Edpuzzle Blog

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This week on #remotelearningdiaries, middle-school ELA teacher Hannah Johnson shares her process for differentiating the writing learning process. Read on to learn how you can create the same fantastic lesson using Edpuzzle!

Have you ever wished for more time to work one on one with students? Using Edpuzzle to explain and model each part of the writing process not only provides you more time to conference with your writers, but also provides students with the ability to work at their own pace.

As a middle-school ELA teacher, I assign a lot of essays throughout the year. Before beginning our Argumentative Essay, I created a mini-series of five Edpuzzle videos. Each video explains the directions and models a particular step of the writing process. Students answer embedded questions to check for understanding, evaluate examples, and begin to make choices about their own piece.

Essay Mini-Series:

  • Introduction to Argumentative Essays
  • Brainstorming
  • Drafting: Introduction Paragraph
  • Drafting: Body Paragraphs
  • Drafting: Conclusion Paragraph
  • Revising
  • Editing and Publishing

In the past, before using Edpuzzle, I usually spent 1-2 weeks on a writing piece. First, I would introduce each step, explain the directions, model the process, and then allow students time in class to complete that step. Unfortunately, this was not a perfect process. There were a few problems I always ran into.

Problem #1: Pacing

Students work at different paces as they move through the writing process. Some students would still be brainstorming when others were ready to revise. How could I provide instruction to those students who were ready to move on while simultaneously supporting students who were struggling to get started?

Problem #2: Too Many Questions

Students ask a lot of questions. What am I supposed to do for this part again? How long does my draft have to be? Did I write this introduction correctly? Questions mostly fell into two groups: ones related to instructions and ones related to a student’s writing. Many of the instructional questions could be answered by revisiting recorded directions, examples, and explanations. The writing-specific questions, on the other hand, could be answered with a quick one-on-one conference.

Step #1: Create the essay assignment.

In order to create this mini-series of videos, I needed to do a few things first. Before I could record, I needed to make sure my essay project was all set and ready to go. I typed up the prompt and directions for each step of the writing process. I included a scoring guide with rubric criteria for each step as well.

Personally, I love using Google Docs because Google Classroom will create a copy of the essay assignment for each student. I put everything, including space for the student’s draft, all onto one document. However, any tool can be used to create the essay assignment. Whatever works best for you!

TIP: Make sure to have your own example essay written before recording the videos.

Trust me, it is a lot easier to model each step if an example has already been created. That way, the thinking has already been done, and I can focus my attention on actually recording. In the past, I’ve tried to create the example at the same time I recorded, which led to a lot of restarts. Also, I purposely will make mistakes as I am writing so that I can show students how to revise and edit later.

Step #2: Record the videos.

Once the essay assignment has been created, it is time to record a video for each step of the writing process. There are many screen-recording tools, but I personally love Screencastify. When I am ready, Screencastify will begin recording whatever is on my computer screen. It records my voice as I read and explain the directions to students. It also uses my webcam to record a little video of myself that shows up in the corner of the screen. This is optional, but I think it adds a nice personal touch and allows students to pick up on any facial cues or body language.

Hannah Johnson Edited 1

After going over the directions, I begin creating an example. I show students where to click, what to type, and model my thinking out loud. If you have dual monitors, I normally will have my example pulled up on another screen. The students can’t see it, but I can see the example that I had already written. If you don’t have dual monitors, you could always print out your example for reference.

TIP: Make sure to do a practice run once or twice to work out any kinks.

In the past, I have gone through a whole recording just to realize my microphone was not enabled. I would recommend spending a bit of time preparing all the materials you will need prior to recording. Open up the essay assignment in a new tab. Have links to any resources such as an online thesaurus or spell checker open in another tab. Test your sound. Test your webcam. Test the playback. Make sure it’s saving properly. Doing all of this before the official recording will save you a ton of time.

Step #3: Upload the video and add questions.

