Tech Tuesdays: Two Fun Narrative Tools for the Classroom

Narrative writing has always been one of my favorite units to teach. It’s usually the unit where my students feel the most comfortable, and they are usually very invested in the process. Something about the idea of crafting a full story with a plot, characters, dialogue, and description always appeals to them in a way that no other unit does. This week, to kick off 2019, I have two fun, engaging technology tools to bring into your narrative writing unit.

Prompts by Story Wars

Prompts by Story Wars is a Google Chrome extension that allows students to continue pre-existing stories. While there is a premium option, the rest of the extension is free. Once the extension is downloaded from the Chrome Web Store, students can open the extension from their Chrome task bar and select the genre of their choice. The extension will open in a new window and bring them up to a random story that another student began in that genre.


The student can choose to read and analyze the previous writer’s work and then add to it if they wish. Students can submit their work for feedback. The story continuations all are eligible for voting, which means other users from around the world read the sample continuations and vote on their favorite. The version with the most votes gets added to the story and the process starts over again. These sections are called chapters and most stories have multiple chapters written by different people in many different places.

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It’s an interesting way to consider narrative writing. Students get to write for an authentic audience, collaborate with others around the globe, and analyze the tone and other story elements of someone’s writing simultaneously. The only downside is that some of the stories have mature content, so students need to be aware of those situations. This extension would make a great extra activity to continue to practice narrative writing for students.

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Story Speaker

If you’re a fan of using voice assistants in the classroom, Story Speaker is the perfect add-on. Without coding, students can create their own “Choose Your Own Adventure” story. By following the add-on’s easy-to-use template in Google Docs, students can write their own narrative. It allows them to pause to add the listener to choose directions, the way a CYOA novel normally world. It’s fully customizable and students can make the story as in-depth as they would like.

The fun part about this tool is that it is interactive with the rest of the class. By building in those “choice” moments into the narrative, it is able to be completed by a student’s peers. Story Speaker connects with Google Home to allow for voice interaction. The Google Home reads the story and then pauses when it is time for the reader to make a decision. The writer has already programmed the question that needs to be asked, such as “Do you go right or left?” or “Do you say yes or no?” The class gets to speak their answer aloud and the voice assistant automatically knows what direction the story goes.

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Story Speaker offers a unique way for students to share their work, aside from traditional publishing. It’s an engaging way to bring the whole class into the celebration process for a student’s work, while simultaneously embedding educational technology into the process.  

Tech Tuesdays: Two Fun Narrative Tools for the Classroom

Tech Tuesdays: Talk and Comment

EVENT ANNOUNCEMENT: Coffee Klatch at Panera Bread, West Orange, NJ, on Thursday 9/20/2019, 4:30 p.m. to 5:45 p.m., to launch the 2019 School Writing Contests. All are invited.

Illusion and Reality:   How have these shaped your life for good or for bad?   – This will be our theme.  The prompt based on this theme will be posted shortly.  Start thinking….


by Kathryn Nieves

The beginning of a new school year always brings the challenge of finding new tools to support the needs of each student. For me, that means there is always one or two students that have a need that my list of extensions, websites, and tools, do not support. This year, as I was planning to introduce text annotation to my sixth graders, I thought about my students who struggle to type their words or need speech-to-text tools. How could I get them to annotate on a webpage? Then I found Talk and Comment.

Talk and Comment is an extension for Chrome browsers that allows students to make voice comments on any webpage. Typically, my students use Diigo to highlight and make comments on their reading, but for my students who need the voice typing support, this provides another alternative.

Once added from the Web Store, Talk and Comment requires approval to use the device’s microphone. After approval, the tool is immediately ready to use.

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The logo on the toolbar at the top of the browser allows you to toggle the extension on and off based on usage and preferences. When the extension is activated, the logo will appear in a circle in the middle of the browser scrollbar. Clicking on it allows you to begin recording immediately.


Clicking the X will stop the recording from saving. Selecting the check mark will cause a popup window to appear with the URL to the recording that can be copied and then pasted to a variety of places.

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The notes can be copied and pasted onto social media websites, like Twitter or Facebook, and they will immediately turn into a recording file that can be played.

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In addition, the comments can be pasted into Google Docs, providing similar results. Students can keep all of their recordings in one Doc as notes and then share the notes with a teacher or peer for them to listen. Pressing the play button allows you to listen immediately within the Doc.


