Simple Student Collaboration on Google Docs

In my first post, I discussed an easy way to get your class started with google docs.  Once they get the hang of logging in and creating documents, the next step is to start collaborating on projects.

For example, my third grade class recently started a new unit on performing arts, and we wanted to kick it off with an assembly performance.   We decided to take that story of “Hansel and Gretel” and create an original script that would tell the story with acting, puppets, and kamishibai (a Japanese form of storytelling).

We only had a few days to get ready, however, so the script needed to be written quickly.  I gathered the class, turned on my computer’s projector, opened up our class google drive account, and created a document called “Hansel and Gretel script.”  After we mapped out the scenes, I modeled script writing for a few minutes and took volunteers to write each scene as homework that night.  At the end of the school day, the document looked like this:

Right after school I left to coach a basketball game.  I got back later that evening, and when I glanced at the document, it was a fully written five page script.

This is the script after a few more edits.

The best part, however, was when the students went home they had seen each other writing the different scenes on the doc.  Even the students who didn’t volunteer to write peeked to see what was going on.  The next morning, as soon as they came to school, everyone was talking about the script.  Some students had noticed inconsistencies between scenes.  Others had ideas about how to make parts better.  There were a few laptops lying around the classroom, and right away the students picked them up and started working together to make the script stronger.  We went through a few more edits with the main writers and were able to focus on preparing for the performance (which went well, thanks!).

I’ve been a fan of google docs for a long time, and even I was surprised how effective it was in getting students to collaborate together on writing.  I encourage all teachers to give it a try.



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3 Responses to Simple Student Collaboration on Google Docs

  1. Adam says:

    Hi Jeff – This sounds like a huge success. Why do you think the students responded with such keen interest to this approach?

  2. Alex Tejero says:

    Hi Jeff, I’ve been researching how to use google docs in my 5th grade classroom for collaborative projects. My biggest concern is that without the students signing in, how would their work be tracked. Yes, they can sign their name next to their work, but if a student want to be inappropriate and stay anonymous, how would they be tracked? Is there anyway to have students login to google docs with their own account but without email?

    Thanks for your great post,

    Alex Tejero

    • Jeff Lewis says:

      Hi, Alex, unfortunately, with this method, there’s no way to keep track of who is typing what. Some lessons on digital citizenship might preempt problems though.

      If your school becomes a “google apps” school, then you would be able to track who is doing what, but that decision’s probably out of your hands.

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