Once I’ve created a video for each step of the writing process, I upload them all to Edpuzzle. Now it’s time for the fun part, embedding questions! I try to embed questions that check for understanding, questions in which students evaluate examples, and questions in which students begin making guided choices about their own writing. If possible, I make the questions multiple choice so that students can receive immediate feedback. Below are just some of the questions that I included in my mini-series for an argumentative essay.

Introduction to Argumentative Essays

  • Did you write down the due date of the essay in your planner?

Brainstorming

  • Is this a strong example of a thesis statement for your argumentative essay? I love dogs because they are cute, easy to care for, and extremely loyal.

    • Yes, because it contains supporting reasons.
    • No, because it contains first-person pronouns (I, me, my).

Drafting: Introduction Paragraph

  • Which type of hook do you think you will choose?

    • Quote
    • Fact
    • Questions

Hannah Johnson Edited 2

Drafting: Body Paragraphs

  • This body paragraph only has one piece of supporting textual evidence. I need at least two in each paragraph. Which other piece of supporting textual evidence best supports my last reason (dogs are loyal)?

Drafting: Conclusion Paragraph

  • Which option shows the correct order of your next steps?

    • Submit the Edpuzzle, check in with Mrs. Johnson, type your conclusion
    • Submit the Edpuzzle, type your conclusion, check in with Mrs. Johnson

Revising

  • Where can you look for a list of transition words and phrases?

    • In your notebook
    • Do a Google search for “transition word list”
    • On the whiteboard
    • All of the above

Editing and Publishing

  • If you need extra help with MLA formatting, what should you do?

    • Ask Mrs. Johnson for help.
    • Pick up a MLA handout from the tub up front.
    • Ask the principal.

Moment of Truth

Once the video series was complete, it was time to assign the Edpuzzles. I assigned each video to start on Monday and have the following Monday as a due date. I chose the option to “Post on Google Classroom” since that is the learning management system my school uses. Students worked independently during our 60-minutes classes each of the five days that week. They watched each video, answered the questions, and completed the writing process with their own argumentative essay.

I’ve never seen students so focused during a writing workshop. Students were excited to be able to work at their own pace. Students spent as much time they needed on each step, even going back to rewatch some of the videos as needed.

My time was no longer spent answering questions related to directions. I now had more time to hold individualized conferences with students as they were working. I was able to help the ones who were struggling and challenge the ones who “got it”. Students were actually using my feedback because it was fast and focused!

Final Words of Advice

So, think you want to try a mini-series for your next writing piece? Here are some useful tips I’ve picked up along the way.

Keep the videos short and focused. Originally, I had wanted to combine them all into one, but students work better when receiving the directions in chunks. Plus, middle schoolers' attention spans won’t last past about 10 minutes anyways!

Use multiple choice for immediate feedback. It takes time to assess short-answer questions. The more multiple choice options you can include, the faster the students will receive that feedback. Students will do a better job using the feedback if it is timely and specific.

Those essays were some of the best I’ve seen in a long time. With the amount of success I saw, I am excited to create more mini-series for each of the other writing pieces I do throughout the year.

When it’s all said and done, I really do love using Edpuzzle for essays. Now actually grading the essays, that’s a whole different story!

Want more excellent teacher tips? Check out #remotelearningdiaries next week for more great Edpuzzle lesson plans!

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Hannah Johnson

ELA Teacher at North Middle School

Hannah Johnson is a middle school English Language Arts Educator at a public school in St. Louis, Missouri, and a technology trainer for her district. In the past, Hannah has partnered with Discovery Education as a STEM Innovator and has implemented several inquiry units including an award-winning STEM project called Agents of Change. Because of her problem-solving and innovator’s mindset, she was named District Teacher of the Year for the Mehlville School District in 2018. She is continuing her learning journey by pursuing a Masters Degree in Educational Technology, specifically Learning Systems Design and Development.