Collaborative Writing with Children

This is the second post in a short series about collaborative writing.  It was written collaboratively using Etherpad at .

Collaborative writing is a new skill for many children.   Letting go of your own writing and allowing others to adapt/change/edit it can be an uncomfortable feeling.

So what can we do?

@AngelaStockman  suggests several ways of collaborating on writing. “Sometimes, we’ll remix three word videos or six word memoirs. I think having the examples there helps at first, but once kids have had experience with this, they are more confident blazing their own trail. I’ve also watched teachers start kids off small on a wikispace and then invite them to continue shaping the piece.”

  1. Give children collaborative writing experiences offline.  Angela’s idea for this is great because it removes ownership of the writing by cutting up and mixing around the words/phrases being used.
  2. @markw29 suggests starting in very small collaborative groups, gradually adding more collaborators over time so that children become used to this way of working.  Children often work in pairs so this would be a good starting point.
  3. Allow time for children to actually play with the collaborative tool being used and to get used to what can be done on it.
  4. Teach about responsibility when working collaboratively.
  5. Try cumulative activities where collaborators add an idea, sentence, line, paragraph one after another.  This means that previous writing is not changed but collaborators must consider cohesion and style to maintain the flow.  Flicktion on Flickr is a great example of this.  If this doesn’t get through the school filter you can still borrow the idea and not use Flickr for it.
  6. @scottfisher74 took the opportunity to address preparation for SATs creatively and gave his class a writing starter that they then went and collaborated on an answer.  The children were in friendship groups.  A good way to group for a first go.
  7. Create the bare bones of a text and ask collaborative groups to improve it.
  8. Here is a great idea from  Diplomacy in Action for a collaborative reflection after working on a piece of writing.  In the group each child is assigned a letter A, B, C etc.  A briefly describes how their participation has affected the group’s work.  2-3 mins and no questions permitted.  B either asks A a probing question or paraphrases them.  B then describes how their particpation affected the group’s work and so on round the group.  This would be a real challenge but would start to get to the heart of effective collaboration.
  9. Story MashUp offers an interesting model for collaborative writing – here the collaboration is between reader and writer.  I do like this idea.
  10. What ideas do you have?  Please share them.

Linked posts:  Collaborative Writing, Using Etherpad in the Classroom, Kent ICT (@mbarrow)has a great page of ideas created collaboratively and from Etherpad itself more ideas.

Written by  @AngelStockman, @markw29, @scottfisher74 and Sara, Jenna and Mo who are trainee secondary English teachers and @joysimpson

Update: a great post about reasons for writing collaboratively

Image recaptioned from lolcats

Engaging with comments

 The title of this image is comments hell!  Day 8 of 20 days to better blogging is all about showing children how to engage with commenting on blogs in a way that goes beyond comment hell.  These are the comment equivalents of closed questions.  It is almost impossible to follow on and keep the converstaion going.

Commenting is one of the most important parts of blogging – be it as a reader or writer.  They are about continuing discussion which the blogger or another commenter has started. 

This process needs modelling with children so that they understand some of the processes that we go through when deciding what to write.  I think there are several types of comment and very often they will be determined by the post. 

  • Quite often a post will end with a question.  If readers respond you get an extended post.
  • Sometimes it will end in a manner that works with the rest of the post
  • sometimes it is just a social occasion – see the number of comments on each post here!  You do have to learn to speak the language first.

Your task today is to find a blog that the children are interested in and, together with them, compose and submit a comment. 


Image by P!0

Collaborative Writing

With the introduction of Web 2.0 tools into the classroom, collaborative writing is now becoming a reality.  This is not the collaboration of writing that we used to know where one child wrote and the other had the ideas or took turns in writing words.  This is one which can be extremely powerful.

I recently read a wonderful post  by Mark Warner ,which detailed how he used Etherpad in his classroom, and was struck by the children’s responses.  They reminded me of the responses from trainee teachers I had worked with using wikis.  What is becoming clear to me is that the model of collaborative writing is different, very different and demands that we approach our writing differently.  But how?

What I would like to do is to write a collaborative post about collaborative writing; how it is different and how we can prepare children to make the most out of it.  I will post the writing in a fortnight.  If you have a point of view about collaborative writing or some ideas to share please drop in and add them. 

Creating Comics with Pixton

I am thinking about collaborative writing at the moment and I also love comic creation sites as they have so many uses in the classroom.  With Pixton you can do both.  Pixton allows you to create comics and then make them available for others to remix.

Comics are a great way to show pace through a story.  The larger the frame the slower the pace.  They can be used to sequence the main events of a story.  They can be used to explore how stories can be made to move on when told through speech.

This is such a flexible tool.  Characters expressions, features, clothing and positions can all be changed.  You can zoom in or zoom out, add props, add backgrounds and change the colour of almost anything.

