Collaborative Writing with Children

This is the second post in a short series about collaborative writing.  It was written collaboratively using Etherpad at http://etherpad.com/XHq0OmeA0o .

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

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