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!

 

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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Learn To Do Everything Lightly: Words From Aldous Huxley

” It’s dark because you are trying too hard. Lightly child, lightly. Learn to do everything lightly. 

Yes, feel lightly even though you’re feeling deeply. Just lightly let things happen and lightly cope with them. 

I was so preposterously serious in those days… Lightly – it’s the best advice ever given me…So throw away your baggage and go forward. There are quicksands all about you, sucking at your feet, trying to suck you down into fear and self-pity and despair. 

That’s why you must walk so lightly, my darling…”

~Aldous Huxley –  from Island 

lightly

Feelings are a struggle for me.

I’ve written before about my introverted self, and how hard it is for me to disconnect from the emotions that build up inside, whether it’s from working with my students and guiding them through their own challenges, or coming home and trying to balance teaching and motherhood, or coping with the transitions of motherhood from being a full-time mom to having one child away in college.

Sometimes I wish it could just ease up, that I could NOT feel…

It’s taken me awhile to realize that because discarding feelings easily is a struggle for me, I need to create rhythms and mantras in my day that not only help me to ease away from emotions but also to remember that the goal for me is to be here, now.

Stepping gently, avoiding the triggers that sink me into my own sort of ‘quicksands’ – learning to walk without slumping under the weight of my feelings has taken me half a century, but I’m getting there.

What triggers you, what sucks at your feet and keeps you from walking without burdens pushing you down?

I’d love to hear how you avoid falling into those quicksands, too.

Words are the spark that ignites my soul. I am a collector of language in all forms, not a hoarder. The extraordinary beauty of the written word must be shared. These monthly posts, inspired by another’s words, are my gifts of beauty and spirit, shared with love.

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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Educating The Heart

“Educating the mind without educating the heart is no education at all.” ~Aristotle

Teachers, have you thought about this? Do you know how you will educate your students’ hearts this year?

Childhood – especially the middle school years – can seem like a crazy-making manic time for kids. One minute they’re sweet, young and innocent, most interested in their lunchbox design and PBS Kids, and the next minute they’ve morphed into some sort of gangly, overgrown version of their elementary selves, obsessed with being away from their parents, in constant contact with their friends, and scouring Instagram for the latest trends and desperate to keep up with ‘likes’.

Teenagers – so desperate to be mature, to try on new styles, trends and personas – grow up quickly. Watching my middle school students evolve over the course of a school year crystallizes my belief that it’s all part of the process of life.

I remember one of my 8th grade students – typically a nice, ‘normal’ type of kid, who was well liked, quiet, and far from a trouble maker. Over the course of a week he started acting out – being a bit disruptive, more aggressive, and walked with just a hint of swagger. My teaching partner and I started noticing the change, and became concerned. When we approached him, he smiled in surprise and said, “Oh – no worries – I’m just trying something new.” And sure enough, after a few weeks, he was back to his old self.

educating the heart
Looking beyond our ‘labels’ – a lesson about representing our true selves.

I think about him often when I find myself mystified at the middle school behaviors going on around me. I’ve long given up asking ‘Why did you do that?’, because so often the genuine, honest response I would receive was “I have no idea.” I wonder what happens to this urgency to ‘try something new’ when we hit adulthood? The desperation seems to be replaced with fear, the excitement with sadness, the hopefulness with complacency. When adults ‘try something new’ we are so often accused of having a mid-life crisis; it’s no wonder that so many retreat back into their old habits, mre content with the familiar than the unknown. Where is the creativity that so absolutely explodes out of a child, only to be smothered by multitudes of logical plans in adulthood? Does it get buried deep in our souls, or does it simply evaporate in our quest for the American dream?

If you think back to your middle school years, can you remember feeling this urgency? Did you move from one trend to the next, constantly asserting your independence at any cost? Were you most interested in listening to what your friends said (because they totally understand what it’s like to be a kid) and ignoring every adult who tried to teach you so you didn’t have to learn it the ‘hard’ way?

