My Workflow for Responding to Student Writing Part 1

Thursday, August 13, 20152:51 PM

For work that is intended to be read by the teacher, Google Classroom is the go-to in my classroom. Classroom can’t do it all: it’s not an LMS, it isn’t great for class discussions, and it doesn’t integrate multimedia as well as Google Communities, but for student-to-teacher workflow, it’s perfect. 

In this post, I will walk you through my workflow in assigning, creating, and previewing student writing through Google Classroom. I'll follow up next week about giving feedback and grades. I certainly didn’t invent these strategies--read all about some of them at Alice Keeler’s blog and her post here, but I like the idea of writing about my take. My plan is to share this with teachers in my building this year, but please borrow, adapt--or even better, make suggestions or improvements!

Naming Conventions

Again, this one is from Alice Keeler’s blog. She’s spot on when she advises naming assignments starting with a 3-digit number. This is a great idea for a few reasons. 

  • It provides an easy and effective common language to discuss assignments. When a student asks about a project from two months ago, it’s so much easier to say CR 004 instead of “that Martin Luther King paper” and be able to find the information quickly.
  • In my gradebook (Infinite Campus), I can simply name the assignment CR 001; this naming convention matches to Classroom Assignment 001 without any further effort.
  • Classroom assignments create folders in Google Drive, which are alphabetized by assignment name. When you view this, numeric naming makes it so much easier since they will now be in chronological order. 
Viewing the Classroom folder through Google Drive

Assigning Work

Now that we have the naming out the way, let’s work on creating an assignment. I like adding some detail to the description of the assignment, including any relevant links or resources. Here are the options and when I use them.

Students can view file.

I reserve this option almost entirely for directions or models. Most of the time, I want students to edit or copy the docs.

Students can edit file. 

This doesn’t really happen in my classroom. I’ll often have students create docs and collaborate, but it’s rare that I want all 25ish students working in the same doc. If you have a strong purpose for this, make sure to provide clear procedures and expectations to avoid the confusion of mass editing.

Make a copy for each student. 

This is usually my go-to option. Either, I am providing an activity for students that they need a template or copy of, or more like, I am providing a blank document.

The Blank Document

Here’s the power of the blank document: If you create the doc and assign it to students, you can always view it. No matter the assignment, that becomes my students’ note taking page, process work, and eventually their products. I can give comments on brainstorms, feedback on essays in process, and suggest edits, all before the work is submitted and without having to worry about sharing rights or links.

Instead of students submitting problematic work when it’s due, I can anticipate problems, provide formative feedback, and help students do better before the problems even arise. My students send me a message on Hangouts and ask me to take a look, or I’ll often scroll through all of my students’ work in progress on major assignments. I open up half a dozen docs at a time and use the CNTRL + TAB keyboard shortcut to scroll through. Then, I exit out of each doc with CNTRL + W. The shortcuts add up and really do save me time.

If students aren’t ready for me to provide feedback or are not yet comfortable with me viewing their work in progress or brainstorms, they know they can create a new document. I don’t force my way into their private formative and process work but make it my default option. Students who do opt out, however, need to be more active in asking for help, guidance, and feedback when necessary.

I have the freedom to look at this work either through Classroom or the Classroom folder in Google Drive. I can also open a preview in Drive and scroll through quickly to see the big picture. I tend to prefer to keep it all in Classroom, but the choice is yours and the workflow remains the same--do what works for you.

Make the Choices That Work For You

There are so many ways to navigate Drive and Classroom, and so many different strategies to get organized and manage and respond to student work. My general rule is that I only read work that is turned in (that students have clicked the turn in button to submit). If you make blank documents or templates for students, you can view unfinished and finished work, whether or not students turn them in. I won’t evaluate work until they officially turn it in, but that’s just me.

Consider the options, find the strategies that work for you and your students, and be consistent with high expectations. And don’t be afraid to try something new.

Next Time…

We’ve explored creating assignments but now we need to evaluate them. In the next Classroom Workflow post, we’ll explore previewing work, commenting in text, summative whole class comments, and using Doctopus to score writing with rubrics.

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  1. Thanks for sharing, Adam. I title folders with descriptors (e.g. "Article Poem") and then have students title their docs "Last Name Assignment" (e.g. "Arcand Article Poem"). This way I can easily find entire assignments and/or everything by a student. Looking forward to reading Part 2!

    1. Thanks! You can find part 2 at

      I like the descriptors but use the numbers, too. Having the shorthand is really helpful in my experience.

      Thanks for the comment!!