Spreadsheets and Pandemic Teaching

Any time at all, all you gotta do is call

Back in the days where conferences were in full bloom, I attended one of my favorites, Innovation Institute in Springdale, Arkansas, where I was also presenting. The keynote that year was Alice Keeler, and I also attended one of her sessions on Google Sheets. Yes, she is the Queen of Sheets, and for all of you English teachers out there, my content brothers and sisters, I know it seems weird to use spreadsheets in the English classroom, but you should. Here are a few ways I use spreadsheets that can be done whether you are teaching virtual or face to face in this year of craziness and uncertainty.

Goal Setting

And I’ll be there

There are some things English teachers have in common, regardless of where we teach. Vocabulary, literary analysis, and writing are what we do daily, weekly, or at least at some point. I also present social emotional learning strategies in my Train Like A Navy SEAL program, based on the big four emotional skills that the Navy embeds into their SEAL training. One of those big four is goal setting, and it is an easy one to transition into academics.

If the sun has faded away

When I first started goal setting academically with my students, we focused solely on vocabulary. Using the Fast and the Curious Eduprotocol by Jon Corippa and Marlena Hebern, we do one to four formatives a week, typically starting on Monday and using Quizizz. We start the class period with the Quizizz over the current vocabulary, but before beginning that, students create a spreadsheet (works with Google Sheets or Microsoft Excel) that includes the unit name, goal, four formatives, and then the test or quiz score. We set the goal prior to beginning the unit or set of words for the week based off of the research done by John Hattie and his self reported grades, which consistently rank high among influences on student achievement. The key here is for you, the teacher, to know what the goals are that your students set and then encourage them to beat that goal.

See the Glossary of Hattie’s Influences on Student Achievement to learn more.

I’ll try to make it shine

Thursdays are the days we celebrate all who have increased their accuracy by 20 percent or more by high fives (air high fives for virtual pandemic teaching) and cheers. This year, I’ve expanded it to include their grammar, writing, and literary analysis. We set goals, chart formatives, and then chart test scores. Students submit links to their spreadsheets via Google Classroom, and I then collect those links into a Wakelet, making it easy to spot check them and see their progress or lack of progress toward their goals. Here’s an exemplary sheet from one of my students. We have just begun charting the goals beyond vocabulary.

This student used color to separate the types of units we chart, and then she inserts a new row under each last row in a section to keep it going.

There is nothing I won’t do

You could also include reading goals, if that is something you focus on in your curriculum. If you aren’t teaching English, you are still teaching content that can include goal setting, and students benefit academically and social emotionally when you teach them to do this.

Forms & Spreadsheets for grading

When you need a shoulder to cry on

My sophomores blog weekly using their choice of Wakelet, Adobe Spark Post, or Google Sites. For me to ensure they are keeping up with their blogging, I organized it all using Google Classroom as the blogging hub. For more on that, here’s my post that details how this works. Even with this, for me to check that they have written their weekly post, I have to do a lot of clicking, opening websites, closing tabs, and so on. I am sure you have felt this pain as well. Enter Alice Keeler. Saving teachers time is key in a lot of what Alice talks about, and this tip hit home. If I create a Google or Microsoft Form for students to copy their post into each week when it is assigned, I can then open one spreadsheet to see their posts. One click. One tab. Wow. Alice also suggests using a shared spreadsheet (it can be the same one) that has a column for you to provide feedback to each student, making it efficient and timely for all. Another bonus here is that if the student suddenly loses a blog post due to a technical glitch or user error, you have the backup copy on your spreadsheet. Here’s how it might look in Google Classroom. Note that doing this does not ensure all students get it turned in by the due date. Magic it is, but magic turn in wand it is not.

Students blog on their own sites, then they copy and paste it into the form that is attached to the blog assignment. I attach the feedback rubric as well to assist students in become assessment capable learners.

Final thoughts

I hope it will be mine

There are many ways to incorporate spreadsheets in the classroom, regardless of what or who you teach. The accessibility online and collaborative features make it worthy of your consideration. Help students and help yourself. It’s a win win in my book. Pandemic teaching, whether face to face as I have been now for six weeks, virtually as many of you have been, or even in a hybrid setting is draining, challenging, and frustrating. I treasure each day of face to face instruction, even as I prepare my students for the eventuality or possibility of virtual instruction. My own goal setting tends to be one day at a time, one class at a time, one lesson at a time, and remembering to set personal boundaries. This job, even when not during a pandemic, can eat us up. Stay strong, friends. Give yourselves grace. Rest when you need to. Drink water. Exercise. We are in this together.

For more tips for virtual teaching, see this post by Pernille Ripp: The Smallest Ideas that are Helping Me During Virtual Teaching

Headings are partial lyrics of the song Any time at all by the beatles.

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