Writer’s Workshop using Google Docs

Many of you would be aware of the writer’s workshop (a.k.a. writing workshop) method of teaching writing in the classroom. I have been using this method of writing instruction for a number of year now and with great success. However, one of my biggest issues with it is keeping track and on top of all of the writing that the kids produce and hence providing quick and direct feedback to the kids.

This year I have addressed some of these issues by moving my writer’s workshop from all paper based to all computer based with the help of Google Docs as part of the Google Apps for Education package.

This move has helped me in the following ways:

Direct feedback to students.

Direct, fast (as long as I check it) feedback to the students: Using a number of methods, I can quickly and easily give feedback to my students about their writing. We focus our revision and editing skills using the writing process and 6+1 traits of Good Writing. When the students have completed their first draft they share their writing with me in google docs and email me to let me know they are ready for advice. At this point I give feedback, usually in two ways.

Footnotes: These are great to be able to give the students advice or feedback about a particular point in their writing. For example, the students may have chosen particularly effective word choice or may need to reword a sentence for better fluency. At this point, I can insert a footnote and type my comment. It ‘hangs’ off the side of the document and the point I have inserted it, making it very clear to the student where I am commenting.

Organise writing

Summary Notes:To give advice on overall structure or other general feedback I will simply add a few points at the bottom of the writing piece, along with the date. After the writing has gone back and forth between myself and the student a few times, we can easily see the effort that has been put in by the student as well as the input that I have had in the writing piece.

Organising students’ writing, even when they’re working on it: One of my favourite features about Google Docs is the ability to store files in more than one folder at a time (something I wish Windows, Mac OS and other OS would start doing). This ability means that I can keep track of students’ work in any number of ways. Some of these ways are:

  • Student Folders: each student is given a folder and any of their work is stored here. Great when it comes to reporting time.
  • Writing tasks/independent writing: using these two folders I can sort writing by specific tasks that I have given or by the students’ independent writing choices.
  • Published writing: I am able to see which writing pieces have been through the whole writing process to published stage.

Easy peer feedback: One step at a time – the approach I have taken this year in introducing Google Docs to my students and teaching style. As such, I haven’t truly implemented this feature, but can easily see the ability for kids to share work with other students who can peer edit their work. This also has great potential to share work with other kids around the world.

Track progress

Track progress from first draft to published: With the revision history option, I can easily see the changes that have occurred in students’ writing. The kids can also see the changes they have made. This is something the kids love to see, especially if they have put in a lot of work revising and editing their writing.

The switch from paper to Google Docs for writing has definitely been one of valuable reward.

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