Teaching writing in any setting can be a challenge. It seemed like I was really getting in the groove with my writing instruction and then, we went remote! While this might have seemed frustrating at first, online learning has given me a chance to innovate my teaching practices across all subjects, including writing. Our school is changing our schedule for the next quarter, and we are going to have a designated writing/communication time. Here are ways I am incorporating writing in my virtual classroom…
1. Whiteboards & Journals
Using whiteboards has been a big hit. I have used them in the classroom during in-person learning for writing first drafts and sounding out words for Orton-Gilligham. Students seem highly motivated to write on whiteboards and it’s easy to make corrections before students write a final draft. I mailed whiteboards, markers and erasers to students so they would have these supplies at home (surprisingly, most of them still know where they are). Students also seem to really enjoy having their own journals. In school, I let the students use the journals for an independent station and let them pick their own topics. I have some to send home to students and plan on having it be the same concept- a free choice time activity, that is really designed just to get students motivated to write. Being able to then share their writing is also a motivator for students. And as all good special educators know, writing for some students can be drawing pictures or copying words or letters.
2. Google Docs
I know this is an obvious one, but I just tried it with my students for the first time and it went really well! I chose to start with students who already had some typing and writing skills and went from there. I am making different boxes for each topic and am having students record the topic and date. Again, with anything new, I’m just trying to get them motivated to write. Currently, I am just having students write as much as they want about a topic and allowing them to share with the class. I am also saving all their writing and making a box for their most current writing prompt at the top of the Google Doc. As students get into the routine of using Google Docs to write, I will have them write more and we’ll talk about editing writing. Another great feature of Google Docs is that you can see the students working on their writing in real time without having to use a program like Go Guardian. I am excited to see how I can implement this with more of my students.
3. Building Writers
Building Writers is a program for practicing writing skills using three writing styles: narrative, informational and opinion. This program is from Learning Without Tears (you may be familiar with Handwriting Without Tears) and has levels all the way up to 5th grade. Each level has a student workbook that includes highly structured writing practice on a variety of topics including cooking, animals and places around the world. I was really excited about this when my coworker told me about it because it is hard to find a curriculum or resources where writing is explicitly taught. I also really appreciate that the workbooks are labeled by letters as opposed to being labeled with the grade level. I bought a sample of each book I thought would be good for my students and plan to order the workbooks for my students soon from Amazon. One good thing about ordering from Amazon is no shipping charges if you have Prime, so you can mail it directly to your students without paying for postage. This would be something I would use with students in a small group during writing rotations.
4. Daily Writing & Grammar
I really enjoy Evan-Moor resources because it offers an anchor or structure when I am teaching something new. I am using the Evan-Moor Daily 6 Trait Writing for our daily writing lesson in order to establish a structure and routine for our writing block. I am using the first grade level and I really like how it starts with choosing a topic for writing. My colleague gave me the idea of taking pictures of workbooks to insert into slides and Jamboards. While I love the idea of creating aesthetically pleasing presentations, I don’t always have the time to create a presentation from scratch. I have been taking pictures of the Daily 6 Trait Writing book and putting it on a Jamboard for the first part of the lesson. Then, I have students do some writing based off of the lesson for the day. For now, I plan on keeping it a whole group lesson until students are used to the structure, but once students are used to it, I plan on making this into another para-run station during writing/communication time.
5. Answering Questions
Teaching students to answer questions in complete sentences will help transfer into writing complete sentences. Since I am going to be starting to implement a designated writing block in my schedule, I thought this could be a station that a para could run. Using the different question materials and resources The Autism Helper has makes setting up this station super easy. I really like the Wh- Question Mega Pack because it includes everyday questions and visuals. The Wh-Question Seasonal Units also provide a fun way to engage students at different times of the year. These resources could be presented as is during a Google Class Meet or you could use screenshots to add these to a Jamboard for a more interactive experience. For more wh- question resources, check out The Autism Helper’s Teachers Pay Teachers page.
I hope this gave you some ideas and inspiration for teaching writing in a variety of learning settings. For more on teaching writing, check out Tips for Teaching Writing. Share your ideas below for teaching writing in-person, remotely or hybrid. Stay healthy and safe!