Teaching with Writelike
The ideal world
You can use Writelike in a variety of ways. We think the easiest way to explain it is to describe an idealised approach, and then outline variations that might suit your needs. So consider this guide a springboard.
Create a group
As a teacher, create an account for yourself (top-right corner of the site), then create a group for your class. When you create the group, turn the peer review setting on.
Add a course or lessons
Assign a lesson or course to the group—you can do this from inside the group, or from browsing lessons and courses. (Suggestion: If you’re working on creative writing, try the Narrative Basics course. If you’re working on any other genres, try the Expressive Punctuation course.)
Give students the group code
Look for the group code on the group page. Give this code to your students. They can enter the code when they create an account, or search for the code in Learn > My groups.
First lesson: Getting everyone used to Writelike
The exact details of how you introduce your class will vary depending the specifics of both class and lesson. This guide is based on an average-ability middle-years class with no prior experience in modelling mentor texts.
- Get a solid block of class time, either a full lesson or most of a double period.
- Put Writelike on a data projector.
- For your first session, don’t get students to login to Writelike at all.
- Have students record any responses on a notepad (paper or digital) and just focus on familiarising them with the way of working.
- To display your lesson, go to Learn > My assigned work. If you have more than one class, filter by the group. This is the page that students will see whenever they login. From here you can open the relevant lesson and demonstrate it as if you were a student in that group.
You have a student view of every group that you moderate, meaning you can demonstrate the same lesson in every class without having to delete previous entries or use different accounts or anything like that. Handy!
Familiarise the class with instructions, snippets, examples, and highlighters
- Have students read out any instructional text, snippets and examples.
- Facilitate discussion. When you find inspiration images and/or brainstorming prompts, ask students to take notes, and have a few read them out aloud.
- The first few times you see a snippet with highlighting, simply click to reveal the highlighting, and then toggle back and forth to make sure that students understand what has been highlighted. By doing this, you are also demonstrating that highlighted snippets are not quizzes; they are tools for analysing text.
- When you come to an example, ask students to tell you where any highlighting applies. You can apply the suggested markup by clicking on each highlighter and then dragging over the relevant text. Treat this as discussion. Sometimes there is an obviously correct way to highlight the given pattern, other times the highlighting is subjective or debatable.
- If everyone is comfortable with highlighting as a concept, then you can highlight the text yourself as part of the discussion. For example, if a student identifies a prepositional phrase or a piece of escalating action, you can mark that text with the appropriate highlighter, ask if other students agree or disagree, change the markup as appropriate, and then toggle to reveal the answer, and discuss further.
Note: Unless otherwise indicated, the highlighting on snippets and examples is not a test; it's a tool for thinking and discussion. (We did try making example highlighting a mandatory right/wrong activity, and it caused more headaches than it was worth.) So don't worry about highlighting snippets and examples manually. Just use toggle highlights on and off, and use manual highlighting if it helps you jointly analyse a piece of text with your class.
Demonstrate how to write and highlight responses
- The first couple of times you have to write a response, draft a response in front of the class, articulating your thinking. Then ask the class for alternatives and rewrite your response accordingly. This gets students thinking about the potential range of responses.
- To close the learning loop, show students how to apply highlighting to the response with reference to the examples provided. Does the response follow the pattern? If not, why not? Could it be edited to follow the pattern? By doing this, you are modelling the practice of reflective editing in general, as well as showing how to use Writelike specifically for this task.
Show students how to use the sidebar navigation in the lesson
At this point it’s also a good idea to point out the sidebar navigation, showing how pages are marked off when complete and how students can jump between pages.
Get students working directly in Writelike
Once everyone is comfortable with the overall process, get students to login and start the lesson again on their own accounts, completing the first few activities already done in class.
Spot-check student work during class
Spot-check student responses using the Workbook and/or Progress Overview pages. You can find both of these on the group’s moderation page (Teach > Groups, look for the group name).
If appropriate, ask students to share their responses with the class, and discuss if the responses meet the relevant pattern.
By doing this, you will familiarise yourself with Writelike’s reporting tools, and students will get an understanding of what you as a teacher can see or not see.
