writing workshop

Ideas for getting started with google forms

Record keeping is a universal challenge in workshop instruction. We get going with a tight ten minute minilesson and a solid chunk of independent writing time with opportunities for conferences and small group instruction. Once we add in an interruption and a teaching share, we realize we can’t remember who we met with, much less what we taught. And yet, these conferences are crucial to student growth. Once students know they are accountable for what we teach them in more individualized settings, we are likely to see much more growth. That’s where record-keeping is important.

During the twitterchat when we all talked about the fundamentals of writing workshops–Beth wrote a great round-up of the posts here— many people asked me to say more about google forms and how I’ve used them during writing workshops.

My very best advice for anyone who is interested in trying out this tool is to just jump in and try it–you won’t make any irreparable damage, and you’ll learn as you go. That being said, I’m hoping this post will serve as a VERY basic primer and inspire some people to try it out during the upcoming school year. I have found that even if I don’t review the data and spreadsheets as often as I should, just the process of completing the form for each conference or small group targets and focuses my instruction in ways that supported all levels of students during writing.

When you first go to google forms, you’ll get a screen that looks like this:

Screen Shot 2017-08-09 at 9.34.07 AM

Go ahead and start a new form and you will see something along the lines of the screenshot below:

Screen Shot 2017-08-09 at 9.20.44 AM

As my sample form, I have pulled the form I created for second grade opinion writing. Then, my first question is a list of students in the class. Forms offers an option of different formats for the questions, and for the students, I have liked selecting the checkbox option. That way, if I work with a partnership or a small group, I can check multiple students.

Screen Shot 2017-08-09 at 9.13.59 AM

Screen Shot 2017-08-09 at 9.14.36 AM


My next questions for my single classroom/single subject form are:

  • What was the compliment?
    • Because occasionally I give more than one compliment, I use the checklist format.
  • What was the teaching point?
    • In order to reinforce the important principle of only teaching one thing during a conference or small group, I use the dropdown option for this question.
  • What is the challenge?
    • For the challenge, I allow myself a short answer.


When I set up these forms, I use the language of the unit and my instructional priorities to create the compliments and teaching points. For example,  in my second grade opinion unit, I make sure to include choices such as introduces the topic, provides a reason, uses transitional words, gives a sense of closure. I may also add other options as I teach them, and I have also added ideas for differentiation. Having ideas right there as I sit down to confer with a student has helped me when I’m not sure how to push or scaffold various writers.

In order to use the form, you have some options. You can email it to yourself or send a link. As you are making the form, that option exists in the upper right corner.

So now, you can sit down with a student, pull up the link or the email, and fill out the form. I find the convenience of the iPad touchscreen to be easiest. Literally, it takes a few seconds to check off the student, the compliment, and the teaching point. The short answer for the challenge may slow you down just a little. 🙂

As you fill out the form for students, the data will collect, and you can view it in a variety of ways. I am most comfortable with the spreadsheet that google populates. It automatically dates and sorts. The screenshot below shows the couple of “conferences” I pretended to have in order to write this post. If I met with several students, I would have several more entries, and I would be able to sort however I wanted, giving me data for individual students and ideas for next instructional lessons.


Screen Shot 2017-08-09 at 9.19.34 AM

As you gain comfort, you can think about creating separate pages for your forms. I have done this when I’m coaching multiple teachers, as each teacher can have their own page. I have helped teachers set up classrooms, creating separate pages for different subjects.


13 thoughts on “Ideas for getting started with google forms

  1. I would love to hear more about the pages you set up for working with multiple teachers! I too work in many classrooms so would like to know how to use this across classes. Also, can you explain more how the spreadsheet/sorting works? Thank you!


  2. This is awesome! I also love the spreadsheet and the sorting capabilities. I get the compliment and the teaching point, but what is the challenge? Is that like “next steps?” Thanks for sharing!


  3. This looks awesome and I can’t wait to give it a try this year. One question (as the school year hasn’t started and rosters are not finalized) – can I go back in and edit the form so that I can add/drop students as the year goes on? I’m in a district that has some high turn over rates with move ins/outs. I don’t want to start this without the ability to edit and revise along the way! Also, did you make separate forms per unit or genre or just continuously added to the one you had?


  4. I love this idea! I tried to do something similar once, but it got so complicated (in other words, I MADE it so complicated), that I gave up! This is perfect! As a coach who works with other teachers, I’d be curious to see the pages that you set up for the teachers that you work with. This is great though! Thanks so much for sharing!


  5. Thank you for sharing this. I tried Google Forms before and abandoned them, but I think I had too much on the forms. I am going to try again! I especially like the check box for the compliments. I am just trying to figure what compliments I might use at the middle school level.


  6. Melanie,
    The best part (for me) were your tips on when to use checklists and when to use drop downs. Getting a form “set up” so it’s user-friendly is the BEST!
    Thanks so much! ❤


  7. What a great idea you have here! I never thought about using Google forms as a conferring platform. I’m going to have to jump in and try this. I think the spreadsheet at the end will be invaluable as I am looking for patterns and planning minilessons. Thanks for this post!


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