Using Google Docs has changed what writing looks like in my classroom. It has been the “game changer” for me. On the surface, Google Docs provides me with the most convenient way to manage all of the writing my students do. Looking deeper, the collaborative features enhances most student’s writing. Students tend to enjoy writing better when they can collaborate with their friends in and out of our classroom and even get feedback and ideas from students in other schools, districts and occasionally a professional writer or expert on a topic. This is why I was excited to see the Suggested Edits feature from Google. In the past, when I would give feedback to students about their writing, I could do one of two things.
1. Delete what they wrote and rewrite it. Typically, I would change the color of the font so the author knew where I changed something. I taught my students how to go back through the Revision History and see what was changed if needed. 2. I would highlight a portion of the text and add a comment with my ideas/thoughts/corrections. Students could then make the correction themselves and resolve the comment. They could access all of the resolved comments through the Comments button.
Both of these worked for me and my students. It required some modeling, required a bit of independence to go back and reflect on the revisions, and was effective for most students. It was, though, a little bit cumbersome – having to change the color of font and having to go back through the Revision History to make sure students made corrections and didn’t just click resolve, but it still improved student writing and they very much enjoyed using GDocs instead of Microsoft Word.
Suggested Edits is a newer GDoc feature. This feature does not actually change the document, but it provides guidance for the student’s writing. To use this feature, you first need to change to Suggested Editing mode. When you access the document you want to edit/revise, click the Editing button under Comments/Share buttons in the upper right hand corner.
Choose “Suggesting” and the Editing button will turn green. As you make “corrections”, GDocs strikes through the current writing and inserts your suggestion before it. Students will see your suggestion in the margin and will be able to choose whether or not they want to accept the change or reject the change.
When students are writing, we want them to be able to make decisions about their writing – we want them to feel like authors. Authors take suggestions from their editors, their peers, other authors, their families – they take suggestions – they have the final say in what gets published. We don’t just want to tell our students how to make it better, we want them to reflect on the feedback and make good decisions about how to make it better.