Friday, 12 February 2016

Using Docs to Support Reluctant Writers

Despite being at the beginning of my teaching career, I have seen my fair share of reluctant writers.  I have taught students who would flee the classroom at the start of writing lessons, or who would struggle to put any ideas to paper.

During my final practicum, I noticed how much more engaged the students were when they had the opportunity to work on a computer.  It became possible to motivate the students to edit and publish their work and much time was saved as the students did not need to copy their work onto a new sheet of paper for 'publishing'. 

Through the use of google docs, I can now check the revision history of my students work to view the changes that they have made during the editing phase of the writing process. I can make digital suggestions to my students work (which I have been doing while holding conferences with students where possible) and I can leave feedback in the form of comments. The comments function can also be used for peer feedback and students can simply copy and paste their writing on to their blogs to "publish"their work to be viewed by an international audience. This act further motivates learners as it adds purpose to the writing task.

I have also observed teachers using writing challenges to further engage their learners. At the start of the writing the teacher would set a challenge that is linked to the learning intention.  This could be something along the lines of "use two metaphors in your narrative". If a student met the writing challenge they could draw a trophy in the margin of their writing. Teachers could also set challenges at different levels, to ensure that there was adequate level of difficulty for all writers.  Students could earn a gold trophy for including 3 complex sentences for example, but a silver trophy for including two. I will also use writing challenges to support my reluctant writers, and I will use the comment function on google docs to note when students have met the challenge.

5 must-knows about using Docs
Be prepared: With google docs no time needs to be spent writing up the date or ruling lines: have a doc ready with the date, learning intention and any activities or instructions that are required. Docs can be shared in a number of ways, but I usually share work with my students through a link on the class website.
Using Docs: once the learners have access to a doc they must make a copy of it before filling it in. I also find it helpful if they add there name to the doc that they have copied. It is also wise to file docs at this point by clicking on the folder icon and selecting a corresponding folder. It is a great idea to get students to organise their drive at the start of the year to ensure that they have folders for work to be placed into (and found again!).
Learning should be visible: Make sure you have managed the permissions of the doc so that your students can access them. Your teaching and class website should be visible, but also be mindful of the permissions of confidential documents.
Don’t steal!: Use SHIFT>Z when dragging someone else's file into your drive. This ensures that you are adding an alias to your drive instead of removing the file from its original location (or stealing it from the owner!).
Ubiquity: Your learners will be able to access docs outside of school hours, which means that your inbox will begin to fill up with students sharing their work with you at various times of the day. Although this is rather exciting, it is a good idea not to put up tasks too early, otherwise you may find that your students have completed them prior to your lessons!

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