Why I Love Write About

6:00 AM Sarah Koves 0 Comments

I require daily writing from my students in English classes. It is one of the best ways to have students improve there writing according to Writing Next, a federal research report. I know that this is really good for them, but it can be very time-consuming to grade, review, and give feedback on. Last year I discovered a solution that has significantly reduced the amount of time I spend dealing with journals, writing into the day, whatever you want to call it. Write About has changed the way I handle this daily writing. 


For years I had each of my students get a single-subject notebook; one of the twenty-five cent ones from the store. We would then diligently write every day with different length requirements for different grades. They were cumbersome to store, tedious to grade and respond to, and almost impossible to haul home on the weekends. I would find myself either spending an extra two hours at work a week if I collected a different class each week, or a half a day on the weekend if I chose to collect all classes at once. When my previous school went one to one with Chromebooks, I had to find a better solution.

This post contains affiliate links, and I will be compensated by the company at no cost to you if you sign up through my links. The opinions here are 100% mine!

I discovered Write About last year during the Great Read Aloud when all the participants received free access to the site to use with their classes. It took a bit of trial and error the first couple weeks to get students on the site and able to use it. As we got more adept at using it, the students discovered a few ”tricks” of their own that I had to keep an eye out for. I am now using it with my juniors for the second year in a row and am thrilled with the user experiences and ease of assessing for me.


Setbacks and Pitfalls

One of the things you have to watch for on this is student copy and pasting text into their draft in order for it to look like they have written or written more than they actually have. I had several students copy and paste the entire text of a movie script into their post. It was pretty clear something was going on when their words for the month skyrocketed that one day; I also don’t know if they think I am smart enough to catch such silliness. However, it was pretty easy to see they had a big spike in the number of words written; I wish that I had been able to just remove the post from their total, but that is not an option. Another fun one the students tried is to paste one post over and over. Again, they thought they outsmart me, but it was very obvious when I pulled up their writing page to comment and give feedback (two great features of the site) and I was reading the same writing over and over. Again, I wish that I had been able to remove duplicates, but I couldn’t, so I just didn’t put their grade in until they met with me, logged in, and corrected the problem. It isn’t enough to turn students loose to write and check the graphs at the end of the month. You have to be giving them feedback and comments.

Grading

My students get three or four grades for this part of their overall score each month. My courses are set up with category weights so that 10% of the final grade is the daily writing. Ten percent may seem like a lot, but I put that value on it because the daily practice is so important to their growth as a writer. I give students grades on word count, published posts, and drafts. If we are using commenting in the course, there is also a score for comments. Remember that I am spot checking students writing through feedback and comments. I tell students that they need 300 words a day; this is about 2 full paragraphs, and Write About will tell you the average words per post for each month, so that is what I score that out of and it is the largest portion of the grade. I then gave them credit for writing every day through published posts and drafts. Each of these I make worth 10 points. Finally, if I am requiring commenting, I will make those each worth 10 points. All of these items are presented to the teacher on the Student Statistics page. I simply scroll through the students on the first of every month and put the totals down for the previous month. On a normal month it looks like this:
October Average Words /300
October Draft Posts /120
October Published Posts /40
October Comments /40



Feedback

It is fairly easy to give feedback to students on their drafts and published posts in Write About. You can filter the writing by drafts or published posts or you can filter by the individual student. I try to go in a rotation and give every student comment or feedback before I start the list over. There is not, sadly, an easy way to see who you have given feedback too, but if you go in order, you can make sure everyone gets feedback.

You can also comment on published posts. When I taught full-year English classes, this is what I added in the second semester. This allowed students to read other people’s writing and have an authentic reader. Every Friday we publish a post and then comment on someone else’s with a substantial and useful comment. This took some pre-teaching, so students could make comments on other people’s writing. After some practice with commenting, students had another layer of feedback on their daily writing.


Grammarly
At the start of each term, I instruct my students to install Grammarly on their Chrome browser. This allows them to run this impressive grammar and spell check right in their Write About posts. It will also track their errors and send them weekly emails with their stats and common errors. It has improved the quality of their daily writing significantly.

Paper Prewriting
One of my favorite ways to use Write About is for the prewriting or paragraphs. We are currently working on research papers and as their daily warm-up writing for several days; I had students write on different parts of their research paper topic. Not only were they able to count it as their daily writing, but they were also able to make a start on the draft of their paper. When it came time to start our draft, students could log in an go straight to their drafts in Write About and copy them directly into their draft.


I recommend that you try Write About today!



Join By Email

Download My Free Rubrics
* indicates required
Copyright: Sarah Koves 2016. Powered by Blogger.

Influencer

Facebook PopUp