Finding Flow In the Writer’s Workshop

I think I’ve finally found a good flow with my cycle of receiving student work and giving them feedback.  This has been especially hard in Writer’s Workshop where I’ve been hemming and hawing about which practices to cling to and which ones to let go.

The early stages of writing still take place in very personalized writer’s notebooks.  This is where students try out strategies, take notes, collect ideas, start drafting stories, and make initial revisions in the margins and using post-its.  While students work in their notebook I confer with as many as I can, as often as I can to give additional teaching points and check progress.  Although I toyed with the idea of trying to do a digital notebook I truly believe that this is something that is most effective in a traditional notebook, at least for the majority of my students.

Now here’s where things the techy.  In the past students would move to “yellow draft paper” for subsequent revisions and drafts.  You can imagine how many messy stacks of paper I would collect in my inbox.  Yikes!  Yellow draft paper has been replaced by a note-taking app, in our case either the basic notes or Noterize. (I think they renamed it Paperport notes.)  Students draft their work in one of these programs, cleaning it up and making revisions as they go.  Then they send the work to me.

In order to get the kids feedback I copy their work into a word document and type my notes/revisions right in.  Then I turn it into a PDF file (like 2 seconds) and save it in a drafts folder on my desktop.  To get it to the student I just attach it to a direct message in Edmodo.  Now they can easily open it, address my comments and adjust their draft if needed.  One of the things that I love about giving feedback into a typed copy is that I can really vary the level of support that each student gets.  I have used this in the past with struggling writers with great success.  Once students are finally ready to publish, it’s easy for them to just copy and paste their final draft into whatever program or App they are using to share their work.  It also makes it easy for them to share in multiple venues such as in a Pages document and on their blog.

In order to keep track of the student files I name them with their assigned number/first name/keyword from title of their piece.  So it might look like 3JulieDogs.  If it’s a second or third draft I add the draft number at the end.  3JulieDogs2.  This works because I now have a record of the changes students are making draft to draft which is a great assessment tool.  By putting their numbers first I can also see if there are any missing and then I know  to follow up with that student on their work.

At the end of the genre I take the drafts and pop them into each student’s work portfolio which is stored in a folder on my Dropbox.  Now I can access every piece of student work from any electronic device.  Easy as pie!

One thing that I had to adjust was my editing marks!  Commenting and editing on the computer works a little differently so I came up with the following codes so that students could understand my notes.  These are jut some simple ones and I’m thinking about how I can incorporate more.

Tech Note:  To turn a word document into a PDF click Print.  In the bottom left hand corner you will see a PDF button.  Select “save as PDF” and then just name your file and choose where you’d like for it to be saved.

This entry was posted in Assessment, iPad, Technology, Writer's Workshop and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Finding Flow In the Writer’s Workshop

  1. Thanks for your interesting post – I am keen to look at ways of starting to incorporate technology in Writer’s Workshop, as we will be starting it next school year.

    I wondered if it would be easier to use Google Docs to give feedback etc? The students could share a collection with you as a teacher, and you could get them to do different revisions in different colours. Of course comments can be left as well. This would remove the steps where you have to create a word document, turn it into a PDF and attach it to Edmodo…

    Do you use Macs? If so, annotating in Preview would be another easy workaround to giving feedback.

    I look forward to hearing what you think – as I said, we’ll be beginning next year, and any suggestions are welcome!

    • Katie says:

      Hi Keri-Lee. I have used Google docs in the past with students. It is also a very effective way to support their work. We don’t use it now because the students don’t have accounts and Google docs doesn’t work as well on the iPads. Since we only use iPads we have to tweak our processes a bit.

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