I invite you to remix this cartoon and add your own ideas.  Post a link in the comments section so that we can see the changes.

For soon to be updates at Pixton read the Free Tech 4 Teachers post

Engaging The Eye Generation

Engaging The Eye Generation by Johanna Riddle is a wonderful example of a teacher sharing how she integrates literacy with visual or media literacy in her classroom.  What is also fantastic is that the publishers have created an online edition of the book for us all to read.

In the book, Johanna shares with us how she teaches media work linked to literacy teaching.  Her ideas start with books shared with children and she then allows them to develop their responses to the texts through the use of images and various tools to manipulate the images.  The book details examples of children’s work and their thinking behind it. (For teachers in the UK this type of work would provide wonderful evidence for Assessing Pupil Progress in reading.)

In an interview for her blog tour , Johanna talks about how she had limited technical skills when she started this work.  This must be a familiar feeling for many teachers.  She also describes how she overcame this by starting off with one tool and learnt about that tool alongside the children. When confident with that one she moved on to use others and extended her repertoire.  This is an excellent model for CPD when embedding ICT in literacy.  To know one tool and to be able to use it in depth is much more powerful that knowing six and using them all in a superficial manner.

This is an engaging read that combines the learning journey not just of the children but also the teacher.

What are they interested in?

funny pictures
moar funny pictures
This task is Day 7 of 20 days to better blogging with children.  We read blogs that cover areas that interest us  and so should children.  So, what are your children interested in?

I asked this question of a group of Yr 2 and Yr6 children that I was working with as part of a writing project, they were mostly boys, and received the following replies:

  • lego – this took me to a whole new world and would lend itself to photoblogging.  There are at least 10 other lego blogs!  Why am I surprised?  They would be astonished that anyone would want to read about literacy and ICT.  How about using the BrickiWiki to find a blog?  No, no.  I must stop now but how about using lego to comment on current affairs – or build a baseball stadium?
  • cars – this depends on what aspect of cars the children are interested in.  Even I am interested in paint scratches that repair themselves.  What about makes of car or photoblogging?
  • books – there are so many that it is almost impossible to choose.  These are just to start you off.
  • speedway racing – I did struggle here
  • people around the world – this is hard one to search for but I did find some that would be suitable.  I think I would need to delve a little deeper here about what interests this child.
  • cats (I didn’t cheat here honest!) – apparently cats even write their own blogs.  I have heard they twitter too.  There is no shortage here, but this is my all time favourite.  Lolcats galore.

These blogs would all support the teaching of reading  very well looking at how we respond to them as readers, how they are organised and how they convey their message.  Remember, in shared reading the children don’t have to be able to read the text themselves.  You model the reading and what you are thinking.

Posts need checking for appropriateness unless they are specifically written for children.  It may be that on the whole a blog is suitable but may have one or two postings that would not be.  They should be used in shared or guided time and you need to have checked them previously. 

So, what are your class interested in?  Let us know what blogs you find in these areas.  We could create lists to help other teachers.

Home page and rest of tasks – 20 days to better blogging with children

Joining in the Discussion

This is Day 3 of 20 Days to Better Blogging with Children and the task is to join in with the conversation that a blogger has started in a post.  The purpose of this task is to engage you in the process of reading and commenting on blogs so that you can share an authentic blogging experience with children.

Even now, the thrill of opening up my computer and finding a comment in my email waiting to be moderated is very motivating.  It is one of the things that keeps me going.  Just imagine how the children will feel. 

However, not everyone find it easy to start commenting, worrying that they don’t have anything to say or that what they have to say will not be relevant.  Pluck up your courage and jump in.  You never know.  The blogger may well reply to your comment.  If there is a box to tick that says follow the comments in this post, I usually tick it so that I can see what others are saying.

Your task is to find a post on a blog that you would like to add a comment too.  If you are really daunted by this, start off with this post.

Errin Gregory has just written a great post on starting to blog with her students.  Perhaps you could leave her a comment.

  • Day 1 Become a Reader of Blogs
  • Day 2 Keep Track of Your Blogs
  • Day 3 Join in a Discussion
  • Become a Reader of Blogs

    This first task of 20 Days to Better Blogging with Children is to become a reader of blogs yourself.  The purpose of this is so that you can see what people are already doing.  Try and read some that are written by childen, some by teachers and some that are written by people who are not teachers.

    Make sure that you look through all the pages as well as the posts.  The pages are usually listed at the top of the blog.  I always find the About page, if there is one, particularly interesting because it gives me an idea about why this person is writing their blog.  The Home page is where the posts appear chronologically.

