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Google Classroom - A Differentiation Strategy

Posted by on in Education Technology
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The “make a copy for each student” option in Google Classroom is magic. However, differentiation and group work can require different students and groups to turn in different products. Making a copy for each student in differentiated assignments can produce an assignment folder full of unused files. Even in a simple group assignment with one file submitted for each group, making a copy for each student produces many superfluous files.

Here is a strategy to manage this issue while providing real differentiation.

First, know that a student can attach any digital file to an assignment in Google Classroom. This means different students and groups can turn in different files. Additionally, students can do this without actually submitting the assignment and changing ownership to their teacher.



Now that we understand that, start by making one HyperDoc – a Google Doc, Google Slides presentation or Google Sheet with links. This HyperDoc will have links to different files students will work on.

The links in the HyperDoc cannot be the shareable link:



Note: Each Google Drive file linked in the Hyperdocs must be set to "Anyone with the link can view." 

Instead, while editing each file that students could work on, change “edit” in the URL to copy. Additionally, delete additional characters so that “copy” is the last four characters in the URL. You do this by selecting “edit” with your mouse:


Change “edit” to copy.” If there are any extra characters after “edit,” simply delete them. The last four characters of the new URL must be “copy.”


 Paste that URL in the HyperDoc. Do this for any file you want students to be able to access.


 Then, set the HyperDoc to “Students can view file” when making the assignment in Google Classroom.


 Now students will view the file and click on the link(s) for the file(s) they are directed to work on. This is what they will see:


Clicking the blue “Make a copy” button will prompt students to create a copy. They have to add the file to the assignment. Recall they can do this without submitting the assignment until they are ready. All files appear in the assignment folder in Google Classroom. There are no extra copies. The teacher can view and comment on student files. If a group is working in one file, the group leader should go through this process and then share their file with group members. 

Do not use the “copy” URLs as links in an assignment or announcement in Google Classroom. Google Classroom will convert them to “students can view file” access. Students will not be prompted to make a copy.

Please comment or tweet me at @edtechtom if you have questions. Thank you for reading.





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Tom Mullaney is a Digital Learning Integration Designer for the San Francisco Unified School District. Tom's education experience includes Special Education, Social Studies, and educational technology coaching in New York, Pennsylvania, and North Carolina. He is a Google for Education Certified Innovator and Trainer. Tom hosts the Sustainable Teaching Podcast and contributes to the BamRadio Network EdWords blog. Use his TED-Ed lesson to teach your students about the French Revolution. Contact him on Twitter, @TomEMullaney or via e-mail, mistermullaney@gmail.com.

  • Guest
    Margaret von Kolnitz Wednesday, 16 December 2015

    Tom this sounds like something that would help me as I am somewhat overwhelmed by 130 students files for each assignment. Can you direct me to where I can learn more about hyperdocs this is something I have not worked with yet.
    Thanks Margaret
    Happy Holidays

  • Tom Mullaney @TomEMullaney
    Tom Mullaney @TomEMullaney Wednesday, 16 December 2015


    Thank you for the feedback! HyperDocs are awesome.

    Here are two good links to get started with HyperDocs. The HyperDoc I made in this post is very simple and basic. Teachers and students can do so much more with them.


  • Guest
    Margaret von Kolnitz Wednesday, 16 December 2015

    Thanks I will check these out over the holiday break. I will get back to you on how it goes.
    Happy Holidays

  • Tom Mullaney @TomEMullaney
    Tom Mullaney @TomEMullaney Wednesday, 16 December 2015

    Please do! I'm happy to chat more about this!

  • Guest
    Tricia Creager Tuesday, 29 December 2015

    Hi Tom, Thanks so much for information on the HyperDocs and for the ability to differentiate in Google classroom. I am just beginning to see the possibilities of using this in my classroom! Enjoy the day! Tricia

  • Tom Mullaney @TomEMullaney
    Tom Mullaney @TomEMullaney Monday, 18 January 2016

    Tricia, Sorry for the delayed reply. I am very happy to have been useful. Good luck. Please tweet me at @edtechtom if you would like to discuss further.

  • Guest
    yasmin Sunday, 17 January 2016

    How would you suggest using this as a Ms science teacher? My students will be studying a body system a day for the next two weeks? Any suggestions could help me understand a little better.

  • Tom Mullaney @TomEMullaney
    Tom Mullaney @TomEMullaney Monday, 18 January 2016

    Yasmin, this would be perfect. You could link to diagrams of each body system in Google Drawings. Some students could work on those. You could link to a Google Slides template that students could use to make their own presentations about body systems. You could have differentiated readings with questions that students at different levels could answer. There are many possibilities.

  • Guest
    yasmin Wingo Monday, 18 January 2016

    Thank you!!!

  • Tom Mullaney @TomEMullaney
    Tom Mullaney @TomEMullaney Monday, 18 January 2016

    You're welcome, Yasmin! Do not hesitate to reach out if you need to chat more. Good luck!

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Guest Sunday, 19 May 2019