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Docs Rock! Engaging Learning Activities With Google Docs

Pennsylvania Convention Center, 203AB

Participate and share: Interactive session
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Technology Integration Specialist
Stark Portage Area Computer Consortium
Eric Curts is a veteran educator who currently serves as a Technology Integration Specialist for the Stark County Educational Service Center in Ohio where he oversees Google for Education implementation, training, and support, as well as other technology integration initiatives. Eric is an authorized Google for Education Trainer and Innovator, and provides training to schools, organizations, and conferences across the country. Eric runs the award-winning blog where all of his edtech resources can be found, and is the author of the book "Control Alt Achieve: Rebooting Your Classroom with Creative Google Projects".

Session description

Google Docs is more than just a word processor! Explore engaging hands-on activities including reading comprehension with highlighting, blackout poetry, interactive "Choose Your Own Adventure" stories, cloze reading with dropdown chips, summarization with the Word Count tool, creative uses of emojis, prewriting with embedded graphic organizers and more!

Purpose & objective

The purpose of this session is to show how Google Docs can be used 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) Highlighting for Summarization
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.

2) Black Out Poetry
Description: In this activity we use the highlighting tool to create a new poem out of an existing text.

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

4) Cloze Reading Activities
Description: In this activity we learn how to use the dropdown tool and checklist features to create cloze reading activities to develop comprehension and content knowledge in any subject area.

5) 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.

6) Pre-writing with Embedded Graphic Organizers
Description: In this activity we use the option to embed Google Drawings into a Doc to add interactive graphic organizers for students to use to prepare their ideas before writing.

7) 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.

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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) Highlighting for Summarization - 10 minutes
2) Black Out Poetry- 15 minutes
3) Emoji Learning Activities - 15 minutes
4) Cloze Reading Activities - 15 minutes
5) Choose Your Own Adventure Stories - 15 minutes
6) Pre-writing with Embedded Graphic Organizers - 15 minutes
7) Have Students Write Better by Writing Less - 5 minutes

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

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Supporting research

The benefits of using technology to engage students in learning 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.

In addition, several of the resources and approaches demonstrated in my session are listed as positive influences on student achievement in James Hattie's "Visible Learning" study including:
Interventions for students with learning needs
Concept mapping
Vocabulary programs
Creativity programs
Underlining and highlighting
Technology in writing
Comprehension programs
Exposure to reading

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Session specifications

Creativity & curation tools
Grade level:
Skill level:
Coaches, Curriculum/district specialists, Teachers
Attendee devices:
Devices required
Attendee device specification:
Laptop: Chromebook, Mac, PC
Participant accounts, software and other materials:
Attendees would benefit by having a Google Workspace for Education account or personal Google account, and a Windows laptop, Mac laptop, or Chromebook, to fully participate in the session.
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.