Early this school year I came across a post about using hyperdocs on Cult of Pedagogy. After reading Jenn’s post, I immediately started doing more research. In addition to this post about playlists (similar idea), I also found a Facebook Group and a Padlet full of hyperdocs! Jackpot! I thought, why can’t I use a hyperdoc to teach writing?
In recent years I have learned that I love to teach writing. And, honestly, I’m better at teaching writing than I am at teaching reading, grammar, vocabulary (and everything else). I feel as though I’ve had a lot of opportunities to hone my writing instruction over the last few years thanks to some amazing resources. Two of my favorites are Write Like This by Kelly Gallagher and Writing with Mentors by Allison Marchetti and Rebekkah O’Dell. (I have a whole pile at school, but as I’m writing this post in my new home office, I can’t remember all the titles!) In addition to books, there are myriad blogs I follow that have helped me improve.
When I found all of the amazing HyperDoc resources listed above, I hoped I could combine hyperdocs and the other resources I’ve cultivated to create the ultimate writing experience.
And thus began my journey with hyperdocs.
Why You Should Consider Using a HyperDoc to Teach Writing
I have found teaching the whole class the writing process can be very frustrating. It’s frustrating for me because you have some kids who aren’t paying attention, some who aren’t interested, some who are both, some who are ten steps ahead. Ugh. It’s frustrating for the kids for the same reasons. It also means that more time is taken up with me up in front of the class rather than helping individuals through the process.
Having a hyperdoc allows you a lot more time to actually teach writing to the students who need the instruction most. How you might ask?
- The hyperdoc allows students to work at their own pace. This might not work for everyone or all grade levels, but I teach Juniors and I preach to them the importance of taking responsibility for their learning. Using the HyperDoc format, students have to keep up with assignments, due dates, resources, and advocate for themselves when they’re struggling. I love being able to force (for lack of a better word) my students to take ownership of their own learning. When they ask me a question or show me their work, I often times ask them if they checked their resources and, honestly, I refuse to answer their questions until they do. 9 times out of 10, they answer their own questions just by checking the resources provided (surprise!).
- The hyperdoc means I have almost whole class periods to conference with students. I work the requirement of meeting with me at least three times as part of the process. Some kids will meet with me ten times, others just the three, but no matter what, I feel way more connected with my writers during the process. (I wrote about how I manage kids lining up for conferences here and why I’m obsessed with conferences here).
- This format also allows us to do some other things, without it feeling overwhelming. For example, we can do some ACT practice and then they can get to work on hyperdocs without me having to lead them through each activity in the class period. It doesn’t feel as busy when I’m not up there teaching “at” them the whole time.
How to Use a HyperDoc for Teaching Writing
At first, I was just incredibly overwhelmed. I thought there was no way I could put a HyperDoc together, especially not in time for my students to write their Great Gatsby essays. Thankfully, the thought of teaching the essay “the usual way” just bored me to death, so I threw myself into creating a HyperDoc based on a template I found on the Padlet.
It was a beautiful sight and the writing process went so smoothly, that I was hooked.
Once I got started, it wasn’t too hard to make a hyperdoc. Don’t get me wrong, it is not a short process. It takes quite some time to put it together. Thankfully, I arrange my Google Drive folders by numbering docs in the order we need them in a lesson/activity/unit. I also use Canvas, so my plans from last year are archived and I can see how long things took. Between all of that and checking my reflections from last year, I was able to put all the resources in the HyperDoc with approximately the right timing.
The hardest part was making sure I included all the potential resources, organizing everything, timing it out, and trying to preemptively address as much as possible. Then I had to have someone check the entire hyperdoc to make sure all of the links would work for the students. Thankfully I had a student teacher who was able and willing!
My HyperDocs and What I’ve Learned
This is the first hyperdoc I made for The Great Gatsby essay (some links may not work for people not at my school).
What I Learned From Creating the First HyperDoc
- It was too much. It is very busy and I tried to include too much in each box. You can see on my newest hyperdoc that I spaced it out a little differently.
- I had required links and extra links in the same boxes–which meant the students were just clicking on whatever was first.
- Directions about what to do at each step weren’t clear enough (apparently).
- Kids need a little more direction as to how to follow the doc and/or what to do with it.
- Consistency is better than colorful. 🙂
Here is my second attempt. This one is for the Argument Essay that we’re getting started on right now.
What Was Improved (Hopefully)
- The four columns–I think it’s easier to look at. The step and title are on the left (easy to navigate), the directions and everything students HAVE to do in the second column, extra resources in the third column, and space for them to keep track of when they finished on the far right.
- I put a blue box with directions under each section where they have to share a link or otherwise do something. It’s easier to see where/when things have to be turned in when scrolling through because the blue stands out.
- It’s easier for the students to look at and keep up with what’s going on because I separated the additional resources and notes from the directions and links that must be followed/completed.
Final Thoughts & Tips
HyperDocs are worth the upfront effort that you have to put in. Here’s why: 1) Everything is planned for the number of days/weeks you’ll be working on the unit; 2) Students take ownership of their learning if nothing else because they have to; 3) the extra time provided by a hyperdoc is worth it.
Tip 1: Take the time to walk your students through the hyperdoc, explain to them why you’re doing it, and own up to any shortcomings that might be exposed during the process.
Tip 2: Make a screencast of the how and why for parents. Email it to them.
Tip 3: Put up a chart or something in your room to track student progress through the steps. I divided an extra whiteboard into the number of steps (For the TGG Essay) and had students put their names on little 1/4 pieces of notecards. Each day, I’d tell them to move their name to show what they had accomplished. It made for a great visual.
Tip 4: Don’t start from scratch! Use a template and then just add and delete as necessary. Take it from me, it is significantly easier!
Tip 5: Don’t freak out. It’s scary and overwhelming because it can be HUGE! Just do it. It’s worth a try.
I am not a hyperdoc purist by any means. Mine might actually be a “playlists” instead of a “hyperdocs”, but let me tell you, I don’t care what they’re called. They work and they’re awesome. Even my students, especially my students who don’t love school, have spoken up to say they like the hyperdoc format. That’s just the endorsement I’m looking for when trying somethign new!!
Have you made any hyperdocs? I’d love to hear about your experience! Also, feel free to email me or comment with questions!