10 Ways to Boost Engagement, Writing and Technology
Yes, these strategies and tools are fun for kids and are engaging ways to integrate writing and technology into any classroom! But they are so much more than great instructional techniques.
These 10 ways to boost writing engagement with technology are teaching strategies to shape your class culture to model modern careers and workplaces. More than merely consuming content that others are creating, these 10 strategies will empower students to collaboratively use their learning to create their own content!
In this post, you will find 10 strategies for writing and technology, and each strategy will follow a basic format: what it is, when to use it, and how to use it. The strategies are:
Google Classroom is a great place to initiate the writing process or to prompt students using question stems. And this can be in any course! This is the quickest and easiest way to boost writing engagement.
Preassessment at Beginning of Lesson
Formative Assessment During a Lesson
Increasing Student Voice
Go to Google Classroom and be sure your students are loaded into a class (see the how-to below, thanks Amy Mayer!).
Post a Question on the Classroom
How to Create a Question (Click to Read Details)
Questions in Google Classroom
From Google Support: “Open the question page. Go to classroom.google.com. Click the class and then Classwork. At the bottom, point to “Add”. Then click “Create question”. Enter the title and any instructions. For short-answer questions, students can reply to each other and edit their answer. To turn answer interactions on or off, click the button. Students can reply to each other—If the option is On. After they answer the question, students can see classmates’ answers and comment on them. If the option is Off, students can’t see each other’s answers. Students can edit answer—When turned on, students can edit their answer after submitting it. Note: There is no character limit for short-answer questions.”
Students Respond to the Question
Students Can Also Respond to Each Other
Class Management Note: Establish norms for positive interactions and expectations for what type of responses (i.e. not just emojis or lol).
Encourage students to ask each other questions.
2. Scaffold Larger Writing in Google Classroom Assignments
Ever had students who just can’t get started? Or perfectionists who feel overwhelmed by your writing assignment? Maybe you assign an expository essay on why it’s good to set goals. Or you assign a one-page essay on the states of matter. There’s always students, both high-performers and reluctant learners who struggle to get started on larger writing assignments.
This strategy is for them.
Multi-Day or Week-Long Assignments
You Want to Give Feedback During the Writing Process
You Want to Assess Pieces of Knowledge Separately
You Want to Assess Phases Segments of an Essay or Narrative
Post an Assignment on Google Classroom for one segment of the writing (i.e. just the intro, the 1st paragraph, or the prewriting phase).
How to Post an Assignment (Click to Read Details)
From Google Support: “Open the assignment page. Go to classroom.google.com. Click the class and then Classwork. At the bottom, point to “Add” and then click “Create assignment.” Enter the title and any instructions.”
Students submit the assignment in Google Classroom
You can give feedback for revision, or
Pose questions to prompt students to add more details on the topic.
Students can revise and resubmit.
Then post another assignment for the next phase of writing (i.e. the next paragraph, the next main idea in the essay).
Continue with 2-4 assignments until students have completed the writing. Then students can copy and paste all of their work into a final written assignment. Segmenting the longer writing into doable chunks will help students feel successful along the way and create better long-form writing!
3. Vocab Chats on Google Classroom
Vocabulary is key in every classroom! Here’s a fun and quick way for students to write about vocabulary and to do it in a collaborative, chat format! Conversations like these are powerful ways to boost engagement with writing and technology.
You don’t have to use the Questions or Assignments in Google Classroom for this one.
Simply create a post with the vocabulary word.
How to Post in Google Classroom (Click to Read Details)
Simple Posts & Announcements
From Google Support: “Announcements are posts with no assignments. Use them to give notices to your students. Announcements show at the top of the class stream. Unless your students turn the email notification feature off, they get an email with each announcement. You can draft and schedule announcements and control who comments or replies to posts. When you create an announcement, you can: (1) Post to the class only or also to additional classes. (2) Post to individual students. (3) Add a topic. (4) Add materials.”
Write their own definition or description of the vocabulary word.
Respond to others’ descriptions with a synonym that matches the description.
Give examples of the word.
Teaching Tips: Make it a little more fun by choosing the two most content-rich student responses at the end and recognize them by sharing them on social media or printing them and hanging them in the classroom!
This is super fast-paced and really designed to get students engaged with writing and technology…and really they are using writing as a tool to engage in a Twitter conversation (aka Twitter Chat).
Brainstorming to help students develop plot ideas.
Before a lesson to activate and share schema (prior knowledge).
Make connections between content within a course and between courses.
Setup Twitter Accounts
In secondary or upper middle school settings students can create their own accounts (personal or using district emails, if allowed).
In many settings, students can not set up their own accounts, so…
Recommended: Create accounts for each of your class’s teams or table groups (i.e. SmithELATeam1, SmithELATeam2, etc.).
Or create generic student accounts 1-35, one for each seat in your class (i.e. SmithELA1, SmithELA2, etc.), and give each student a login <<< Difficult to Manage!
Decide on a unique hashtag for your class (i.e. #SmithELAchat, #SmithKidsRule).
Tweet a question related to your lesson and use your hashtag.
Give students 2-4 minutes, so they can:
Respond to your question.
Respond to each other’s ideas
Teaching Tips: When using the accounts for teams or table groups, let students take turns tweeting using the account. If you have team roles (like a Kagan Cooperative Learning Group), assign someone to be the Tweeter for the day, and the group tells them what to write. The role can then rotate the next time you do a Tweet Storm in class.
Note – If you are in elementary classes, you’ll want to check on Twitter’s most current policies for age limits. Also, consult your school district’s technology use policies.
