We are currently experiencing one of the wildest experiments in the history of education. Social distancing requirements have forced millions of students across the world to attend classes remotely. The majority of US educators are forced to find alternatives to what they consider a normal teaching environment. In the past few months, teachers have been relying on emergency innovations to teach writing remotely during the pandemic. Teaching writing remotely is not exactly a new concept but it’s never been done on such a large scale. The daily face-to-face interactions with students are now limited to a computer screen.
The pros and cons of teaching writing remotely
A lot of teachers have been experimenting with teaching writing online for years. I’ve done it too. So, this is what my experience in both environments has taught me.
- Working from a home office is more convenient for a lot of educators and their families because they don’t have to commute. The same can be said for most students and their parents.
- Students have the opportunity to learn useful skills through virtual classrooms, such as time management and communicating via email and other platforms.
- Virtual classrooms allow for more flexibility. Students can learn at their own pace, which helps a lot of them learn more.
- Teaching in person, on the other hand, helps teachers detect problems such as confusion or a lack of engagement more easily and address the students’ needs based on their body language.
- A physical classroom stimulates cooperation between students. They learn to work together as a team and help each other as they work on their assignments.
- As a copywriter and a teacher, I have been struggling for years to separate one job from the other. In the morning I’m assessing student essays on their best family vacation and writing about money-saving tips for home remodeling in the afternoon. It is similar for the students. Switching from math to writing is somewhat easier when they physically leave one classroom and enter another.
- Without proper monitoring, students attending online writing classes tend to cut corners and fall behind with their work. Having quick access to all the answers makes it tempting to cheat. It is also tempting to do other things during classes when they know no one can see them.
- Furthermore, achieving a work-life balance can be a struggle, especially when you can’t leave your home. The line between home life and classes gets blurred for both teachers and students.
- Finally, remote classrooms have negative effects on socializing. Isolation can harm some students’ personal growth and development. Although technology provides a virtual setting for human interaction, video chatting or instant messaging is not the same as being together in the same room.
Essay progress report chart
When teaching research essays, many teachers have their students complete smaller portions of the project at home, and later share and discuss their research and writing in class with all of their classmates until the entire project is completed. This way, teachers can guide the students through the process and monitor every stage of their progress.
When teaching remotely, it is a good idea to create a “progress report chart’’ in a Google Doc. Each column is dedicated to a different component of the essay, such as the central questions or the used sources. Give each student their own row that they can edit. Give feedback and tag the students so they are notified of your comments. Encourage the students to read their peers’ feedback as well and respond to your comments. Having everyone’s work in one place makes it easy to keep track of each students’ progress.
Sample essay discussion
As the students are working on their own research essays, it is a good idea to read and discuss a sample student essay in class. The students can work together to identify the essay’s strengths and weaknesses and how well the essay meets the general criteria. They can assess the sample essay themselves and then discuss their assessments. After examining the sample essay, the students should apply what they’ve learned to their own essays.
How can you alter this activity to fit the virtual classroom? Of course, you can send each student the sample essay via email and have a video discussion with the entire class or in smaller groups. It is also a good idea to record a video discussion of the sample essay between yourself and the student who wrote it so the students can see the writer’s perspective.
Video poetry revision
If you teach poetry and ask your students to write their own poems, they should be given the opportunity to revise their poems with you and their classmates during class. The idea is acquiring knowledge not just individually but also communally. You can use Google Docs for this class activity. Read the poem out loud, play with the words and their order, etc. as the rest of the students watch the revision occur before their eyes. In this activity, instead of just reading the text on the screen and talking about it, you can make changes to it. You can also record your revising sessions with a student as in the previous strategy.
Final tips for teaching writing online during the pandemic
As interesting and innovative as these three strategies for teaching writing remotely sound, they cannot fully replace the traditional classroom experience. However, they can mimic the dynamic of working together in a physical classroom to some extent. The key is to keep things as simple as possible while maintaining human contact with students as much as the circumstances allow. Find the right pace and don’t put too much pressure on yourself and your students. It is alright to cut your lessons shorter and focus on what’s essential. Take this opportunity to tailor the lesson to each individual student and let them work at their own pace. Finally, be open to learning new things. This is a learning experience for you just as it is for your students.
Janet Williams is an elementary school teacher and freelance writer from Florida. Having many years of teaching experience, she mostly covers topics related to education and children. Since she used to work as a florist when she was younger, she also covers gardening-related topics. She can help you with picking the right plants for your apartment or making your balcony beautiful before the summer comes.