Sunday, November 22, 2015

Google Classroom in the English Classroom

In a recent post I wrote about my school's launch of Google Classroom. Two months in I am loving the way it's changed my teaching, and have found that our school-wide adoption of Classroom has overlapped nicely with some of our English Department's new goals for teaching grammar and usage. Whereas in the past students turned in hard copies of assignments for teachers to mark up with a grading pen, this year we, as a department, decided to go for a different approach. Inspired by Constance Weaver's The Grammar Plan Book, we've been working on teaching concepts an "inch wide and a mile deep." Instead of marking every single mistake in a student's writing, we're looking for general themes and providing feedback about those themes. For example, I might let a student know they need to spend more time proofreading for comma usage or capitalization errors, as opposed to automatically correcting every single mistake they've made.

Google Classroom's feedback and assessment features have turned out to be a perfect way to implement our new approach to teaching grammar. In most cases, my students are not even turning in hard copies, but rather submit their work digitally through Classroom. Once they've "turned in" an assignment, I have the opportunity to provide comments directly on the document, as has always been the case with Google Drive. However, in Classroom I can also provide a general comment or grade, and this is where I've started to give my "inch wide, mile deep" feedback. Instead of line by line edits, I share with students my advice for general areas of their writing they can improve. Instead of fixing mistakes for them, I draw their attention to a few specific examples, then leave the task of making the majority of edits to them to complete independently.

I'm also finding that having student work organized in Classroom has made it easier for me to notice specific grade-wide trends. For example, as I looked through 50 short reading responses, I realized I was seeing a lot of run-on sentences. I was then able to devote some class time to a mini-lesson on run-on and incomplete sentences, and used Classroom to quickly assess my students' on their learning post-lesson. It's true that one might just as easily notice a trend like this with hard copies, but there's something about the way Classroom visually organizes student writing, and the ease with which I can toggle between different students and class sections, that's made it much easier for me to pick out writing challenges are address them immediately.

Like all GAFE products, my students took to Classroom right away. They're already familiar with Drive, and it was just a few short steps to acquaint themselves with Classroom.

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