Digital Writing Conferences with Google Docs

So, I think I mentioned in a recent post how our district signed us up for Google accounts (in Color-Coding Google Docs Folders). 

And by "us" I mean ALL of us...including our students!

This is great for so many reasons, one of which I'd like to share today.

My 5th grade classes has been working hard on drafting their memoirs. And you know how it goes as you get closer to the end of a big writing piece...those conferences become really important.

I hope I'm not alone in saying this, but I find it really hard to get to everyone as much as I would like. It's like I need five of me to conference.

And that where Google Docs comes in!

Thanks to the sharing feature, my students are able to work on their memoir drafts, share with me, and I can write notes back to them...providing a conference digitally, even if I don't get to see a particular student that day.

And it's very easy to do (which is always a relief to hear, right?)

Students work on their writing piece on their Google account:
Once finished, students share the document with me:
Any shared docs get sent right to my mailbox, so I can see which of my students are ready for my input. 

Then, at home (in the bliss of my fleecy pajamas!) I can write notes for that very important conference, even if we didn't meet that day:
My students go back the next day and work on the checklist, then erase any notes I left them. I always use a colored font, so it will stand out easily.

And that's it!

My 5th graders love this ("Did you see my memoir?" "Did you write to me??") and I LOVE that I can touch base with them, even if I didn't get to in Writer's Workshop that day.

Do your students have access to Google accounts? Do you have ideas for student docs to share with us?

Thanks so much for stopping by!

ETA! Thanks to the wonderful Barbara from Fourth and Goal in Fourth Grade, I learned you can use the comment feature in the top, right-hand side of the Google Doc to comment on highlighted sections of the document...SO much better:
Once the students have addressed the comment, they can click Resolved and the paragraph will no longer be highlighted and the comment will be taken off the side. Thank you Barbara!!

Thanks for all of the comments...I love how we can all learn so much from each other :) :)


  1. Wow! I love it! I teach 3rd grade, and our district has also "gone Google", but they aren't being demanding about it. They haven't even announced all of our students have the accounts! I know because I'm persistent. But I haven't used them yet. I'm not sure how to start. Any suggestions?? Thanks!

    1. Hi Jamie,

      I definitely get that persistent thing when it comes to the tech :)

      I just started off small. We went over the layout of Google Docs on the computer projector together. Then the kids used a poem they had written on paper and typed it up for their first document. You know how they are, they pick up anything techy really easily so this is phase two for us...drafting and revising on the docs.

      I hope this is of help, please let me know if I can answer anything else and I will try!

  2. We just started doing this in my classroom a week or two ago. I love it and so do the kids! I learned the hard way that I couldn't make a power point for them to fill out on their own. They freaked out when everything started moving on their pages and they weren't typing! They learned how to make their own power points that very moment. The first project we did was just to have them write to me and tell me what they were doing for Thanksgiving. That helped work out the bugs. Do you not write your comments in the comment box on the side?

    1. No! I didn't even notice the comment box, honestly--how perfect!! Do you mind if I update this post to show that, thanking you of course.

      Thanks so much Barbara!

  3. Brilliant. All of the students in my district got Google accounts this year. I haven't jumped into them too much because I'm still learning how use Drive myself. This definitely piqued my interest. Thank you for sharing!
    Rockin' and Lovin' Learnin'

  4. I am new to this and always seem to forget to put my name on. One of these days I'll remember!

  5. (Grrr… I had typed a long reply right after you posted from my phone and it didn't actually go through…) So ANYway… ;-)
    I LOVE doing this with my THIRD graders! They now draft their writing on google docs and I make comments as well as their writing partner. We use the comment box up in the corner OR if you right click with your cursor in the spot of the the writing that you want to talk about it will highlight that text when the student opens it.
    When the student opens their writing they can see that they have a comment and which part of their work you are talking about. The comment box asks them to click resolve or reply which is nice because then I get an email knowing they saw it. (At least that's the way my settings are.) This is great because then you have a digital record of the things you covered with that student when you "conferenced."
    There are so many great features in google docs that I'm still learning about! Thanks for sharing your tip about the colored folders too! That was a big help in trying to stay organized! I made colored folders for days of the week groups so I could make sure I was commenting on everyone more regularly. :-)

  6. Yes, we all have Google accounts in my school as well. The kids love sharing with each other, so it's also awesome for peer editing. We highlight the part that we have a comment about, and then the student can click it as resolved. As a teacher, it's also nice to use the comments feature because I can also look at the feedback that they give (or don't give) each other. I can chime in on someone else's "Hi" or other random comment, so they can see that I can see what they write to each other ;) I also like that I don't have to take stacks of papers home to check (a big no-no in my book) and that it's green since they're not handing in paper.

  7. We do not use Google docs, but it sounds like we should.This is something I will share wil our medis tech.

  8. My school has Google too. For Science Fair, I decided to have my students' work all under our Class' Google Account that I created. All their documents are in the same folder and it makes my life SO much easier :) My students LOVE Google Docs too. Do you have a typing practice website you use to help your kids practice their typing skills?

  9. There are so many ways to use Google Docs... my 5th graders are really enjoying Forms.. I love them because the answers all return to me in a spread sheet and I can easily see who needs reteaching, who understood, and who took things a step farther! Glad to see them working for you.


  10. I love you! I've been using this for the past year and am always so excited to hear how other teachers are doing it as well. I love the color-coding (of course). Last week I commented on a student's writing while moving from one conference to another. It was so cute to catch her eye and have her wink in acknowledgement before I was able to get to her. It's like little breadcrumbs.

  11. LOVE this idea! Our students do not have google accounts, but I will definitely be checking into this. I teach 4th grade in Texas, and our students take a standardized test for writing in 4th. I can see great things happening with this! Thank you so much for sharing!! :)

  12. Our district went Google about three years ago, and our PTA has done two major fundraisers to get a classroom set of Chrome Books. Needless to say, I'm STOKED to start using Google Drive more often! My students blog about their weekly reading (like a reading letter from The Book Whisperer), but we use KidBlog. I love the idea of doing writing workshop conferences online!

  13. Our district went Google about three years ago, and our PTA has done two major fundraisers to get a classroom set of Chrome Books. Needless to say, I'm STOKED to start using Google Drive more often! My students blog about their weekly reading (like a reading letter from The Book Whisperer), but we use KidBlog. I love the idea of doing writing workshop conferences online!

  14. My district is going "Google" so I love these tutorials! I have shared this post with my team. If you have any more to share about Google, I would love it!

  15. I loved reading about this. As an educator, I am so excited by all that can be done through Google in terms of staff collaboration and in terms of enhancing student learning. I am particularly excited about its potential as a feedback mechanism as it is so immediate and 'live' and so personal. I have also been using it in reading conferences - see my blog post about it here:

    I referenced this post as a great example of how it was being used for writing.


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