When people think of a school classroom, they often think of this:
So, what’s wrong with this picture? Nothing, in itself — a student has come up to the front of the room to show what she knows, and the teacher can analyze it and use it as an example for the rest of the class. It’s a great activity for the above purpose, and this student is probably getting a lot out of it.
But… what about the other 20-30 students in the class who are patiently (or not so patiently) waiting for her to finish? What are their brains doing during this time? Are they really examining closely, thinking, and processing like the girl at the chalkboard is? Does the teacher have any way to know what they are thinking? Does the teacher have any way to know if this one student’s abilities reflect the same level of understanding as the other students in the class?
All of the questions above highlight that we can improve the ways we do “show what you know” formative checks and practice! And we can do so by “getting with the times” and using some modern technology! Chalkboard and whiteboards were great for the times they were invented… which were centuries (chalkboards) or decades (whiteboards) ago!
Going New School
While reading my students’ blogs recently, I noticed that the kids were still having a lot of difficulties with certain grammatical and writing skills I wanted them to master (despite having done grammar lessons, plus practice at sites like Quill.org) Particularly, students were not using commas appropriately in sentences (for lists, yes; but not for direct-address, prepositions, appositives and compound sentences.) I decided I needed to do some quick practice, reteaching, and checks to see who “got it” and who still needed help, or whether I needed to reteach a subject to the whole class.
I wanted something like calling students up to the front of class to show their work, but I wanted it to be faster and easier and to engage all students, not just one or two at a time. My first instinct was to create a shared Google Doc, but I realized it would be very difficult to have 20 students simultaneously type on that — they would probably be overwriting each other’s work, moving things around inadvertently, and/or copying work from what they see another student writing.
So, I figured I would use a Google Sheet (spreadsheet), since it is already organized into rows and columns, making it easy to assign a row or cell to each student as their own workspace. It worked great! As a bonus, the student work is hidden while they are writing — all students can work simultaneously without being influenced by each other’s answers! (I didn’t originally realize it would do this, but this makes it work even better than I had expected!)
I now use this very simple, but very powerful, activity on a regular basis. I have found it especially useful for things like:
- KWL charts
- sentence and grammatical structure practice
Give it a try!
Easy as 1-2-3:
- Create a blank Google Sheets file in Google Sheets (name the file based on its purpose or skills you will be practicing)
- Add your student names/roster in the first column (A) so they know which row belongs to them. You can practice multiple skills in the same file by making new sheets/pages/tabs using the dropdown tab at the bottom (name each tab based on what skill or activity you want them to do on that page)
- In Google Classroom, create “Add Assignment” and locate your Sheet from the Drive. Then, before Assigning, make sure to change the student permission to “Students can edit file” (this is what allows everybody to work together simultaneously on the same screen!)