If the transition from URL to recording file does not occur right away, highlight the URL and press Ctrl + K to move the process along.

For students who do not have access to Chromebooks or laptops with a Chrome browser, this tool is also available on Android phone devices from the Google Play Store. It functions in a similar method as the extension but appears in the corner of your device’s screen as opposed to on the scrollbar, which allows for recordings across apps.

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Talk and Comment is an easy-to-use tool that doesn’t have a lot of overwhelming features, which makes it perfect for struggling students in an ELA classroom. Students can use it to record their ideas, comments, or even feedback in peer review, and then share it with others through the URL. The fact that the other user does not even need the app or extension to listen to the recordings makes it ideal for classroom use.

Don’t forget to register for the NJCTE 2018 Fall Conference: Approaches to Writing, K-12! Featuring keynote speaker NCTE President Jocelyn Chadwick, the conference will take place September 29 at Kenneth R. Olson Middle School in Tabernacle, NJ. Register today!

Tech Tuesdays: Talk and Comment

Tech Tuesdays: Organizing the Classroom Library with CheckItOut

by Kathryn Nieves

Tech Twitter Chat

Date: August 22nd

Time: 8:00PM

Next Wednesday we will be hosting a Tech Twitter chat. Start thinking about and sending in your technology questions so we can discuss them together. Please post your questions as a comment below.


Classroom libraries are staples of both the elementary and secondary language arts classroom. Having opportunities for students to self-select books for their reading definitely has its benefits when it comes to building motivation. However, setting up a check-in and check-out system can be difficult for teachers. There are a variety of apps that offer ways for teachers to set up their classroom libraries and the Google Forms add-on CheckItOut is one tool to consider.

As an add-on, CheckItOut only works within Google Forms. Once it is added, it is ready to use within the program. Open a new Google Form and fill in your title. Then, add a question asking for a person’s name. Make sure it is a short answer question and that it is required in order to submit the Form. You can also add a question for class period if you want to separate your classes.

Next, you need to enable the CheckItOut add-on. You can do this by clicking the puzzle piece and selecting “CheckItOut.”

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From the pop-up window, select “Add/Edit Question Set.” You can edit the check in/out name to “Book” and select the type of question you want. There are a few options you can choose from. If you select “Multiple Choice,” it means that the students can only select or take out one book at a time. If you select “Checkboxes” it means that students can check off more than one book at a time.

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When you are finished, select the blue “Add” button and the appropriate questions will be added to your Form. From there, you will have to input all of the titles from your library into the “Check out Book” section. If you do not want a huge list of books, you could always create separate Forms based on genre bins or the organizational system of your library.

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Adding titles is the most time consuming of the entire process. This list can be edited at any time. As new classroom library books are procured, you can edit or rearrange the list.

Once you are finished, you can test your Form by clicking on the eyeball icon on the top of the page.


Enter a name and check out a book in order to test your Form. Then, you need to refresh the page and you should see that the book you checked out has been removed from the “Check out” list and instead is added to the “Check in” list.

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You can view the statistics of your classroom by going back to the Form editing section (or clicking the pencil in the top right corner of the Form). You will see a second tab which indicates a numerical count of how many responses the Form has. Clicking on the “Responses” tab will provide a breakdown of the frequency to which each student checks out a book. You can see which books have been returned and are still checked out, as well.

If you want to view this information as a spreadsheet, click the Google Sheets icon at the corner of the “Responses tab.”


In the spreadsheet, you will see the student’s name, the book they took out, and the instance when they turned it in. You will also have a timestamp for when the book was checked in and out.

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This tool could be used throughout the year to keep track of books in the classroom library and also to see what types of books students are reading. When the year is over, you can clear the responses and start fresh for the following year without needing to redo the entire Form. To clear responses, go to the “Responses” tab and select the three vertical dots next to the Sheets icon. Choose “Delete all Responses” to start off the new school year.

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While the process of adding all the titles from the classroom library might seem cumbersome, the ease of using CheckItOut for classroom libraries outweighs this issue. The Form can be used year after year in the classroom and, with more schools going 1:1 with devices, is a great way for students to keep track of their signed out materials.

