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Using Google Docs to Enhance Being a Writer

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I was doing learning walks several weeks ago in an Albemarle County Elementary School. As a part of the walks we were visiting the fifth-grade classrooms during writing instruction. I must share what I experienced during my visit to Mrs. Grogan’s classroom.

I walked in and immediately noticed that children all over the room were working on laptops. As I had been doing in the other rooms, I first went to some of the students and asked, “What are you all working on right now?” One young man, Carter, took the lead and shared that they were working on fiction stories using their Google Docs accounts. I asked him to tell me a little more. He quickly shared his computer screen with me and told me he was writing a trilogy about survival. The first book is titled, Journey to the Center of Craft.

Google doc manuscript of Journey to the Center of Craft

I asked him questions to further explore their use of Google Docs as students. Carter said, “I kinda like the fact that you can do things at home and at school.” He also really appreciated being able to use the computer to draft and write his pieces. “I’ve never liked writing because I write slow,” he told me, “but I am such a fast typist because I like video games.”

What intrigued me most were the the opportunities for peer conferring and publishing that Google Docs allowed for this group of students. Carter told me that he had already shared his piece with several friends just because they really liked reading his other stories. He confided, “If I didn’t really trust them too much, they weren’t able to edit.” But Carter also intentionally shared his piece with friends in his classroom and other schools to get feedback, as you can see below. Ben is a neighborhood friend who attends a private school.

Google doc comment feedback

Isabel McLean is a Lead Instructional Coach in Albemarle County, VA. She presents keynotes, workshops, presentations, and professional development for teachers, literacy coaches, and administrators across the country. Previously Isabel worked as a national educational consultant for DSC, served as the Director of Elementary Education for a small rural school district in Virginia, and as an instructional coordinator for an inner-city school in Charlottesville, VA. Her role in both school environments was to coordinate curriculum and to provide focused, high quality professional development for teachers. Isabel has also been a middle school literacy teacher and a teacher of at-risk students in grades 1-4. Finally, Isabel served as an adjunct instructor at the University of Virginia, James Madison University, and Longwood College.

Isabel holds her Ph.D. from the University of Virginia. Her doctorate examined gender and literacy acquisition in emergent readers and writers. She has presented at local, state, and national conferences and worked with schools across the country as an independent consultant. Isabel has authored several articles and been published in the National Reading Conference Yearbook. She also trained as a Reading Recovery teacher.

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