How to Be Successful at Teaching Writing with 1:1 Devices


Teaching writing with 1:1 devices doesn’t have to be scary. In fact, it’s a great way to have examples and directions right at your students’ fingertips!

The first year that our 1:1 iPads were released, I taught primarily reading and writing. I love technology, but I was more than a little concerned about my students’ writing skills declining. I had used a lot of technology in the past for research and creation in project based learning, but had also used journals and other hand written forms.

While many other teachers fell into the trap of shiny reading and writing apps, I was determined to make sure that my lessons stayed consistent with what I knew were the essential lessons my students needed. We continued to integrate writing into project based learning, but my writer’s workshop and other mini-lessons went totally digital. Here are my tips after spending a few years implementing writing on 1:1 devices.

Prepare Teacher Models

One of the key parts of my writing instruction before going 1:1 were my teacher models. I walked my students through each step of the writing process, thinking out loud, and handwriting everything down. I knew that this needed to stay consistent when using 1:1 devices, so I put all of my examples in Google Slides where my students could always access them.

Having these teacher models on hand really helped my students. Many times, one would come back to conference with me, and I’d have them pull up one of my examples for them to examine – and they were able to easily see what I was looking for and put it into their own writing.

This is a photograph of a person holding a tablet with a writing assignment on it.

Scaffold Student Note-Taking

Putting everything in Google Slides made it fairly easy for students to write notes on my examples. However, I couldn’t just expect them to know what to do. The first several times we used the devices in our writing gathering place, I had to show them exactly what I wanted them to take notes on.

I also suggest having a way to have students write goals for that day’s session. For example, if you’re working on introduction paragraphs that day, have them write immediate goals pertaining to them writing their introduction paragraphs. These can easily be added in Google Slides, or on any task list app (MinimaList is my favorite because they can also time themselves on the task).

This is a graphic showing the MinimaList app on 1:1 devices.
This is a photograph of a person holding a tablet with a writing assignment on it.

Have Directions Ready to Go

I always give directions during our mini-lesson, but there are always a few students that forget by the time they get to their desks. Have their directions ready to go in Google Slides or Google Classroom. This, along with their task lists, will ensure less questions from students about what they need to be doing.

This is a photograph of writing instructions on a tablet for ELA class.

Preparation is really key when you’re taking your writing lessons digital. You can find my full lessons for 4th and 5th grade, in paper AND digital form, by clicking here. These three steps will help prepare your students to easily create quality writing in Google Docs, or any other word processing app!


April Smith

Curriculum Writer and Online Professional Development Coach. 


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