How to use Google Forms for writing conferences



Do you conduct writing conferences in your classroom? I am going to share with you an easy and efficient way to conference weekly with your students to improve their writing.

"I love writing conferences!" - is this a phrase that you would say? I don't know about you, but until recently this is something that I never would have uttered. After meeting with my first five students during my writing block, writing conferences would drag on and on and on and on and on.... I often felt like I was not giving meaningful feedback to each child because I was rushing to meet with all 30 students in my classroom. I hated that my writing conferences began feeling like a waste of time. I rushed through them, didn't take good notes, and felt like my time was not being well spent.

I didn't want to stop writing conferences- but I did want to change the way that I did them to give them a PURPOSE. I think that conferencing weekly with your writers can potentially make an enormous impact on students. It is so beneficial to students to read their work aloud and to have instant and immediate feedback with a teacher.

I knew that I had to make a change if I wanted writing conferences to be both efficient and meaningful in my classroom. After a lot of brainstorming, I figured out a way to implement writing conferences that would enhance the writing ability and experience in my entire classroom.

What did I do? Well, enter my best friend, Google Forms. I earlier shared about how Google Forms transformed my anecdotal note taking. Guess what? Google Forms is here and ready to transform your writing conferences. You know what is especially awesome about Google Forms, besides the ease of instantly entering data? All your data turns into a spreadsheet at the click of a button. This is PERFECT for administration evaluations. Let's be honest, spreadsheets will always make you look about 100% more organized. I will let you know right now- your administration will love this. They make ask you to share this with the staff during a meeting or write up an email about it. Get prepared to look like the most organized and tech-savvy teacher there is!

Here are the steps to create the Google Form for writing conferences, and how to use it to save you time and make your writing conferences as valuable as they can be.


STEP 1: MAKE THE GOOGLE FORM
Firstly, make sure that you are signed into the Google account that you use on your school computer. I have a personal and school account, so I always log out of my personal one when I set up Google Forms.

Go to https://www.google.com/forms/about/. Click the purple + sign that says "Blank" under Start A New Form.

Change the title to "Writing Conferences."

Click the +. In the scroll down box, find "Short Answer." Write "student name" into the question. This is where you will write... the student's name.


Click the + on the side bar. Type in "writing piece". This is where you will write what the student is working (personal narrative, expository, biography, etc.).


Click the + on the sidebar. Change to "short answer." Write "Highlights."

Click the + on the sidebar. Change to "short answer." Write "Feedback."

Done! Your Writing Conference Google Form is now complete. Now what?


STEP 2: BOOKMARK IT TO YOUR COMPUTER

You want your writing conference form to be easy to find. Otherwise, you are not ever going to be using them. Thankfully, bookmarking on your web browser makes this simple! Here is how you can easily find the form in order to bookmark it.

I always send it to myself via email. Click "send" in the upper righthand corner when you are all finished. Type in your email address and push "send" again. The link will go straight to your email. Click the link, make sure to BOOKMARK it on your school laptop to make your life easy. Remember: you are more likely to use something if it is easy to get to and right in front of you.



STEP 3: MAKE SMALL GROUPS AND CONFERENCE

I love doing conferences as a group. Why? Firstly, it saves time. Secondly, students get to hear one another's writing. Everyone grows as a result. It is incredibly powerful to hear writing from one's peers. My third-graders love hearing other students' writing, as well as sharing their own. If I had a student who was clearly uncomfortable with reading, I would either put them in a small group or confer with them 1 on 1.

In the beginning, I generally group by ability. Put your strongest writers together, lowest writers together, etc. The reason I like to group by ability is because I think it can be discouraging to my struggling writers to be in a group with the next Ernest Hemmingway. When we are working on giving feedback to others, I want my students to feel comfortable sharing with the group.

Call the group of students to the table. Each student will read their writing out loud to the group. As the student reads, start filling out your form. Write down their name, the type of writing, highlights, and feedback. You don't need the data- the form is automatically dated! Don't write full sentences, just quick words or snippets for your notes. After the student reads to the group, give them a few compliments on their writing ("I love your descriptive language! You broke up the paragraphs well. Your topic sentences were well written."). Then, do a few spots for feedback ("next time, try and sum up the paragraph with a closing sentence").

By segmenting your students into groups, you can easily meet with all students during the week!


