January 8, 2016

Google Me Junior High Digital Assignments

I am an old war horse! I've seen education fads come and I've seen them go. I've been teaching for 36 years and in that time have primarily worked with fifth and sixth graders in the field of English Language Arts. When I first began teaching all those decades ago I did work with 7/8th graders as well, but as we reorganized buildings and grade levels through the years I was placed with the younger students saying bye-bye to the junior high. So it was much to my surprise when three years ago I was asked to teach eighth grade English and then for the past two years seventh grade English, in addition to my 5/6th grade ELA classes.

I had new standards to learn, new curriculum to plow through, and terrible textbooks to try and conquer (I'm happy to say those are packed away now). With the help of TpT and some fantastic professional development I am loving my junior high kiddos! I think one of the things that I am enjoying the most about this level is that our seventh graders are each issued a laptop that they use for their schoolwork,  making technology integration a snap.

I really wanted to make technology an integral part of English class and set a goal that by year's end we would be a nearly paperless class. Something that has really helped is computing in the cloud using Google Drive. With the permission of parents, each seventh grader opens a Google account, allowing them access to Google Drive. What's that you ask.... OH MY, a whole host of computing tools: slides (like powerpoint), docs (like Word), forms, notes, AND SO MUCH MORE! The so much more is in the form of file sharing... this is the real gem of Google Drive!

An initial peek into my drive shows a series of folders in which I store files and assignments.

Notice the folder titled GRADE SEVEN ENGLISH. Let's look inside.

Inside this folder are assignments that I have collected (from TPT authors) or created for my seventh graders.  By using a special feature of Google Drive I am able to share these assignments with my students. The assignments will appear in each of my students' own drive folders. Let's look a little more closely at this file sharing capability and how it has energized my seventh grade English class.

We're going to click on the file WINTER WRITING CAROL... in the folder.

This is an excerpt from TpT Seller Louisa of Mrs. E's Literature Dreams Creative Writing Winter Digital Writing Pack, a series of writing prompts created especially for sharing digitally. I stumbled upon Louisa's materials and fell in love with them. It is obvious she has a love of teaching from her highly engaging writing prompts and a love of technology from the form she is developing. Her writing prompts were the first exclusively digital products that I discovered on TpT. Louisa and I have struck up a virtual friendship and in a recent email conversation she had this to say about digital writing and teaching...

"Technology is everywhere. Even though most adults use computers at work. Kids' use of technology is often relegated to social media and games. For me it seems logical that if we want teenagers to be tech savvy - we need to provide learning experiences that are also digital experiences. Not games. Not fluffy add-ons. But rigorous, well designed digital learning."

The writing that you notice on the prompt page above was placed there by me and is the directions for my students. I won't bore you with the minute details but please notice the blue SHARE button in the upper right hand corner, by clicking on it and inputting my student Google account names I allow each seventh grader access to the file. They make copies of the file, save it in their own drive, and subsequently share their files with me.

If I return to my drive (see the left side of the pic) and now select SHARED WITH ME I can see all of my students' assignments. You will notice the myriad files for the WINTER WRITING CAROL assignment, but now notice that each has a student name on it. You will notice additional files scattered within this window as well. These are other assignments that my seventh graders are working on.

I can read any student assignment by simply clicking on the file. I can also comment directly on the student paper, or...

I can open a comments tab and write additional remarks there...

... all without a single piece of paper being exchanged. Students can email me with questions about assignments or simply share a message with me via Google Drive. I can give them suggestions, help edit, make changes and corrections all from the comfort of my rocker. Assignment turn in times can be extended to late evenings or weekends. One terrific feature allows you to see the work/editing history of a piece.

I can see who is and who is not working. Excuses such as forgetting homework at home are eliminated. I sure hope digital assignments are not a new fad that will come and go because Google Drive and digital teaching products are just the BEST THING since sliced bread!

Be sure to check out Mrs. E's Literature Dreams on TpT for loads of engaging ELA activities, including her newest digital product New Year Creative Writing Pack.

I'm linking this blog post to the Teaching Trio's weekly Tech Thursday blog feature.

Be sure to stop by the Teaching Trio to read more technology tips and tricks.


  1. I love how you are using Google Drive to incorporate tech and also cut down on paper in the classroom! I'm hanging on to these ideas for sure! Thanks for linking up with us.
    Chalk & Apples and Teaching Trio

  2. Thank you so much for the post. This is so interesting. I'm loving your images of your resources! THANK YOU!

  3. Awesome post! I love the screencaps. I just entered the digital world as both a buyer and seller, so I'm looking forward to exploring these possibilities more. Thanks!
    -Danielle @ Nouvelle

  4. Thank you so much for this post! I am a bit of an old war horse myself and love technology. I have been trying to make it work for my students but have had a hard time wrapping my head around how the Google "thing" works. This has helped me so much!



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