As teachers, we want our students to be engaged. We work to make content interesting and organized. And depending on your style, you may or may not spend the time to make your content visually appealing for students. After all, there’s not enough time in the day, right? But there are a few simple things you can do to brighten up and personalize your content by creating a class theme. And with the right approach, you can reuse this theme throughout the entire year.
Today, I am going to show you how to create a custom theme for Google Classroom. Classroom has some nice themes, but sometimes you want something original, something that is meaningful to you and your students. Your Classroom theme can become a hook where the engagement starts. But it might be a little tricky figuring this all out on your own, so I’m here to guide you, step-by-step. And what’s awesome is that we will be using all free, simple to use tools. You do NOT need a graphic design background for this, promise.
You might be wondering what I mean by Classroom “theme.” The theme is simply the header image for your class. It appears on the Stream page.
You can always select one of the themes Google has provided by clicking “Select theme.” We’re looking at creating a unique theme today, so we’re going to focus on uploading a photo instead. But first, we have to create this photo. And today, we are going to use one of my absolute favorite tools (and totally underrated, in my opinion): Google Drawings.
STEP 1: Create a New Drawing
Head on over to a new Google Drawing by following these steps:
- Go to Google Drive
- Click New
- Hover over More
- Click Google Drawings
- Title your Drawing
STEP 2: Customize your Drawing
You want your image to be the size of the Google Classroom banner. The nice thing about Google Drawings is that you can easily change the size to whatever dimensions you’d like by following these steps:
- Click File
- Scroll down to Page Setup
- Change the dimensions to pixels
- A Google Classroom banner is 1,000 x 250 pixels – here is a template you can use with the correct dimensions already set. If you’re interested in measuring spaces online, check out the PageRulr Chrome Extension.
Once your Drawing size is set, the world is your canvas. You can change the background color, insert text boxes, shapes, images, and so on. You can learn more about what’s possible in Google Drawings here. If you have a class logo, this would be a great place to display it. Something I loved to do as a teacher was to have the students create their own, personalized logo using Google Drawing. These logos could be used as safe profile pictures (as long as they didn’t use their picture or location) for their online accounts. One idea for a Google Classroom custom theme is to have all of the student logos on the class banner, sort of as a mosaic. Seeing their own logos displayed together in the Classroom banner can instantly give the students a feeling of ownership and unity.
Step 3: Save your Drawing
Once you have your Drawing complete, you’ll want to download it as an image file. In order to do this, you’ll follow these steps:
- Click File
- Hover over Download
- Select jpeg or png
Step 4: Add your Drawing to Google Classroom
Then you’ll head over to Classroom to upload your image – be sure you’re on your Stream page. To upload the personalized image to Classroom, you’ll follow these steps:
- In the bottom-right corner of the banner, click Upload Photo
- Find the photo on your device (in Downloads)
- Rearrange, center, crop, or expand the image so it looks the way you’d like
- Click insert
And viola! You have a personalized custom theme in Google Classroom. It may seem small, but the engagement and ownership this banner can create will go a long way with your students. Something else that’s pretty cool is that you can reuse this banner in other Google tools. It’ll fit great as a page header in Google Sites and Forms, or as an image in Slides and Drawings (or any other tool, for that matter). When used across multiple online settings, you’re now creating familiarity for your students, in addition to the ownership and engagement. All with one personalized image.
So there you have it – four steps that will help you create a custom theme for your class. What other ideas do you have that would help others create engaging custom themes for their class? Please share below!
More of a visual person? Click here to watch our step-by-step video on how to create a custom theme in Google Classroom.
As Director of Education Partnerships at EdTechTeam, Christina brings a passion for rethinking education to ensure experiences are learner-centered, with a focus on developing the capacity of others to lead and implement transformational work. Christina has worked in various roles in elementary, middle, and high school environments, as Associate Director of the Institute for Personalized Learning, and as a Manager of Partnerships at Discovery Education. She uses her experience as a classroom teacher, instructional coach, principal, and professional development specialist to understand the challenges districts face, and partners with them to create a design that works toward the district’s vision and goals. From Design Thinking to STEM to apprenticeship experiences, Christina is always looking for ways to further empower educators and engage learners in real-life experiences that impact their future.