Using Wikis to Teach Writing

Over the past year I’ve really learned how to leverage wikis as a learning tool and place to host meaningful learning activities online.  This post assumes that you have already created a wiki site in WetPaint. Some people don’t like WetPaint because it’s editing quirks, but it seems like one of the better web based wiki aps with WYSIWYG (What You See Is What You Get) features. Here’s my attempt to share my knowledge.  Although these activities are geared around teaching writing they structure of the wiki pages can be applied to almost any subject.

If you are not sure how to set up your wiki refer to the instructions on the WetPaint FAQs page here: http://www.wetpaintcentral.com/page/FAQ

The following steps will explain three page designs that can be used to teach writing:

  • Analyze a piece of writing
  • Demonstrate a writing skill
  • Writing in collaboration with others

Analyze a piece of writing:

  1. Students can analyze a piece of writing on the wiki page.  First, add a wiki page. If you are not sure how to add a page refer to these instructions on the WetPaint FAQs page: http://www.wetpaintcentral.com/page/Add+Page . Title your wiki page as you see fit.
  2. Add you own instructions to the top of the page.
  3. Below the instructions, insert a table with one column and one row. This is where you will insert the piece of writing you wish the students to analyze. If you are not sure how to insert a table, refer to these instructions on the WetPaint FAQs page:  http://www.wetpaintcentral.com/page/Add+Table Once you have created the table insert the text of the writing you wish the students to analyze. Refer the image for an example.
  4. Create a second table that allows students to log their analysis of the writing. The can make individual points per row in the table. They must always label their comments with their name and identifier. Refer to this image for an example of a table. Save your wiki page.
Click the image to view a full sized version
Click the image to view a full sized version

Demonstrate a writing skill

Students can also practice a writing skill. Create a new wiki page and title it appropriately. Add your instructions to the top of the page.

Below the instructions, create a table with three columns and enough cells for your students to add a written sample plus one additional cell. See the image below for an example.

Students will write their sample writing piece in each available cell. They should identify their writing by including their name or initials at the end.

Click to view the full-sized image

Writing in collaboration with others

Writing in collaboration with others in a wiki can be fun as long as the rules are clear to all participants You should restrict the number of people who can collaborate on a piece to no more than six.  You can create several versions of the same page and assign groups of students to each version.

  1. Create a version of the page and make multiple copies as needed.
  2. Assign a color to each student in the group. This is the color that they will use to add their writing.
  3. Establish a set of rules for the students including information on how to do the following:
    • Edit others work
    • Providing suggestions
    • Taking turns editing the page

Collaboration

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