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Friday, July 1, 2011

How I use the videos during writing workshop

Quite a few teachers have asked me how I use the videos during my writers workshop. Do I show all of the videos to the class at one time? How do I decide when to show each video?

Actually, I do not use the videos to introduce a new writing skill. Instead of using the video, I start with a mini-lesson. I will share an interesting sentence that uses the technique I want my students to use. Then I have students share what they like and notice about the sentence. We then, as a class, try finding other sentences that follow the pattern and attempt to imitate the sentence with partners and individually.

I know, though, that not every student is ready for the skill when I teach the lesson. Writing is such an individualized process. It is possible that one student is ready to try the Zooming in on Sentences technique, while another student is still working with capitalization.

This is where the videos become very useful. After a writers conference I assign a video. I used to try to reteach the technique to the student, but I would feel rushed and like I didn't do a good job. Now, instead of trying to take 5 minutes to individually tutor a student (what is the rest of the class doing during that time? how focused am I?), I assign the video.

Now the student gets a short presentation that is consistent with what I've previously taught in class. After the video, we take two minutes to talk about the technique, which is where the most interesting conversation happens. I now spend less time talking about technique and more time looking at writing and helping my students push themselves.

One important thing to remember, is that you have to teach the students how to watch these videos. They are not an entertainment video that you passively watch. I model with the students pausing the video, rewinding the video and taking notes.

Here is one of my videos on using dialogue in writing. It is the first video to introduce this skill, and so I only focus on one pattern.

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