Wednesday, July 15, 2015

written conversations

I'm at the Illinois Writing Project, friends! It's a 2 and a half week course all about Writing with a focus on teacher leadership the second week. Every day, we get this blissful Writing Workshop time to compose anything we want! Today, I'm sharing Written Conversations with you, a strategy we used earlier this morning!

What are Written Conversations?
They are just that - a silent activity where two participants each write a note (in our case, in response to a story we read). Then, when both finish, they pass their note to the other, then respond to their partner's thoughts.

How can you use them?

  • Get to know someone! Introduce yourself ask a question to your partner, then respond.
  • Build background knowledge: Share a topic, kids write what they know and then respond to one another.
  • Response to Literature: Students write letters about their Just Right books, short stories, brief articles and teacher or a partnered peer responds
  • Exit Slip (?): Maybe kids could write about something they learned at the end of a unit, then have a written conversation, and then teachers could collect?
  • Staff Development: Share a teaching strategy by way of a short article and then have paired teachers engage in written response to one another about the article
What other ideas do you have for implementation?

After participating in this activity, we spent a good 30 minutes debriefing. (Think Share Time!) There was so much to learn! The ideas here represent the ideas of the participants of my group - so thank you to all my colleagues who shared! 

Side note: It was during this time that I thought I should get everyone's twitter handle so I could give credit where it's due! Unfortunately, for this activity, I wasn't tracking who said what! But appreciations to my class for sharing their ideas that are now shared here!

Benefits of Written Conversation
  1. Honors 2 Voices: Many times, when we have a Turn and Talk, the conversation will go off on one person's response to the article. In this case, both partners started their response, so two conversations of different content were going simultaneously!
  2. Focused Listening: In verbal conversation, we tend to listen long enough to then start figuring out our response. In Written Conversation, you can really hear what your partner has to say and then begin composing your response.
  3. Less Daunting: When students are paired, everyone participates more often and the teacher doesn't have to respond to everyone. As a teacher who used to do this about Just Right books with ever kid in my class, I can tell you that this was a big undertaking. I would spend an hour - 1:15 minutes PER DAY responding to my kids letters about books. While it paved the way for exceptional, deep thinking, it was time consuming to say the least!
  4. Awareness of Audience: Getting kids to think about audience for their writing is so abstract. When kids write for one another, they can really begin to understand what that means. I for example, was making jokes in some of my letters, while another participant might be more serious. If kids changed partners for this activity, they would definitely begin to see how audience plays a role in writing.
  5. Special Record: You walk away with a record of your conversation, so make sure they're in a special notebook!
Teacher Tips for Implementation
  1. Remind students to respond to what their partner says, not carry on the conversation they originally started in their own notebook. Asking students to include a question at the end (like us bloggers do) can help guide this!
  2. If needed, remind kids that the conversation is about the content, not the grammar. No need to worry about conventions, just as long as your message is clear.
  3. Teacher should float during this time to look onto conversations and perhaps, make some notes for debrief.
  4. Want to do a shortened version? Have kids write on post-it's and then pass them!
  5. Tech version? Could we use Twitter here somehow?
How have you used Written Conversation?
Do you have a great idea to Rev Up Writing? Share it with The Reading Crew!


  1. Oh my goodness this is a great idea!!! I cannot WAIT to do this. Keep the ideas coming. :)

  2. Fantastic timing on our topic, huh! What a great way to work on dialogue...something kids just can not master easily! Thanks for sharing and can't wait to hear what else you learn.


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