I love Google Classroom. Why? Because in this case integrating tech allows me to redefine what is possible within a readers and writers workshop framework so that I have a better understanding of what my students know and are able to do.
My experience prior to using Google Classroom was that after the mini-lesson the students would go off to practice and/or use the teaching point in action. The problem is that I only ever managed to confer with a fraction of my class – and even after the final share I never felt like I had a good pulse on what each and every student in my class was doing and whether they “got it.”
Enter Google Classroom. Now I am able to create assignments that focus specifically on the teaching point to use as formative assessments during the reading/writing workshop. By way of example, a recent reading mini-lesson focused around what characters are like on the “inside and outside.” So the assignment revolved around students showing me evidence of their understanding by completing a Google Doc template, as in the examples below.
Note that students have choice in the format they use for demonstrating their understanding. Some students chose to type their responses directly into Google Docs. Others chose to use the Kidspiration app to make a mind-map, and still others chose to detail it on a paper. Really anything works for me so long as they are able to complete, and turn-in the Google Doc template that I assigned.
I see three distinct benefits to integrating Google Classroom with Readers and Writers Workshop:
- Individual Accountability: all the students know that I expect to receive evidence of what they have been doing in readers and writers workshop and so they are more apt to stay on task and work purposefully. The students also know that during “share time” their work might get selected so all the more reason to put forth their best effort.
- Immediate Feedback: once students turn in their assignments I am able to go through them and “comment” on each student’s work individually. During the following workshop session the students can then read their feedback and act on it.
- Virtual conferring: since I am only able to confer with a handful of students during each workshop session, by receiving assignments through Google Classroom I am able to get a “pulse” on the understanding in the classroom and confer with other students via comments. As comments are threaded in Classroom I am able to keep a “conference” going virtually over several days.
Sounds interesting? Here are a few tips & tricks I learned along the way for putting it into practice:
- Create a Google Docs template for each assignment: my students are used to the “grey box part” being for Mr. Alex (to write instructions) and the “white box part” for being the part of the Doc where students enter their work evidence. Usually the Doc is structured as a table so it is easier for students to navigate where to enter information and how to organize and sort it.
- Allow for independent reading/writing time before introducing the assignment: this focuses student “work” on applying their learning as opposed to being “busy” with Google Classroom and allows time for the teacher to confer. I usually introduce the assignment during the mid-workshop portion of the lesson.
- The time factor: like all things new, when you first introduce Google Classroom into a traditional reading and writing workshop model there is a lot of excitement and many minutes of re-directing and tech trouble-shooting, etc. Give it some time. The novelty wears off and the students then realize that it is just a part of what they do during Workshop time and that Google Classroom is a tool for them to share their learning.
- Digital sharing: one of the cool aspects of Classroom is that when the assignment is turned in I can access it from my classroom computer and easily “share” on the projector during the share portion of our workshop time.
In our grade 2 classroom it works. Give it a try and let me know what you think! Feedback and opinions always appreciated!