Teaching writing is a hands-on activity. Between writing conferences, centers, share time, it is very much classroom-based. With in-classroom learning being up in the air for many of us and nonexistent for some, it can be hard to find the best way to teach writing. How do we ensure our students are getting the best writing instruction while teaching virtually? Follow these great tips for guidance and support!
Tip 1: Know Your Expectations with Writing Workshops
It is essential to set expectations during the writing workshop whenever you are teaching writing. The same is true when teaching online. If your students know exactly what they are supposed to be doing during writing workshop time, they are more likely to be productive and successful. You can post your writing workshop expectations on a poster in your Bitmoji classroom and add to Seesaw, Google Classroom, or Schoology.
Tip 2: Organizing Your Virtual Writing Lessons
The organization is a critical component of a successful writing workshop. Students can use digital interactive notebooks to organize their writing even if they are writing with paper. When you are teaching writing online, you'll want to make sure you have a way for students to turn in their work. Students can take a picture of their work and upload it to their digital notebook using Google Slides.
You also want to ensure students have the writing tools they need for the writing workshop. For example, students need the appropriate anchor charts, writing paper, and tools to help them have a successful writing experience.
Tip 3: Keep Virtual Writing Lessons Short
There are many different ways to teach online and in the classroom when it comes to writing. If you are all online, try to keep your writing lessons short and to the point with mini-lessons. These are simply five to ten-minute lessons on topics such as:
- Organizing Your Writing
- Sentence Formation
- Voice/Author's Craft
- Writing Stamina
By keeping the lessons short and sweet, you are not overloading them, and there is less time for distractions.
While you can go live to teach your lessons using Google Meet or Zoom, you can also use these apps to record.
Recording your lessons is a great way to reach students who need to view it more than once to get all the steps right. If you know students typically struggle with a particular area, you can also pre-record some “Trouble Shooting” videos to share with your students.
With all of these platforms, you don't lose student-teacher interactions. You can teach writing virtually, and students can still ask students questions and have discussions with the chat features.
Of course, if all of this feels a bit overwhelming, you could always use already made writing lessons to help you. Here is an example from one of my launching writing workshop units.
Tip 4: Exercise Independent Writing During Virtual Teaching
There is something to independence, especially when it comes to writing. In your classroom, you have independent writing time because it gives students precisely what they need: time. At some point, when you are teaching writing virtually, students are just going to have to take what you have told them and apply it to some independent writing time.
Independent writing is excellent for building stamina for writing. While writing can be difficult, it's important to exercise that skill so students can write for more extended periods. Set a timer using an app like Classroom Screen to keep students on task.
Tip 5: Break Out and Conference with Students
There's nothing better than one-on-one instruction, especially when it comes to writing. It's important to plan time to conference with our students about writing, but how do we do this virtually?
You can do this through the use of breakout rooms. Breakout rooms are great because you can minimize the screen and still monitor what is happening in your virtual classroom. If this doesn't work for you, you can also plan to meet with your students individually at a scheduled time.
Writing can be challenging to teach. Adding the virtual aspect makes a little bit more complicated. While we can't control the learning environment that we are teaching when our students are at home, we can create high expectations online. Having simple procedures and plans to help your students become strong writers will make teaching writing a walk in the park virtually.