agency · assessment · goals · Google Forms · self-assessment · small group · writing workshop

Student Agency, Self-Assessment, and Small Group Instruction

My daughter, Julia, sets lots of goals. As an athlete, she always pays attention to what she needs to work on, and she figures out resources and strategies that will help her improve. The combination of her awareness and motivation has a lot to do with her success. Just as Julia knows what she’s working on and makes progress, so can students in writing (or any content area) class. Over the years, I’ve written about and tried out many different ways to nudge student agency when it comes to small group instruction.

Google forms is one way to invite students into the goal-setting process. You can customize them with the names of students in your classroom and what they could be working on.

Link to the form is found here.

Google forms create spreadsheets of days, and depending on how sign-ups go, you can sort the data and form small groups.

Another favorite staple is the idea of setting up pockets on an anchor chart. Using popsicle sticks with students’ names on them, you can invite students to indicate what they’re working on. Depending on where the popsicle sticks land, you have small groups in the form of handfuls of popsicle sticks.

An anchor chart with pockets, originally created by third-grade teacher, Pam Lindley, invites students to choose their focus for the day.

The most flexible invitation I offer students involves signing up through note-sized sticky notes. What I like about this system is that it’s easy to change the seminar offerings. Want a different focus? Simply change the sticky note.

Sticky notes offer flexibilty, as well as record-keeping artifacts.

You can digitize these ideas by using the power of Jamboard, and I’ve shared the link to one here. I take pictures of the original, place them in the middle of a board, and then invite students to use Jamboard’s sticky notes to sign up:

If you’re interested in passing along and sharing the responsibility of teaching these small groups, then Leah Koch’s recent post is not to be missed!

Nudging students toward self-assessment and goal-setting leads to students’ increased understanding of what they are working on and why they’re working on it. That intentionality is a critical aspect of learning!

3 thoughts on “Student Agency, Self-Assessment, and Small Group Instruction

  1. When I was in the regular classroom I used the popsicle sticks. I’ve been using Jamboard daily to have my small groups write a response to a quote. This way each group can see what the other kids thought. It’s a quick way to deep dive into a shared quote.
    I often feel that since my students are small groups already that I don’t need to do something like this, but I’m intrigued by the Google form idea. I think the novelty of it may be a way for students to let me know where they need help. Thanks!


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