Unity is Strength: A Collaborative Writing Lesson Plan #CCK11 #ELTchat #edtech #esl #efl #elt

Unity is Strength (Credit: Alex Maingot)

Dr. Peter Elbow’s story was amazing, wasn’t it? How many students finish their education, like Peter, without knowing how to write? Countless, no doubt…

Writing is a skill that requires a lot of practice to do well. It’s not easy. So, let’s do a writing lesson, connectivist style. We’ll be putting the learning theory of Connectivism and Connective Knowledge to a practical use in this activity.

Ready? Let’s go!

Collaborative Writing:

Goal: To produce a final product, one to two pages in length, by going through a process of peer-reviewed, collaborative writing.

Time: One class period: 40 – 45 minutes

Materials: Paper, pen, internet connection, data show, laptop or computer.


Prewriting Stage:

1. Brainstorming / Pyramid Speaking:

For 3 – 4 minutes, students turn and talk (in pairs) about their memories of being 8 years old, related to friends, school, playing, and how they viewed the world.

Useful phrases:

When I was 8, I had _______ friends…
When I was 8, I went to school by_______ .
We used to play/do/make/have_______ .

After 3 – 4 minutes, the pairs form groups of 4.
Repeat the process, reporting what they learned from their partner.

After 3 – 4 minutes, form groups of 8.
Repeat the process, comparing what they have learned.

2. Next, the Teacher conducts a class plenary.
Students report, randomly, with Teacher writing useful phrases, vocabulary on the board.

3. YouTube Video (Unity is Strength)

While viewing:

Next, students watch a short video, taking notes about their reactions, thoughts, emotions.

4. After viewing:

All students take one sheet of paper each:

Rules: Each student writes one sentence and passes the sheet of paper to a classmate. The process continues, continually writing one sentence and passing the sheet of paper to another classmate.

After 20 minutes, stop the connectivist activity:

Each student should have finished with a completed collaborative story. Summarize the class for the day in the remaining time.

Phase II: Homework:

Group shared writing:

In groups of 4 – 8 students (depending on class size), each member of the group has to write a second draft of the story that they finished with in class. They are expected to collaborate with each other in this stage, on-line, using a Wiki, blog, email, or other LMS, such as MOODLE or Blackboard. (I store my knowledge in my friends).

5. Publication:

A hard copy of the the writing is displayed on the class wall, bulletin board, the hallway, in a newsletter, or other prominent place for their classmates to enjoy.

Parallel, a class blog could be created, using Blogspot, WordPress or other free blogging tool. Again, this is with student collaboration. (This depends on the resources available and the policies of each individual school).


This activity could be easily adapted, to meet the demands of students with higher abilities and skill levels, or used with more teacher support, in a guided learning / guided writing approach, to facilitate learners with lower levels of English.

Macauley Culkin - 8 - home alone (Credit: Google images)

About profesorbaker

Thomas Baker is the Past-President of TESOL Chile (2010-2011). He enjoys writing about a wide variety of topics. The source and inspiration for his writing comes from his family.
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4 Responses to Unity is Strength: A Collaborative Writing Lesson Plan #CCK11 #ELTchat #edtech #esl #efl #elt

  1. Theodore A, Hoppe says:

    I have to admit that I still do not write. If it were not for the computer, I would not create written text. I compose in words, a challenging concept to describe: type sentences, shift them around, reread, cut and paste, reread ,add sentences spelling check, dictionary lookup, and so forth. Typos are always there, still, so constant re reading to re-edit is needed, always. And still they slip in, cemented forever on the wed (haha-“web”)
    Many, millions, perhaps even most, are not oriented to the written word. even thought we read it is not the same as the challenge of writing. This is the source of much shame, when it is actually a process deficit of an intelligence type. Learning assume a singularity of process, when language is but one of way processes.
    Here I will reference Howard Gardner:Linguistic intelligence involves sensitivity to spoken and written language, the ability to learn languages, and the capacity to use language to accomplish certain goals. This intelligence includes the ability to effectively use language to express oneself rhetorically or poetically; and language as a means to remember information. Writers, poets, lawyers and speakers are among those that Howard Gardner sees as having high linguistic intelligence.


  2. Hi Theodore,

    Thank you for this incredible story that you share with me here. You began, in medias res, with a powerful, attention grabbing statement: (quote) “I have to admit that I still do not write”. (end of quote)

    I read this, started to answer, and then left it, wanting to reflect, deeply, before answering. I will quote a second statement, if you will be patient with me: (quote) “This is the source of much shame.”

    And now I quote myself: (quote) “Writing is a skill that requires a lot of practice to do well. It’s not easy.”

    Here is a final quote from you: “If it were not for the computer, I would not create written text. I compose in words, a challenging concept to describe: type sentences, shift them around, reread, cut and paste, reread ,add sentences spelling check, dictionary lookup, and so forth. Typos are always there, still, so constant re reading to re-edit is needed, always. And still they slip in, cemented forever…”

    Theodore, to sum up, you have my deepest admiration for your writing ability. You admit it’s difficult for you, painstaking, time-consuming. This causes you personal discomfort. For others, blessed with the linguistic intelligence described by Gardner, it is a matter of applying their linguistic gift to the writing task.

    I would like to point out that you describe perfectly, in a comprehensive manner, the writing process. If my students would apply themselves to their writing, as diligently, and as purposefully as you do when you write, I would be a highly contented teacher of English.

    Finally, I’d like to leave you with the words of Dr. Peter Elbow, regarding spelling and grammar: (quote) “Many, many good writers are not good with spelling, not good with grammar, but they know how to get the help they need.”

    My friend, as defined by Dr. Peter Elbow, you are a good writer. Your words impacted me today, and will influence the way I go about teaching writing to my students, who have the disadvantage, of writing in English, as a foreign language.

    The writing process, as you describe it here, going forward, then backward, editing, re-editing, reordering, cut and paste, and finally, when all is said and done in this process, the final product is ready.

    In my book, that’s good writing, any day, rain or shine. That’s all it is, good writing…

    Thank you for your valuable interaction here with me. I owe you a debt of gratitude for what I learned today.

    Best regards,


  3. Theodore A, Hoppe says:

    Thank you Thomas. It is always welcomed. In the need to express ourselves, we overcome much.
    Here is a link to some of my well edited written thoughts.

    But I will also share with you this.

    We live in turblent times-
    How well do you tread water in an ocean of negative emotion
    Shame is a storm, welling up and approaching
    Backstroke kick kick, look up at the clouds,
    the elephants with angel wings and the funny faces smiling back
    Up and down the waves churning with no shore in sight.
    No compassion in sight….
    No one to toss us a peppermint lifesaver.




    • Hi Theodore,

      I found this to be powerful, which you have written on your “TED, Ideas Worth Spreading”, main page:

      Here I quote you: (Quote) “The future of education has been the focus of the discussions I have been having with others. I love this quote and it seems to capture the essence of what TED is about: “Continual learning is the only skill that enables people to meet the challenge of expanding complexity wrought by expanding technology. Learning is a mental process that integrates intelligence and communication in the architecture of human thought . As the 21st century unfolds, technology must aim to avoid continual bumbling by strengthening literacy through continual learning using a process of intelligence that enables proactive concurrent discovery, rather than allow the future to merely arrive with increasingly disastrous consequences. ” Rod Welch. I am also very interested in the concept of eGovernance and how social networking analysis might lead to public-networking.” (end of quote)

      It is a pleasure to make your acquaintance, Theodore.

      Kind regards,


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