Tech Tuesdays: Organizing the Classroom Library with CheckItOut

Tech Tuesdays: GradeProof–An Add-On Supporting Revision

by Kathryn Nieves

When it comes to integrating technology into the classroom, it’s best to give students a variety of options. You want to have several tools to accomplish similar tasks in order to give students a choice of which they like the best. If a student dislikes a particular app or tool, which happens frequently in my classes, they are less likely to use it. As a result, having a few back-ups for them to try is helpful until they find their favorite.

GradeProof, a Google Docs add-on, provides another option for students when it comes to revising and editing their work. It uses artificial intelligence to generate feedback on writing. Similar to other revision tools, it focuses on several key areas and users are able to look through the comments and make corrections.

Once GradeProof has been installed, it can be accessed from within a Google Doc. You should open a Doc you want to revise and click “Add-Ons” from the toolbar. Then select “GradeProof” and “Start.”


A sidebar will appear and GradeProof will run through the entire Doc, tallying the number of errors or areas for feedback. GradeProof will immediately give you the number of errors in each of the categories, including spelling, grammar, phrasing, and eloquence.

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In addition to the areas of improvement, GradeProof also considers readability of your Doc, where the higher the score, the easier it is to read your work, and grade level, which lists the number of years of education a person would need to understand your work. Basic statistics like syllables per word, word count, character count, and words per sentence are also listed. Another interesting factor is reading time, where GradeProof averages how long it would take a person to read the Doc in its entirety. Speaking time is also listed for those looking into how long it would take the average person to read the Doc aloud.

When you are ready to start making corrections, return to GradeProof’s sidebar and select “View Suggestions.” A pop-up window will appear, requiring you to create an account or sign in. Once signed in, you will be able to move through the categories and find areas GradeProof considers as an error.


By clicking on each of the underlined words and phrases, you can see the suggestion GradeProof is making. Then, you can choose to ignore it or make the change. In most cases, GradeProof will also provide a brief explanation of why the change is necessary.

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You can also opt to have GradeProof automatically fix all the errors in the Doc. If you select “Apply Changes,” the changes will automatically populate within the document.

The nice part about using GradeProof in the classroom is that it separates the different types of errors, so students can focus on one piece at a time for revision, and it gives them a little description so they can avoid these errors in future writing pieces. GradeProof is an easy tool for students to use and can serve as another option for the revising and editing part of the writing process.

New Jersey Council of Teachers of English, the New Jersey state affiliate of NCTE, the National Council of Teachers of English

Tech Tuesdays: GradeProof–An Add-On Supporting Revision

Tech Tuesdays: WriteWell Online

by Kathryn Nieves

For struggling students in English classes, writing can be a daunting task. Even getting started with an outline can be challenging. WriteWell Online is a resource that can be of assistance to these students or any students looking for a little extra guidance in writing.

WriteWell Online is an app from the Chrome Web Store. It is also accessible through the website. It is a freemium app, so there is a free option for classrooms, but there is also a paid version with more features. If you are on a Chrome browser, the app can be found after downloading by either using the website URL or clicking on the “Apps” tab in the browser.

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WriteWell requires an account to be created before using. Once an account has been created, you will have access to different writing templates to help guide you through the writing process. Click on the “Create New Document” to begin the process.


You will enter the template library, where a variety of resources are available to use for writing. The left sidebar shows categories to filter the template options. WriteWell offers templates geared toward middle and secondary courses, as well as college applications. Hovering over the templates will cause a pop-up window to appear which provides more details about that option. You can also preview a template before selecting it.


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Once you choose a template, a space to begin your written piece will appear. It has steps on the left side for you to follow. Each step is met with sentence starters and ideas provided by WriteWell. These ideas can help form each stage of the writing process. It includes tips and tricks for composing the section.


You can actually delete the sentence starters and type your own answer in that text box in order to compose your essay. Formatting tools, similar to ones available in Google Docs and Microsoft Word. You can also edit the section tip on the left side if you want to include specific notes. This space could be edited by students to include tips that you provide as the teacher.

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The templates are completely customizable. The order can be dragged around to support the student’s needs or the requirements of the teacher. Extra sections can be added based off of student ideas if needed.

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Once you have moved through all the steps in the left sidebar, there are two additional options. You can add Grammarly to provide a grammar-checking feature. You can also preview all of the work you have written. Once the sentence starters are replaced by your writing, the preview will place all of the writing together.

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When you are finished writing your piece, it can be exported as a Google Doc, Microsoft Word document, or email attachment. It can also be shared directly with emails.