STEP 5: LOOK AND ANALYZE AT YOUR DATA
Why have all this data if you don't use it? Now, want to see something cool? This Google Form information is easily changed instantly into a spreadsheet. Spreadsheets have an uncanny ability to look impressive, not to mention are just darn effective and functional. Definitely show this off during your administration evaluation!

First, click "responses" when in edit mode.


Next, hit the small green axis.


Tada! Your spreadsheet is made and ready to be used!




STEP 6: NOW WHAT?Writing conferences will help you plan your future writing lessons. What patterns do you see in the data? Are there a few students that struggle with rich vocabulary? Is the majority of the class having difficulty with paragraph structure? Form your guided writing groups with this information. Reading and math small groups are generally flexible- your writing groups should be too! Form new groups with this data to focus on a particular skill. Your writing conferences can serve as a way to sort your writers' strengths and weaknesses and help find a particular area to work on. Ultimately, this should be the goal of writing conferences. Conference with your students to find where and how to help improve their writing.
I hope that you found at least one or two things useful in this post. Do you use writing conferences in your classroom? What tips or tricks do you have?






How to make your word study paperless

How to make your word work in word study paperless

Mention the phrase "word study," and I immediately think of an enormous amount of prep work. Between the differentiated word lists and big packets, word study tends to be paper galore. However, using Google Classroom you can transform this paper nightmare into paperless!

Did you read my post about creating a paperless literature circle? Word study is another area that I felt overwhelmed by the paper packets sitting in the corner of a room. I think I may have a packet phobia. I am afraid that I am missing one and need to run to the copier. I am afraid that a student spilled their hot chocolate all over theirs and I need to run to the copier. I am afraid that a student left theirs at home and I need to run to the copier. I am afraid that a student accidentally left it next to the recycling bin and I need to run to the copier. Do you sense a pattern here? Clearly, I have a phobia of the copy machine. But you know what? I have a solution for all my lovelies out there equally afraid of the dang copy machine, taunting you with its low toner, long line, missing staples, and sudden lack of paper.

Do you do word study in your classroom? There is only so much teaching time in a day, and I find that word study is a good opportunity to focus on reading skills that the kids need to know. For example, much of my word work centers around using a reference book, or alphabetical order. It is the perfect way to practice the word study patterns while integrating an important part of the necessary curriculum. I want to share with you how I do it in my classroom! You may do something similar, or you may not find that this is something that you're interested in your classroom.

I broke down the steps to having a paperless word study program below!

STEP 1: CREATE YOUR GROUPS
Use a word study spelling inventory to find out what level that all your students are at. From this point, you can easily differentiate instruction. I generally get about four groups. I tend to use color groups in word study (I also have differentiated groups in reading and math- so many group names!). I remember the group level and color by thinking about the Earth. Green group = the grass (lowest group). Red group = flowers (second lowest). Blue group = the sky (second highest). And yellow group is the sun (highest). This way it is much easier for me to remember when I am preparing words and trying to remember who is in which group! However, any group names that works for you is fantastic!

I use a spelling inventory from Words Journeys to create my groups. However, Teachers Pay Teachers has many inexpensive spelling inventories that you can use!


STEP 2: PREPARE THE WORDS
Stop by your school's professional library and grab a copy of Words Their Way, (this is an Amazon Affiliate link) or a similar word study approach. This is where I get all my words for the week from!

Generally, I have four groups in my classroom. Keep in mind that I have a self-contained gifted classroom of 30 students- your groups may look totally different from mine! For example, my group of kiddos has no one in the LN level. My lowest group starts at SJ.

GREEN GROUP: Start in beginning of SJ book
RED GROUP: Start in middle of SJ book
BLUE GROUP: Start in beginning of DR book
YELLOW GROUP: Start in middle of DR book

Your groups may look totally different than what is listed above - that is great! All classroom's needs and abilities are different. Do what works best for your classroom.


STEP 3: CREATE THE ACTIVITIES
What kind of activities do you want your students to do for word work? The following are my favorites! You could create them on Google Slides, or if you want to save time I have a resource called Word Study for Google Drive that is already done and ready to go! My product is geared toward third and fourth-grade students.

The following are what I like to do in my classroom and I have already created on my Google Drive resource. You may have additional activities you like, or you may not like some of my ideas.

How to make your word work in word study paperless
ABC Order: Student type their words in alphabetical order. ABC order is difficult for third-graders and is generally tested on in most states. I use every opportunity that I can get to utilize this essential life skill!

