Power Up the Collaborative Writing Process with a Writing Workshop

Educators who engage students in the collaborative writing process can help them acquire the 21st-Century Skills needed to be successful in school and beyond. A digital writing workshop can provide students with opportunities to become active participants in their own learning. All it takes is a well-executed plan powered by Google Docs.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Managing a Digital Writing Workshop

A goal of the digital writing workshop is to create an environment that has the capacity to help students develop sustained, focused writing skills. To maintain a productive work environment, the technology must be used in purposeful ways that encourage students to become stakeholders in their learning. If the tech is introduced as a  tool to support personal learning needs, students will have the greatest chance to become engaged in their own learning.

Sustained Focused Writing

This Digital Writing Workshop is designed to avoid classroom chaos through the use of two separate grouping strategies. Use of students jobs combined with peer editing teams provides the foundation for a productive writing environment. Let’s take a closer look at grouping.

Student Jobs

Use of student jobs is a powerful classroom management strategy that keeps students focused and holds them accountable for their own progress and growth. Start by using classroom data to design jobs that target the instructional goals of the students in the room. Assign jobs to students based on personal learning needs. Schedule job meetings to teach students how to do their jobs. At the end of each meeting, assign students to a peer-editing team to put their skills to use.

Stdent Jobs

The small group job focused sessions should combine writing instruction with exposure to the built-in tools to support the process With a thoughtful introduction, students can learn to self-select the tools that help them become better editors and writers.

Peer-Editing Teams

The second grouping method is the Peer-Editing Team. The purpose of this team is to provide students with authentic opportunities to apply the job skills acquired and increase engagement through immediate feedback. Each peer-editing team benefits from the individual strengths of its members, much like a real-world work environment. The peer-editing keeps the conversation going between the author, the editors and the instructor.


group hand fist bump
Photo by rawpixel.com on Pexels.com

During the peer-editing process, students collaborate on shared Docs in Suggesting mode. This allows them to make suggestions on a team member’s work through the use of highlighted text and Comments without making changes to the author’s original writing.  Digital documentation keeps a record of all changes made to a Doc, providing opportunities for review and evaluation. This keeps authors, editors and the instructor on the same page.

Authors work through the revision process by clicking on any Comment to review and resolve the issue. Once resolved, the comment flies off of the screen. This process helps the task become manageable for students and helps them achieve a sense of accomplishment each time a comment disappears. 

The Teacher’s Role as Facilitator

As a facilitator of learning, the teacher will spend some of the instructional time leading small groups and the rest of the time circulating among the room connecting with peer-editing groups. Easy access to Comments and Revision history allows teachers to quickly review a running record of the conversation and take advantage of the teachable moment on the spot.

person writing on white book
Photo by rawpixel.com on Pexels.com

Instructors can use the power of immediate feedback through Comments to monitor progress, provide students with personalized support, and motivate them to keep working. The ability to access Docs from any device, live or offline, provides the flexibility to extend the walls of the classroom. This gives instructors the opportunity to engage with every student regularly and hold them accountable for their progress and growth.

The Tools

Google Docs is packed with integrated tools to support learning needs. In addition to writing and reference tools found in the Tools menu, the Explore tool offers a built-in search feature that appears right on the page.

Google Docs Tools

Spotlight on the Explore Tool

The Explore tool is an integrated search tool that helps students find information and opens the door to help them understand how to use it responsibly in their writing. Without leaving the Doc, students can search the web, images, and their own Google Drive to find ideas and information to support their writing. A built-in Citations tool combined with linked sources, facilities conversations about digital citizenship to help them demonstrate an understanding of the obligations of using and sharing intellectual property.

screen shot 2019-01-27 at 12.47.58 pm

When students perform a web search, 6 results appear in the box, providing them with a reasonable amount of content to sort through. When they select one of the titles, the full article appears in a new window. A quotation button allows students to insert a citation as a footnote in the document in MLA, APA, or Chicago format. Clicking on the alone buttons will not lead to understanding, but if introduced properly, the feature can serve as a stepping stone to building digital citizenship.

An image search produces results that have been labeled for reuse in Google. Images inserted into student work are automatically linked to the original source. This can also prompt deeper conversations about using images and crediting sources. To help them process the idea, students can be prompted to write captions under their images that include link backs to the original source.

Choosing the Google Drive search feature allows students to quickly retrieve information from their own body of work stored in Drive. This time-saving feature allows students to build on their work and helps maintain a smooth workflow.

Click the + icon in the lower right side of the screen to access the Explore tool.


Add-ons are tools created by third-party developers that add additional functionality to Docs. At any given time, users will find a variety of educational tools to target specific learning needs. While Add-ons may come and go, it’s important to teach students about the tools available to help them meet their learning needs and allow them to self-select the tools that work for them.A

Installed Add-ons can be easily accessed through Add-ons in the menu bar. Select the option to Get Add-ons at the bottom of the menu to search for available tools, and be sure to check back frequently for updates.

Add-ons Menu

Extend the Learning

As students demonstrate the ability to engage in the writing process for sustained periods of time, jobs opportunities within the learning environment can become more complex. Adding positions such as Graphics Designer, Multimedia Engineer, and Marketing Manager to the writing workflow can help simulate a real-world work environment that helps students discover their own potential place in the workforce.

Watch the Webinar

I’ve been presenting the Google Docs Powered Digital Writing Workshop webinars with Simple K12 for many years. While the Google tools and Add-ons continue to change and evolve, I recognize the need to adapt the instructional practices to reflect progress in technology integration. But in the end, this type of writing workshop still continues to be a highly effective way to help students developed the ability to engage in sustained writing for success in school and beyond.

This webinar was broadcast most recently on February 16, 2019. Watch the archived recording on-demand on Simple K12.

Screen Shot 2019-02-17 at 12.09.18 PM

Go to Simple K12



Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.