Monthly Archives: November 2014

Please, Google, Please!

Dear Google,

I love Suggesting mode on Google Drive.

And, I love Commenting mode as well.

But, please, please, divide these two mode into two separate settings. PLEASE!

Suggesting mode is great. It allows students, parents, teachers, or other guests to add their input directly into a document, and the owner of the document can choose to add those suggesting exactly as typed or not. I love the potential for this with word choice and writing conventions most of all.

Comments are great too. Comments on the side of a document can help develop meaningful conversations. These conversations can help kids focus improvement in their writing and further discussions after presentations.

However, combining these two modes is a terrible idea. Please fix it! Here are two situations that show the value of splitting these modes.

My students recently finished a fiction story unit. I put all their documents together in a Google Drive file and then shared that link with parents. I would have love to allow parents to comment on their students’ files, but I do not want them editing the file using the suggesting mode. Instead, I had to limit them to viewing only.

– My students’ next project will be an expository Google Presentation. When each group presents, we share out our file so everyone in the audience can follow along on their devices at their seats. Last year, the students were able to comment on each presentation when it was over. However, this year, I can’t do that because I don’t want any audience member’s suggestions popping up on the screen during the presentation.

So, Google, please separate these two great tools into separate modes. I’ll buy you a doughnut if you do.


Revising: Formerly Evil, Now Fun

In my fourth grade classroom, all word processing is now completed on Google Docs. This has completely changed the process of writing for young students. In the past, with hand-written work, revising and editing were seen as evil because those two words meant finding mistakes and then rewriting the whole story. It was a painstaking process for both student and teacher which could take over a week and involve a lot of sighing.

Now, with Google Docs, revising is fun (or at least almost fun).

After my students finish a draft of a writing piece, we prepare for peer revisions. However, this is not last-decade’s peer revision, where only two kids sit and talk aimlessly about the pieces of paper in front of them, saying, “I like it, but you should make it longer.” Google Docs gives students the ability to focus their revisions and get many more opinions they can use to improve their writing.

First, I have students write Author’s Questions. To do this, the students highlight a section of their text they think needs help, and then they ask a specific question using Google Docs’ commenting feature. Usually these questions relate to the writing traits we have been studying. Students insert three of these comments and then share their document with their classmates. Then, other students can offer specific suggestions to help the writer.

In the following example, you see an excerpt from a recent piece by one of my students along with one of her questions:

sample google comments 2

You can see Kaidence’s question is focused on adding Voice to her writing; she is trying to collect ideas for showing emotion. She received ideas from her classmates and then added them to her story in the sentences that follow the yellow highlight. Those sentences weren’t there in her first draft, and only the collaboration available through Google Docs and the availability of devices in my classroom made this possible. Also notice that her responses were received over the course of two different days, meaning that she could come back to this question on multiple days for more ideas.

This type of teamwork is invaluable in a classroom. I look forward to exploring new ways for students to collaborate as the year moves on.





Smashing My Comfort Zone To Bits

Sometimes I worry I’ll get stuck in rut.

You know how it is? You get to school, consult your lesson plans, and think, “Yep, I’ve done all this before.”

Now, sometimes this can be comforting. If you been out of town over the weekend or been up late caring for a sick child, knowing that your lessons are under control can be very welcoming. We all need that sometimes. However, I also think we need to challenge ourselves to take our teaching to the next level.

So this sounds like it will be a post all about how I did something new and it was an amazing, life-altering success, doesn’t it? Well…surprise…going out of my comfort zone in Math is really causing me to struggle.

We are in our tenth year of the same math curriculum, and I could teach most of the lessons with my eyes shut. I can even name most of the lesson topic and their corresponding number by heart (Lesson 5.3? Estimating Sums…Just try to stump me…). I’ve always split my math lesson by ability into two groups and modified the lesson to fit the needs of that group. It works like a well-oiled machine.

But I want to go farther. I envision a math class with students all progressing at their own individual rates, with those who excel moving onto more challenging, above-grade-level materials, and those who need more support having hands-on experiences every single day.

Enter the flipped class model. It has intrigued me since I first read about it. I won’t take the time to re-explain here what a Google search could better explain. Feel free to check it out and come back.

So I videotaped some lessons and have tried to implement a modified flip, where some of my highest students watch a video instead of meet for the lesson with me. I love it, but I am struggling with it. In particular, I’m having some kids watch the video, not quite understand, and then start practicing the skill incorrectly. Then, when I meet with them to discuss, they have to unlearn their mistakes and relearn how the correct way. This is making me question who I should use the videos with, as well as the time structure of my lessons. I’m having to rework a lot of my usual pattern, and I haven’t quite found the right flow yet.

But I think it will come. I’ll be a better teacher when it does, and most importantly, my students will be learning and achieving more.

And if not? That’s okay too. I’ll keep exploring.