WriteWell Online allows for five free documents to be created. This number decreases if a document is deleted, so students can delete their draft once they have submitted an assignment. While it may not be a tool that every student would need to use in an English Language Arts classroom, WriteWell Online could help struggling students organize their ideas and begin the writing process. It’s a good website to keep in the technology toolbox to provide students, if needed.

New Jersey Council of Teachers of English, the New Jersey state affiliate of NCTE, the National Council of Teachers of English

Tech Tuesdays: WriteWell Online

Tech Tuesdays: VoiceIn Voice Typing

by Kathryn Nieves

Google Docs’ Voice Typing feature has been a staple of student modifications for awhile. Students and educators alike use the feature in order to use their voice to dictate their responses within a Google Doc. The updates from the past year, which expanded the speech recognition software and opened up more possibilities of voice command, have only cemented the tool as a must-use in classrooms. However, one of the biggest downfalls of Voice Typing is that it is only accessible within Google Docs.

VoiceIn Voice Typing, a Google Chrome extension, brings the accessibility of Voice Typing to any webpage. Accessible within the Chrome browser, users are able to use their voice to type responses. It even uses the same speech recognition as traditional Google Docs Voice Typing. Once added from the Chrome Web Store, the extension logo will appear in the browser’s toolbar in the right corner of the page. The logo appears as a black microphone.


Before using VoiceIn Voice Typing, you have to make sure the microphone in your computer is activated. Click on the extension’s logo in your toolbar. A popup will appear on the screen asking you to approve the microphone’s usage. You would click “Allow” and the microphone would be activated. Your Chrome browser may restart the first time you select this option.

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One the microphone is activated, the extension is able to be used on any website where a typed answer is required. Some examples include social media sites and Google Forms short and long response questions.

When you are ready to begin writing with your voice, place your mouse cursor in the place where you want the typing to begin. Then, you right click with your mousepad. A pop up will appear and you will select “Start Recording.”

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You can also activate the recording by clicking on the logo of the black microphone in your browser’s toolbar.

You will know the VoiceIn Voice Typing extension is recording because the logo in your browser toolbar will turn red. Then, simply begin speaking and the extension will pick up your words. You will have to indicate punctuation, as the extension does not automatically insert it.

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When you are finished, you can stop the recording the same way in which it was started. You can either click on the now red microphone logo on the toolbar or right click and select “Stop Recording.” You can go back and physically edit any capitalization or add any punctuation when you are finished.

This extension is great for struggling students who need assistance with their writing. It opens up the speech-to-text possibilities beyond just typing in Google Docs. Now, their short answers on Google Forms can be verbally written and submitted or their responses on any website that requires a short or long answer. For blended or online learning environments, this tool would be an easy way to modify discussion post assignments for students. Even though it would be really beneficial for students who may struggle with writing, the tool could be useful for anyone.

New Jersey Council of Teachers of English, the New Jersey state affiliate of NCTE, the National Council of Teachers of English

Tech Tuesdays: VoiceIn Voice Typing

Tech Tuesdays: PDF Mergy–Making Printing Easier

by Kathryn Nieves

Most educators are moving toward using Google Classroom or other learning management systems to accept and distribute their classwork. Despite the switch, there are many educators who still prefer to write physical comments on papers and like the pen-to-paper feedback. However, once assignments are uploaded by the students, it can be difficult for teachers to open and print all of the files they need to grade.

PDF Mergy is a Chrome extension, which means it works within the Google Chrome browser. Its function is to open all assignments within one PDF for easy printing. Once added from the Chrome Web Store, it is immediately available for your use. It can be found at the top of your browser and can be easily identified by the red and orange logo.


In order to use PDF Mergy to print copies of an assignment for all of the students in the class, click on the newly installed logo. A new tab will appear that will guide you through using PDF Mergy. Users have two options: selecting files from Google Drive or their device. Choose the option that best represents the way your assignments are stored, whether in a folder on your device or a Google Drive folder.


If you choose “Select Files from your Computer,” a popup window will appear that will allow you to find and select the files you have saved. If you have all of your student files saved in a folder, for example, you could choose the folder and select “Open.”

If you choose “Select Files from Google Drive,” the popup window will appear differently. You will be asked to sign into the appropriate Google account. You would select the account that you used to create your Google Classroom or other learning management system. Your entire contents of your Google Drive will appear once you have signed into your account.