    Explore ways of finding posts on the blog.  Down one of the sides you can usually find some or all of the following:

    • categories – this is usually a great place to start searching.  This blog has categories linked to ICT, Talk For Writing, Writing, Reading etc.  If you click on one of these all the posts that are categorised under that heading will come up as a list
    • tags – each post is tagged with key words.  Sometimes you  will find a tag cloud which is basically a list of all the tags used on the blog.  The bigger the tag, the more posts there are with that tag.  Digital storytelling is the biggest on this blog so far, with improving writing a close second.  If you click on those tags you will be taken to a list of posts with that tag.
    • archives – these are all the past posts ordered by the month they were written in so not that helpful for finding specific things

    As you are reading the blogs, think about what you like about them, how they are organised and what makes them easy to ready.

    How do you find blogs?

    There are several ways that you can find blogs to read by searching.  To start off with I found recommendations from others the best.  So here are some of my favourite blogs in no particular order:

    • Teachers Love SMART Boards  I learnt so much about how to do things on Smart boards form this blog.  If you have a SMART board and want to find out how to do things, the challenges are particularly good.
    • Angela Maeirs is a Literacy Consultant/Coach in the US.  On her blog she regualarly posts video of herself working with children.  This is what makes her quite unique.
    • is a blog that shows lots of ideas for using technology in the classroom and is a very good starting point
    • a lovely blog from a Devon teacher sharing with parents
    • Flickr this blog just gives an amazing insight into all the fantastic photographs that are stored there
    • Indexed and this is just something that I enjoy
    • Google blog search to find blogs of things that you are interested in

     Happy reading

    Day 2 – how to keep track of all your blogs, including blogs that the children write

    Why should children blog?

    I am fairly new to blogging and as part of undertaking an online course in blogging, 31 days to be a better blogger, I have had to reflect on my learning.  The learning in technology has been enormous – technorati, google analytics and heat maps to mention but a few but there has also been some quieter, less obvious, learning and that has been around me as a writer and how this might impact on teaching children.

    I have never considered myself to be a writer although I do think of myself as a reader.  Someone recently said to me whan I was talking about not being a writer  “Well you blog don’t you?”  And yes I do, so I am a writer.  So what has made me think I am a writer and kept me going?

    The first thing is that there are people who read the blog and comment.  They are listening and responding and joining in with the conversation.  The delight in switching on in the morning and finding that not only has someone read what I have written but have also commented.  It is one of the things that keeps me writing.

    I am slowly discovering my voice and my niche in this blogging world.  I have tried out a variety of different types of post and content and am learning about what appeals to my audience.  This is a small, global audience but one that has interests in common.

    Not everything I write is of interest to everyone so I can make mistakes, in terms of content or quality of writing and nothing happens.  Literally.  This means that I can try things out.

    In order to write, I need to read.  I therefore read a lot of blogs.  I read them because I am interested in what the authors have to say but also read them and think about why the post appealed to me.  I am reading and responding as a reader but also reading as a writer.

    Commenting on others’ blogs was quite scary to start off with. But this is what blogging is all about.  Establishing contacts and discussing. I didn’t know whether other bloggers would be interested in what I had to offer the conversation.  However, with time and practise my confidence in this area has grown.

    The reading, thinking and involvement in social networks generates further things to blog about.  This post is as a result of the interest in a previous post about blogging to improve children’s writing and belonging to the 31 days be a better blogger group.

    Are these not the things that we want children to experience as writers?  I think these  have implications for us if we want children to blog.

    • We need to set up a method by which children have access to a range of blogs in areas that they are interested in.  I am not writing about literacy and ICT because someone told me to.  I write about it because I am interested in it.
    • We need to find a community that will read what children have to say.  Not just adults who are supporting the process but those who are also interested in the content so that we can be thinking about audience and purpose when we write.  We need to establish this community so that feedback is given to the children in a meaningful way and nourishes and nurtures their writing.
    • We need to givem them access to a range of ways of writing blog posts so that they can try things out and find their own style and voice.
    • We need to encourage children to write about what they are interested in when they have something to say.  For some this might be a lot more frequently than others.
    • Not everyone need have an individual blog.  There may be some common interests that mean that a group blog could be established.
    • We need to teach children how to comment so that it shows you are thinking about the ideas in the writing.
    • We still need to teach children about how to communicate their ideas effectively.  Grammar matters! (I am a literacy consultant after all!)

    Three Word Videos

    What a wonderful event and what a wonderful idea.  Thanks @AngelaStockman for sharing it.  Make a video of three words that sum up your experience.  Here are the films from the Special Olympics.  I am amazed at the number of different ways they found to share those words.

    We could use this to summarise just about anything: a special event, learning, how we feel, what we are looking forward to, our favourite book, what we like about writing.  in fact the list is endless.  Having just finished a project about guided writing this would have made a wonderful starting point and end point to see if attitudes towards writing have changed.  You could even use it to tell a story about yourself with a carefully chosen image. 

    These 3 WordsThe best video clips are here

    It seems that even abcNews has a slot for our three word videos.

    What would your three words be?

    Linked posts 3 Word Videos from Angela Stockman