Real-Time Feedback with Google Classroom

The greatest advantage of Google Classroom is the ability to change how students respond to feedback. For years, I have struggled with giving too much feedback on essays. This feedback took hours away from my family. 

Had the students responded to that feedback and improved their writing, I would have felt that the time was well spent. However, this wasn't always true. As soon as the students saw a letter grade, the feedback was meaningless. One solution was to not give letter grades and follow The Throw Out the Grade #ttog movement. I definitely agree with the movement, but I still want to give the students effective feedback that is meaningful, requires them to work and learn, and values everyone's time.

This is where Google Classroom supports teachers and students. On writing days, don't roam the classroom answering questions for the five students who demand your attention. Instead, sit at your desk, open each student's writing via the Google Classroom folder. Then spend class time giving both verbal and written feedback.

The beauty of verbal feedback is that all students can hear the same advice and immediately apply that advice. Sometimes Suggestion Mode in Google Docs is a better choice. For those teachers worried about doing the work for the students, Commenting is a valuable tool.

Students want to learn. Students want to know that they are writers-in-training or, better yet, writers-in-bloom who are valued. By assigning the writing in Google Classroom, the writing is automatically shared with you in an easy-to-use folder. Simply click on the ABOUT section and select the icon next to Google Drive Folder. You can also access the same folder from the Google Classroom Classes page or in your Google DriveClassroom folder .

Today the 8th Grade class had an extra period due to a 7th Grade assembly. My 28 Period 1 English students returned to me at the end of the day. We used that time to complete a feedback writing session. All but one student wrote used evidence from a podcast as inspiration for a historical fiction narrative. Some wrote more than others, but they wrote and their drafts were beautiful.

The following first draft student writing was based on Japanese Internment Camp Childhood podcast from NPR. 


According to the podcast, when was the speaker was evacuated?

The speaker was evacuated on her birthday which was May 13, 1941.
My little sister’s name was Flora. She was a typical American girl expecting to celebrated her 10th birthday on May 13, 1942. She had everything ready for the special day. She had her chocolate cake and ice cream ready. As Flora was putting her cake on the table there was a knock on the door. She walks to the door and opens it. Right there they told them today was the day they had to evacuate. Flora ran to her room with tears falling from her face.


Why was Margie’s mother upset?
Margie’s mother was upset because she said she was a german decent and she didn’t have to go to camp.
While we were on the way, I spot a lady walking, and sobbing. I realized that it was Margie’s mother. My sister walked depressedly to her, and innocently asked her why she was crying. She said that her family wasn’t going to the camp, because she was of German descent but deep inside she is different, while she was talking I saw her tears traveling down to her chin. We walked to the truck where soldiers helped my sister, my mom, and I on. Once I was on, I turned around and saw a hole a big as my face. I saw people with plastic bags getting on trucks. Out of nowhere I saw Margie. She looked scared but as the same time she looked confused.
“Margie!” Flora yelled. She turned and yelled that she will meet us in Pinedale, which was where we were going to go.


According to the podcast, Flora’s friend came to visit her in Pinedale, California. What was the visit like?
Since there was a barbed wire fence they had to hold their hands on opposite sides of the fence each time they met.

Flora was upset since we had to leave our friends and family behind. One day as I was walking down a dirt road I spotted my little sister talking to Margie they were both holding hands on the opposite sides. Flora was in the camp while margie was free their hands were almost touching the blade of the wired fence. I then realised the internment camp and an old rusty barbed wire fence will not end there friendship.


Betty Lou Kerry was the only person who called Flora names. Why did Flora think Betty Lou called her names?
She was jealous because Margie was friends with Flora, and she wanted to be Margie’s friend.
One day Margie and I were playing, and Betty Lou Kerry came and told Margie “Do you want to play with me?”

She told her “I will play with you but only if Flora can go to”.

Betty told her “No she cannot play with me, I would never play with a Jap”.

Margie said, “Then you should just leave, because I don’t do anything without my best friend”.

I wanted to cry because she was being so mean to me. Margie told me, “Don’t cry best friend she is just jealous of you and it is okay don’t let her bother you”.

I am proud of my students' narrative writing drafts. The students were successful because they received immediate feedback while they were writing. I asked them questions, solicited ideas from them, and gave them sentences starters as necessary. Their group members grew confident about their writing and helped struggling students. Students were inspired to write because they didn't have to wait a day (or week) to receive new ideas. As for the one student who didn't work? Well, he gets to work with me. He, too, will bloom as a writer.

Even though I am confident in my teaching ability, I know that I can become a better teacher. I have taught for 15 years, and yet I still search for better ways to give writing feedback. Google Classroom is the tool I use to give real-time feedback. Try it with your students to experience its power.

If you happen to be at the Napa GAFE Summit January 24, please come to Session 8 to learn how to Create Student Writers with Google Classroom.


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