Virtual Writing Lesson for an Inclusive Classroom

by Aliza Strassman on April 5, 2020

This case study describes distance learning with an inclusive classroom for writing at the 2nd grade level. The strategies and approach described reflect the Universal Design for Learning approach to inclusive education design and were designed to explicitly build student knowledge, skills and engagement in navigating the new virtual classroom. The use of Book Creator, asynchronous explicit technical support, and google forms for peer-feedback are described.

Aliza Strassman Writing Lesson

Learning goals

  • Build competence and self-efficacy with publishing and feedback tech tools 

  • Publish stories 

  • Provide feedback (peer review) on stories

Keywords

grades k-2, English Language Arts, writing, inclusive classroom, direct instruction

Transition to distance learning

Activities

Face to Face

  • Use extra paper and white labels to clean up writing. Students use white labels to cover parts of their story they would like to rewrite.

  • Draw covers that include a title, author’s name, and an illustration.

  • Share stories with another class on the same grade level.

  • Review stories using post-it notes.

At a Distance

  • Explicitly teach students Book Creator technology
  • Students create books using Book Creator and have options to add more words to their stories by typing or taking a picture of their hand written page 
  • Explicitly teach students how to add illustrations to their stories using Book Creator
  • Teacher posts finished stories for review to the class library on Book Creator. The library has its own link and is only accessible with that link.
  • Students review two stories each using a google form that they had experience using earlier in the year.
  • Students receive and read peer feedback on their stories via a google spreadsheet 

Materials

Face to Face

  • Completed story
  • Writing paper
  • White labels
  • Cardstock
  • Post-it notes
  • Pencils
  • Markers, crayons, etc.

At a Distance

  • Student drafts of previously written stories
  • Book Creator 
  • Google Classroom 
  • Google form
  • Google sheets

Strategies

Face to Face

  • Investigate mentor texts and chart what we notice about published texts. OR recall prior knowledge if this learning was done earlier in the year. 
  • Model cleaning up writing and creating a cover on a teacher’s story.
  • Support students as needed to clean up their writing and brainstorm appropriate titles for their books. Coordinate support with Learning Specialists. 
  • Instruct students on the process of reading a peer’s story and leaving a positive review.

At a Distance

  • Share teacher recorded videos that describe each step students need to take to polish and publish stories via Book Creator. Videos provide a step by step tutorial, showing the student view of Book Creator. Students review video tutorials asynchronously (on their own schedule).
  • Provide students the option to either type their stories into Book Creator from a draft on paper or to take a photograph of their text written on paper. 
  • Provide students the option to add a voice recording to their stories.
  • Provide students with tips about how to look for kid friendly images on Google, instructing them to use words like clipart, cartoon, or drawing to better specify their search. Tips were provided in a pre-recorded video that students could use asynchronously.
  • Direct students to provide peer feedback using the google form. Students had prior experience with google forms and in providing feedback. 
  • Support students who need help providing peer feedback or using the google form to do so. 
  • Students view a shared spreadsheet with the peer reviews of their stories and consider how they might respond to comments and improve their work. 
  • Communicate and coordinate with learning specialists to support students who have learning challenges and need one-on-one help with any of the steps in the publish and review process. 

What worked well

I think that I was able to support engagement and had good student outcomes with this activity because I took the time to walk the students through the use of the technology step-by-step. Using technology for distance learning is new to teachers and students. We all need time and explicit support to get comfortable teaching and learning in this new way. It’s important to take a video that screen captures each step from the student point of view. In doing this I was able to provide students with step-by-step support, literally showing them what they would see and need to do with the technology as they published their stories at home.

I decided to use strategies that would be familiar to students as much as possible in order to simplify and help my students feel comfortable. If students have a familiar method of logging in to websites and apps, for example, or have experience using QR codes or an email address, the familiar method should be used. Using options like the voiceover feature where students could dictate their stories seemed to help students who struggle with reading and writing skills complete the assignment successfully and feel more comfortable sharing their work. Many students used the voiceover feature and it really added to our connection and sense of community.

I was surprised by

The number of students who chose to type out their text rather than taking a photo of their previously hand written stories. Some students didn’t write as much as I expected them to given the assignment and as a result were unable to have a finished story for publishing. Some students had no reviews on their published stories and so teachers needed to write reviews to fill in the gaps.

Next time I’ll try

Having some sort of exit ticket at multiple points as we progress through the activity. I found it’s harder for me to know what’s going on with each student when we are working at a distance. Using an exit ticket might help facilitate communication between me and my students, and might help students to better reflect and self-monitor their progress as well as what support they need to advance their work. I will also try sending an overview of the entire unit to students and families at the launch of the publishing/writing unit. This way families will know the expectations for the assignment before we begin. Overall, the system for peer-reviewing two stories worked well and was familiar to students. Next time I might try a more structured system that ensures each student has at least one review from a peer.

My big picture takeaways

I found that it is extra important to communicate regularly with specialists so that students who need more one-on-one support with completing their work will get it in a timely way. It’s also important to share lessons the night before so that families can feel better connected and prepare. Explicitly teaching and modeling the entire process (from logging in to viewing a published book) in bite size pieces and from a student perspective allowed for a high level of student independence and fluency in using the technology. Students were able to navigate the technology easily and create really beautiful and personalized books. Using the voiceover feature and hearing each students’ voice in their work created a sense of community even from afar and gave students with reading and writing challenges the chance to fully participate in the activity with little or no support. I noted that when doing a similar activity face-to-face, some students would have required more one-on-one assistance to read a peer’s story and/or leave a review. This approach seemed to provide for more independence for more of my students.

About the Author

Aliza has been teaching early elementary grades for 11 years in both inclusion and general education settings. She is passionate about teaching the whole child and supporting students’ academic, social, and emotional growth through engaging, hands on activities. Aliza believes in using technology to augment and enhance curriculum and as a tool for supporting students’ learning needs. Aliza holds a B.S. in Marketing from Yeshiva University’s Sy Syms School of Business and an MS.Ed in General and Special Education from the Bank Street College of Education. She is the 2019 recipient of the Northern New Jersey Grinspoon Award for Excellence in Jewish Education.

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