How Have You Used Collaborative Writing?

Hi Everyone,

This post presents another recap of the recent Help Adult Literacy Students Increase Their Writing Fluency event! Dr. Mary Ann Corley described how to use collaborative writing to increase students' writing fluency. She suggested forming groups of 5 students, and then:

“Write a sentence on a piece of paper and pass it to one student in each group. That student reads what’s written and adds a sentence—one that follows logically from the first sentence. The student then passes the paper along to the next student in the group, who adds a new sentence. Continue this until the paper gets back to the originator. Caution groups not to discuss the sentences until the last person writes.

“Ask one student in each group to read the collaborative paragraph aloud so that the whole class can see and enjoy the differences among the various groups’ creations! Alternative ways to use collaborative writing include students helping one another develop ideas and ways to express those ideas.”

  • How have you used collaborative writing techniques?

Thanks for your thoughts,

Steve Schmidt, Moderator (About Me)

LINCS Reading and Writing Group 


Hi Everyone,

We had a great discussion last year about collaborative writing. To whet your appetite for that discussion, one of the key points was:

"The research from Writing Next (Graham and Perin, 2007) identifies collaborative writing as one of the most effective methods for helping students learn to write well. (It yielded an effect size of .75, indicating that collaborative writing has a highly significant effect on student learning)" (Corley, 2020).

Happy Thanksgiving,


I had great success when teaching developmental reading at the local community college (this class typically served students between a 4th-9th grade reading level) when we worked on writing collaborative summaries. The end product from each group was a one-paragraph written summary of a text that was collected and then in the subsequent class, small groups again gathered to give peer feedback on the other groups' summaries.

There are many benefits to reading, writing, speaking & listening from this type of activity:

  • Students read a text and then discuss what key ideas to include in a summary, what to leave out, and why, deepening their understanding of the text.
  • Students participate in collaborative speaking and listening to agree on what the summary should include and how it should be written.
  • Students use oral language to put together ideas before writing them.
  • Students who have stronger oral skills can still participate fully with students who are stronger writers.
  • All students come away with a better understanding of creating summaries from text.

When I was in a classroom with multiple whiteboards, I would ask each group to write the summary on the whiteboard, and then other groups would do a gallery walk and discuss each summary (could do this on flipchart paper as well). Then in the next class, I would give them print copies of the summaries to discuss again, and together, we would compile a list of characteristics of effective summaries.

This activity was always a precursor to an assignment for students to write individual summaries about another text. I saw a big difference in quality adding this guided practice step.




Thanks for your description of this great collaborative writing activity, Kristine! You have combined two of the most important strategies to help students improve their writing: collaborative writing and summarization! Marzano, Pickering, and Pollock in their 2002 study (Classroom Instruction that Works) have listed summarization as "one of the top nine effective teaching strategies in the history of education." Likewise, Steve Graham and Dolores Perin in their landmark study Writing Next (2007), identified both summarization and collaborative writing as 2 of the11 elements of writing instruction found to be effective for helping students learn to write well and to use writing as a tool for learning. I also applaud your asking students to collaboratively do a peer review of other groups' writing. Thank you for sharing this activity!      

Hello Mary Ann, Kristine, Steve and all, Something I read in Tony Stead's 2006 book, Reality Checks: Teaching Reading Comprehension with Nonfiction, years ago has long stuck with me. Stead emphasizes in this book that learning to summarize is not easy! I think we can all attest to that. I would say it's perhaps the most difficult skill to master as a writer. Accordingly, teachers need to start by understanding that learning to summarize is hard which requires we teachers to teach this skill step-by-step. The process outlined by you, Kristine, is a great example of doing just that!

I'm eager to hear from others about the effectiveness of collaborative writing.

Cheers, Susan Finn Miller

Moderator, English Language Acquisition CoP