Thursday, July 25, 2013

My Boys are Back! & National Writing Project Days 13 & 14: Collaborative Writing

I'm sooooo excited that my husband and son have returned from the Boy Scout Jamboree!  They got home early this morning around 1:00AM.  Let me just say, they both took a hot shower before going to bed because they haven't had hot water for almost two weeks!

As I blogged last week, my son broke his ankle on his first full day at the Jamboree.  :(  Despite being on crutches, he still had a great time!  The doctors at the Jamboree removed his cast and gave him a temporary cast because his hard cast had gotten too wet from all the rain.  Here is a picture that his scout leader took as they were packing up to come home....that is muddy water his leader is standing in!
I'm glad to report that a broken ankle didn't stop Ryan from participating in one of the most frenzied activities at Jamboree....patch trading!  This is seriously crazy and I don't understand why.
The way it works is that each council designs a patch set to represent their district.  My son's district was from Milwaukee so their patch set was sponsored by Harley-Davidson.  Throughout the Jamboree, the boys walk around and trade their patches for others.  Some of them are very cool!  Here's a look:

Ryan put together a binder of all of his patches...thank goodness I don't have to sew them on!

Now on to the writing portion of this program...  :)

Today at the UWM-WP, Shannon had a wonderful presentation about collaborative writing.  This really got me thinking...Writing is usually a solitary act between the writer and his or her pencil.  But we all know how collaboration can bring about great results and Shannon shared some great activity ideas:

1.  Add a Line:  Give students a stem such as "Johnny knew his trip to the canyon would be risky, but he didn't know.....".  Each student in a group gets a different stem.  They finish the stem and then pass it to their right.  The next person adds to the story, passes, and repeat until the stem has been all the way around the group.  Then the original person can choose to take the collaborative story and revise it or keep adding to it.  It is important that if you do this activity, you carefully model for students how to add a line and that first, they must reread the whole story before adding their line.
2.  Content Area Add a Line:  Just like above, but give a stem for something you are studying in a content area such as "The digestive system is one of the most important systems in the human body because...".  This time, students each add a supporting detail to the stem to show what they've learned.  The key here is that there are no repeating details allowed.

3.  Mr. Potato Head:  On a poster board, draw a stick figure (or a Mr. Potato shape).  Each team member is given a different color Post-It pack.  In five minutes, students brainstorm character traits for this stick person and add it to the poster board.  When time is called, the group uses the collaborative character traits to each write their own story.  So the main character will be almost the same for everyone, but the story line will be different. (The different colored Post-Its are to hold each student accountable for adding to the brainstorm and not letting others do all the work.)

4.  Dialogue First:  Partners each write a dialogue on Post-Its for two characters.  They then use the established dialogue to write a story.

Collaborative writing experiences can also occur in a Writing Circle format (see my post about Writing Circles from Monday here) and in the feedback/revising stage of writing.  I think it is a great idea for students to support each other as writers!

Tomorrow is my last day at the UW Milwaukee Writing Project.  I will be so sad to see it end, but I am so excited to take back what I've learned to my classroom, school and district!  Thank you for following me in this journey.  I hope you have learned some new tips for teaching writing!


  1. Jennifer, I loved hearing about all of your ideas each day. I will also be sad that this has ended.
    Grade 4 Buzz

  2. So glad for you that your family is home, and at you don't have to sew all those patches! Enjoy your last day today! Thanks for sharing all that you have learned.

  3. I have enjoyed reading your posts from the workshop! I've favorited all of them so I can take them back to my classroom too! Thanks for sharing!

  4. Jennifer, it has been so great to follow the institute through your blog postings. Thanks for your enthusiastic spirit not only with digital storytelling but also with all of the other summer institute events (as your blog postings show) You've been a wonderful contributor to the cohort these past few weeks. I hope that our paths will cross again sometime in the future.

  5. I love all the ideas for collaborative writing. I'm sure students will enjoy this approach. I appreciate you sharing all the things you are learning from the Writing Institute. The ideas are great and seem like they would fit right in to writing workshop.

    Thank you!


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