Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Collaborative Writing Made Fun and Easy

Last month my fifth graders completed a unit on Internet Safety. Our culminating activity (which only took 1 1/2 periods!!) was a group essay.

To facilitate the collaborative writing process, which can be difficult, we turned to Etherpad, making the whole process fun and flow smoothly.

So, I'm disappointed to hear that Etherpad will be shut down and access to previously created pads will be lost on May 14. Google had recently purchased Etherpad, released their API, and now they are shutting Etherpad down. Luckily two "clone" sites are available, so I will be using one of them in the future:

1. I introduced Etherpad to the students, which only took about 10 minutes. Then I allowed the students to test it out and practice with it for another 10 minutes. Since it was my first time and their first time using it, we worked out all the kinks and brainstormed some ideas on how to use Etherpad effectively to create a collaborative essay. This was also a great teachable moment on discussing the difference between academic writing and text/chat writing because they were switching back and forth between both!

2. Now the students were ready to really begin. Before their next class, I created 5 pads for each class and posted the invite URLs online. All the students had to do was click on the link corresponding with their group and everyone was on the correct pad and ready to write!

3. The class was silent even though they were constantly checking in with one another and communicating about their writing process. Here's just a sampling of the conversations occurring about their writing in the chat box.

4. Once they finished their final products I showed them what the TimeSlider button did. They loved seeing a video of their entire writing process enfold before their eyes. It is the perfect end to a collaborative writing process.

TimeSlider video (I imagine this link will not work after May 14, 2010).

Finished Products

Classroom Ideas:
Write a group story
Lab reports
Group projects
Summarizing (book, lesson, presentation, video) activity

Teamwork photo used under Creative Commons license from


Melissa said...

What a great culminating project and wonderful collaborative story! Lots of important skills taught and reinforced through this project.

Miss M said...

Thanks, Melissa. Both the students and I really enjoyed this one - and learned a lot along the way.