Thursday, 30 August 2012

Motivating Reluctant Writers

I have been trying out a new collaborative writing approach based on Jill Hammond's (Core Education) recipe writing using Etherpad (an online notepad). I have found that even the most reluctant writers are motivated to write. Writing is scaffolded when children can see each other typing at the same time. I will outline the approach. I use Etherpad as opposed to Google docs because it is quicker and more straightforward to set up (which hooks in all levels of teachers) and has a great versioning system. Once finished, it is simple to export the file to your computer to keep. 1. Set up children into groups of two with pseudo names. 2. To set up a new pad, in your browser, type for example You will be prompted to create a new pad and say yes. Repeat for each pad you wish to set up. 3. In each pad, add group pseudo names with four spaces between each name. I normally add four to five groups in each pad. 4. Etherpads are saved automatically. 5. For children to access the pads, I usually set up shortcuts in a shared folder. To do this, I copy the web address (, then go to the shared folder, create a shortcut by using the right mouse menu, click on New, Shortcut. Paste the webaddress in the Properties, click on Next and then give the shortcut a name ie Room1Group1. Children can then use this shortcut to access the Etherpad. 6. Make sure you agree the rules with the children before starting, as they will be tempted to write silly things, say hello etc. Children should only work on their own piece of work (no editing of other children's work) and it is ok to get ideas from what they see but not to only copy! 7. To start with, I usually set a theme for writing, like a 'stormy night'. Do your normal motivation for writing, finding out from the children what makes an interesting piece of writing and the purpose of writing (audience). Have an example piece of writing to show. 8. I then get the children to think about the 'theme' and get them to shut their eyes and describe their scene verbally. I usually start with what my scene looks like then get others to share. Recipe writing: Ingredients: Setting the scene, Tuning in the ear, Developing the character, Creating the action, The resolution. A. For recipe writing the first ingredient for writing is they have to use a silent camera and write, only describing their scene with no sound. B. The second ingredient is introducing sound, engaging the senses. C. The third ingredient is have your character appear in a dramatic way within the setting. D. The fourth ingredient is add in action building up to a key moment. E. The fifth step is to resolve the story, revisit the scene, sounds or central character and remember to leave your reader with something magic to hold on to. Try it out. Children love it. I usually get the children to copy their finished writing to their blogs, providing an authentic audience. Let me know if you try this out by commenting below. Would love to hear about different ways of using this.