You have the option to either browse through the folders in your Drive or search for a specific assignment. The easiest way to grab an assignment from your Google Classroom is to find the folder labeled “Classroom.” Then, you scroll through the assignments and find the one you want to have printed. Each assignment you have created will have its own separate folder.

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Double click on the assignment folder to open all of the student responses. If you want all of your student assignments to be printed, you should select Ctrl + A on your keyboard. This shortcut will highlight all student files in blue. If you only want to choose a select few student files, you would hold the Ctrl key on your keyboard and click each student file you want to have printed. Then choose the blue “Select button at the bottom of the popup window.

All of the selected files will appear on one page. If you find you have accidentally selected a file that you do not want to be included in the printing, you can hover over the file name and click the trash can.


Once the list is finalized, select the blue “Merge” button at the top of the page. While your computer is processing the files to make one, you will receive the following loading message from the extension.

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You will receive a new message from the extension on the webpage when your PDF is ready. Then, you have the option to either save the PDF to your Google Drive or open it for printing.


If you wanted to share the files as examples for your students, saving your merged file to your Google Drive would be beneficial because you could then post it on Google Classroom as a reference for your students. There are a variety of possibilities that could come from saving the PDF to Google Drive as opposed to simply printing it.

For teachers that prefer handwritten feedback on essays and assignments but still appreciate the students typing their work, PDF Mergy is an excellent tool to make the printing process easier. No longer do teachers have to open each file and print it individually, so a lot of time can be saved. It’s a simple tool, but can be really helpful in the grading process.

New Jersey Council of Teachers of English, the New Jersey state affiliate of NCTE, the National Council of Teachers of English

Tech Tuesdays: PDF Mergy–Making Printing Easier

Tech Tuesdays: SAS Writing Reviser

I have offered different tools in past weeks that can help students with the revision and editing parts of the writing process. SAS Writing Reviser is another tool to further help students in these areas. Like other technology tools, it can be beneficial for teachers to present a variety of options and have the students select the one that is best for them.

SAS Writing Reviser, a Google Docs add-on, is a free resource from Curriculum Pathways. Once the add-on has been added from the Chrome Web Store, users need to open their Google Doc and select “Add-ons” from the toolbar. Click “SAS Writing Reviser” and then “Open Writing Reviser” in order to activate the tool. The first time around, users will be prompted to create an account and select their role in the classroom: student or teacher.


After the add-on has been activated and the account has been created, users are met with five areas to edit their writing: Sentence Economy, Sentence Variety, Sentence Power, Sentence Clarity, and Support Tools. Each area has subcategories that users can choose. Sentence Economy focuses on making the writing more economical while Sentence Variety focuses on how to mix up sentences to make writing more interesting. Sentence Power emphasizes strong word choice and Sentence Clarity works on making sure all the writing is understandable. The Support Tools focus on the statistics of the document, such as statistics, bar graphs, and a sentence list. When selected, the add-on will run through the Google Doc and highlight areas of concern.

For example, if a user is making revisions to their work and wanted to find a way to make their writing more concise, they would select the “Sentence Economy” tab on the add-on. They would be prompted to choose from several subcategories, including wordiness, prepositional phrases, passive voice, relative clauses, and repeated words. The user would then click on the subcategory that best fits their needs. The add-on would go through the Doc, searching for evidence of each subcategory. Once finished, all of the evidence would be highlighted in blue. In the case of prepositional phrases, the add-on would turn any prepositional phrases blue so the user could see them easily against the rest of their text.


In addition to the add-on automatically highlighting the area selected by the user, it also provides guidelines for how to properly edit their work. For most of the subcategories, a blue button can be found near the top of the sidebar. When clicked, it provides students with an explanation of the category to enhance their understanding or help them review concepts. In this example, guidelines for strong and weak verbs can be found. Users will receive a popup window with this information when they click the blue button in the sidebar to learn more about that revision area.

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In some cases, such as the “Strong Verbs” category, users get to read different examples in order to properly revise their own writing. In other cases, strategies for revision can be provided. In the instance of “Run-On Sentences,” among other categories, users will receive a breakdown of how to grammatically fix their errors.


In addition to the blue button, users receive a set of directions to make the revision process easier and help guide them through the steps. There are a series of questions for users to ask themselves when making revisions. They can choose to leave their sentences as they were originally written or go into their paragraphs to make corrections.


