A few weeks ago my awesome co-teacher blogged about how we're using google docs to take anecdotal records this year in writing workshop. Since there are three of us in the classroom for writing conferences she set up a spread sheet in google docs where each child has his/her very own page. When we're conferencing with a child we just click on their name and fill out what we observed them doing, our specific teaching point, and how we'll follow up with them on their writing. This keeps us all on the same page- all the teachers in the room know whose had a conference, what they focused on, and what the next step is for that writer.
For instance, if I come up to Sammie whose working diligently on a very nice story with a beginning, middle, and end about how 3 bears ate his mother, I might sit down and focus on the fact that yes, he is working on writing a story on a single topic. Without google docs I may just head on with my own ideas for what I want Sammie to do next. But because we're using google docs I immediately click on Sammie's name and find that he's been writing stories about the 3 bears eating his mother for a week now. He's already had a conference with another teacher about finding a new topic and she wanted to follow up with Sammie to make sure he'd independently find a new topic. Now that I've read her notes, I know that Sammie is not meeting that goal. I remind Sammie of what he'd already been told, and promise him that one of us would be checking to see if he could find a new topic. I go to the next student, leaving Sammie to look speciously at the three of us, wondering if our brains are somehow connected.
They are, my friend, they so are. And you don't even know the extent of it.
Today I sat down to conference with a few friends who'd been having some struggles in writing workshop. I logged into google docs and started my conference. I was quickly amazed and excited by what was happening at my table. The kids were working hard- on exactly what we wanted them to be working on. They were using what we'd taught them- we were seeing progress- those first wobbly baby steps that indicate yes, even if they were spinning in circles on the rug, they were also paying attention. They are learning. We are not talking to ourselves. I excitedly listened to my friend tell me a story about how his little sister shared M&Ms with him (I said they were telling stories on one topic. I did not say the stories were Pulitzers...) and how he exclaimed, "OH MY GOODNESS!" when he saw his sister had TWO M&Ms. I wanted to tell my co-teachers about his awesome work, but since they were working hard in their own writing groups I couldn't be rude and interrupt all that good learning....
google docs has a chat feature.
I quickly typed what I was noticing, and soon heard back with a great idea and a question. We kept up brainstorming ideas for the different children we were working with while we were conferencing with them. Ideas flew, brains exploded with ideas, and our conferences rocked. We rocked. Our writers rocked. We were collaborating in real-time while teaching- without distracting from the kids' train of thought because they had no idea what we were doing.
It was beautiful.