The Basic Suite

In English and language arts (ELA), word processing and presentations from the basic suite have been used for years, in very traditional formats: the word processor taking the place of the hand-written essay, and the presentation taking the place of the poster board. Roblyer (2016), however addresses the need for ELA to begin to address “new literacies”, not just canonical literature taught as it has always been (p. 261). The National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE) noted six ways English teachers will need to be able to address the new digital needs of students, and the first one was, “Develop proficiency and fluency with the tools of technology” (p. 262).

One of the ways this can happen is by teachers using the basic suite differently, stepping way from only using them in the traditional ways. My two colleagues in American Literature and I have been stepping out of our comfort zone this year with the basic suite and have been quite pleased with the results.

Discussions are wonderful for helping students think about text on a deeper level, allowing them to learn and think differently as they hear their peers’ ideas. However, once they are complete, they disappear. In order to keep these wonderful ideas from disappearing, for our Puritan literature unit, we created a Google Doc, shared the link with all of the students, making sure the settings allowed for editing; then each class answered their assigned question in the document. As we discussed, the students updated the answers live as were verbally discussing them. Afterward, the students had our class discussions as a source they could use on our Puritan project. We were pleased with how well it functioned with our classes.

Our next unit focuses on The Crucible, and we are going to use Google Slides to create an ongoing character list, with each student making a slide for his/her assigned character. Ultimately the presentation will function as flashcards for the students as they prepare for the summative assessment at the end of reading the play, with its many characters. We will know how this worked out in the next couple of weeks.


4 thoughts on “The Basic Suite

  1. You and your colleagues have come up with some really innovative ways to integrate GoogleDocs and Slides into your classroom. You hit the nail on the head when you say class discussions end when the bell rings. I think technology is a great way to bridge the gap between classwork and homework. I really love your idea for a character list. I think I could incorporate that into my Spanish classroom when we read children’s books. Or students could collaborate on vocabulary flashcards using Slides. Great post, and fantastic ideas!

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  2. I too think the power of the Google suite in particular is the ability to make it collaborative. I love your ideas for making discussions lasting and studying and note taking a collaborative effort. I also thought the quote you pulled about the way ELA is transforming was significant; new literacies like digital literacy, are transforming the world, so it makes sense that they are transforming the classroom too. Great post — very full of insight & ideas!

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  3. Thank you for sharing your insights on the Basic Suite, Dana. First, I think it’s wonderful that you have such a supportive team in your department. It can sometimes be difficult to get everyone in a grade level or subject area on board, but it sounds as if you are all experiencing the benefits of the Google Basic Suite. I love your idea of documenting class discussions using a Google Doc. Do all student edit the document simultaneously? (If so, what is your class size, and have you experienced any logistical difficulties with having so many people working in a document at once?) Or, are a few scribes selected each class period? I am interested to know how you structured this. Also, I very much like your idea of using Google Presentation slides as character cards for a novel. In complex novels where there are a lot of major and minor characters, that could become a very helpful resources for students to consult. I’m looking forward to hearing how this venture goes! Thanks again for sharing.

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  4. My class sizes are about 28 students, and the discussion questions are broken up in such a way that about 5 students are answering each question together. As we are discussing, one or two of the people in that group are responsible for updating the discussion questions to reflect the changes and additions the class requests.

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