Introduction: Structuring Writing Assignments With Google Forms + AutoCrat

Do your students have difficulty structuring thesis statements, introductions, abstracts or whole writing assignments? Do you receive essays that have not followed a specific format? If so, use Google Forms and the Chrome extension autoCrat to keep writing assignments organized and focused.

Through answering questions, selecting choices from a drop-down list and/or other interactive elements in Google Forms, responses are saved into Google Sheets and merged into a Google Doc template using the Chrome extension, Autocrat. Final products can either be delivered to each student's email address or a specific folder.

*The example used in this instructable focuses on structuring a 3-point thesis statement for an argumentative literary essay, but the generator can be used for all types of writing assignments.*

- - -

What you will need:

  1. A Google account
  2. Chrome web browser
  3. Installed Chrome Extension autoCrat
  4. Google Form
  5. Outline template created on Google docs

To troubleshoot please access the autocrat Google Communities page.

Step 1: Creating a Google Doc

1. Sign into Google Docs using either a gmail account or another that is linked to Google. Make sure you are using Google Chrome.

2. Click on "Start a new document"

TIP: Create a specific folder to save templates

Step 2: Creating a Template

3. Name your template

4. In Google Docs, create a layout of the writing assignment structure and use the tag << >>, around the specific response field. This tag will tell autoCrat which response field to merge into the template.

TIP 1: Please look at the attached pdf which includes an example template for structuring a 3-point thesis statement and a sample response. Please feel free to modify and upgrade!

TIP 2: As you write the template, evaluate any sections which could use a drop-down list or another interactive feature on Google Forms.

TIP 3: When opening Google Forms, open a separate window to have quick access to the document in order make sure all questions or response fields (<< >>) have been incorporated.

Step 3: Download AutoCrat Add-on

5. Add the AutoCrat Chrome add-on by clicking here and pressing the "Add to Chrome" button.

Step 4: Generate Google Form

6. Go to Google Forms

7. Click on "Start a new form"

Step 5: Structuring the Google Form - Part I

8. Things to consider when creating a Google Form

a. To identify student submissions create a "Name" box. To automatically collect email addresses go to Settings in the top right hand corner (cog symbol) and click on "Collect email addresses". This is helpful for sending out generated documents to email addresses.

b. Always activate the required button so that students cannot skip a question.

Step 6: Structuring the Google Form - Part II

c. Some questions can incorporate a drop-down list format or other interactive elements. For example, students can select teacher and/or grade level. It can also be used when working with students who struggle to structure critical responses.

d. Make sure that you have included questions or response fields which connect to their respective tag (<< >>) .

Step 7: Structuring the Google Form - Part III

e. Use questioning strategies in "Description" to generate content. Helpful questions might include, What is the author trying to show by using these literary devices? or how does this evidence support your thesis statement? This is especially effective in an argumentative essay when a critical response is needed rather than just a summary. Activate the "Description" option by clicking on the 3 vertical dots at the bottom right corner of a question.

f. You can add visual aids or rubrics to help guide students before they fill in their answer.

TIP: When outlining a writing assignment, targeting certain areas in a non-chronological order can be beneficial for students. For example, explaining their thesis statement and supporting claims before developing a hook and contextualizing the topic can be more successful than starting chronologically.

Step 8: Viewing Responses in Google Sheets

9. After students have completed the Google Form, answers can be viewed by clicking the top right hand tab "Responses".

10. After clicking on the Responses tab, click the top right hand green icon to view answers in Google Sheets.

11. A dialog box will appear, click on Create a New Spreadsheet and then Create.

12. Google sheets will open in a new tab and click on the Menu tab then Add-Ons. If you followed Step 3, autoCrat should be listed. Click on autoCrat and then Open.

Step 9: Merging Responses With AutoCrat - Part I

13. The dialog box No Merge Jobs Set Up Yet will appear, click “New Job”.

14. Choose your pre-created template (Step 2) from the Drive and click “Next”

15. Autocrat will then ask you to map the <<tags>> from the template to the data in your Google Form. After all tags are mapped, click “Next”.

Step 10: Merging Responses With AutoCrat - Part II

16. File Settings will appear, and type in the File Name (tags can also be used to identify files). Under Type, select the document type (Google Doc or PDF) that the file will be saved as. If you are planning on sending out generated responses via email, the Output As Option needs to be set to Multiple Output Mode so that each student will receive an individualized document or Single Output Mode which means all students will receive the same document. Click "Next".

17. Choose a Destination Folder for where you want student responses to be saved. Click "Next".

18. (Optional) A Dynamic Folder reference can also be added by clicking on Reference, which means that copies of the document can be saved into specific folders using specific data from the spreadsheet.

19. (Optional) Setting a Merge Condition can be selected by clicking Add Condition. This option is useful for sending documents only to students that fulfill certain data requirements, such as submitting work.

Step 11: Merging Responses With AutoCrat - Part III

20. To share the final generated document via email, click Yes on Shared Documents. In the drop down option, select the Document Type (Google Doc or PDF) that you want students to receive. If allowing students to re-share the document select Allow Collaborators to Reshare. There is also the option of sending the email from a generic no-reply address.

21. Further down there is an email template that can be edited. In the "To" line, tags can be copied from a list by clicking the light blue tab to the left of the template. In the email text, tags can also be used to individualize the message, such as the students name which is generated from the spreadsheet data.

22. In order for autocrat to automatically run the merge job, select Yes for Run On Form Trigger. This will tell autoCrat to automatically send an email to students every time a form is submitted. To select Yes for Run On Time Trigger would run autoCrat at a given time or interval. Click "Save".

23. Existing Jobs will appear and to start the merge job, click “Run”. To verify that the merge job has completed successfully, check the Responses spreadsheet. New columns should have be generated at the far end of the document and if it says under Document Merge Status - Automatic Mail Merge, “Document successfully merged”, the email has been sent. There will also be a link to the individual Google doc created by the student.

To troubleshoot please access the autocrat Google Communities page.

Step 12: Be an EdInfluencer!