Using Google Docs to Improve Student Writing: Larissa Pahomov at EduCon 2.3

Larissa Pahomov is an English teacher at SLA. She begins by asking what you want your students to learn from your writing assignments. We began with a brainstorming conversation to answer Larissa’s question. Our results: writing for publication, clarity of expression, analysis and synthesis, comprehension.

In 11th grade at SLA, students write a 2Fer, a two-page paper. They work on Google Docs and students craft a short paper with two outside sources and must prove the thesis statement through the quality of their thinking and writing. Throughout the year, students write about 20 2Fers and Larissa finds that students’ editing skills improve with the frequency of writing.

Students work on a template and students comment on others’ works. Larissa finds that some students have a strong editing voice, but she comments as well on the papers. There is an interesting melding and exchange between student editors and the teacher. Class time is given for revision. Follow up assignments often include another medium, like going to Grammar Girl to listen to a podcast, and then make revisions.

Larissa feels that students write more and better because of the student feedback and the live grading, when Larissa enters a document and works live with students in class or via an appointment over the weekend. Students are expected to create self-assessment feedback in the comment section and meet with the teacher and peer editors for a mid-year evaluation.

What I like about this approach is manifold. The system is organized, with editing drafts, a single rubric and template for the entire year, the same format for the year, and same expectations for excellence. From Larissa’s presentation, I have learned that her students set their own goals and add them to Google docs at the top of their document, so they are reminded to check if they are meeting goals.

How public can a student go? Larissa says that students share with peer editors and her, but have not gone beyond to sharing out to SLA student body. Ongoing questions that continue to drive the process of the 2Fer are under review and revision at SLA.

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