Teaching MLA Format in Google Classroom

Last spring my English Language Arts team had a conversation about MLA formatting for all writing assignments.


I had wanted to challenge the MLA style. I argued that most web posts do not use MLA style. Look at this blog post - does it have a header or heading? Is it double-spaced?  I argued that students should single space the paragraph and hit enter twice to start a new paragraph. The blank space between paragraphs serves as the paragraph divide. On the web and in SBAC, the tab key is used to move to the next item on the page and not as the indent key. Why teach students to use the tab button to indent if tab doesn't work the same way on the test?

I thought I had a pretty good argument against MLA until my husband submitted an art critique for a college class. I made a few suggestions on the formatting. Turns out, I was wrong. The heading was on the wrong side and the paper was not double-spaced. Fortunately, the Art professor was forgiving and focused on the content. Not all professors will be this kind.

Colleges require MLA or APA style. To do anything else is a disservice to the students, an esteemed colleague argued.

Ok, I can see using the MLA header and headings, but why do the students need to double-space when they submit their work electronically? As teachers, we can use CTRL+ALT+M to write comments on the side margin. Or, we can change from editing mode to suggestion mode.



While the SBAC doesn't have a double-space option, we are not teaching the test; we are teaching students to be college ready.

Ouch - throw my own words back in my face! I refuse to teach to the test.

I also want to require students use only one font type, font size, and only black font color.

Wait a minute! I like color, especially when students use multi-color to check to Self-Edit Run-on Sentences.  A paragraph with multi-colors demonstrates that the student has checked for run-ons.

I like the multi-color check for run-ons, and I will use that idea with my students, another colleagued added, but I see her point. Students are choosing font colors that we can't read. They are choosing yellow and light blue with 36 font-size. Furthermore, the multi-color run-on check is in the draft stage.

Ouch! So true! I had wanted to save myself some time.

As a result of the collaborative discussion, I created MLA General Guidelines.  My teammates' reaction? One liked it and the others felt the information was overkill. They wanted to rightfully focus on content, not how to correctly format a Google Document.

I had to go back to the drawing board. How could we use MLA style and keep it from overwhelming both the teacher and student? Then it dawned on me - scaffold the process using Google Classroom templates. Each quarter, the student takes on more responsibility. By the fourth quarter, students will create their own document from scratch.

Google  Template 
Quarter 1 
Google Template
Quarter 2
Google Template
Quarter 3
Create Document
Quarter 4

  • Add Content






  • Center Title
  • 5 Space Indent
  • Add Content




  • Double-space
  • Heading
  • Center Title
  • 5 Space Indent
  • Add Content


  • Header 
  • Double-space
  • Heading
  • Center Title
  • 5 Space Indent
  • Add Content

Teacher - How to Add an Assignment Quarter 1


  1. Open MLA Q1 in Google Drive.
  2. Make a copy of the document: File -> Make a Copy.
  3. Rename file. Alice Keeler suggests Numbering Assignments.
  4. Open your class in Google Classroom.
  5. Click Add Assignment in the Stream.
  6. Type name of the assignment.
  7. Open the Google Drive Triangle 
  8. Start typing name of the document. 
  9. Select the document.
  10. Change "Students can view file" to "Make a copy for each student."
  11. Click Assign.

Student - Open an Assignment Quarter 1

  1. Go to classroom.google.com/h.
  2. Under "Upcoming Assignments," select the assignment.
  3. Notice that a document is automatically created with the students first and last name (blurred in the example above).
  4. Click on the link to open the document.
  5. Fill in your information and start typing the content.
As more college papers are turned in electronically, I expect MLA format to evolve. I expect that double space and indents will not be required, though headings, headers, and titles may still exist. Until then, I will teach MLA format as it is currently taught;  however, MLA instruction will be done in such a way that neither my colleagues nor my students are overwhelmed.

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