Saturday, June 7, 2014

Using Google Sheets as a Paper Organizer

Greetings! We know our Tech Tips have been somewhat scarce this year -- but we are looking forward to having the time to publish more of them, during the upcoming school year. In the meantime, here's one for June...

 In yesterday's professional development session for content area teachers, one of the ideas discussed was the use of Google Sheets as an organizer. This has a lot of potential and, for those who are interested, we have included a link to one which I have been using for the past couple years. Why use a Google Sheet as a graphic organizer? It has a number of benefits, including:

  • real-time collaboration and feedback 
  • the ability to sort details according to their use in the paper 
  • the ability to limit the view, so a student only sees the details for one section / paragraph at a time.
Here is the basic sheet I use: 

In this shot, you can see some of the key features -- I have color-coded areas up top for the thesis / topic statement, followed by a second area where a student can list the subtopics -- categories for sections of their paper, or paragraphs.  Each comes with a pre-set abbreviation (a simple letter, from A to E.).

The next section is where kids enter their information for the paper, with columns for source information, quotes / details and their importance, and a checklist box for them to use as they move details into their paper.  The category column - color coded to match the the topic area above - is where students will indicate which section each detail fits.

Here's an example from a literary analysis paper (where there is no "source number" column, because they only use one source...

The student had brainstormed a series of subtopics for her paper...

... and then used these categories as she entered details into her spreadsheet.  Each detail is now coded according to the categories she had brainstormed.

Once she had entered all her details, 
she could then sort them, using a pull-down menu at the header for each column.  She can simply sort by category, or choose a particular section to view.  This allows her to focus on one paper of a time.

Once she has everything entered and sorted, she can paste her information into a document or organizer, to begin the formal writing process.

Another benefit to the spreadsheet format is the ability to insert a sheet which contains specific instructions for students, regarding how to use the spreadsheet.  Here is the one I include with the organizer.
Note that I color-coded specific instructions to match sections of the organizer - the thesis area is yellow, the category section is pale tan, etc.  This makes it easier for students to follow the directions.

Another benefit to spreadsheets is the ability to use the "insert comment" feature to create scroll-over hints / instructions within the sheet itself.

On the organizer, I include tips above several of the columns -- you can see where the tips are, by looking for the little orange triangles in the corner of a cell.

Once you have your master copy set up for student use, just place it in a shared folder, and set the sharing settings to "anyone can view" -- this way, your students can make copies of it for their own use, without affecting your master copy.

Want to experiment with it?  Feel free to access my master document, make a copy, and play around with it.  Drop me a note if you have any questions, or want to see it in action!

Happy June, everyone, and enjoy some well-earned relaxation over the summer!


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