It’s no secret I love Google Forms, and I am already finding ways to incorporate them into our learning activities in the War Eagle Writing Studio. We have been immersed in our rough drafts of our personal narrative the last two or so weeks; this week, we are working on revision strategies and basic editing techniques.
I wanted students to have a chance to share their drafts with a writing buddy/partner today, so here was the game plan for today:
- The “warm-up” on the board as students came in was to get his/her assigned Chromebook (I have a set of 20) and the printed copy of his/her rough draft off our community table.
- Next, I asked students to log into our district portal and open Google Drive (the form I created was open only to Hall County students, so they needed to be in their Google accounts to open the shortcut link for the form I was sharing).
- Next, I instructed students to first find a writing partner/buddy of his/her choosing. Since the point was to get constructive feedback, I reminded students that a friend was not always the best choice and encouraged them to consider working with someone new or unfamiliar. I gave students about 90 seconds or so to find a partner.
- I stressed that the purpose of our peer helping time was not to tear each other down but instead, to provide constructive feedback to each other to help us grow as writers. In addition, I stressed the importance of reading drafts aloud and sharing with others to see and hear our writing with fresh eyes and ears.
- Once students were with partners, I told them we would be reading our drafts aloud to our writing buddies/partners. With the help of a student volunteer, I modeled what it mean to sit “knee to knee” facing each other, and we talked about how we could show respect and good listening skills. Because our personal narratives are fairly brief, I told them to do their sharing in 5-6 minutes. Once we were sure that everyone was knee to knee and not sitting at tables, we began our reading.
- As students read to each other, I projected a slide on the board with Google Presentations (my best friend this school year) with the shortcut link and “next steps”: once students finished reading, they were to exchange drafts, push their chairs back to the work tables, and complete the Google Form that had a series of short answer questions. I gleaned these short answer feedback prompts from Jim Vopat’s wonderful book, Writing Circles.
Because I teach writing to students who need extra support and enrichment across grades 6, 7, and 8, I made a few adjustments as needed for specific classes or as points of need became clear:
- I realized quickly that my 6th and 7th grade learners needed me to review the short answer evaluation/feedback prompts in more detail than the 8th grade classes, so I made sure to take time to review what the prompts meant.
- I realized midway through the day that students might need some additional questions where they could select an answer from a menu to help provide some specific feedback aligned to the assessment rubric for the personal narrative. I structured these as “check the answers that best apply (checkboxes)” and multiple choice where they could choose the option that they felt best applied to the person whose work they were reading.
Most of my classes were able to evaluate one draft though my 8th grade classes were able to do two “lightning” rounds of feedback. The Google Form was a terrific medium because many of my students struggle with the physical act of handwriting—not only did the Google Form allow students a chance to type without getting bogged down by handwriting difficulties, but it also ensured that everyone gets a nice typed, readable feedback form in class tomorrow. I simply created a Word document with the main headings that feedback form would need, downloaded the Google Form responses to Excel, and then ran a mail merge to create clean, complete, and printed feedback forms the students will receive in class tomorrow—this evaluation form will give students a jumping off plan to think about revision and eventually sketch out their Revision Plan (also to be completed in Google Forms).
A few observations:
- Many students were surprised by the power of reading a draft aloud—it helped quite a few realize their drafts were not quite as polished as they originally thought and to think about the rhythm and flow of the personal narrative.
- This experience was new for nearly every student—and I definitely see the importance of having this read aloud sharing time. Since we’ll be starting Writing Circles after Labor Day, today was a good warm-up for the frequent sharing we will be doing.
- I realized that my students will need scaffolding like the “multiple choice” and “checkbox” response options for a little while as we grow our ability to talk about our writing. For now, I am OK with combining these kinds of responses with the open-ended feedback prompts as learn to walk and then run with these skills.
- Some students really struggled to find a partner for various reasons. In the future, I will use some of the partner selection strategies I just read about (they are for groups but can be modified for partners, too) in the Jim Vopat Writing Circles book.
- My classes only meet for roughly 40 minutes daily because my class is an academic elective in the “connections” rotation, so anything I can do to help expedite transitions is a must for us to maximize our time, especially for my classes who take a little longer than others to complete activities.
It was a hectic day, but I am happy that we did this activity. I’m excited for us to complete this piece of writing this week and move forward with Writing Circles after Labor Day! How are you approaching writing partners/buddies, and what techniques or tools do you use to help students give each other meaningful and constructive feedback on their writing? I would love to hear what others are doing.