Occam’s Razor, Summer Reading Essays, and Google Docs

1 Oct

I am ashamed. Why do simple solutions often elude me? I have been using Google Docs for five or six years now, and one of the main beefs I have with the system is the highlighting tool. It seems like such a small thing, but there is not a way to leave the highlighting tool “on.” I want—desperately—to sweep my cursor across the page, highlighting text as if I had a physical highlighter in hand. Word allows this. Google Docs, however, requires several clicks and menu choices to highlight something, and the process slows things down considerably, especially for an English teacher who reads hundreds of essays in a year and is always on the hunt for ways to shave seconds off the feedback process.

Just last week I realized I have been ignoring a simple solution. I can simply use the comments keyboard shortcut [Option+COMMAND+M] to save considerable time. Now, I highlight my selection, hit a few keys, and then type a quick note: “error #.” It’s so much simpler…and I am a bit sickened by the time I have wasted.

Of course, the time isn’t exactly wasted on my students. The pedagogical practice is sound. I often alert students to grammar errors, but I do NOT tell them exactly what the error is. Instead, I want to communicate, “Hey, here’s a mistake. Can you tell what it is?” Getting students to be more reflective and proactive in error correction is critical to their growth as writers.

When reading the first writing assignment of this school year, I decided to mark only the first ten grammar errors I found. I wanted to speed up my marking, and I did not want to overwhelm my students with too many notations. After marking ten errors (error 1, error 2, etc.), I continued to read the essay and kept a separate set of notes on the error patterns.

In class the students correctly label the errors I have marked and find patterns in their mistakes. These patterns then become the topics for their grammar journals, a weekly system I use to differentiate grammar instruction and make the students more proactive in their learning.

Occam’s Razor, paraphrased, states the simplest solution is usually the correct one. I am rather stunned that I have not been using this simple keyboard shortcut until now, but I also think this small example is more evidence as to how even very reflective teachers can get stuck in “the way we’ve always done it.” I know now I’m even more resolved to clean up my inefficient practices.

One Response to “Occam’s Razor, Summer Reading Essays, and Google Docs”

  1. Malkire October 1, 2012 at 5:43 pm #

    I am glad you found that comment feature and the keyboard shortcut. It has always been really helpful to me. Look through the other shortcuts as well, I have found that they have really shortened some of the extra clicking I felt I was doing in the past.

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.




Explore with Curiosity. Create with Love


Most Influential UK Education Blog

Robin Neal

a teacher energized by innovation and collaboration

Popsicles for Dinner

The adventures of Liza and Felix


A year long quest of doing stuff...

Lehrer Werkstatt

Reflections on Living and Teaching in Germany

Student Observation

every day observations from a student's perspective

Empathic Teacher

The Mindful High School Classroom

Expat Educator

Leadership and Educational Practice from Around the World

Ideas Out There


So, will this be graded?

Stories from a middle school English teacher turned high school English teacher.

History Tech

History, technology, and probably some other stuff

I'm Teaching English

And trying to get better each day. Thanks for your comments!


Life's lessons learned from students at school...

TED Blog

The TED Blog shares news about TED Talks and TED Conferences.

WordPress.com News

The latest news on WordPress.com and the WordPress community.

Classroom as Microcosm

Siobhan Curious Says: Teachers are People Too

%d bloggers like this: