A New Approach To Teaching Writing With Hyperdocs

A New Approach To Teaching Writing With Hyperdocs

Teachers, you’ve got to try a new approach to teaching writing with hyperdocs.

What are hyperdocs? According to their creators, Lisa Highfill, Kelly Hilton and Sarah Landis, hyperdocs are “a transformative, interactive, personalized engaging too to help facilitate student creativity and collaboration” (The Hyperdoc Handbook).

And I can testify that hyperdocs have done exactly that to the way I teach writing: they’ve transformed and personalized my teaching to enhance student creativity and create a collaborative classroom where kids are excited about learning and producing high-quality work.

And they’re super fun, too!

A New Approach To Teaching Writing With Hyperdocs

Hyperdocs start with a teacher creating a template using Google docs or slides to package their content in a visually appealing and organized way to offer students choice and voice with their learning. By using Google Suite, students collaborate, create, reflect and connect and apply their learning at their own pace and meet their own needs. I’ve found that using hyperdocs in my middle school classroom has not only allowed me to coach them more easily and discover areas that need reteaching or mini lessons prior to submitting a finished product, but they allow students to better control their learning and self-differentiate.

Here’s an example of a hyperdoc I use to teach narrative writing:

A New Approach To Teaching Writing With Hyperdocs

Click on the link to download your own copy! Narrative writing draft, revise, edit, reflect and publish hyperdocs

I created this hyperdoc, but it was adapted from @sarahlandis and © HyperDocs. That’s one of the best parts of “hyperdoc-ing” – they’ve created a community of teachers sharing curriculum, enabling virtual collaboration and creating content that keeps getting better and richer and more creative from lesson to lesson.

As you can see from my narrative writing hyperdoc, I’m able to package my narrative writing unit from draft to publish using one Google doc. Before hyperdocs, a typical writing unit would revolve around me planning lots of direct instruction lessons for the whole class, and then offer time to draft during class or at home. I would spend most of the class period instructing from the front with the occasional writing conference at my desk. I felt disengaged from the work in progress. All students would start and end at the same place, regardless of their ability, interest or work ethic.

A New Approach To Teaching Writing With Hyperdocs
Students working on narrative writing with hyperdocs.

When I migrated to teaching writing with hyperdocs, I found a way to capture all the cool tools and techniques I’d been wanting to try. I quickly realized that by allowing my students to see the whole project at once, I could not only allow students to move at their own pace, but I could monitor work and offer feedback much more easily. To my great surprise, however, was the instant collaboration that erupted in my classroom. Students were suddenly working on video mini-lessons together. They were reflecting on techniques and explaining editing tools to each other. I was rotating around the room, looking over shoulders and tracking progress. I moved to teaching 5-10 minute whole group mini-lessons explaining tech tools or working on time management every other day, spending the rest of the class period answering questions and partnering up kids to help each other. Absent students didn’t miss out – they had everything they needed to work from home or pick right back up when they returned. My classroom hums with activity and focus and my students are writing – a lot.

A New Approach To Teaching Writing With Hyperdocs
Teaching writing with hyperdocs offers students choice and voice.

My favorite part of teaching writing with hyperdocs is how they facilitate the publish and reflect portions of the process. I love to embed a link to a Google form for students to respond to direct questions about their writing process, as well as to ask for feedback and new ideas for improving the next unit. I’ve been pleasantly surprised with the ideas that are generated, and the student thinking that happens when asked to share the tools they used, or what they want to improve for the next writing project. Hyperdocs have also allowed me to offer a myriad of choices for student publishing. I can differentiate the rigor of a variety of platforms, allowing students to choose not only which final project will best represent their story, but also how much time they want to devote to learning a new publishing tool or falling back on something more familiar. And finally, after publishing, hyperdocs offer a way to promote an extension of the lessons for kids who need an extra challenge or want multiple modes of expressing or enhancing their learning.

A New Approach To Teaching Writing With Hyperdocs

If you’d like more copies of hyperdocs, I’m happy to share – just send me an email with the subject you’re looking for, and if I have something, I’ll share the Google Doc/Slides. I also have a Pinterest board for hyperdoc tools.

I’d love to hear your thoughts about a new approach to teaching writing with hyperdocs – once you try them, I know you’ll be hooked! If you’d like an overview, check out Laura Moore’s Narrative Writing hyperdoc outlining when/how to teach narrative at different grade levels, and how to scaffold during the year.

I originally wrote this post for The Educator’s Room. You should check it out – it’s full of resources for teacher AND parents!

