COW is a unique tool for teachers and students to use in their writing programs. A question arising with teachers is, “What does a classroom using COW look like?” Here are some of the ways a typical classroom can use COW–
Ms. Brown teaches a 7th grade class of thirty students. Every Monday, the class looks at this week’s COW Writing Challenge. They discuss the topic, the genre, and have a class brainstorming session of possible ideas for approaching this writing challenge.
Before some writing sessions, Ms. Brown will introduce a new writing challenge she has created for her class. She does this by doing the writing challenge together with her class using the SMART board or projector. After modelling this writing challenge, she takes the class to the computer lab or brings in the school’s trolley of Chromebooks and turns the students loose on the writing challenge. She allows them enough time to write, enabling her students to reach the minimum word goal of 100 words with each writing session.
Occasionally, Ms. Brown tells the students that it is “COW Time!” Once again, students are given access to computers and are engaged in free writing time. Students can choose to write the weekly COW Writing Challenge, one of Ms. Brown’s custom designed writing challenges, or simply select Free Writing (which draws upon the bank of COW prompts and bonus words.)
During some busy weeks at school, Ms. Brown assigns COW Time to her students as a homework assignment. She ensures those students with limited internet access at home are provided with other means of completing their homework, such as giving them access to the computer lab after school.
Once a week, Ms. Brown logs into her teacher’s account and checks her class’s stats page to see how much writing her class has done over the week. She takes note of her most active writers, as well as the students who have done no writing that week.
Once or twice a week, Ms. Brown checks her class list to read unread student writing. After reading the stories, she approves stories to be shared on the Class Bookshelf and leaves comments for her students on their writing.
An important part of Ms. Brown’s writing program is the weekly sharing session which she holds every Friday. Students know that they can share their writing to the Class Bookshelf throughout the week for classmates to read. During this Friday sharing session, students have the opportunity to read their writing to their classmates or have a discussion about the content and form of the writing. Sometimes, Ms. Brown has the students share their writing on one particular writing challenge. This enables her students to see the various approaches each writer took to the same prompt and bonus word list. During these sharing sessions, Ms. Brown always stresses the importance of positive and constructive criticism of student writing.
Once every three weeks, Ms. Brown has her students select one of their pieces of writing to take through the editing process. Her students carefully examine the text analysis stats to target areas of improvement. In addition, she teaches mini-lessons on certain aspects of composition she wishes her students to apply to their revisions. Her students then use COW’s Edit Mode to revise their drafts. After the first revision, she pairs students up for peer-to-peer revision. With certain students, she meets individually to review changes to be made to their piece of writing.
On a weekly basis, Ms. Brown and the students review the class’s writing goals and set a target for how many more words the class will write during the upcoming week.
Every teacher takes the resources at their disposal and adapts them to their own needs and the needs of their students. As a teacher, you may wish to use COW in a very different way from Ms. Brown. We’d love to know how you use COW in your classroom! Please leave a comment below or send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.