Engaging ELA Activities With Google Docs

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Explore and create : Creation lab

Eric Curts  
Looking for ways to techify your language arts activities? Explore engaging hands-on literacy activities with Google Docs including "Black Out" activities for comprehension and writing, interactive "Choose Your Own Adventure" stories, summarization skills with the Word Count tool, and fun ways to use emojis for reading and writing.

Audience: Coaches, Curriculum/district specialists, Teachers
Skill level: Beginner
Attendee devices: Devices required
Attendee device specification: Laptop: Chromebook, Mac, PC
Participant accounts, software and other materials: Attendees would benefit by having a Google Apps for Education account or personal Google account, and a Windows laptop, Mac laptop, or Chromebook, to fully participate in the session.
Topic: Creativity & curation tools
Grade level: PK-12
Subject area: Language arts, World languages
ISTE Standards: For Students:
Creative Communicator
  • Students create original works or responsibly repurpose or remix digital resources into new creations.
  • Students communicate complex ideas clearly and effectively by creating or using a variety of digital objects such as visualizations, models or simulations.
  • Students publish or present content that customizes the message and medium for their intended audiences.

Proposal summary

Purpose & objective

The purpose of this session is to show how Google Docs can be used in language arts for creative student learning activities. Each activity uses tools already included in Google Docs, so no additional extensions or add-ons are needed. The activities focus on ways to help students improve their reading comprehension, summarization skills, writing skills, creativity, and expression beyond just text.

The activities explored will include:

1) Google Doc "Black Out"
Description: In this activity we use the highlighter tool to black out any text that is not critical, leaving behind just the main ideas, to improve reading comprehension. We also explore using this process to create "Black Out" poetry from existing content.

2) Emoji Learning Activities
Description: In this activity we use special characters to insert emojis to summarize stories, write creatively, and explore character emotions.

3) Have Students Write Better by Writing Less
Description: In this activity we use the word count tool to write within a character limit or word limit, to develop summarization skills.

4) Choose Your Own Adventure Stories
Description: In this activity we use headings and hyperlinks to create interactive stories in Google Docs, for creative, non-linear storytelling.

Participants will:
Learn how to use a variety of tools and features already built into the Google Docs program.
Explore a variety of practical activities their students can do in Google Docs to improve their reading and writing skills.
Explore how content created in Google Docs can be shared and published with others.


This session will be entirely hands-on as participants engage in each of the Google Docs activities. The time will be divided as follows:

1) Google Docs overview - 5 minutes
2) Google Doc "Black Out" - 15 minutes
3) Emoji Learning Activities - 15 minutes
4) Have Students Write Better by Writing Less - 10 minutes
5) Choose Your Own Adventure Stories - 15 minutes

Details and resources for each of these activities can be accessed at:

Supporting research

The benefits of using technology to engage students in literacy activities are well supported by research. The website Reading Rockets includes an article (at addressing many of these benefits with cited research and practical examples. Example effects include improvements in comprehension, motivation, writing competency, and critical thinking.

Additionally the website TeachThought includes an article (at that explores the benefits of text-reduction strategy to improve reading comprehension and summarization skills. This article was the motivation for the "Black Out" activities I developed with Google Docs.

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Eric Curts, Stark Portage Area Computer Consortium

Eric Curts is a veteran educator who started his career as a math teacher in Ohio. After teaching middle school math for seven years, Curts became a technology integration specialist in North Canton Schools where he supported teachers in integrating technology into teaching and learning, and oversaw the district’s technology initiatives. He’s currently the technology integration specialist for the Stark Portage Area Computer Consortium (SPARCC) and the Stark County Educational Service Center where he supports teachers and all schools in the consortium through tech implementation guidance and training, and assistance with G Suite for Education tools, as well as online learning programs and other technology initiatives. He also oversees and manages the annual SPARCC Educational Technology Conference that draws educators from throughout the state. Curts is a G Suite Certified Trainer and Innovator, and co-leader for GEG-Ohio, the Google Educator Group of Ohio. He shares tech resources, including training videos, help guides and podcasts, on “Control Alt Achieve,” his award-winning blog. For over two decades, he’s traveled the U.S. to provide training, keynotes and consulting.

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