 

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Jennifer Wolfe

Jennifer Wolfe, a writer-teacher-mom, is dedicated to finding the extraordinary in the ordinary moments of life by thinking deeply, loving fiercely, and teaching audaciously. Jennifer is a Google Certified Educator, Hyperdoc fanatic, and a voracious reader. Read her stories on her blog, mamawolfe, and grab free copies of her teaching and parenting resources.

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the fall of lisa bellow a must read

The Fall of Lisa Bellow by Susan Perabo: A Must-Read About Mothers, Daughters, Trauma and Loss

“Sometimes in the morning, while she waited for her brother to get out of the bathroom, Meredith Oliver would stand in front of her bureau mirror, lock eyes with her reflection, and say, “This is me. This is really me. Right now. This is me. This is my real life. This is me.”~from The Fall of Lisa Bellow by Susan Perabo: A Must Read About Mothers, Daughters, Trauma and Loss

When I read the first page of The Fall of Lisa Bellow by Susan Perabo, I wasn’t sure it was going to be for me. Not only am I extremely picky about the novels I spend time with (have you seen my Instagram shelfie shots? It’s obnoxious how long my ‘to-be-read’ list is), but also I spend every work day surrounded by girls like the main character of the novel, Meredith Oliver. Meredith is a typically self-conscious eighth-grade girl. Now I love my job teaching 8th grade, but sometimes at the end of the day, I just want to escape into a  novel nowhere near my real life.

I’m sure glad I didn’t give up on this one. The Fall of Lisa Bellow got under my skin – in a good way. That’s why I’m calling this one a ‘must read’ about mothers, daughters, trauma, and loss.

the fall of lisa bellow a must read

What it’s about:

Meredith Oliver is the youngest in her family; her parents, are both dentists and her brother Evan, is a high school junior. The novel starts off describing her typical teenage angst as she goes about her day, feeling overshadowed by her brother who has experienced life-changing trauma. The plot takes an uptick when on an ordinary day, in broad daylight, Meredith finds herself in the middle of a sandwich shop robbery, quivering in fear on the dirty floor next to the most popular girl in her eighth-grade class, Lisa Bellow. When the gunman chooses Lisa as his hostage, leaving Meredith behind, the plot expands to pull in their families, Meredith’s emotional struggle with being the survivor, and the ripple effects of trauma on the mothers of both girls.

Meredith’s mom, Claire, is uncomfortably pulled into the grief Lisa’s mom is experiencing, which forces Claire to desperately try to cling to her own daughter, the survivor. Claire’s character development weaves threads of maternal guilt, the anxiety of knowing if she’s doing the ‘right thing’, and the universal struggle between parent and child during adolescence. Evan, Meredith’s brother, appears first as a victim of his own traumatic accident and develops as an example of how one can rise and triumph. Mrs. Bellow, Lisa’s mom, portrays the gut-shattering grief experienced by parents experiencing the loss of their child, and the conflict of trying to live without her.

the fall of lisa bellow a must read quote

Why I liked it:

Aside from the fact that I am fascinated by the teenage mind and how humans seem to navigate into and out of its murkiness, I think what I connected with most in this novel was the battle experienced by Claire as she grappled with her maternal instincts versus the reality of her life as a mother, wife, and woman. I know firsthand, like so many mothers, what happens when our children are hurt, either mentally or physically. When my son experienced his ski racing injury and had to rehabilitate and adjust the trajectory of his life experience, I felt the anxiety of second guessing the enormity of his experience and wanting to trust my belief that ‘all will be well’. You can read my reflection on that experience here. Motherhood is no simple task, and add in marriage and career and mid-life disquietude I certainly connected with Susan Perabo’s character.

One of my favorite scenes came about half way through the novel. Claire, in desperate attempt to connect to her daughter’s experience, is consulting Meredith’s therapist. Frustrated at her inability to control the situation, Claire asks,

“How will I know when she’s ready?”

“You’ve been protecting her your whole life,” he said. “You’ll know.”

But he was wrong. Protecting her? …She could not protect her daughter. She could not protect her from the stomach flu. She could not protect her from cancer or AIDS or the common cold. She could not protect her from the mean girls. She could not protect her from her friends. She could not protect her from her own thoughts…She could vaccinate them and make them wear seatbelts and batting helmets. She could give them cell phones with emergency numbers on speed dial. She could give them straight-talk books and scared straight DVDs and a solid, honest, pitch-perfect piece of advice every single morning on their way out the door. But in the end, there was no intervention.

