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Quit Wasting Precious Time -- Use Data Merging in Your ELA Classroom

Updated: Aug 15

Whether you’re a seasoned ELA teacher or just starting out in your teaching career, I’m sure finding a great system to accomplish your tasks as an educator is high up on your list. From creating lesson materials, quizzes and activities, study guides and answer keys to other reports we need to make, we teachers always seem to have our hands so full. This is why tech tools and apps are such a lifesaver, especially if it helps us automate some of our work and buy us more time for ourselves and our family.

Last time I shared how I use ZipGrade, one of my absolute favorite apps for streamlining my grading system and reducing my grading time to almost 50%. Today I am introducing another web-based app that helped me streamline processes for lesson creation, reports, and documentation.

So if you are looking for a helpful tool to get you set for the coming school year, read on and find out how I use Portant in my classes.

What is Portant?

Portant is a website that helps users automate and create a powerful document workflow. It can transform data into stunning documents in just a click and it reduces the time spent on manual work while minimizing errors.

For educators, Portant has become a practical app that can streamline various aspects of teaching and make it more efficient, engaging, and interactive. And no, you don't need to know a lick of coding. If you can plan ahead, enter {{ and }}, you can do this.

I have been using Portant for quite a while now, and as an ELA teacher myself, it helped me prepare my SAT and ACT vocabulary lessons by allowing me to mass-produce activities and resources by letting me customize my own template in Google Slides and Google Docs without taking so much of my precious time designing and manually entering details for each document.

What I especially love about using Portant is I only need to enter the information once into the source (either a Google Form or Google Sheet) and it populates the information into my templates. So for each week's online SAT & ACT vocabulary classes, I create a new set of lesson materials for our Level 3 classes. And what I do is I set up a Google Form that I fill in with all details and research, and then I will merge all data via Portant. What it does is when I hit submit, it triggers my Portant workflow and auto-completes my existing lesson templates for study guides, Google Slides presentations, quizzes, Quizlet uploads, and even Kahoot uploads. All it takes is a bit of time in the beginning to set up your templates' designs and Portant tags, and you can reuse them as much as you need!

If your school requires you to submit lesson plans, you could set up a Google Form and connect it to a lesson plan template and then to an email set up to go to your department lead, principal, or whoever needs it.

Another thing I love about Portant is it allows me to create letters to parents for varied purposes. From the kids’ progress reports and invitations for school events to any other engagement letters, I can think of sending to parents to get them involved in their kids’ education. You could easily set up a template that is beautifully designed and create a matching Google Form. When it's time to send out a newsletter, enter the info in the categories set up, and submit. It can populate the info into a nice layout, make it a PDF, and email it to a preset list of people at the click of a button.

Additionally, Portant also allows me to easily create any incident or behavioral report needed by school administrators, counselors, and parents. I can customize whatever information I want to include in the report including appropriate actions taken at the time of the incident and any other reporting requirement. I submit once to notify all parties and keep my own record for documentation.

You could use this with your students, as well! Imagine setting up a Google Form as an escape room (I'll do a whole episode on this soon!), and at the end when they submit, it emails them a certificate for beating the escape room with their name, today's date, and how long it took to beat it. How cool would that be?

Isn't this like Autocrat?

If you are from the days of early data merging and distribution, you may be familiar with Google Sheet add-ons like Form Mule, Doctopus, and Autocrat. And yes, these still work! In fact, I've used all of these in my classroom before. So why the switch?

  1. I had issues with getting my Slide and Doc images to import correctly in a consistent manner with Autocrat, and have never had an issue with Portant's system.

  2. Portant's user interface is sooo much nicer and easier to see what exactly is going on.

  3. You don't get messy spreadsheets that take forever to load because they go all the way out to column ZZZ.

That being said, I actually do still use Autocrat solely for my Kahoot upload files. If you weren't already familiar with this, when you add a new question in a Kahoot game, there is an option to import questions, answers, and question times. All I did was download it, add in template/tagged questions and answers, then connect it through the Autocrat add-on in Google Sheets. When I submit the same form I use for Portant, Autocrat will also kick out an import file for my Kahoot games.

I have spoken to the super-helpful people at Portant, and they say that an option for a Google Sheets output is coming very soon, possibly even as soon as this month, August 2023!

What else could you use this for?

Here's a brainstorming list to get you started.

  1. Send our classroom contracts for e-signature to students and parents super easily.

  2. Have students fill out an "about me" form the first day including their favorite picture of themself, then have it populate into a printout for a class bulletin board.

  3. Use it for a class reading wall where students review their independent reading books, even snapping a picture of the cover for quick reference, and when they submit, it goes into a document that then gets emailed to you and/or them for printing. You could even do it as a digital wall by downloading a Google Slide as a .jpg or .png and uploading that to a Padlet, Jamboard, Canva whiteboard, etc. that's available for all students to see classmates' recommendations.

  4. Send out field trip permission slips to students, parents, admin, etc. for e-signatures and easy collection.

  5. Create quiz templates for similar topics, such as vocab, figurative language, reading comprehension, etc., and pair it with a Google Form. When it's time to create a quiz, type it into the Google Form and hit submit to have it spit out the formatted quiz for you. Better yet? You have all of the data in a spreadsheet and can combine quizzes into larger tests down the line.

Nowadays, it is essential that we teachers know how to use technology and apps to our advantage. Portant is another amazing app I recommend for teachers to use to streamline processes and even automate lesson materials. Not only does it saves us so much time, but also headspace to think about other important things to do.

If you want to see how Portant works, go ahead and try it. Go to to create your account. It has a free version that allows you to document workflows and create 100 workflow merges per month, which I honestly don't know that I've ever surpassed. It also gives you access to its template gallery. They have a very active chat and email support, so should you encounter a snag while using the app, you can report it outright to their team, and they are VERY responsive.

The Pro Version on the other hand lets you create a more professional-looking document for 2,000 documents per month. It also includes other features such as email tracking, and even lets you forgo the Portant branding at the bottom of your emails so you can create or customize your own templates.

How else do you use Portant or other data merging hacks for your classes? I’d love to know how else this amazing tech helps you!


Let me know if you are into this type of content where I review teaching tools and apps and then share with you how it helps me work smarter as an ELA Teacher!

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