Brainstorm: Students need to first write what the word pattern is for the week. Then, they brainstorm additional words that follow this pattern. I like this because it gets kids remembering what the pattern is, and uses critical thinking skills to apply it to other words. Word study is all about applying a particular pattern to other words!

Dictionary search: I always have the kids use an actual dictionary for this. It utilizes ABC order and using guide words, both reading skills that my students generally struggle with. Like ABC order, I grab any opportunity that I can take for my kiddos to practice this!

Drag it: Many state tests use technology enhanced questions now, and students need to know how to drag-&-drop and interact with the device. Students utilize that feature by dragging letters to spell their words. It helps them practice the pattern of the week.

Rainbow words: Okay, I know this one may seem more like a "little kid" word study activity, and I have read before that other teachers do not find it effective. But you know what? My students love this one. I am okay with them doing one slightly less effective if it means that they are enjoying it! Plus, color-coding is good for the brain. Maybe have them make all the prefixes a certain color, or color code a particular vowel vowel consonant pattern.

Story writer: Get kids creatively writing with this one! Students write a story, whatever they would like, using some of their words. You could also have them create a comic or graphic novel using the toolbar in Google Slides.
How to make your word work in word study paperless

Thesaurus: Using a reference book and understanding synonyms/antonyms is a third-grade standard in my state for reading. Kids will practice how to identify synonyms using a particular reference book. I have a stack of thesaurus' in my room. Students will grab one, then look up their word. Many of their words are often not in the thesaurus, so they continually practice this skill while searching for the ones that are. They also become more familiar with what words do and do not have syllables.

Word origins: Students use a website to find the etymology of their word- where is the word derived? This is such a fun activity, and I love how excited that kids get when they discover where the word originates from. I think this is a good way for students to also realize the evolution of words and globalization of language.

Word value: Insert some math into your word work! Students will add up the cost of their word, using a key equating money to letters. You could also make this more challenging and use multiplication.


STEP 4: ASSIGN THE SLIDES
Great, you have your activities all set! Now, you need to assign the activities to students. There are two different ways that you can do this. Remember- not all the groups have the same words!

  • WAY #1: Type all the words onto the slides ahead of time, then assign to each student based on their group. For example, send the yellow group word study pages to Alice, Bianca, Claire, and Daniel if they are in the yellow group. Send the green group word study pages to Edward, Frank, Greg, and Hannah. And so on! 
  • WAY #2: This is the way that I prefer. I assign a blank copy to ALL students. They will be writing down the words and sorting the words WITH ME at teacher time during literacy stations.

Don't know how to assign slides? Follow my easy step-by-step guide to do it for Google Classroom!



STEP 5: SORT THE WORDS
I like to sort the words WITH my students to ensure that they sort them correctly. On my Word Study for Google Drive resource, I have a page for sorting the words. I do this with each group. I'll call a word study group over, they'll sit at my small table. I have an iPad or laptop out for each of them already. Students quickly log on to their Google Apps account and pull up their assigned word study assignment. I have a small whiteboard, and we discuss each word and where to sort it. They follow along and type the word into their device to ensure that everything is sorted and ready to go. They do not do the activities with me, those are independent! They are simply sorting the words with me to make sure that the understand the pattern of the week.


STEP 6: STUDENTS DO THE WORK!
Students will complete one assignment each day. I tell them they can do any of them that they would like! I love giving my students choice with their work to allow self-differentiation. Students grab a laptop or iPad when they are on the computer station, then get to work. I check these quickly at the end of the day or week for accountability.


STEP 7: ASSESSING
I do not like traditional spelling tests- they take FOREVER. We have way too much valuable time in the classroom for that. Instead, I simply assess on a very small amount of words and the actual pattern. It is easy to grade, and shows me if the child understands the pattern of the week. I cut up pieces of notebook paper into small strips and pass them out. The student puts their name on it, then writes down what the pattern is that we learned that week. I also have them spell two different words from the list. I am not looking at if the word is spelled correctly, but if they were correctly able to apply the pattern.




I hope you found this helpful! How do you do word study in your classroom? Are you interested in doing a paperless word study as well? Using Google Slides, you can easily create assignments for your students each week. Want to save time? I have a Word Study for Google Drive product available that you can easily assign to students as well!


How to make your word work in word study paperless

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