Continuing to Think About Google Forms

About a year ago, I wrote a post describing how to set up Google Forms for conferring and small group work. A few teachers in our district tried it out last year, and the responses were unanimously positive. If, after reading this post, I’ve convinced you of the benefits of setting this up, you can head over to that post for how to do that. Your other option is to use a form that I’ve created. I have actually made a folder of K-5 forms that you can access. BUT, before you do, read this:

DO NOT USE ANY OF THESE FORMS WITHOUT FIRST MAKING A COPY OF IT.

REPEAT…

DO NOT USE ANY OF THESE FORMS WITHOUT FIRST MAKING A COPY OF IT.

(Sorry for yelling.)

 

If you do, you will open yourself up to all sorts of data that isn’t yours. Here’s what you do:

  1. Open the form that you want to use.
  2. Go to the top right corner and find the three vertical dots. Click on those and choose “Make a copy.”

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Now, you can give your form a name of your own, it will be in your own drive, and you’ll be off and running. Add your own students, and tweak it however you want.

All that being said, here is the link to the folder that contains templates for setting up forms. They are all filled in with standards for all three writing genres, set up so that they’ll help cue users to remember to give a compliment and teach only one thing at a time. JUST REMEMBER: Make your own copy!

This year, I’ve been nudging more people to try it, and I’ve gotten more adept with it as well, so I’m sharing a few tips about using it, as well as what data this system provides and what we can do with it.

First of all, set yourself up with your form accessible on the most convenient device you use. For everyone I work with, it’s their phone. You can do this by sending the link to yourself.

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Screenshot of sending the form. The send button is in the top right corner–just send it to an email address that shows up on the device you want to use.

Once you have the email on your device–for the sake of most of us, I will assume that’s your phone– then you can open it on-line and you can add it to your homescreen. You do that with the icon at the bottom of your phone.

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So now, you can quickly record any conference you have with students by pulling the form up on your phone, checking which student or students you’ve worked with, and what your compliment and teaching point was. It really just takes about 30 seconds to record a conference, maybe less. If you want to make a comment, then it might take a little longer. But not much. I don’t know about other people, but I find it especially hard to keep track of my small group work. This form allows you to check however many students you work with so you can create the record for everyone at the same time. If you want to make an individualized comment about a student, then you’ll need to fill it out separately for just that one, but still…

Filling out the form as you confer with students has a couple benefits–maybe even more than a couple. First of all, the form provides clear teaching points. Because I have linked my compliments and teaching points to the objectives of the unit and the standards for the grade, I know that I am focused on appropriate concepts. If I have a class that is exceeding standards, I can add some objectives from subsequent grades. Likewise, if my class is striving, then I can back-pedal into some objectives from previous years. If I really wanted to go crazy, I could make three separate sections for the previous, current, and subsequent grades. (You could do this, really, I promise.) Then, sitting down with a student, I could decide which set of standards would be most appropriate for their functioning level as a writer.

An additional benefit of using a form is that it helps me remember to not try to overteach in a conference. At a recent session with Mary Ehrenworth at Teachers College in New York, she said that students are overtaught and underpracticed. In a conference or small group, I want to make sure that I’m not overwhelming students with too many concepts. One is usually plenty. Two is usually too much. Three is almost always lost in translation.

The data you are recording by pushing these buttons is populating a spreadsheet that will begin to look something like this over time. One of the helpful things you can do with the spreadsheet is hide columns. In this case, I have hidden the column of student names to protect confidentiality. I have also hidden columns D-H because those reflect this teacher’s reading conferences. (Yes, she has her reading AND writing conferences on the same form!)

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This screenshot has captured the data sorted by date.

So through this form, I can do a few things. I can see how much I’m meeting individually and differentiating my instruction for students. If I’m trying to have one small group, one partner conference, and one individual conference each day, then there should be about seven daily entries. Yes, there are days when writing is cut short, and there are days when my work is more just with individual students, but this is important reflective work around how much I’m really getting to students.

I can also sort the data by students, and this is also powerful. Who am I spending my time with? Who am I missing? Additionally, if my data is sorted by students, then I have a clear record to share with parents–at conferences or before– as to when and what I’ve taught their child. Maybe this becomes a way for them to really support the work we are doing in our writing classroom. Staying with the idea of parent communication and conferences, one of the teachers who is using a form, has added a section for “This is what I’m sure the student can do” and she has incorporated the report card indicators. That way, she has clear evidence when she goes to make decisions on report cards.

Accountability for students, focus for teachers

 

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I am so grateful to have this resource available to me as an educator at no cost. Maybe someday, I’ll get to thank whoever is behind the Google Curtain in person. In the meantime, I’ll share what’s been working and I’ll look forward to hearing about how some of you end up doing it even better!