Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Review and Discussion Activities Using Google Forms

This is the third post in a series about using Google Forms in the classroom.  If you aren't familiar with Google Forms, you may also want to read my Google Forms 101.

Today, I wanted to share with you one of my favorite ways to use Google Forms in the classroom - review and discussion activities.  One of the reasons why I love Google Forms so much is its versatility.  It can be used for nearly everything!  Show me a curriculum unit, and I'll give you at least three ways to use Google Forms to make it better.  I've got two specific examples for you today.

Science or Social Studies Chapter Review

Review time is when our discussion can be very rich, but the kids are often burnt out on the subject or think they already know it so they check out.  As a student, I always hated those end of chapter reviews they had in the textbook.  I knew it was helpful to go over before the test, but it was long and tedious and I never really got feedback on my answers.  Enter - Google Forms!
I let my students choose partners, or I assign them, and have them complete a Form together to review the important content of the chapter.  You could use the questions from the chapter review in your text, or create your own questions like I did.  I give the page numbers from the text that will help them and send them off to work together.  When all the students have completed the Form, I hide the column on the response document that contains their usernames and put the response document up on the screen.  Here are a few screenshots of a response document from one of my chapter review activities.

This isn't the whole activity, but you get the idea.  As you can see, some kids nailed it, and others need a bit more review.  So we go down the line discussing the traits the students put for each type of animal.  Was it correct?  If not, why not?  What could they have put instead?  Are there any traits we can think of that weren't listed?  It makes for great discussion.  The kids love it because their answers are on the screen.  They also love that their names aren't up there so that it isn't embarrassing if something was incorrect.  I find the kids are significantly more engaged than they would be during the review of a paper assignment or a discussion lead solely by me.

Post Chapter Novel Discussion

My students have just finished reading the short novel, The Chalk Box Kid, by Clyde Robert Bulla.  After each week's chapter reading, the students had a Google Form to fill out.  The form asked about character traits and things that happened in the story.  The questions often required the students to make inferences.  There were a few questions where the answers were there in the text for them to find, but most of the questions I asked were digging deeper into the story.  This allowed for richer discussion once we showed the responses.  I also used these as a teaching tool to get the kids to support their answers with evidence from the story.  Here are a few screenshots from these activities. 

The responses actually created some great conversation about the story.  There were also some other topics that came into the conversation, like what qualifies as a character trait.  My students LOVE this activity and they ask me all day about when we get to do the "responses thing".  I also noticed some really great and thoughtful answers I know I never would have gotten if we had just discussed these things verbally in class without Google Forms.  Another great thing is that I have these answers stored away.  I can bring them out for the students to use when I ask them to do a writing assignment comparing the main character in a new story to the one they read about previously.  This week, my students are actually using their old responses to compare and contrast the main problem in The Chalk Box Kid with the main problem of this week's book, Molly's Pilgrim.  (Special thanks to @JenRoberts1 for giving me the idea to scaffold their writing using Google Forms!  See her blog post here.)

There are so many fun ways to use Google Forms to get your kids excited about sharing - no more discussions with the same four kids raising their hands the whole time.  These types of activities give every child a voice in a safe environment.  They can build confidence and even lay the groundwork for future writing assignments. 

Consider using Google Forms for your next chapter review or novel discussion.  Go ahead, give it a try!  I promise you won't be disappointed.

Thank you for stopping by the TeachingTechNix blog.  I hope I've inspired you today.  Stop in again soon for more helpful tech tips.   

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Organize Parent Conference Notes With Google Forms

This is the second post in a series about using Google Forms in the classroom.  The first post can be found here.  If you aren't familiar with Google Forms, you may also want to read my Google Forms 101.

Communication between parents and teachers is integral to a student's success, especially in elementary school.  I'm halfway through a two-day parent conference marathon and I tried something new to help me organize my conference notes that I'd like to share with you.

Days or even weeks after a conference, I always find myself remembering that someone asked me about something specific, but I can't remember which parent it was.  Maybe a parent requested their child not sit next to a particular student, so when I change seats again, I know I made a note about it, but I can't find it.  So I go searching through all my student files, digging for the one paper that has the note I know I wrote about whatever it was.  Yesterday, I was thinking there had to be a way to keep all my notes about each child in a central document, but still maintain the privacy needed so parents aren't seeing what I've written about other students while I'm typing notes.  There is!  Google Forms!  

