google Classroom, thanking those who have already filled it out and asking for help, with the link for the form included in the email. A few more will trickle in.
  3. Ask my TA to compare the response sheet with my Roster and check off the ones I have received. I right click and hide all the columns to maintain privacy. The only thing she can see is the students’ names and class periods.
  4. Enter it as a grade in the gradebook. This year I entered it as a 1 point grade, and marked the missing ones as Missing (a lot of parents/ students get notifications on their phone when things are flagged as missing, so that gets their attention!) (After a few days, I’ll change the assignment to worth 0 points, so students are penalized if their parents can’t/won’t/don’t submit the form.) A bunch more will flood in.
  5. Once I’ve gotten all that I’ll probably get, I’ll ask my TA to complete the form for the remaining Little Darlings, with just their names and class periods. I want them included into Megadesk, even without the parent contact/notes, because I still want a space to document parent communication, classroom behavior and flag IEP/504 accommodations. (More on that below!)

Student Interest Form:

Also at the beginning of the first week of school, I ask students to fill out a similar form, telling me about their interests, their learning preferences, names/nicknames/pronouns, and about their home language. (I’ve found that I’ll often have students who should be placed in Heritage Spanish, but are in Level 1 and are too shy to say anything. Since I don’t expect any output at the beginning of level 1, I don’t want these kiddos to fall between the cracks, bored and in the wrong class). I also ask if they have any questions they’d like me to address.

Click here to make a copy of my Student interest form, to be filled out by students the first week of class. Remember to look for the <<< >>> to replace your personalized info and make any necessary changes. As you get new students, remember to ask them to fill it out! Whenever I have a concern about a Little Darling or they’re not quite participating as I’d like, or I’m trying hard to build rapport with a student, here’s where I go to find out more about what makes him/her tick.

IEP/ 504 Accommodations Form:

I fill this form out and I keep it saved on my Bookmark bar, so I can easily add/ update accommodations as necessary. Click here to make a copy of the Student IEP/504 Accommodations Form, to be filled out by you! I still keep paper copies of the accommodations forms that are provided for me, but I like having this info in Megadesk so everything is together and in one place. Shout out to my colleague Amy who created this form and included it in our first Megadesk last year- it’s super quick and easy! ¡Gracias Amy, eres la mejor!

Putting it all together: Building Megadesk!

We’ll take the responses from all three forms and put them together into one massive spreadsheet. The responses will still be separated by tab, but it will be easy to flip between them to access the info you need.

f you’re a Google Wiz, no need to read on…the rest of the post will be a step by step for the not super techy teachers out there.

First create a Google Sheets Spreadsheet. I call mine MegaDesk+ School Year. You should follow your heart.

Then open one of the forms and click over to the “Responses Tab”. When you select response destination, click on “Select existing spreadsheet”. When you click “Select”, you will be able to choose the MegaDesk + School Year Sheet. Do this three times, linking all the forms (Parent Contact/ Student Interest/ Accommodations) to the same Megadesk Spreadsheet.

Then, at the bottom of the Megadesk Spreadsheet, you’ll see 3 tabs, titled “Form 1”, “Form 2” and “Form 3”. Just right click on “Form 1” and rename it. You can also grab the tab and move it to reorder it, if that floats your boat.

We’re almost there! Just a few more steps! You got this!

As you read the responses, I highly suggest changing the color of the text. I use purple, because it makes me the happiest, but again, you’ve just got to follow your heart here. New responses will be added to the form in black, so this makes it easy to scroll to the bottom of the form and check to see if there’s anything new to read.

If you’d like to get email notifications, click on the “responses” tab, then the 3 cute little dots, then select “Get email notifications”. Warning, DO NOT click this until the majority of your students/parents have responded to the form. I give it about 2 weeks before I request email responses. I want to know if someone else fills out the form, but I don’t want an email for every response!

Open up you Parent Contact Form in Megadesk and add in a few columns to keep your notes. Adding a column here will not affect your form and only you will be able to see these notes.

A few more Google Sheets tips if you’re not super techy and you want to make your life easier:

To be able to read the information more easily: highlight the column (click the letter of the column you want to highlight) then click the right pointing arrow. Then select the “wrap text” option (looks like the arrow circling back). Then you can put your mouse cursor on the border of the column. Once it changes into a double sided arrow, you can drag it to make the column wider or narrower.

To alphabetize the names in your spreadsheet by class: The names will appear in the spreadsheet by the order they are submitted via form. To reorder them, click the letter of the Last Name column (in my example, it’s C), the right click and select “Sort Sheet A-Z”, Then do the same thing with the Class Period Column. Now they’ll be together by class (all 1st period together) AND alphabetized by last name within the class. Pretty nifty, right?!

To search the spreadsheet for a name: It’s easy! Just hold down the Control and F keys at the same time, and a search field will pop open. There you can type in any name (or anything else) and it will search the document and highlight the matching cells. It’s much faster to find students than scrolling, so you can quickly add in a note about behavior or whatever and carry on with your day.

Hope this was helpful! Wishing you a wonderful new school year!

4 comments

  1. This is AWESOME!!! Mil gracias! While we have online databases for the students, this will allow me to keep the info in a much easier place to find.

    Like

    • De nada! We can also find parent contact info in our gradebook… But I find that often it is updated with the wrong numbers. I have better luck using my own form, but I use the gradebook for the ones who don’t fill it out

      Like

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