I know I was that kid, and when I look back, the teachers and adults I most remember are the ones that first captured my heart. They were the ones who looked me in the eye, knowing that my painfully shy self was mustering up the courage of a queen to ask them for help. They were the ones who understood when I just couldn’t dissect that frog in Biology class, or was collapsing in tears when I lost my retainer in the lunch room. They were the adults who knew a little about the music I liked to listen to, and always had the right kind of chips and salsa and MTV when I really just needed a place to be. They were the ones who, 25 years later, still remembered what Jenny had to say when even she flunked that 8th grade English test.

So teachers, I challenge you to consider this: educating the heart before educating the mind. Instead of thinking of curriculum first, please think of the kids before all else. Remember that they are trying on new aspects of themselves all the time. Remember that they are still learning, that they want to do well, and that it is our job to serve their needs the best way we can. Please remember that if you can’t capture their heart, you’ll struggle all year to capture their mind. And above all else, find some way every day to show them a piece of you – to let them know that your heart is right in the center of this incredibly challenging, at times frustrating and always ridiculously amazing choice you made to become a teacher.

A version of this post first appeared on The Educator’s Room in August, 2016.

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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It’s The Last Day of School – So Why Aren’t My Students Leaving?

It’s always a minimum day schedule on the last day of school, making it super hard to get anything done (yes, they want us to teach up until the last bell), as well as to have a moment to breathe, to be present, to process what is going on.

The last day of school is about both endings and beginnings. It’s a celebration and a sniffle of what we’re leaving behind. It’s more than just hurry up, get inside, close the door, sign yearbooks and you’re off.

For me, the end of the school year is bittersweet. Even after 25 years of teaching middle school, I still have yet to leave the last day dry-eyed.

My classroom starts to feel like my home away from home, I guess.

Some years it’s worse than others. I’ve had years where the tears flowed from before the first bell even rang, until long after the kids (or most of them) left for their summer vacation.

This year was both usual and unusual.

This year the tears started at home, in my bathroom, when my friend Estherlyn texted me this photo of our boys at the end of 6th grade:

ready for 7th grade!

They were full of excitement, ready to tackle the adventure of ‘junior high’ for the next three years.

And now, three years later, my tears came as I thought of all the happiness, disappointment, joy, laughter and growth they’ve experienced. I thought of the classes and report cards and homework, the basketball games, the sleepovers and dances and the lunches in my room. I thought about how they’ve managed to stay close, and how much I would miss their faces next September.

And I thought of how they’ve grown in to young men and are so ready for 10th grade.

Not a great way to start a frantic day of goodbyes and thank yous.

I made it through most of my classes-they moved too fast to allow myself to sink into sadness. We had papers to collect, “The Diary of Anne Frank” to finish watching (yes, I do end the year with the Holocaust-but remember, Anne says, “No matter what, I still believe people are good at heart.” It’s uplifting, really).

I made it through the start of each class, thanking them for this community and for doing their best. I reminded my ‘kids’ of how hard they’ve worked, how their struggles have turned them into strong thinkers and readers and writers, and assured them that they were well prepared and ready for high school.

I think they believed me. I meant every word I said.

Except they don’t know the real reason I show a sad movie on the last day is another teacher trick for hiding my tears.

I received some beautiful notes and thank yous, some cookies and  gift cards and hugs. I could feel the tears right there, but I was holding it together. Bell rings, we talk, we watch, bell rings, they go. It’s like a well oiled machine.

And then the last period of the day was upon me, my struggling readers who I’ve encouraged and cheered and danced with (can you do the nae-nae? I can!) and  read with and tried to help them get to grade level. These kids hold such a special place in my heart. The tears are close…but in this class, we must celebrate! Cue Selena and dance!

