Guest Blogger: Dr. Troy Hicks
On July 1, 2020, I was fortunate enough to be invited to deliver a webinar titled “Designing Purposeful and Engaging Arcs of Writing Instruction in an Era of Remote Learning” through the National WRITE Center, co-sponsored by the National Writing Project, The recording is available below, and a “force copy” of the Google Doc handout (with an additional link to the slides) is available here.
There were a number of questions that came from the chat conversation that I didn't get to respond to in detail.
There were a series of three questions that all centered on engagement. They include:
As we know from research and experience, one of the best ways to authentically connect with students while teaching writing is to be a good reader / listener, and to offer a genuine response that comes from the voice of one writer talking with another. So, this involves at least two shifts in our pedagogy.
First, we need to provide students with opportunities for low-stakes, ungraded writing. This is writing that allows them to explore, to express, and to share experiences. The writing they do in these pieces may lead to reflections, poetry, or other forms of writing that we may typically feel are not "academic" or that we might also feel we do not "have enough time for."
However, as colleagues like Kelly Gallagher (who is leading a webinar on 7/8/2020), show us, it is the act of providing students with multiple opportunities to engage in writing, over time, and without the pressure of grades that will make the biggest difference. As noted in my webinar, there are many places to look for mentor texts as well as engaging props, and yet at the end of the day – while we still need to meet some academic requirements / assignment types – providing students with at least some opportunity to pursue writing of their own is probably the most effective way to get them engaged.
Second, with the foundation in place that students will have multiple opportunities to write for various audiences and purposes, we can then encourage engagement and feedback. This can happen in a number of ways, with a number of tools.
In sum, I strongly encourage you to invite your students to write many, many short pieces, some of which will never go beyond their own writers notebook, as well as a few longer essays that can be complemented with a parallel multimodal component (such as a podcast, video, website, interactive map, or other form of presentation).
Then, another two questions fall under the broad category of “tools.”
Question 1: “Which of the tools do you recommend we can use with a more rigid pacing guide/curriculum that we are unable to design ourselves?”
If I can only encourage you to use three kinds of tools outside of the expectations that have been placed upon you by others, I would strongly suggest that you build into your toolbox:
TOOLS FOR COLLABORATIVE TEXT ANNOTATION
A tool for collaborative annotation of texts such as NowComment (free), Kami (freemium), or Edji (freemium), as well as supporting them to learn how they can effective annotate and question a text.
TOOL FOR MANAGING BIBLIOGRAPHIES
A tool to manage their bibliographies such as Zbib or Zotero (both free), as well as supporting them to document their sources and learn about source evaluation.
TOOLS FOR VOICE AND VIDEO FEEDBACK
A tool to provide voice and video feedback to your students such as Vocaroo (voice, free), Screencastify (screencasting, freemium) so you can (quite literally) share your voice in the feedback that you offer to them.
Question 2: “Did you create the sentence combining padlet yourself? Or is it something we can borrow and make our own?”
This activity, which was adapted from an example in Jim Burke’s article, “Developing Students’ Textual Intelligence through Grammar,” is something I made on Padlet. You can find — and remake it into something new for your own students — from this link. Enjoy!
Thank you again for all your engagement during the webinar session, and please stay in touch as you continue to plan for your 2020-21 academic year.
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