You will pose a series of questions about different vocabulary words to prompt discussion (online discussion, that is).
During the minute, students will:
Respond to your question about a vocabulary word.
Respond to each other’s comments.
Teaching Tips: Student can use emojis, but only after their response (i.e. “Hey Mike I like how you compared factions to division! ). It goes without saying that Tweets are all public and should be socially appropriate.
Set up categories based on unit of study. This will help you (and your students) quickly find their writing after weeks have passed.
Set up tags based on lesson topics (i.e. the skill taught, the era, or the genre). Tags organize all the students’ writing into topics and will help you and them to easily find their writing
Use a consistent title scheme (i.e. School Year, Student First Name, Topic)
During the lesson, pause for blogging time (aka processing time). This should be between 4 to 10 minutes.
Each student will create their own blog post to summarize their thoughts.
Tell them what category and tag to add to their blog post.
Have them write a sentence before, during, and after the lesson, which will form the basis of their blog posts. Possible prompts include:
What do you already know about this learning objective?
What are the most important words in this learning objective? What do you think they mean?
What specifically is easy for you right now?
What is difficult for you right now?
What strategies are you using to learn this?
How did your strategies work?
What skills did you practice?
Why are these skills important?
How does today’s lesson connect to yesterday?
Teaching Tips (Math): Blogging is a powerful way for students to walk you through the process of solving a problem. Use the comments area for students to create their own problems that match the process in the blog.
Teaching Tips (Science): Use the blog for explanations of concepts or for a place to share lab notes as the lab is proceeding. Then students can comment on each other’s steps and findings from the investigation.
Set up team accounts with generic gmails if student accounts are blocked. Check with your technology department to find out if Blogger or the commenting feature is blocked (some district firewalls allow blogs, but cut the commenting features).
Time Management: have students log in and leave the blog up and running the entire lesson. This will keep transition time to a minimum.
If strategy 6 – the Team Blogs – feels overwhelming, then this strategy is for you! It’s simpler and lets you control the blog post and allows students to simply add a comment to your post.
You’re short on time, but want to increase engagement during a lesson or during independent work.
Students need time to think and write about their learning and/or reading.
For short reflections during or after learning/reading.
Create your own blog post ahead of the lesson (see Strategy 6).
End your post with an open-ended question stem to prompt reflection. Need question stems? This Visible Learning post has some you can use.
During the lesson (or at the close of the lesson) pause and have students go to the blog post.
Each student leaves a comment on your blog.
Teaching Tips: After posting a comment, ask students to read each other’s comment (a lot of learning can take place right here!). If their’s is the same as another student, they need to revise or add to their own comment.
Think of Padlet as your digital corkboard, bulletin board, or place for sticky notes. Except it’s interactive!
Students can comment to each other, upvote, downvote, like, and respond in real time. There are settings you can restrict, and there are many ways to use Padlet. Here’s the Padlet used when I present sessions on this post: https://padlet.com/foster_matthewafoster/writingtech
During a video, so students can post their thoughts and questions.
During independent reading or independent practice.
At the beginning of a lesson for formative assessment.
At the end of a lesson for closure and Q & A.
Anytime you want students to ask questions or guide inquiry.
Create a Padlet at padlet.com (you get 3 with a free membership).
Set the parameters for your purpose and students (i.e. Will they be able to reply to each other? Will they be able to upvote? Will it be a public or private board?)
Share the link when you want students to engage by writing on the Padlet.
Teaching Tip: It goes without saying that you can share the Padlet link on Google Classroom. On tablets and mobile devices, you’ll do better to actually download the Padlet app.
Create a new Google Doc and share with your class.
Insert a table with one cell (section) for each team of students.
Label each cell with either a:
Students write for 3-5 minutes in the designated cell during or after a lesson/reading.
Give students 2-3 minutes to read each other’s cells.
But there’s no typing!
Then give 1 minute for students to add a comment to someone else’s writing. Possible comment prompts include:
What did you learn from this person’s writing?
How is this person’s writing similar to your own thinking?
How is this person’s writing different from your own thinking?
What is something that you still wonder after reading this writing?
Teaching Tip: Use Google Classroom to share the Google Doc. This will speed up transition time (here are more classroom management tips), and ensure every student shows up at the right document. Oh, and create a fresh document for each class.
I love this strategy and have used it in PowerPoint Online, Google Slides, PowToons, and Prezi. Let’s focus in on one small way to do this using Google Slides.
This strategy simply gets students writing about their learning with a picture prompt. It’s rather simple, but it promotes writing much easier than a blank page in a journal, and students love making the visual connections. Come to think of it, it’s a great brain-based strategy (just like these games)!
Lesson closure, when summarizing a lesson.
When generating ideas for a writing prompt.
When explaining the steps in a process such as solving a math problem or science investigation.
For a content test review (i.e. literature test, science, or social studies).
Create a Google Slides document with 4-5 slides (depending on the number of team members).
Share a document for each team in your class.
Each student takes one slide to complete.
Add a picture related to the topic
Add 3-6 sentences explaining the topic.
After 5-10 minutes, the team slideshow should be complete.
If time allows, get students to share their slides in mini-presentations to other teams.
How to Search Images (Click to Read Details)
How to Search Images
From Google Support: 1) In Google Docs, click on the Insert menu at the top of the screen, and scroll down to Image. 2) In the window that opens up, you’ll see all the usual options for inserting images from your Drive, from a URL, or from your computer. … 3) Here you will get a search bar. … 4) Click on the image you want”
Teaching Tip: This strategy can also be used as an individual activity, for enrichment/extension, or for an out-of-class assignment.