I've created a Google Form that asks for student name, date, people who attended the conference, and comments about behavior and grades.  I also left a place for additional comments and necessary follow up steps.  I open up the form for each conference, type in it as we meet, finish it up once the parent leaves, and then hit "Submit".

When I made the form, I chose the option to give a link to submit another response.  This way, when I hit "Submit", I get a link to click on that opens up a fresh form for my next conference.  Quick and easy!  

My information goes into a spreadsheet that I can access easily anytime, anywhere, from almost any device.  I can use the search function in my browser to search for any key terms when I want to find something specific.  (If you want to know more about the search function in the Google Chrome browser, check out my post about it.)

Another great function is that I will use the same form all year long.  At any point in the year, if I need to check back and look at all the conferences I've had with a particular family, I can sort my answer spreadsheet by the column containing student names.  This will put all the conferences for that child in a row for easy viewing.

This worked really well for me today and I'm excited to use it again tomorrow.  I was so excited about it last night, that I made one for all of my colleagues in grades K-5 and most of them used it today and loved it.  Such a quick and simple change can make a big difference in organization.

To get a copy of this form and make it your own, click here.

A few of my other Google Forms posts can be found by clicking the links below.

Parent Surveys with Google Forms
Anecdotal Student Notes with Google Forms
Review and Discussion Activities with Google Forms
Digital Assignment Tracking with Google Forms
File Upload: Collect Files with Google Forms

Thank you for stopping by the TeachingTechNix blog.  I hope you found this little tip helpful. 

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Parent Surveys Using Google Forms

This is the first in a series of posts I'll be making about how you can use Google Forms in the classroom.  Forms is extremely versatile and can be used in many different ways.  (Not familiar with Google Forms?  Check out my Google Forms 101 post.)  Today I'm going to talk about using it for parent surveys.   I have three different surveys I give throughout the year.

1. The "Get To Know You" Survey

The very first time I meet parents, I hand out a flyer with instructions for them to take my "Get To Know You" survey.  I use a URL shortener like bit.ly to get a shortened URL so it is easy for parents to type in.  Sometimes I even use this website to create a QR Code that parents can scan.  I put the short URL and QR code with some easy instructions on a half page colorful flyer and hand it out to parents during the meet and greet, or as homework for the kids on the first day.  You can either send them straight to your survey, or like I did, you can use the short URL to send them to your class website and link to your survey from there.  I ask the parents to tell me about their child, the child's interests, goals, etc.  I also ask the parents for their names as well as the best phone numbers and email addresses for each parent.  This is where doing this on a Google Form is so much better than paper.  I can copy and paste the column of email addresses into a blank spreadsheet and then import them right into Google Contacts and use labels create an easy class email list. I've got my email list for the year.  No more deciphering parent handwriting on a written form or hunting through my school's student information system trying to find emails for each parent.  Any other forms I send out during the year go on my class website or I put a link in an email to all parents.

2.  The "How Is It Going?" Survey

After the first third of the year, I ask the parents to fill out a "How Is It Going?" Survey.  I ask them to tell me how the year has been for them so far.  How is homework going?  What do they like about my system?  What do they think would improve my system?  There are always some interesting responses that come through, but overall I find it helpful to get a feel for how the parents think things are going.

3.  The "How Did It Go?" Survey

At the end of the year, I send out a "How Did It Go?" Survey.  I ask what their favorite things about the year were, and about the things they thought could have gone better with some adjustment.  I ask about my system and communication and see what they liked and where they think it could be improved for the following year.  Again, always some interesting answers, but overall I've found it helpful.  If you'd like to see a sample survey, click here.  If you want to make a copy of it to use with your parents, click here.

Three quick and easy ways to engage parents, let them know you value their feedback, give them an appropriate avenue through which to share their feedback, and my favorite part - easily gather those email addresses at the beginning of the year!

The next two Google Forms posts can be found by clicking the links below.

Organize Parent Conference Notes with Google Forms
Review and Discussion Activities with Google Forms

I hope you found this helpful!  If you have any questions about my parent surveys, leave a comment.  I'd love to help you out.  Thank you for stopping by the TeachingTechNix blog.  Stop in again soon for more ways to use Google Forms in the classroom.

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