Spreadsheets and databases have many uses in education, even in an English Language Arts classroom. As a teacher, I use a spreadsheet to keep track of my 900+ book classroom library. I have columns for the title, the author, the format (hardback or paperback) and a section for student sign-out. Because I do not want students to edit my spreadsheet, I print out the, currently, 21 page list every time I add new books. It is easy to add new books to the list. I simply add them below the last entry and then have Excel sort the author column alphabetically. Another use I have for spreadsheets is keeping track of spelling words each student has missed. When I grade spelling tests, I add the words a student missed to their column. This helps me keep track of whether they are using appropriate words on their personal spelling tests, which they take every 8 weeks.
I have recently begun using Google Forms to conduct surveys. One benefit of Forms is that it automatically creates a spreadsheet with the results of the survey, and it creates an analytics page that summarizes the results with charts and graphs. Seeing the ease with which a spreadsheet collates information, I wish I had used it two years ago when my students were writing proposals (letters to their senators about smoking laws, letters to the FDA about “pink slime,” and letters to their parents about bedtimes and babysitting, etc.). We created a survey which covered all of the students’ topics and asked all of the students at the school to complete the survey in their English classes. It took us more than 3 weeks of sorting papers and making tally marks to collate the data. The few students who used charts or graphs had to create their own. If we had used a spreadsheet to collate the data, the students could have use the spreadsheet program to create graphs and charts for them.
The Relative Advantages of Using Spreadsheets in the ELA Classroom
The problem: Because reading a novel takes a lot of time, students often lose papers associated with the novel before finishing the book. This is especially a problem when the students are using that paper to keep track of setting details, figurative language, themes, conflicts, etc. that they will need when completing a writing assignment at the end of the novel.
Solution: Have the students use a spreadsheet program (especially Google Sheets because it’s free and they can access it everywhere) to keep track of that information.
Relative advantage: Students will be able to keep track of the information they need and will not have to keep the same piece of paper for 6-8 weeks. An added benefit is that they may, depending on the program, be able to search the sheet for specific information. Another added benefit is that the writing will be legible and should have correctly spelled words. Most students do not enjoy writing by hand and will be happy to type instead of handwriting this information.
Check out my spreadsheet/database lesson ideas.