12 Ways to Make English Class Paperless

Do you want (or need) to cut down on paper? Is there a paperless initiative at your school, a harsh photocopying limit, or new 1:1 technology in your classroom? (Or, are you simply tired of hauling 60+ journals to and from school?)

Whether you’re already a digital native or are terrified of letting go of hard copies, here are 12 baby steps to start taking if you want to tiptoe (or cannonball) into a paperless classroom. Joining me today is Christina, who blogs at The Daring English Teacher.

1. Do a Quick Inventory of Resources (and Permissions)
Sara: Find out not only what your goals are, but what software and programs are already provided to you by your school. Then, find out what limitations you have and how to go about getting the programs you WANT (including how to fund them). For example, I wanted the Teacher edition of Quizlet, and I was able to get reimbursed for that $35/year registration fee. But when our team wanted to use Edmodo as our course management system (more on that later), it involved getting more permissions from the school than actual costs.

2. Utilize Valuable EdTech Sites
Christina: There are so many EdTech sites available to teachers and students. From sites that help students improve their writing to vocabulary quiz sites, you are sure to find one that fits your classroom. Check out this blog post I wrote about my five favorite EdTech sites.
3. Make Your Digital “Home Base”
Sara: Some students (especially disorganized ones) can feel overwhelmed when there is a long list of websites, apps, tools, and logins to keep track of. Consider creating one “home base” (such as Google Classroom or a class website) to make clear lists that tell students where to go and when. (Their parents and tutors will appreciate you, too!)

Christina: When using Google Classroom, be sure to take advantage of the labels feature to help keep all of your assignments and information organized and easily accessible.

4. Ditch Your Flash Cards
Sara: Quizlet is one of the easiest starting points to lose some paper. Even with the free accounts, you can create vocabulary sets that are interactive for students. (However, I’m a huge fan of the paid Teacher account and the data that it gives you about every student and/or class!) Feel free to check out some of the vocab sets I’ve made here.

Christina: While you are on Quizlet, try the Quizlet Live game option with your students. They will love the competitive and game show nature of the activity, and you’ll love the collaboration required to complete each task!

5. Google Forms
Christina: Start using Google Forms in the classroom. You can read about ten different ways on how to incorporate Google Forms in your classroom here! One time-saving feature I love about Google Forms is how it collects data and even grades quizzes. I use Google Forms at the end of the school year as my year-end survey.

6. Make Quizzes that Grade Themselves
Sara: One massive time-saver is Edmodo’s option to make self-grading quizzes that I can assign to an entire class. In addition to each child’s score, I get basic pie charts that show me how the class trended on each question, so I know which questions are going to need more review. (Christina uses Google Forms as a way to administer self-grading quizzes.)
7. Assign Collaborative Work in Docs
Christina: I remember back in high school when group work was so difficult to complete because you had to coordinate everyone’s schedules, find a parent to drive you to a designated location, and work as quickly as you could in the one-hour-long block you could meet with everyone. Those days are over now! It is so easy to assign collaborative work using Google Docs and Google Slides. Some of my favorite collaborative projects are digital novel introductions. I have my students work in small groups researching various aspects about a novel’s context before we read it in class. This project helps to engage and excite students!
8. Digital Note Taking
Christina: If students have access to Chromebooks in your classroom, encourage them to create notes digitally in Google Docs. Use the Google Draw feature within the Google Suite so that students can create diagrams and drawings to enhance learning.

Sara: Regardless of the software you use, seize this opportunity to have a nonfiction discussion about whether it’s better to type or handwrite your notes. During this conversation, encourage students to try a variety of tools (Word, Google Docs, Evernote, or other) to find the note-taking tool that works best for them.
9. Gamify the Classroom
Christina: Whether you prefer Kahoot, Quizziz, or Quizlet Live, utilizing live, online gameplay for classroom review is a great way to encourage classroom participation and make learning fun!

Sara: If you want to try a more complex game, you can make your own game board (digital or hard copy) that sends students off to do digital tasks in a set order.

10. Let Students Create Your Tech
Sara: One of my most meaningful grammar activities is the instructional video assignment, in which students teach each other concepts (using Google Slides and a screen recorder). Sharing the ownership of our content makes students excited to not only use tech for creation but also watch (and learn from) the videos.

Christina: Another great site to utilize in the classroom is Adobe Spark. With Adobe Spark, students can easily make great videos for projects.
11. Choose Tools with Timestamps
Sara: The best paperless tools for me are the ones that allow me to prove that a student actually did the task (and when). For example, I love the revision history in Google Docs that lets me see if (and when) a student contributed to a doc. This information is important if I need to verify who contributed what on a group assignment, if the student used class time effectively, or if the student procrastinated.

12. Show Off Your Digital Work!
Christina: One minor drawback to going paperless in the classroom is that it becomes difficult to post student work. Since I can’t post digital work in my classroom, I create a digital corkboard for my class instead. Once students turn in their completed assignments, I use Padlet to create a digital corkboard where I post student work. I then post the digital board onto each class’ Google Classroom Stream!

Sara: Depending on what you want to display (and where), you can try making screenshots that appear on screensavers or as images in a digital picture frame. Also, host “view only” folders where students can read or listen to each other’s work, which is what I do when we are sharing recordings from our Digital Poetry Slam.

Do you have more suggestions? Tell us in the comments!

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