Flipping Writing Q & A

--Originally published at CAROLINA R BUITRAGO

I gave a workshop to teachers on how to flip the writing skill in an EFL class. As part of the session, they asked some questions that remained unanswered during the workshop, so I promised a Q&A document with the remaining questions. However, I thought it might be useful for other teachers if I shared it here on my blog. So, here it goes!

How to create effective writing workshops?
My suggestion in this regard is twofold. First of all, think of a genre that will be useful and meaningful to students. If I am 15 years old, do I really need to learn to write a letter of complaint? Maybe no, because my mom and my dad would be the ones to do that for me. But do I want to learn to write a request letter for the school administrators? Maybe yes. One way to create effective workshops is to have students’ interests in mind. 

Another way to create effective workshops is to scaffold them. Think of all the elements of the writing process and include it within the workshop. 

How to make writing tasks more effective and less boring for students?

There is no learning without emotion, especially for teenagers. So consider topics that are interesting and relevant to your learners. Why do we keep wanting students to get excited about parts of the house, or parts of the body if we keep teaching it as we did the first time we taught English? Think outside the box. Be creative and most importantly, ask students. Students can give you valuable input as to what they want to do. Also, help your students see writing as a means not just as a final product. 

Tip: Use Padlet before class to collect information from students about what they would like to do. 

What face-to-face activities can I do?

The list is long! If you are not in the front of the classroom giving all the instruction, you can be the guide on the side generating spaces for true interaction with students. Here go some of my suggested face-to-face activities for writing. 

Brainstorming using graphic organizers. Just print and bring. 

Anchor charts. Have students create the charts they will use during writing. 

Drafting. Give students a time-frame and have them write for a while. 

Word substitution. Have students substitute some of the most repetitive words they use by new words in a list you give them. 

Peer assessment using colored post-it notes: Create categories and have students read each others’ texts for feedback. 

Composing: Give students paper and have them write about everything and anything. 

Journaling: Build the habit. Show students the power of the written word. 

Collaborative writing: Assign a task for students to complete in group. 

How do I give feedback after writing?
Why wait until ‘after’ writing? If you do a writing workshop, students can write with you in the room and you can give feedback as you go. Also, if they write in class, you will have intervened throughout the process and that will improve students’ outcomes making the reading of their final products more enjoyable.
And if you feel you have to give feedback because of the grades you have to provide or simply because you want to have a formal step in the process, use rubrics. Creating writing rubrics and checklists will save you precious time and headaches since everyone knows what they are doing in the process and what to expect from your comments.
Here is Rubistar.org, a website you can use to easily design your rubrics. 

Tip: Train your students to give each other feedback

 Tip2: Search already made rubrics to look for inspiration when starting your own

How do I teach the rhetorical structure of a text without teaching it directly in class?
This is where you can include video as a very effective learning tool. You can curate videos from YouTube. However, if you have time and want to give it a try, I suggest you to try to record your own videos. Students love to see your face on the screen and can relate better to you. Anyway, just like for a regular class, you need to prepare the information, record it and then add some accountability to it. How are you going to make sure your students watched the video? You can plan all of this in your writing workshop. 

How to make sure students give proper feedback to their classmates?
This one is a tricky question. What do we mean by proper feedback? If you ask me, I’d say proper feedback is whether the text is clear or not, whether the ideas are communicated clearly and directly. But to you, it might mean do you have all the necessary commas, to write using grammar perfectly or to use all the necessary connectors. What does it mean? With our obsession with accuracy, we have taught students to only rely on us for “effective feedback” and we have ignored great tools such as the Word processor spellchecker and Grammarly. We can teach students to self-correct using these tools so that we can focus feedback on the communication of ideas not only on the correct spelling of words. Going back to the question of “how to make sure students give proper feedback to their classmates?” the answer I give you is “by training them”. 

How to flip a writing task using a text from the textbook?
By scaffolding it. You can do that by creating a writing workshop around it. 

How to motivate unprepared students in the flipped classroom?
Students who are unmotivated need to find motivation by themselves. If students are unprepared, they “appear” unmotivated, angry or disengaged, but they can be masquerading their true feeling of embarrassment for being unprepared. First of all, students need to feel motivated to come prepared to class and you do that by preparing interesting and innovating assignments that they want to do. You can, for example, include critical pedagogy into your classes and ask students to work on topics that are directly related to their own reality, not merely to the superficial topics normally presented in some textbooks. 

How to flip in our context as we lack ICT?
By being creative and using what you have not dreaming of what you don’t have. 

How to flip with basic levels and different ages such as children?
As a professional educator, you know your students and their needs. You need to make decisions as to what they can handle at home and what they can do while in the classroom with you. If you are not sure about the level of your students and what they can do, you can check the Global Scale of English and find out. 

How to in-class flip?
There is a book coming out for that! However, in the meantime, you can check Martha’s blog post on the matter. 

What are the steps to design a good flipped writing lesson?
As with anything, there is no infallible formula for doing anything, you have to know your students and their process to be able to design “a good lesson”. However, I have some suggestions based on experience:

  1. Decide on the topic to teach (the genre to tackle). 
  2. Design your writing workshop using backwards design (thinking first of the end goal and then on the activities to do to get there).
  3. As you think of the final outcome, think of the rubric you will use to assess it and design it. 
  4. Think carefully of what the at-home activities will look like and design them considering students’ needs and scaffolding them
  5. Think carefully of what the in-class activities will look like and design them considering students’ needs and scaffolding them

How to create an effective and efficient evaluation rubric, taking advantage of teamwork?
You can use Rubistar.org to start. If you want to “take advantage of teamwork”, do. Sit down with your colleagues and think of the aspects to grade. Work together to get to an agreement and create your product. 

1 Comment

  • This post is spot-on in giving useful advice, Carolina. I will pass your advice on to my students who will become teachers so that they can learn best practices right from the beginning. Thanks so much for sharing!

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