“Helpful Tools in Google Docs to Assess Writing”

Writing is a skill as necessary as walking, and it’s acquired in much the same way. We see others do it, we try to emulate the process, and we often only master it through constant practice.

Student composition skills emerge through routine writing practice followed up by constructive feedback from the instructor and/or peers. This is all fine and good, and it seems like common sense. However, one major impediment to this practice lies within the time required for reading and providing this feedback to the multitude of students within each class. Thanks to technological advancements in educational tools, ELA teachers can work smarter and not harder in this area.

With all of this in mind, here is a list of five technology tools in Google to expedite the assessment of writing.

  • Google Voice Typing – This dictation tool is available for use within the Google Docs toolbar makes offering thorough writing commentary a speedier process.

I have utilized this tool when grading written essays. I may open a Google Doc and voice my feedback through this tool. Afterwards, I can print this doc and attach to the student paper for more thorough instruction as to how the student performed and may revise without the impediments of limited time and space to do such

  • Kaizena – This Google Add-on allows for readers to convey feedback by highlighting pieces within a Google Doc and leave verbal and/or text comments as well as tagging specific writing, grammar, usage, and mechanics skills that may need attention. Each student’s work and feedback stay within a conversation, allowing progress to be tracked all throughout the term.

This tool was particularly effective with my upperclassmen, who seemed more receptive to conversing about their writing, but it also works well for those open to the writing process in all of the editing and revision glory.

  • WriQ – This Add-on allows teachers to open a piece of writing in Google Docs and quickly assess student writing. WriQ offers a suggested scored based upon metrics it analyzed such as word count, sentence count, and time spent writing.  WriQ checks  grammar, punctuation and spelling errors, which will be highlighted within the document for easy examination and color-coded by error. Next, users can assess the writing using a genre-specific rubric within the Add-on by clicking on the appropriate descriptor to suit the writing. After saving, users are given a summary of all feedback and an opportunity to type more feedback if necessary. After saving, this summary will be attached to the top of the document with all errors still highlighted for student viewing.

This tool is great for ELA and writing courses as it evaluates a variety of writing genres.

  • Orange Slice – This teacher-created Google Add-on allows users to create rubrics, score papers, and then return the marked rubric on the student paper with scores and rubric attributes highlighted. There is also a student version available for peer feedback.

Happy reading and assessing with these available Add-ons!

If you have tried these or have another favorite, feel free to share and comment below.

“Setting Up for the New School Year”

“These days, you’ve gotta milk a dollar out of every dime.”

– Gayle Forman, Where She Went

Though students will be heading back to school in a little over a month, teachers will head back sooner to prep and plan for an yet another awesome school year. This involves stocking classroom supplies, decorating said classroom, and designing lessons, all to engage our new legions of learners. More often than not, teachers will not receive classroom funds until later in the fall (if any), and it takes the mixture of teachers’ creativity, resourcefulness, and ingenuity to turn the new-school-year visions into reality.

Below you will find links to my favorite sites in locating variety of helpful resources for teacher supplies, resources, and tools to make the new academic year awesome despite a limited budget.

NAEIR –  This is the site for the National Association for the Exchange of Industrial Resources. The organization offers school teachers a FREE membership through its Teacher’s Program. Here you will find a variety of useful and inexpensive school supplies from donors such as 3M, Expo, Post-It, Crayola, Scotch, Sharpie, Avery, Papermate, Bic, and more. Essentially, corporations donate overstock to NAEIR, and NAEIR offers it to members for a nominal handling fee.

Personally, I have ordered repeatedly, and, honestly, it has truly become a supply life-saver. Most recently (last night), I splurged on some must-have goodies. A few examples of savings from my past orders include:

6 Post-It BIG pads for $12 ( HUGE savings)

15 Sharpie pens for $3.50

600 College Sports-Themed Index cards for $4.50

1 12×12 Command Dry-Erase wall Tile for $3

2 Expo Dry Erase sets (cleaner and markers) for $8.25

1 Student Expo Student Whiteboard set (2-sided board, 4 markers, and eraser) for $5

48 Post-it Designer notepads for $3

6 Post-It Weekly To-Do Calendars for $1

1200 Scotch Thermal Laminating Pouches $12

Note, the above prices are the handling fees. The products themselves are FREE. Still not sure? Check out the Teaching Supplies Next-to-Nothing Facebook Group to see pictures of fabulous teacher orders. Seeing is believing, my friends.  To join, be sure to register as soon as possible since membership takes a few days to process.

Participate LearningThe continuous learning section of Participate Learning’s site offers educators a place to find new teaching resources and tools (traditional and technology based), to curate them into easy-to-access collections, and to share them with other educators. Users may also use the Chats feature to track and participate in Twitter chats easily, whether live or reading transcripts of past chats. This is a MUST-SEE if you have ever wondered about Twitter chats for learning. Go ahead, search for something you will teach this year by subject, grade, standard, or tags.

Teachers Give Teachers –  This is the homebase for the HyperDoc Girls, who created the HyperDoc Handbook. This site allows teachers to share HyperDocs (interactive Google Docs for learning) on a variety of subject as well as free templates to create your very own for the new school year. Remember, a hyperdoc is more than just links within a document, it allows for student engagement and collaboration for learning.

As you prepare for the upcoming school year, feel free to share your finds (from these sites or your personal favorites) with me in the comments below.

Here’s to New Beginnings…


New beginnings incite mixed feelings for most of us. For some, they entail excitement, spontaneity, and adventure while, for some, anxiety, fear, and stress. In fact, many people detest writing since words do not magically flow onto the page; it is a process, but one well worth the endeavor. As an English Language Arts(ELA) teacher, I feel the pressure of all feelings above. Will these entries be of interest? Will I be under compositional scrutiny just because I teach ELA? Oh, the insecurities that threaten our best efforts! But, regardless of initial feelings, the basic truth is that beginnings bring us opportunity. What we make of said opportunity falls upon our own willingness to try something new, to take the risk, to grow.

This blog begins my venture into sharing my educational experiences (both EdTech and ELA) with a larger audience in hopes of helping others find new ways to learn. Often, I have been met with the questioning brow or skeptical look when technology and English class are combined in the same sentence, as if there is some invisible line drawn between print and digital English classrooms (or any classroom for that matter). Choose a side, they say with taciturn eyes; however, technology is not the opposition. It CAN be blended beautifully into the classroom to improve students’ reading, writing, and analysis skills. You can straddle this imaginary line and learn and grow right along with the students. Scary, I know, but well worth the endeavor.

We must model life-long learning if we expect students to value it as well. So, with all of this in mind, look forward to seeing posts on a wide range of ideas, tools, strategies, and the like as the emphasis is placed on learning with technology and reaching students. Though many examples will be within the realm of ELA, I look forward to reading comments on how you adapt them.