Hi friends! I’m going to admit something to you. Something that I don’t know. It’s hard to admit in such a public forum like this that I don’t know something, but here goes.
I’ve never been really good at having a writing center in my classroom. But just because I don’t feel skilled with a writing center doesn’t mean I didn’t try to make it work. I tried. And just when I thought I had something going, it didn’t work anymore. Either my kiddos were bored, or I made the mistake of making it seasonal, but then not having the time or energy to change it each month.
I think we as teachers feel afraid of not being perfect at everything we do, so it’s liberating to say, “Yeah, I don’t have a clue” sometimes.
And Now Will I Even Have A Writing Center?
And now what? How do you teach writing digitally? This is a huge problem for this first grade teacher as teaching writing takes modeling, practice, and more practice.
Well, let’s first separate writing from grammar. I can put grammar work at an independent writing center and make that work all year long. And grammar leads to that small part of writing that teaches proper convention, but it’s not all of it.
Let’s look at what we have to work with. If we’re back in the classroom at a writing center, your students will need to write independently using their own journal and pencil. (I’m seeing a lot of teachers requiring mechanical pencils to cut back on sharpening!) If you are allowed to have students go to different parts of the classroom for a writing center, assign them a space using a “sit spot” (I’m not an affiliate, I just like these little guys) If not, they stay at their desks and write.
Something new that we’ve learned how to do is videotape ourselves teaching mini-lessons. I’m planning on doing this during a writing lesson, and have it available at my writing center. If the students don’t know what to do, you have your lesson available. Best part is that you don’t need to make an additional video, just hit record while you’re teaching! There’s an article on screen casting that I wrote to help you out… you can find it here.
Because you want to minimize the amount of shared materials, you’re not going to want to touch your student’s notebooks. Let’s just take a second and allow ourselves to be sad about this. I usually use a stamp or a sticker on their writing center pages. I may not want to do this next year.
But there’s a solution. Using their devices, students take a picture of their work and record themselves reading it! Most platforms allow you to do this, (Seesaw is my favorite) and you can put DIGITAL stickers right onto their post! Kris Szajner has the best tutorials for Seesaw Stickers! You can either make your own and use your school’s mascot.
What if we’re virtually learning?
Almost the same technique applies, but give your students the option of writing in a journal, or using a typing tool on your platform of choice. Seesaw has a “note” tools, and you can put text boxes in many of the platforms you might be using. Last year, my students did a mix of both. If you have students who do not have a notebook, you might consider picking a few up in bulk and sending it to them, but you certainly do not have to feel obligated to do so.
Is having a six year old learn to write a story using a keypad ideal? Certainly not. There’s nothing like a paper and a pencil and their goofy margins…. again, let’s take a moment to be sad about this.
But it’s something that we might need to let go of. It’s a strange world we live in and we have to let go of some of these things… for now.
So if you’re virtually learning, use zoom to record yourself doing a lesson on a white board. Share your screen with a screencasting app while you model writing with Seesaw or Google Classroom. Give them an assignment and when they turn it in, give them feedback with a digital sticker!
Writing Center Anchor Charts
Many of the digital platforms we are using have multiple slides you can use. If this is the case, make the first slide an “anchor chart”. You don’t need to make it fancy, just enough text that reminds them which skill you’re working on. Seesaw and Classkick have the option where you can record audio directions. I do this for EVERY activity. Every single one.
Asking The Experts…
This of course, is just to get you started. I would LOVE to hear from those of you who have your writing ideas down to a science. If you are willing to do an interview that I can publish here on Teaching Firsties, please email me at email@example.com.
I plan on using zoom breakout rooms and having an aide or SLP help facilitate content area centers, i.e. ELA will consist of 1 breakout room with writing or reading activity, another will be phonics/phonemic awareness (basically word work), and last will be a speaking center IF SLP is there.
Zoom breakout rooms are so useful now! It’s helpful you have an aide to help out. Is all of this in one zoom call, or multiple calls throughout the day?