Let students work in this way until the end of the lesson, spot checking again at the end. Ask them to complete the rest as homework (in whatever amount of time is appropriate given the class and the content) but stop at the portfolio piece.
If necessary, spot check the homework outside of class using the Workbooks and/or Progress Overview pages. You should be able to quickly determine if students are completing the work and if they are making genuine responses.
Second lesson: Writing and reviewing portfolio pieces
When you’re ready, have another class session where you look at the portfolio piece specifically.
Probably best to aim for another double-period, although a single 40 minute lesson might be enough. Allocate enough time for you to explain the process, for students to write their pieces, for everyone to complete peer review rounds, and for you to demonstrate how you use the feedback tool and how students can see that feedback when given.
- Explain to students that portfolio pieces are Writelike’s version of a summative assessment. They pull together all the concepts in the lesson and allows peer review and teacher comments.
- Talk through the instructions for the portfolio piece, and make sure students understand. Point out that there is no highlighting, and that students can go back to previous pages if they want to review any concepts or examples.
- Note that portfolio pieces are generally more open-ended than the on-page exercises. Students should feel like they have been exercising under restraints until this point, and the portfolio piece gives them a chance to stretch their muscles.
- Ask the students to write their portfolio pieces in class. Give students a time limit, and if the time is on the short side, emphasise that the goal right now is to get familiar with the Writelike process, not do the best possible piece.
- When the time is up, make sure every student has saved their portfolio piece.
- Point out that students should see a Peer Review notification in the navbar. If they click on this, they can begin to review each other’s work.
- Show students how they can review the instructions, source snippet and student response, then select a simple traffic light indicator and leave a comment.
- Point out that peer reviewers can’t see who wrote the piece they are looking at, but you can see who the peers are.
- Encourage students to be constructive and honest. They should be checking to see if their peer applied the given patterns effectively.
- Demonstrate how, when each piece has been reviewed the set number of times, it comes to you for a final check. Show them how you can see both the portfolio piece and the peer feedback, and how you can leave the same traffic light indicator and comments.
- Once students have finished their portfolio pieces and peer reviews, you should be able to finish your feedback.
- And that's your first Writelike lesson complete!
By this stage both you and the students should have a solid sense of how Writelike works in practice, and you'll be beginning to see whether or not your students are responsive, whether or not it makes an impact on their writing, and how you might incorporate it into your teaching.
Subsequent lessons: incorporating Writelike into your teaching
Ideally, you’d incorporate Writelike into your teaching practice in a way that:
- promotes social learning
- provides frequent and sustained practice
- is time-effective for you as the teacher.
This balance will differ based on your particular needs, but we’d suggest assigning Writelike as an almost nightly homework activity (in small chunks) and then devoting a classroom lesson to it every couple of weeks, either to teach content or to check in and have students share their work.
Think of Writelike as the writing equivalent of conditioning for a sport or musical instrument. Athletes and musicians do all sorts of drills and exercises on a daily basis, which are interspersed with performances of varying levels of commitment and challenge. Writelike lesson pages are small exercises, the portfolio pieces are a low-stakes performance, and the assessable work that students produce for class is the main event.
For each new lesson you assign, you might want to introduce it in class, even if just for 15 minutes to warm up.
Keep an eye on the homework over subsequent days/weeks, and then have a full-class check-in when the portfolio pieces are complete and reviewed, so students can read out the best pieces (and maybe review why some others didn’t work as well).
If you are introducing a new lesson type—for instance if you have been doing the overview lessons in Narrative Basics and then start a project lesson—it might be worth spending some class time exploring the new lesson type and helping students understand any differences in approach (for instance, in overview lessons we use lots of different snippets, while in detailed practice or project lessons, we tend to study one single, complex snippet from multiple angles).
Real world variations
Having seen an idealised description of Writelike use, you can probably begin to imagine all sorts of variations. For instance:
- Offer Writelike as extension work for your early finishers
- Use it as a homework activity only
- Use it as a classroom demonstration tool—don’t create any accounts, just work through lessons on a projector while students write answers in notebooks
- Use it as a special occasion or end of term activity
- Use it for targeted interventions on specific topics.