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Making PoWs Work in Your School

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Here are some suggestions for making PoWs more effective within your class and your school:

  • Create a small group of 4-6 teachers who use PoWs and are willing to commit to a 10-minute "Stand Up Meeting" once a week. The idea is to meet regularly for a short time to share ideas and brainstorm strategies. Choose a facilitator who can funnel any communication between meetings.
  • If your school/district uses FirstClass or a similar group communication system, ask your system administrator to set up a PoW conference/group for participating teachers to share ideas, especially in districts with multiple schools.
  • Incorporate PoW writing into your school's literacy program. Technical writing is often overlooked as a genre, especially for younger children.
  • The online submission process:
    • If you school does not already do so, consider teaching keyboarding to students as early as grade 3.
    • Enlist the help of parent/senior volunteers, or older students (HS service projects?) with keyboarding skills. Have solvers produce a hand-written draft and edit according to your normal writing process. Rather than dictating their solution, they'll read their edited text to the typist. Their thoughts have been refined, and yet the typist doesn't have to try to decipher the student's writing. This can develop into a nice role model project.
    • A team or partnership can compose a group submission and divide up the typing. Having one person read to the typist from a written draft is far less tedious than having a typist looking back and forth at a piece of paper, whether the typist has keyboarding skills or not.
    • Graphic images can be uploaded with your solution. Follow the instructions on the submission page. Files saved as .jpg and .gif work best. They can be digital photos, screen shots, computer generated drawings, scanned images of a drawing on paper. For best results try to size them at no more than 600 pixels wide. This is helpful for conveying visual representations that do not translate easily to text. We've even had students compose their entire solution on paper and send it as a scanned image. Motivation for legible handwriting!
    • Does your school own AlphaSmart keyboards or laptops? These can provide flexibility of time and space to help get the job done. AlphaSmarts might even be loaned to go home overnight.

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