Once the user has made all of their revisions for the subcategory, they need to select the “Back” button on the sidebar. This selection will bring the user back to the main page with the five main areas. It will also remove all the blue highlighting while still maintaining the edits made.


With five areas of focus and twenty-five subcategories to consider, SAS Writing Reviser is definitely an add-on to give to students for the revising and editing process. The fact that it allows students to consider one area of revision at a time helps with focus, which people often lack when fixing their writing. In addition, the built-in support system that provides students with mini-lessons, review opportunities, and questions to consider when revising makes the add-on very user-friendly and helpful for all learners.

Tech Tuesdays: SAS Writing Reviser

Tech Tuesdays: DocAppender–An Add-on for Conferences

by Kathryn Nieves

When teachers think of grading essays online, their mind usually goes to Goobric. However, this tool seems so final. It provides students with a final grade for their assignment, but what about informal feedback and conferences? While Google Docs comments have been a popular way to provide students with support through the writing process, a new tool might be the key to successful student-teacher conferences: DocAppender.

DocAppender is a Google Forms add-on that can be downloaded from the Chrome Web Store. When used, it allows teachers to create one Google Form to keep track of all student writing conference information and automatically populates it into the student’s Google Doc. If a student and teacher are working side-by-side on a student’s essay, the teacher and student could work together to determine areas of strength and weakness, using the Google Form to keep note of their discussion. Once finished, the teacher would use DocAppender to send the comments right to the student’s assignment in Google Docs to refer to throughout the rest of the writing process.

After DocAppender has been added from the Chrome Web Store, the next step is to decide what Google Drive folder you will be using with this feature. You have the option to select a folder that you have created for yourself in Google Drive or, if you’re using Google Classroom, select the “Classroom” folder and choose an assignment you have posted. Either way, you want to make sure the folder you are selecting has Google Docs stored inside of it.

After deciding what folder you want to use, create a Google Form. Use the name of the folder as the title of the Form. For example, I selected a Drive folder from a Google Classroom assignment called “Narrative Final.” It contains all of my first period students’ narratives. I made the title of my Google Form match the title of my Drive folder to make it easier to recognize.



Within the Google Form, you should add questions that will reference the discussion topics for your writer’s conference. The first questions should always be “Student Name.” You need to make it a multiple choice question. Leave the multiple choice answer blank, though. Later steps will show you why leaving the answer as a blank multiple choice is an important step in the process. The other questions can be anything related to your assignment. I included “Area of Strength” and “Area of Need” where I had multiple choice answers that referenced strategies from the assignment rubric. I also included a “Comments” section as a paragraph answer so I could fill in the notes the student and I discussed during the conference.


After you have created your Google Form, you need to activate the DocAppender add-on. The top toolbar in Google Forms has a puzzle piece icon that houses all of your add-ons for this program. Click on it and then click on “DocAppender.”


When the popup appears, you want to select “Open in sidebar” in order to perform the activation steps for the add-on. The first question for you to answer is about your Drive file. Since you are using an assignment already posted on your Google Classroom, you want to select “Pick from Drive”, as the folder you are selecting already exists. Select “Next” when you are finished choosing the folder.

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The second question asks you to decide which question will help the add-on determine which Google Doc in the folder to send the responses from the Form. For your Form, this will be the “Student Name” question. This question allows the add-on to know what student receives the comments you are filling out during the conference. You may have to “Refresh List” if you do not see your questions appear right away.


The next step is to select “Save and Populate Selected Question.” This button will take all of your Google Docs within your folder and populate the Google Form with their names. All of your student’s names and work will appear automatically in the Google Form. Select “Next” in the sidebar when you see all your student names appear.


The final stage in the preparation process is to select what questions will appear in the Google Doc. You can use the checkboxes to select what you want. I usually include the Timestamp, especially if we are conferring multiple times in the writing process. You can also choose to not to include certain areas, meaning the responses written in the Google Form will not be included in the student’s corresponding Google Doc. You can also select the format that you would like the responses in the Google Doc to appear. The format is a matter of personal preference.


When you are finished, select “Enable” and your Google Form with DocAppender is ready to use. From the Google Forms editor you are currently using, select the eyeball icon from the top toolbar, so you can fill out the form.


Keep this Form up while you are conferring with a student about their writing. Keep track of the comments you discuss together in the Google Form. When you are finished with the student, select “Submit” and the results from the Form will automatically appear at the bottom of their Google Doc.’


