Improve Feedback & Student Work in Google Classroom with the Blank Doc

Thursday, December 10, 201512:09 PM

Google Classroom is a powerful tool to help teachers assign and provide feedback to student. For me, using Google Apps to help communicate about student progress and organize work and workflow is a huge time saver and stress reducer. Instead of leaving school with 75 essays, papers or project--plus rubrics--I now have a nearly paperless classroom where all of my students’ learning is online. Now it’s organized and documented, ready to be shared, with a higher expectation of accountability and communication. And I love it.

But effective educational technology should do more than substitute or augment the way we used to do things; it should transform our teaching and learning. Google Classroom is a great tool to help teachers manage this transformation because it seamlessly organizes and shares work for us, taking care of the managerial aspects of teaching and grading. Now we can focus on doing this differently, all with the help of the blank document.

For more about doing things different with Google Classroom, take a look at all of my posts on Classroom here. Some of the more recent articles include Google Classroom Calendar Integration, Managing Late Work, and Responding to Student Writing.

Making Summative Formative

All of the work in my classes goes on Google Classroom---EVERYTHING. This helps my students and me stay organized, with a clear and consistent understanding of class goals, content, and work. When I started using Classroom, though, most of the assignments I posted were summative in nature, i.e final products--essays, paragraphs, etc. I intended to read them, provide feedback, and a grade, and then return them to students. Sometimes students could or would revise their work, but often after it was submitted, the work was done. I would offer help in progress, mostly when it was asked for, but the formative worked and growth belonged to the student, closed off in their notebooks or on flash drives. 

But with Classroom, the work never needs to be done and feedback can always be formative, pushing students to improve. With the right assignment settings, teachers are able to view and comment on all student work in Classroom, so we know where students are BEFORE the work is submitted. Instead of waiting for student to submit work that then needs revision, teachers can proactively intervene, offer feedback, and allow students to revise the work in progress. When my students submit work in Classroom, it had better be good because we have discussed it online, and students have revised before ever hitting the turn in button.

And it’s all because of the blank document.

The Blank Document in Google Classroom

Whenever I create an assignment in Google Classroom, I always make a copy of a document for my students. When the assignment involves questions or any worksheet-type assignments, this is standard practice for most teachers. But when the assignment involves students creating their own work--an essay or original piece of writing--I also make a copy of a document. But this time it’s blank.

When teachers assign a blank document to students to write in, they always have access it it for viewing and commenting. Now teachers can review student work in progress at any time rather than waiting for students to turn in, share, or ask for help. If a student adds a document from their own Drive, which was not assigned and copied by the teacher in Classroom, it is not shared by default.


Thanks to the readers who reached out to let me know that students can create documents in Classroom that automatically have the same sharing rights. Having students create the doc is the better strategy to build independent learners, and if you navigate the work through Classroom, it's easy to access them all. The original post and workflow are below, but keep this change in mind as an option for your students.

My Workflow

  1. Create an assignment and add a blank document. Assign it, making a copy for all students. 
  2. In Classroom, instruct students to complete their work in this doc--brainstorms, formative, summative, or anything else. It all goes here.
  3. While students are working, open up students’ work from Classroom. Students might ask me to look, I might open docs at random, or sometimes I open them all. Often I do this in class while they are working and provide feedback right there. 
As long as you make a copy of the doc in classroom, you have rights to it all. If students are writing in class, you can now preview and comment on them all. Sometimes this means specific feedback for a handful of students and other times it’s quick comments for them all. With the blank doc, I know where students are all the time and can provide the feedback to get them to where they need to be before the writing is ever done or turned in, and all of the work is better for it.

The Power of the Blank Doc

A blank doc is a blank canvas for student learning. Sometimes, students need more instruction or context or a more focused activity to demonstrate knowledge and learning. Either way, making a copy of the doc in Classroom allows for improved feedback to improve student achievement and success. Face-to-face interaction with students is essential but with this strategy, I know more about my students’ progress as individuals and as a class than ever before. Technology allows us to do things differently. When different can also do it better, we should let it. The blank doc is one tool for your edtech tool belt to reach students with more ease and efficiency than ever before.

Do you use the blank doc strategy? What’s your #GAFE trick for improving feedback or achievement? Comment below or share on Twitter.

You Might Also Like