You are crouched down next to one of your students. You have already asked the probing questions to help you figure out what that writer is working on. On the spot, you quickly decided on one teaching point that would help that student move along the literacy continuum. You worked with her, modeling and demonstrating until she felt comfortable enough to try it on her own. You whispered, “Now, off you go! Remember to keep up this important work!” You stand up, elated. You have just completed the best conference of your career!
Now what? You look around your classroom at 29 other writers who need that same kind of support. How will you remember what just happened? How will you keep track of that work?
One of the most challenging aspects of conferring with students is how to keep track of your assessment and teaching. Classroom time is valuable and if we are using that time to confer, we want to make sure that it is as productive as possible!
Why do we take notes on conferring? For many reasons…
- To keep track of student growth
- To keep track of your teaching points with students
- To set goals with students
- To refer to when lesson planning for whole or small group
Note-taking is very personal. Everyone has a specific way to take notes that is meaningful to them. You must decide on an organizational strategy that will work best for you. Some teachers prefer pencil and paper notes kept in a notebook or a binder. Others prefer keeping notes digitally. In a previous post, I wrote about how to use Evernote as one digital option. This post will discuss how to keep notes with Google Forms.
Google Forms is free, very easy to use, and can give you summary data as well as individual data. When setting up your form, you will want to consider what your goals might be. You can choose based on the unit, or you can make it more generic for overall writing goals.
One of the great things about using Google Forms for conference notes is that you can have a list of things that you are looking for as you work with your writers. This can help you focus your instruction. And again, this list can change as your unit changes and as your goal for students change!
To create a form like this one you need to sign up for a Google account. To do that, you just go to Google.com and click Sign In, which is located in the top, right hand corner. From there, you can click on Create Account and follow those directions.
Once you have a Google account, you can use all of the free Google apps, such as Docs, Presentation, Sheets and Forms.
If you would like to see a step by step guide on how to create a Google Form for conferencing, here is a short video on how I did it.
After I email myself the form, I can open it up on my phone or my iPad and click the icon for Add to Homescreen as shown in the picture below. Once it’s on your homescreen, your form will be very accessible to use and reuse as you work your way around the room during conferences.
Analyzing the Data
Google forms makes it easy to see how your students did as a whole group – which is very helpful for strategy groups and lesson planning. To do that, you can simply click on “Responses” at the top of the form. It will give you some nice bar graphs so you can see visually what your writers are doing.
But, it can also be used to keep track of how your students did individually! To do this, you can click on the Individual option on the Summary of Responses page. These can even be printed off and put in a binder if you wanted a hard copy!
Google apps can be very helpful when trying to organize notes for your conferences. And there are many ways you can set this up! These were only a few examples. Let us know how you record student conference notes in the comments below!