Writing instruction, of course, should never be contingent on the use of a particular technology—If only my students all had laptops, then I could really teach writing! The truth is that as long as you and your students have something to write with and something to write on, you can teach writing.
That being said, the reality is that if you are lucky enough to have access in your classroom to computers, interactive white boards, clickers, or document cameras (also known as document readers and visualizers), for example, it will allow you and your students to dive into writing from all angles, with that extra blast of motivation that always comes when students work with technology. (Product alert—a CD containing electronic versions of the Student Traitbook and sample student papers is included in the Write Traits Kits, perfect for use with interactive white boards.) All this technology is fun and motivating, but how does it help you teach your students about writing process and the six traits?
Let me focus for a moment on one fairly recent technological advance with great classroom applications–the document camera. The most obvious benefit of document camera technology is that it allows teachers to “write” right in front of students and allows students to share their own or small group writing and revision suggestions immediately with the entire class. Teacher modeling, student modeling, whole class involvement in discussing, assessing, or revising—immediately! The document camera is an exciting way to facilitate all these practices, including teacher modeling. And, of course, a document camera allows you and your students to share books, book jackets, pamphlets, fliers, or any printed material. Your entire class can focus on a particular page, paragraph, sentence, word, or illustration—immediately! This immediacy benefit is not to be undervalued. With the document camera, there are no extra steps involved—photocopying, transferring, etc. Every willing student is able to see their work on the big screen without waiting. I was teaching in a third grade class recently, using my portable document camera, and I wasn’t allowed to leave until all students had a chance to share their writing and receive feedback from the whole class. The use of the document camera helped each writer get the specific revision help needed to make improvements—these third graders were focused and ready to revise.
Remember, if you don’t have document cameras, interactive white boards, or computers, and all you have are students, books, paper, and pencils, you’ve got a lot. It’s the teaching practices—teaching writing process and the language of the six traits, modeling writing, sharing, involving students in assessing, providing specific feedback for revising, immersing students in literature to strengthen the reading/writing connection—that are most important.
How have you used the technology you have in your classroom to teach writing process and the six traits? Share your ideas and comments—we need to hear from you!