6 Ways to make assignments (and your school year) easier with Microsoft Teams

We know a lot of planning goes into each and every lesson, sequence, and unit that you teach. From daily reading to capstone projects, not a day goes by where you’re not checking to see if assignments have been turned in, answering questions about assignments, grading assignments, or just plain obsessing a little about assignments.

Enter: Microsoft Teams. While there’s no magic button that can replace all the hard work you put into designing effective and engaging assignments for your students, we hope we can make things easier for you when it comes to managing them day-to-day. We’ve collected some time- and effort-saving game changers right here:

Psssst … don’t forget: Microsoft Teams is FREE for students and teachers as part of Office 365 Education! Try it now.


1. Start a rubric library (and break up with the photocopier for good)


Got rubrics? If you’re currently relying on rubrics to provide formative assessments for each student assignment, you know it’s no small task attaching the rubric to every piece of student work and making sure your students don’t lose it.

What if you’re teaching with more than one grading rubric? More paper = more problems.

Start a library of rubrics you can reuse with one click by select + Add rubric on a new assignment in Teams. Customize your fields and points values in the rubric creator and copy and paste the criteria you usually use. Save. Now, the next time you need to attach this rubric to all your students’ assignments, it’ll be there, ready to go.

Get help with this: Create reusable grading rubrics.


2. Streamline the feedback cycle you already use


“Teams actually mirrors the feedback cycle in the classroom,” writes Amanda Ronan. A 10-year veteran of third to fifth grade classrooms, Amanda now helps Microsoft Education devise effective teacher training for classroom scenarios, including Teams. “I like that it’s not a ‘one and done’ situation. It allows students to turn in their work as many times as needed.”

How can you do that? Well, Teams gives students the option to turn in their work again (and again). If your school is gung-ho on a competency-based education model, use Teams to help you transition to a system where students can learn and revise until they master a new skill. Then, it’s on to the next!

How this looks in practice:

Get help with this: Review, return, and turn in assignments with the feedback loop.


3. Give faster feedback on multi-modal projects


As a project-based learning teacher, Amanda frequently assigned multi-modal projects to her students. “They were often asked to create any type of project they wanted, so long as it answered certain questions,” she explains.

“This means I’d be walking around with dioramas, essays, poster boards, etc. Sitting down to assess all that work was daunting. I had a rubric and a comments sheet for every student and somehow had to attach those things to their projects so they got my feedback. But because I was lugging that stuff around, it took me forever to get started on grading. That gap in between when they worked on their projects and when they received feedback was way too long. And sometimes, I’d discover that a student hadn’t even completed everything. So, it added time.”

Looking back, “If I could receive multimedia assignments in Teams, in one place, and could quickly check that everything was complete, I could lessen that time for students to receive feedback.”

In Teams, students can turn in different file types, provide links on a page, and access video storytelling capabilities via the Flipgrid app. They can upload a photo of a project or a video recording. You can also assign them a Class Notebook page, which allows for multi-modal inking, typing, and embedding multimedia.

Bottom line: You can provide feedback in one spot for all students without filling the backseat of your car with 30 projects.


4. Make daily check-offs a breeze


What about the work you need to check off every day? If you’re like Amanda, you may be greeted by a stack of 25 spiral bound notebooks every morning that you need to flip through to find the right journal entry – even if all you’re doing is checking for completion.

These are ideal exercises to move into the Teams’ assignments hub. For example, turn that journal entry into a Word document or Class Notebook page. You can even skip assigning a point value. Pull up the assignment for review, select a student’s document to open it in the document viewer, and speed through each student’s work using the arrows next to student names.

Then, select Return, and your students will be immediately notified that their work is checked off in Teams.

Extra credit: Want to see everyone who’s turned in an assignment at a glance? Select the analytics counter at the top of the review pane to pull them all to the top.

Super fast. Super easy.


5. Differentiate with a simple dropdown


Whether you’re teaching multiple sections of the same course or need to tailor assignments to students with differing learning needs, it can be tough to track who’s working on what. Not to mention, you don’t want students to feel singled out when their instructions and work differ from that of other students.

Take care of this when you create assignments by either selecting multiple classes from the dropdown menu, or selecting individual students in one class for specific work.

Remember: You can reuse assignments, too, as much as you want.

Get help with this: Assign work to multiple classes, or assign work to individual students or small groups.


6. Fix mistakes on the fly


“The fact that you can make changes to assignments on the fly and not have to collect everything and then redistribute it is a big deal. There were many times that I realized I’d missed a key direction, or, once the students got started, they all had the same questions, meaning I wasn’t clear. I ended up spending SO much time re-explaining the directions every time a student got to that section. With Teams, I could have updated and that would be that,” Amanda says.

It’s true. Open any assignment in Teams – even assignments you’ve already sent out – and select the Edit button. Change what you need to change, hit Update, and get back to what you were doing before. Now you know that both you and your students are looking at the best and most up-to-date version of the assignment.

You don’t have to be on a computer, either. Make changes to assignments or even create new assignments right from your phone.

Get help with this: Edit an assignment.

If you’re a teacher trainer or anyone who runs tech-based professional development for teachers, you can train your teachers with our free, all-inclusive teacher training packs. A team of dedicated teachers and teacher trainers like Amanda has worked on them, drawing on real classroom scenarios and knowledge of teachers to create courses that work, and hopefully make you laugh, too. 😊

How are you using Microsoft Teams to make your day-to-day teaching a little bit easier? Let us know by tagging #MicrosoftEDU on Twitter.

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