How can college writing classes turn into an active learning environment?
In my writing classes, I try to provide my students with various opportunities to read, write, and receive feedback. One challenge, however, is when students are asked to write individually; they might not be motivated enough to work on their own. On the other hand, when assigning an activity to a group, there is often one student who seems to be working on the activity while the other students don’t get as involved as required.
I believe writing is a complicated topic to teach and asking students to produce written work can be a challenging process. To address these individual and group challenges, I have come up with a neat strategy that I would love to share with the rest of the educators dealing with similar challenges.
One of the tools I introduce to create an active learning environment incorporates a bit of technology. I usually use google docs, Padlet, or the discussion board of the institution as a platform to produce and post work.
The strategy that I use is called Write, Share, Edit, and Post. To begin, I assign an activity to everyone individually. For instance, if I am teaching students how to write a paragraph, I ask everyone to have a white sheet of paper in front of them and ask everyone to write a topic sentence in response to the given question individually within an assigned time limit (timing activities motivate students).
Next, I put them in groups of 4 or 5, assigning them a partner; students are instructed to share their topic sentences with their partner, edit their partner’s work, and share their edited work with the group. Then, I call one student per group to present his/her work to the class by posting their topic sentence, representing their group’s writing. As mentioned earlier, students would be provided with a tech platform to post their group writings. Also, here is a classroom management tip: only one person per group will be using a tech device, and the rest of the group members would be a support to make sure that their one sentence is being posted error free in terms of grammar, punctuation, clarity, and conciseness. Once posted, we will look at the postings and edit them as a class.
To conclude, I find this strategy effective for the following reasons:
- Students are producing work individually
- Students are involved in peer editing
- Students are motivated to produce work (with the time limit)
- Students are involved in a whole class editing process
- Students practice teamwork and present work as a team
- Students receive instant formative feedback from their instructor
When given a sense of urgency and responsibility, students feel engaged, motivated, and empowered to produce work.
How do you make your writing courses engaging and productive?