The thermodynamics of glittens, mini-narrow reading and collaborative writing

The ever resourceful Rachael Roberts/@teflerinha recent post on collaborative writing got me thinking about the idea generation phase of doing such writing. Storch (2005) found that most of the time was spent in this phase of the process by participants in their small study. As time is always tight, a way to short-circuit this so students can get to the actual writing is desirable. Krashen (2004) argues that using texts which are related is an efficient reading method.

So why not employ a mini-narrow reading where you have a small number of related text that students would read. Their task is to make notes on their text, exchange the info they have then write a paragraph together describing what they had read and the relationship between the texts.

This offers a way to bypass the long idea generation phase. I tried this recently using these two texts – Science proves that you should wear glittens; Branching in biology animation.

The resulting engagement does of course depend on the texts one chooses. In this case I can confidently say that the students were into the task. I would have liked more time to explore their thoughts more directly though.

You can see some of the development in the written work in the following video:

Thanks for reading and if you have any collaborative writing tips let me (or Rachael) know.


Krashen, S. (2004). The Case for Narrow Reading. Language Magazine 3(5):17-19. Retrieved from

Storch, N. (2005). Collaborative writing: Product, process, and students’ reflections. Journal of Second Language Writing, 14(3), 153-173.

8 thoughts on “The thermodynamics of glittens, mini-narrow reading and collaborative writing

  1. This is a great combination of approaches that would (did) really work. I imagine it could be particularly successful when students have to write about a topic they really don’t know much about, as often happens in IELTS.

  2. thanks for commenting Rachael and for getting me to mull over this issue! this approach does lessen the cognitive load for generating ideas and allows students to focus on the composition. but as noted it does very much depend on the text.

  3. hi there

    yes students were using google drive, i find it very handy for these kinds of writing activities. i am hoping when i get a big enough dataset to be able to analyse the composition process in some way.
    thanks for commenting, have you tried collaborative writing in class?


  4. Hi Mura,

    Love the idea of students having to work together to find the relationship between two texts. Seems like it’s a built in way to check for comprehension of the reading. I use google drive for colaborative writing in some of my classes. I found letting students edit/make suggestions on other student’s texts in different color fonts to be a huge, unexpected benefit. Not sure why, but students in my classes seem less hesitant to edit other student’s work on a computer screen than on paper. Anyway, like the video and how the students have the text to work with as they are composing. Very eco friendly as well as processing load friendly.


    1. hey kevin

      nice to see u here.
      google drive is efficient for doing writing activities whether individual or collaborative. as you say sts do seem more willing to engage with each other more than on paper, once they get over the initial novelty of edit sharing!


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