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Lesson Plan

Improve Students' Writing Using Online Workshops

E-mail / Share / Print This Page / Print All Materials (Note: Handouts must be printed separately)

Grades 6 – 8
Lesson Plan Type Standard Lesson
Estimated Time At least three 60-minute sessions
Lesson Author

Sonja Mack

Ellsworth, Michigan


International Literacy Association


Materials and Technology






  • Computers with Internet access

  • If You're Afraid of the Dark, Remember the Night Rainbow by Cooper Edens (Chronicle, 1979)

  • Art supplies

  • Chart paper and markers

  • Student journals for reading logs

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1. If you do not have computers with Internet access, arrange to spend two sessions in your school's computer lab (see Sessions 2 and 3).

2. Visit Nicenet to set up an online classroom. This free online tool offers you the ability to conference online with students, post assignments and links, and send e-mail messages. Students will use it to post their work and to communicate with each other for the peer review portion of the lesson.

To create an online class, click on the Create a Class link, located on the right side of the screen . You will be prompted to enter a username, a password, and a class name. You may also choose to enter your e-mail address and first and last name. If you do not enter your name, you will be listed as anonymous.

After you sign up, you will receive an e-mail with a class "key" (a combination of numbers) that you will give to students so they can sign up for the class.

3. Look at your classroom area on the Nicenet site. Its features include:

  • Home - this page shows any personal messages and any new additions to other areas of the site

  • Conferencing - this forum offers a place for members of the community to post messages about each other's work

  • Link Sharing - this is a place to link to additional online resources

  • Documents - this is the place where you will find students' drafts and final copies

  • Class Schedule - this is a calendar of events and assignments

  • Class Members - this is a class list including e-mail addresses

Explore other areas of the site, as you may want to use them for extensions to this lesson or for future lessons. Bookmark this site on the computers students will be using.

4. Create a place in your online classroom for students to turn in their assignments by clicking on the Class Schedule link at the left side of the screen. Click on New Assignment and fill in the information about the assignment as follows:

1. Assignment Name: If Statement Draft
2. Assignment Due Date: Insert appropriate date
3. Assignment Description: If Statement for Writing Group

If you want students to receive a reminder, you can choose when to send one. Students will turn their assignment in using the online classroom. When you are finished, click Add New Assignment.

5. Make sure your students have permission to use the Internet following your school's policy. Using the Online Peer Review: Sample Letter to Parents as a basis, send a note home to parents about the project and the online classroom, explaining that students will need an e-mail address to participate and that the site will not send junk mail to the address. You may also invite parents to join the online classroom by sharing the URL and the class "key" with them. This will allow them to read everyone's work.

6. Once you have set up your online classroom and gotten permission from parents, have students join the class by clicking on the appropriate link on the right-hand side of the Nicenet homepage and entering the class key, a username, their e-mail address, and their name. You might also provide students with an overview or tour of the site, and encourage them to explore the site independently to become familiar with it before Session 2.

7. Obtain and familiarize yourself with If You're Afraid of the Dark, Remember the Night Rainbow by Cooper Edens. You will read this book aloud to the class during Session 1, and might want to make notes or record prompt questions that encourage students to think critically about both the form and content of the book (see Session 1, Steps 4 and 5).

8. Print and make a copy of the If Statements Prewriting handout and the If Statement Rubric for each student.

9. Divide the class into writing groups of three or four students. Students in these groups will review each other's writing and offer constructive feedback.

10. If your students do not keep a reader's log, introduce this concept to them. (You might ask them to start keeping one with some texts prior to this lesson.) Explain that they will use this tool to help them implement all the strategies of a good reader. Students should record a dialogue with the text as they read, including comments, questions, predictions, connections (to themselves and other texts), interpretations, challenges, and extensions of the text.

11. Gather art supplies for students to use when creating their final pages in the class book.

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