This year I have been focusing on using technology to help my 3rd grade inclusion students access grade level content and to be able to create their own work in a way that is both accessible and meaningful for them. We started small, letting students use Google docs to type their writing in order to help with typing skills and the readability of their work. This allowed them to make the font larger, apply high contrast backgrounds, and most importantly, edit their work quickly and neatly. Using a Google Doc also allowed me and other teachers to go into their writing and give them real time feedback. I noticed that it was particularly helpful for me to highlight the exact parts of their writing that needed edits.
Extra Tools in Google Docs
Once the students understood the basics of how to use Google Docs and how to share their work, I was able to teach a few of my students who are working to master phonics skills, to use the speech to text feature. This seemingly simple tool was freeing for so many of the students who have amazing ideas for their writing, but get caught up in the logistics of spelling words. Students would often spend the entire writing block working on one paragraph or a few sentences because spelling the words was labor intensive for them. Once they had taken the time to write the word, they had forgotten their idea and the rest of the sentence. Students use the speech to text feature, edit their work, and then print their document to turn in with the rest of the class’s handwritten assignments. The students were completely engaged with their writing, and were amazed to see themselves filling an entire page with their words.
Moving Toward Google Classroom
In the weeks since we started using the Google platform to help students access content in the area of writing we have continued to learn as both teachers and students. We have created a Google Classroom where we are posting writing assignments. This has meant that we can go in and look at students work without them having to share the doc with us, which saves time. It also keeps all of the writing organized. We have also been able to move from using the comments in the doc as encouragement, to really putting in some substantial edits and individual goals for students. My favorite was hearing about how excited the students were to see that I had “popped into their writing” and was able to give them feedback from home on a day I was not in their classroom.
From here I hope to shift more of their work into Google Classrooms. I will most likely start by uploading their guided reading books so they can use the Google Read and Write tool to troubleshoot words and definitions, practice their fluency, as well as annotate what they are reading.
It’s hard to tell who is more excited about using this in our classroom, me or them!