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.