Choice in Writing During Pandemic Teaching

How am I going to do this?

For the first three days of online learning, I was pretty direct in my assignments. I gave the kids some things to do and a place to turn in their responses. 

It felt artificial.

It was nothing like the kind of learning we do when we are face to face in school. Choice is the foundation of our reading and writing workshop. I couldn't and didn't want to give it up when we moved into online learning. So, I needed to figure out how to create that kind of space virtually.

Thank goodness for all those folks sharing their ideas on Twitter. There are so many examples of choice boards with so many good ideas. I was looking for something specific for writing and couldn't wrap my head around what I wanted to do. Do you know that feeling? You have an idea and articulating that idea is just beyond your grasp?

When I saw Pernille Ripp's post, I knew I had found what I was looking for.

Nuts and Bolts

However, I also knew I needed to tweak it. Pernille teaches students much older than my third graders. I needed to talk through my ideas with another elementary teacher to figure it all out. I wasn't going to bump into anyone in the hall to talk with about my ideas. (One more thing I miss...those impromptu conversations with fellow colleagues). I was able to connect with Franki Sibberson, who was also working on a choice board, and together, we outlined a shell for what we thought our students could do.

I decided on 9 different choices. Students would choose one project and work on it for two weeks. The choices were open enough that those who wanted to work for 2 hours a day on their writing could and those who wanted to spend 20 minutes a day, could also be successful. I chose projects that we had either done in class or I knew students would be able to complete independently.

  • Collect family stories
  • Write an imaginative fiction story
  • Research a topic you're  interested in
  • Write a PSA and convince me
  • Blog every day
  • Write a letter to someone every day
  • Make a "how to" video
  • Create a writer's notebook (using Amy LV's writing minilessons)
  • Write from photos
Using Pernille's template, I broke down what the kids would need to do for their writing project and gave them options for publishing. I created a table with links to a Google doc for individual requirements. 

It was ready to go!

Or was it?

It wasn't visually appealing in the least. I knew my kids weren't going to be excited when they looked at the drab black and white table with blue hyperlinks. Lucky for me, my oldest daughter is a digital designer. I called her and asked her to help me make the choice board look more interesting. It's amazing what you can do with some color!

I linked each choice to a slide show (thank you for slide templates) that explained the step-by-step process. I also created a Google form to ask kids share their writing goals for the project.

Now, it was ready to go. The kids were so excited and couldn't wait to get started! 

We've been through one writing cycle. The kids' projects were phenomenal!  I am anxious to share them with you in future blog posts. 

If you are interested, take a look at our choice board. Feel free to make a copy and tweak it to make it yours. If you do incorporate a writing choice board, let me know how it goes.

Check out what Franki Sibberson and Mary Lee Hahn are doing with choice boards on their blog.  

I can't wait to see what your kids do! Have fun!


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  9. i live the idea of having a digital choice board! I struggled with the idea of having the students just typing online for hours, but this helps me think of new ways to show their work, incorporating other technologies! It's so much easier to envision the possibilities with my fourth graders now.

    Thanks for sharing!

  10. As I was reading this blog I was tickled and encouraged. I love to read and write. But, I also encourage students to dig deep within, writing. I will stay encouraged that my creativity will flourish in some ways. Thank you for sharing.

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