Teaching the Writing Process Online with Kasey Bell.

In this blog post Kasey Bell shares her tips for teaching writing online. Kasey Bell is a former middle school teacher turned award-winning digital learning coach, international speaker, author, blogger, and podcaster with a Texas-sized passion for technology and learning

Teaching writing has never been an easy task for a teacher. With the shift to online teaching, many teachers have been left in the dark, trying to figure out how to use technology to teach the writing process. In this post, I will give you tips and tools to help you make the digital shift.

Pre-Writing Strategies and Tools

There are many ways to approach the pre-writing process. Many students struggle to get words on a page. The first step in the writing process is pre-writing, and it should never be skipped.

  • Brainstorming - Give students time to think about what they will write about and use digital tools to support the brainstorming process. Jamboard is an excellent tool for getting ideas on the “digital” page. This can be a more abstract brainstorming method of just adding text boxes and sticky notes. Or, you can create a graphic organizer template to help guide students like, a main idea brainstorm, a Venn diagram for comparisons and arguments, or more intricate graphic organizers for older students with more in-depth writing skills. (Other tools that work well with graphic organizers: Google Drawings, Google Slides, or PowerPoint.)
  • Outline - When students are ready to take their ideas and organize them into an outline, Google Docs (or Microsoft Word) are obvious choices. Be sure to help students find the outline “bullets” in the toolbar. I remember how my students really struggled with Roman numerals on paper. These are built into our favorite word processors to make it less painful and a good way for students to learn those numbering systems.
  • Voice Recording/Voice Typing - Sometimes, it’s easier for students to just talk aloud about what they want to write. These days it’s usually pretty easy to use a voice recording app to talk out your ideas. (I do this ALL THE TIME!) Of course, remember that students can always use speech-to-text to talk into their documents. The Read&Write for Google toolbar has a handy talk-and-type feature, and Google Docs has voice typing! 

Drafting Strategies and Tools

When it comes to drafting an essay or paper, your favorite word processors are your digital BFF. Google Docs and Microsoft Word make it easy to substitute for paper but allow us to make the writing process more DYNAMIC with additional features that go far beyond substitution. In my book Blended Learning with Google, I share many strategies for going beyond substitution and using Google tools to create Dynamic Learning experiences for students. (CLICK HERE to get the FREE Blended Learning with Google Toolkit.)

  • Voice Typing - Like I mentioned earlier, using voice typing or speech-to-text can help all learners. Most of us talk faster than we type anyway. This feature can help students get their words on the page without the pain of slow typing skills. Plus, it’s a fantastic support for struggling writers, like students with dyslexia and dysgraphia.
  • Word Choice - Word choice is an important writing skill. There are many online tools to help students find the best word. Google Docs has a built-in dictionary tool to help students search for words and verify spelling and parts of speech. The Read&Write for Google toolbar not only includes a dictionary tool but also a picture dictionary to help young writers and English learners. But one of my favorite features of The Read&Write for Google toolbar is the word prediction tool. As students type in Google Docs, the word predictor will automatically suggest logical words that would come next in the sentence. What a great way to support struggling and emerging writers.

Revision Strategies and Tools

  • Feedback - Feedback from the teacher and peers can really help students revise their writing and become better writers. Google Docs has a feature called suggesting edits. Once enabled, it green lines the suggestions so students can choose to accept or reject the changes. This is a much more effective method for helping students revise their sentences than just a comment.
  • Spelling/Grammar Check - We all make mistakes, and one advantage of digital writing is the ability to check spelling and grammar. Google Docs will automatically check the spelling and grammar (once enabled), or you can use the Read&Write for Google toolbar to check it. (Related: How to Check Spelling and Grammar in Google Docs)

Honestly, this post is just scratching the surface of what’s possible with digital writing. The bottom line is to find the tools and strategies that work best for you and your students. Using technology should never make things more difficult. We want to use digital tools to support learning each and every day.

What are your favorite digital writing tools and strategies?