Are you frustrated about not having enough time in your reading workshop?
Would you like to gain 18 hours in your reading workshop and be better prepared for your reading conferences?
Wednesdays drove me crazy during the first half of the school year. I love Wednesday, and I was frustrated every Wednesday. Did you know there are 36 Wednesdays in a school year?
As a class, we all loved Wednesday, because the students in my fifth-grade classroom knew that there was a specified time on Wednesday for Status of the Class, a weekly check-in with me about their reading. They shared the title of their book and the page number they were on. In addition, they shared their weekly reading goal with me as I walked around the room checking to see if they had met it. I gathered all this information on a form on my clipboard and used a marking system to indicate whether they had met their goal, were making progress toward the goal, or needed a conference. This process was crucial to my workshop, but it wasn’t working for me.
I was frustrated every Wednesday because I never had enough time to confer with 24 students. I had already lost 30 of my 50 minutes taking the weekly status. I am constantly searching for a better way to manage my workflow and an easier way to organize my informal assessment data like the status sheets.
As I reflected on time management and workflow, I decided I would transition from using paper charts for my status and goals to digital records, using Google Forms. Another issue for any teacher is access to the information. Google Forms display linear growth from August to June in one location. The access to this information can be shared easily with parents and any instructional support teacher who works with a student. Google is free and works with PC and Macs. (That is crucial because my student population is split pretty evenly between Macs and PCs at home.) Students need to be able to access their documents and forms on any device, including their iPhones, iPads, laptops, or desk computers, and Google Drive is readily accessible from any device.
Transition to Google Docs
I created an online status-of-the-class form that my students complete every Tuesday night for homework. I request additional information that helps me know my readers better. Completing the form is easy for students because of the pull-down options. I now include the following:
- Date begun/finished
- Current page number/how many pages in the whole book
- Book difficulty—easy, just right, or challenging
- Fiction, nonfiction, poetry
- If it is fiction which type (pull down six choices)
Reading Goals: I wanted the opportunity for an online conversation that could extend our school day 24/7. I started with a blank Google document, but it got too long and the linear format didn’t work. I finally decided to add the goals to the status form by adding a column. The form was much better because the students set their goals based on their book and the two paired nicely together. I now know when I walk into school on Wednesday who I need to confer with that day. With these changes I gained 30 minutes of instructional time each week.
Because I am able to access my student’s information from home on Tuesday evening, I make a list of who needs a conference on Wednesday. I don’t always have to meet with every student because I am able to “talk” with students through the Google documents. Typically I have five to seven virtual conferences on Tuesday night. Asking a few clarifying questions and having my students respond instantly clears the schedule for those students with whom I need to talk face-to-face on Wednesday.
We teach for 180 days a school year, 36 of which are Wednesdays. I save 30 minutes each week, which is a total of 18 additional instructional hours a year. Before Google, I gathered all my information on paper and had to process it quickly so that I could immediately begin conferences. Getting back 18 hours is a gift that has taken my focus off managing paper and put it back on building lifelong readers in my classroom.