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Developing Independence in a Remote Classroom: Meeting Writers Where They Are

One thing I can say with a tremendous amount of certainty is that every teacher who is reading this already knows the challenges of remote teaching. You might also know how it can be innovative, exciting, and draining to the core.

I am experiencing all of this while teaching Kindergarten remotely this year. I feel innovative, excited, drained, and challenged. Potentially the largest shift for me was transitioning from third grade back to kindergarten. Also, I had to determine how I would establish routines that intentionally built independence. 

I’ve landed on three important factors that are essential:

  • Access to Tools
  • Instructional Routines
  • Opportunities to Share 

Access to Tools

In a remote classroom, depending on protocols, access to physical tools like pens, paper, notebooks, and other tangible tools can be challenging. In my personal situation, the families I serve have one day a week where pick-up and drop-off of materials are permitted. This allows me to supplement students with paper, folders, stapled booklets, and other essentials for kindergarten writers like pens and writing tools.

In addition to tangible tools, students also have access to online tools. Hence, I can innovate and create digital resources to support online independent writing through photos, video, and voice recordings. 

In the spring, I made a clickable slide with links to minilessons for students to revisit within a nonfiction unit. This allowed students who were within different parts of the writing process to independently visit instruction on the work they were currently doing. 

Over the summer, I developed a toolkit of resources I could use in a middle school classroom that I shared in this post and here as well.

In my current role as a remote kindergarten teacher, I am utilizing live sessions, small group sessions, and asynchronous lessons to provide reusable tools students can access when I’m not right there. 

Here are a couple of examples of what I have used this year to support families. 

Each day, I share a version of the schedule below in a Google slide. 

Besides the daily schedule, I also share the week’s schedule for meeting times, which does not frequently change, aside from enrollment or shifts in needs based on individual students. 

Having access to tools is important; in addition, knowing when and how to use them is equally important. That’s why making your schedule known early and frequently can be a helpful tool for students, families, and you. 

When developing independence in new skills, remember, teaching and scaffolding are key to building the bridge bringing students from dependency to independent consistency and confidence. 

The following is an example of a digital toolkit I developed for kindergarteners that could be used as inspiration for almost any grade level as you imagine the needs of the student writers you serve. 

Click to visit the live Buncee with audio and video lesson links.

Instructional Routines

Just as routines give comfort, reassurance, and rhythm in a traditional face-to-face classroom, the same speaks true of remote classrooms. Having routines that repeat within the weekly schedule as well as within your daily routine is important. 

In a remote environment, when students transition to their independent writing time, we may not know exactly what they are transitioning from. Therefore, our instructional routine needs to become instinctual. When it is, it will support the independence of your writers.

If your writing lessons are always live and students’ independent writing time occurs within the space of that live meeting, consider beginning each writing session with a song, chant, or set-up checklist. 

A set-up checklist might be an assignment completed earlier in the year as you built the community together. You could consider having students include a photo of what their writing space looks like, where they have charts located, and how they sit. Visual tools, such as these or catchy songs, can help students flip the switch to writing. Therefore, if writers just came in from their backyard, their favorite youtube channel, or lunch–their brains can transition to writing instruction with little time lost corralling their attention. 

The same can be said for a recorded lesson. Beginning the lesson with statements, songs, chants, or a checklist can successfully set the writer’s mind toward writing.

Opportunities to Share

As a remote teacher, finding time for students to share their writing with an audience can be an obstacle. There are options like blogs, Padlet, Flipgrid, and Google Docs that allow students to share and comment on their peers’ writing. I found that my third graders really enjoyed using these tools. Here is one example using a Flipgrid poetry share from the spring.

For my kindergarten students, as we continue to learn what being a writer looks like and feels like, they are enjoying sharing videos and voice recordings in their Seesaw Journals. Not only does this allow me to hear them and see them, but it is also motivating for students to independently accomplish writing so they can share their writing! 

Click to hear this student tell a story.

What I really appreciate about video and voice recorded examples of sharing writing is the student is center stage. I can sense how enthusiastic, certain, and satisfied a writer is based on how they share the work with me or their classmates. 