And then suddenly the 9th graders started streaming in from the room across the hall. Kids I’d known since kindergarten, when their hair was neatly combed and backpacks proudly balanced on their shoulders. Kids that had spent the last three years eating lunch in my room, loving having a place to call ‘home’.

teacher thank you cards

They handed me a thank you card, and I made the mistake of opening it in front of them. You see, when teachers don’t open gifts in front of their students there’s a reason – it makes them cry. And it’s usually an ugly cry, and the kids usually don’t know what to do.

Cue ugly cry.

The card said ‘thanks for always letting us stay in your room (or at your house)’ and ‘you’re like a second mom to me’ and ‘without you our lunches wouldn’t have been nowhere near as great as they were’.

I honestly had no idea it meant so much to them.

And somewhere in there the last bell rang, we watched them stream out into summer and I closed the door on the last day of school. The quiet was eerie. The room was a mess. I breathed deeply.

And the door burst open.

A line of 11 gangly, sweaty, smiling 9th graders entered one by one, big arms wrapping around me. The tears streamed all over again with loose abandon. There was no card or cookies, just huge, grateful smiles covering up a bit of nervousness, as one by one they piled in and said thanks, my son at the end of the line.

“Thanks for having such great friends, Cam,” I whispered as he hugged me, his head towering over mine.

The next thing I knew it was lollipops and selfies and sharing moments from the last three years.

9th grade selfie

They didn’t leave. I didn’t want them to leave. None of us quite knew what to do. I wondered if they knew how much they mean to me – how much joy they brought when they were tiny little 7th graders watching the big kids with wonder in their eyes. Do they know the joy I felt when Cam was away at boarding school in 8th grade, and they still came to my room every day? I wonder if they felt the gratitude I had each lunchtime when they would flop their big 9th grade bodies on my beanbags, pull out their food and homework and Tech Decks and just be themselves?

And suddenly, the hugs started again. The tears, the smiles, the joy oozing up from inside.

The last day of school isn’t only the final day of classes – it’s the final day of this community, this place of being together. This home away from home.

This is why I teach. This is why I’ll be back again next year.

This is why they call me mamawolfe.

last day of school - mamawolfe

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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Education Reform: Three Ideas for the Next Four Years

ID-10076117There is no doubt in my mind: the American education system is in deep trouble and needs reform.  According to a recently published report of the world’s best education systems by the education firm, Pearson, the US ranked 17th of 40 developed countries.  Finland and South Korea, leading the study, received high rankings because they “tend to offer teachers higher status in society and have a “culture” of education.”

As a 22-year veteran California teacher, I live this every day.  In recent years, I have witnessed the decline in the culture of education in my community as well as nationwide.  While some might think funding is the root of all problems, I have some other ideas about how we can start to tackle education reform in America:

  1.  Put students first.  We need to start every discussion around the concept of what students need, not what the district needs, the state needs, or the federal government needs.  Students are our clientele, and we need to make decisions as if we were creating reform for our own children.  Thinking about kids first, and creating reform that is best for educating, nurturing and protecting ALL students is the first step.
  2. Create opportunities for student engagement.  America needs to reform our thinking about the primary purpose of schools: is it to churn out a citizen who is proficient at bubbling in answers on a test, or to develop creative, innovative, collaborative citizens?  By prioritizing the arts, humanities, and sciences equally, we allow children opportunities to learn in a variety of disciplines.  Honoring student exploration and discovery alongside standards will help develop confident, creative adults who can tackle the global issues facing their generation.
  3. Invest in teacher training.  Like any profession, teachers need relevant, high quality training to move forward.  America needs to support teachers by providing professional development as part of a teacher’s contract, with time to implement and refine throughout the school year.  Training that is focused on student-centered strategies, led by qualified educators with like-minded goals, will strengthen our workforce and help bring American schools back to the top of the world’s education systems.

So what can we do?  Do we sit back and watch our systems disintegrate, watch quality teachers leave the profession, and see our students stifled, bored, and falling behind? I think not. Now is the time to let your voice be heard. Stand up for education reform – our children deserve it.

*image courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net

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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