This activity is great for interacting with other learners in the same class, interacting between classes in the same school or interaction with learners in other schools, both nationally and internationally. Below, the activity centres on story writing, but it can be easily changed to develop writing across the curriculum (timelines, biographies etc)
First set up a network of correspondents. For your first attempt, you may prefer to try it with groups within your own class or classes within your school. You can then expand the activity, writing round robins as a cluster or group of schools where you have connections.
It basically involves one group of learners (in pairs, small groups, or a class group) writing an opening paragraph to a story. They then email (or twitter!) their opening paragraph/line to the next group in the round. They in turn do the same and the story continues to ‘do the rounds’. Example-
1. ‘The boy entered the cave with great caution, knowing he would not like what he’d find there…’
2. ‘The cave was dark and damp, his small torch was of very little use. As he turned the corner, he entered an cavernous space…’
If all subsequent emails/twitter entries are made available to all groups in the round, learners can follow and critique the story’s progress, evaluating contributions and discussing progress.
The round usually comes to a natural conclusion, thereupon the story can be published on the school website(s).
What do I need?
Access to an email account or twitter account. Partner groups, classes or schools. If you use twitter, the safety guidelines below will ensure that only those permitted have access to the round robin.
We’ve found that this type of activity increases enthusiasm and participation even amongst reluctant writers. As the onus is on writing a line or a paragraph, learners can concentrate on a very short piece without becoming bogged down by ‘the bigger picture’ e.g. overall plot. The sense of anticipation at receiving the next round robin also serves to boost their eagerness to read more of the story and to write their own contributions.
Hints and tips
If you are opting to write a round robin with other schools, draw up a list of rules beforehand, such as ‘all participants must respond by adding to the round within 3 days’. This ensures that learners aren’t waiting for long periods of time for the next instalment.
Also, the more partners you include, the longer it will take for the round to return, so you may like to limit participants to 3 or 4 groups.
If you are using twitter, (very good for restricting the length of the contributions), then make sure you set up a hash-tag for the story so that is easy for others to find e.g #cave2012
Ensure all correspondence happens through you, the teacher. Emphasise to learners the importance of not sharing personal email addresses etc on the web.
Other ideas for round robin stories
- Experiment with Wiffiti and Voicethread to tell multimedia and non-sequential stories
- Allow children to link some of the key words / interesting words / difficult words in the story with hypertext links to more information or pictures or audio files e.g sounds of the sea, animal noises, storms etc. This means that the story can grow in ‘three dimensions’ and allows more children to contribute
- Paste the final story into a word document, save as a pdf and upload onto a Kindle so that other children can read it.
- Use twitter to write stories! Many writers and poets have experimented with Twitter’s 140-character format to bring new, serialized works in small chunks to draw people’s attention to their work. Some teachers may like the idea of asking their students to apply their creative writing skills to a restrictive social media outlet.