This Form can be used repeatedly throughout the course of an assignment in order to document individual student progress and needs. Students will have their notes from their conference directly on their work, so they can refer back to it as they rewrite or revise. Then, they can delete the feedback prior to submitting their work or leave it there as a reference for the teacher. Since you are the owner of the Google Form, you can also review all of your submissions for all students to see patterns of need or monitor the progress of each student. DocAppender definitely makes feedback and conference tracking easier for teachers.

New Jersey Council of Teachers of English, the New Jersey state affiliate of NCTE, the National Council of Teachers of English

Tech Tuesdays: DocAppender–An Add-on for Conferences

Tech Tuesdays: Google Dictionary and Google Flashcards

Teaching vocabulary is always a popular discussion topic for English teachers. What is the correct way to instruct students in vocabulary? Some teachers still provide lists before students tackle a reading assignment. Some have followed the trend of students choosing their own vocabulary based on words they encounter in real life. Regardless of your personal strategy for teaching vocabulary, the extensions Google Dictionary and Flashcards for Google Dictionary are a helpful way to bring technology into the process.

The Google Dictionary extension, created by Google, allows users to define any word included in a Chrome browser. Once added from the Chrome Web Store, all someone has to do is double-click on a word and the definition will appear in a bubble on the screen.

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The bubble not only provides a dictionary definition for the word, but also includes a pronunciation guide. For those who might need to hear the pronunciation of the word, clicking on the volume icon next to the word in the bubble allows the computer to read it aloud. The “More” option transports users to a Google search of the word. For some Tier 3 vocabulary words, the definition may not register with the extension. Using the “More” option would allow a Google search to appear in a new tab for the user.

The extension has a few customizable features for users. In order to edit these options, users should right-click on the Google Dictionary icon at the top of their browser. Selecting “options” will bring users to the list of customizable features.


In the options page, users can select their native language. This feature is useful for English Language Learners. Rather than simply provide the definition of the unknown word, Google Dictionary will translate the word into the user’s chosen language, which could be extremely helpful for their comprehension. Users can also customize how their definitions appear, based on either double-clicking or hitting a particular keystroke. The feature takes into consideration user preference when providing the definition bubbles. The last feature of the options page is to track and save all defined words. If users want to check the words they have defined in the past or download this list, enabling this feature would allow them to do so.

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Flashcards for Google Dictionary works with the Google Dictionary extension. When both extensions are added from the Chrome Web Store, the user would complete the same process that they would if they were only using the Dictionary extension; they would click on an unknown word. However, instead of just receiving the definition and “More” option, a small box with the word “Save” would appear. If users select the “Save” button, the Flashcard extension would automatically create a flashcard with the term and definition. Creating and saving flashcards requires users to create an account. Students and teachers can simply use their school-associated email address.

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Once the flashcard is saved, it gets stored within the Flashcards extension. In order to access all of the saved flashcards, users should find their extensions on the top right corner of their browser. Clicking on the flashcards logo will bring up all of the saved cards. Users can view the term and click on the volume button to hear the word read aloud. Then, selecting “Flip” will cause the flashcard to turn over and the definition to appear. In addition to the definition of the word, the extension will also extract the sentence with the word in context. The sentence usually comes from the website where the word itself was found and saved. Users can then determine whether or not they “Remember” the word or “Forget” the word. Remembering the word banks it as a mastered term. Forgetting a word will put it back into the pile for further review.

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The benefit of creating an account when adding Flashcards for Google Dictionary is that users can sign into the extension on any device, so vocabulary lists can be transported wherever you go.

For teachers using personalized vocabulary lists where students find words from their reading, the pairing of these two extensions are perfect to integrate into the classroom. Students can effortlessly create flashcards to help build their vocabulary and practice them throughout the year. In addition, the fact that the word list can be saved through both Google Dictionary and Flashcards for Google Dictionary, it makes it easier for students to recall and use these words in future assignments. Using Google Dictionary in isolation could still be beneficial for students, as it could provide immediate definitions for words, which can assist in building comprehension about a text. Both extensions are simple for students and teachers to utilize, but can make a big impact in terms of vocabulary acquisition in the classroom.

New Jersey Council of Teachers of English, the New Jersey state affiliate of NCTE, the National Council of Teachers of English

Tech Tuesdays: Google Dictionary and Google Flashcards