I’ve also found saving five minutes following a live lesson, regardless of the content, can be a wonderful routine opportunity to allow students who want to share the work they are doing. This allows for community building and trust within the group atmosphere. 

Personally, I have not been able to experiment with video breakout rooms via Zoom or Google Meets Plus Pro within my district. However, in my conversations with fellow remote kindergarten teachers in other districts, it seems that breakout rooms can allow for wonderful partnership opportunities or one-on-one sharing with students in the midst of a writing piece or ready to publish. 

As you consider how you will measure the independence of the students you serve, first think about: 

  • Access to Tools
  • Instructional Routines
  • Opportunities to Share 

Have you been able to allow these three essential elements to become a rhythmic part of your remote workshop environment? If not, what supports do you need to fulfill these essentials? Leave your questions and comments below. 

Let’s support each other in this time.

GIVEAWAY INFO:

  • This giveaway is for a copy of ONE of the following books (winner’s choice): A Teacher’s Guide to Writing Workshop Essentials: Time, Choice, Response by Katherine Bomer and Corinne Arens, Every Kid a Writer: Strategies That Get Every Kid Writing by Kelly Boswell, or Joy Write: Cultivating High-Impact, Low-Stakes Writing by Ralph Fletcher. Thanks to Heinemann for donating one of these to the winner of this giveaway. (You must have a U.S.A. mailing address — Sorry, no FPOs — to win a print copy of the book of your choosing. If you have an international mailing address, then you will receive an electronic copy.)
  • For a chance to win this copy of one of these books, please leave a comment about this or any blog post in this blog series by Sunday, November 8th at 6:00 p.m. EST. Marina Rodriguez will use a random number generator to pick the winner’s commenter number. Their name will be announced in the ICYMI blog post for this series on Monday, November 9th.
  • Please leave a valid e-mail address when you post your comment so Marina can contact you to obtain your mailing address if you win.  From there, our contact at Heinemann will ship the book to you.  (NOTE: Your email address will not be published online if you leave it in the email field only.)
  • If you are the winner of the book, Marina will email you with the subject line of TWO WRITING TEACHERS – MEET WRITERS. Please respond to her email with your mailing address within five days of receipt. A new winner will be chosen if a response isn’t received within five days of the giveaway announcement.

Betsy Hubbard View All

Daughter, sister, wife, mother, teacher, and writer.

10 thoughts on “Developing Independence in a Remote Classroom: Meeting Writers Where They Are Leave a comment

  1. I’m teaching remotely and writing workshop is one period my students enjoy. It’s the time that their voices can be heard and they have control over their choices. Thank you for your post. I am going to work on adding more support for my early writers that they can use while working independently.

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  2. Teaching remotely has been a challenge, but most of my students love writing workshop. It’s the time when they can use their voice and make their choices. Your post gave me some great ideas to better support my young writers. Hoping to have a flipgrid publishing party to end our first unit. Thank you for the inspiration.

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  3. These ideas are amazing- thank you. Now that we are entering the next leg of remote learning, I am eager to reinvision writer’s workshop with my 5th graders.

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  4. I love this! I am teaching grades 4 & 5 Spanish bilingual online. I love the ideas you offer here for helping kids develop their independence and confidence as writers. Will be working on some of those this weekend.

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  5. Thank you so much for sharing your journey. I work with educators in Iowa as a school improvement consultant. Your suggestions help support what we already know but sometimes forget to do when teaching virtually: create a routine, equity in resources, and allow time to connect and share. I appreciate your balance in synchronous and asynchronous learning. We all are aware of Zoom fatigue and while connecting ‘live’ with kids is important there is a limitation to what can be impactful. Best wishes to you! It is our opportunity to learn from each other that provides the motivation and insight we need!

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  6. Wow! Thank you for sharing this post! It helped me to see how you created that amazing resource for your writers and things they may encounter during workshop.

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  7. I appreciate seeing how you break down your remote teaching day for your students. I was not familiar with Buncee. What you have created is an amazing resource for your young writers. What a wonderful idea. Thank you so much for sharing the thinking behind your teaching. You are so intentional and purposeful!

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