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