There was only awareness”

~from The Fall of Lisa Bellow, page 165

How many parents have felt this urge to protect, to intervene, to try to anticipate every hurt and shield our children from the pain of real life? This novel reminded me so much of the book If I Fall, If I Die by Michael Christie with a somewhat reverse plot line. I wrote a post inspired by If I Fall, If I Die called “Please Don’t Go Outside” in which I explored the paradox of wanting your children to grow and love and become their own person and the fear of letting them go where you can’t see. You can read it here.

I also enjoyed the narrative structure of the story; told in alternating points of view, the novel bubbled with tension and kept me connecting with both Meredith and Claire as the plot unfolded. Additionally, there were points in the storytelling where I found myself pausing and thinking about why the writer chose a sort of ‘flashback’ technique that made me wonder if I was really understanding the point of view at all. This beautiful writing, combined with authentic characters and suspenseful plot lines, kept me pushing to finish my end of the year grading so I could reward myself with just a few more chapters of this lovely book.

Who should read it?

As I paged through the story, I questioned if this was a young-adult novel or simply a story for parents struggling with watching their children grow. At the end, I decided it was both. I’m going to share this book in my 8th-grade classroom, and watch who gravitates towards it. I think teens will certainly connect with Meredith’s character and conflict, and I know moms and parents will align with Claire and Mrs. Bellow’s challenges.

Overall, I think The Fall of Lisa Bellow is a must read, and I sure hope you’ll come back here and let me know what your thoughts are.

The Fall of Lisa Bellow by Susan Perabo is published by Simon & Schuster, who provided me with a complimentary copy. All opinions are my own.

 

Jennifer Wolfe

Jennifer Wolfe, a writer-teacher-mom, is dedicated to finding the extraordinary in the ordinary moments of life by thinking deeply, loving fiercely, and teaching audaciously. Jennifer is a Google Certified Educator, Hyperdoc fanatic, and a voracious reader. Read her stories on her blog, mamawolfe, and grab free copies of her teaching and parenting resources.

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What Do Kids Think On The First Day of Middle School?

Summer is finally over. Parents are secretly smiling as they shoo their kids out the door, snap a few first day of school photos and sigh. Yes, some of you might shed a few tears over the passage of time and the impending high school graduation – even if it’s still five years away. And some of you try to walk your kids to their first class in middle school (a big no-no) and even more of you hover in the parking lot or your local coffee shop and quietly wonder what’s happening to your kid inside the walls of their 7th and 8th grade classrooms.

As I start my 25th year of middle school, I thought I’d give you a sneak peek. And one thing your kids say might just be true: the first day of school can be a real snoozer. Far too many teachers fill their first moments with kids drilling them with rules and consequences, with syllabi and seriousness.

Fortunately, I came to my senses and gave that up long ago. Middle school is about relationships. It’s about smiling, about showing you care, and letting kids know that school can actually be fun – even when it’s not lunch or passing period.

On the first day of school, I like to mix it up and actually do an activity that gets kids thinking, analyzing and moving straight away. One of my favorites is called “Post the post it on the poster”.

My motivation here is two fold: I want kids to know what I’m thinking about as I start the year, and I also am surreptitiously watching how they move, who they gravitate towards and of course, how they respond to my questions.

How would you answer these?

middle school teachers

One of my favorite (and most common) responses: little did I know I’d have to channel my inner entertainer when I began teaching middle school!

middle school teachers

Do you think this kid is serious, or just trying to make nice with the new teacher?

middle school teacher

No, this wasn’t the “what kind of a teacher do you want” question – this one was about what kids should be doing in the classroom. Ha ha!

middle school kid advice

I love when they tell me what to do – and boy, do they love to tell me…

middle school teacher advice

And yes, they definitely have their priorities straight about why they’re there:

middle school

Of course, I have to bring it back around to the beginning of the year, and have them think about themselves (middle school kids LOVE to think about themselves!):

middle school goal setting

No pressure, huh? Can you believe how many of them set goals around their grades? Is that their parents talking?

middle school goals

This one was my favorite. I wish I knew who wrote it, but then again, it doesn’t really make much difference. Be the best we can be. Be open to new things. If we can accomplish that goal, we’re going to have an amazing year.

I’ll let you know how it goes!

Jennifer Wolfe

Jennifer Wolfe, a writer-teacher-mom, is dedicated to finding the extraordinary in the ordinary moments of life by thinking deeply, loving fiercely, and teaching audaciously. Jennifer is a Google Certified Educator, Hyperdoc fanatic, and a voracious reader. Read her stories on her blog, mamawolfe, and grab free copies of her teaching and parenting resources.

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