The Best Writer in the Room Uses an OHP

About five or six years ago I discovered a dusty old overhead projector in a cupboard  in school. It had long been abandoned, long been dismissed as a redundant classroom tool, destined for the scrap heap. However, when I wiped it down, cleared the dust from the glass, I found that it worked perfectly well. Increasingly frustrated by the lack of good internet access at the time  – still am to be honest – I decided to give it a comeback. And I haven’t regretted it one bit.

My OHP is the most important piece of technology in my classroom. You may laugh: you may mock. In fact, I know you probably are. Without doubt, though, it is the one consistent teaching tool I have kept in my class without finding a better alternative. Provision of ICT is a problem where I teach. I have an iPad – I’m writing this post on it, in fact – but it cannot do the things I can do on an OHP. I can connect the Ipad to a projector, of course, but any apps which cater to handwriting are not as accessible or authentic.IMG_0711

I use my OHP every day, especially during writing workshop sessions. Instead of returning marked papers and getting on with the redrafts I can choose one particular paper, type it up, stick it on an acetate and work on improvements with the whole class. We can add bits, take bits out, completely rewrite sentences. We can critique in an open and constructive way, with every student knowing that it will be their work we will be working on soon. It is a very public critique which allows students to  become more confident in their ability to share work, something of which many teenagers are terrified. We can highlight weekly language points and how to add them into redrafts. I haven’t found any other technology which allows me to do all of this in such a way.

It is fantastic for modeling writing. When I read about others modeling writing I’m always looking for tales of teachers writing alongside  the students as they write. I don’t always read that. I read of teachers giving copies of their previously written pieces for students to read which is incredibly  powerful. However, I think modeling the struggle of writing, the constant rereading and redrafting of writing is the most powerful thing we can do as teachers of writing. To show that writing is difficult, that it is okay be untidy on a first draft; that you can score things out and add words and change things as you go. These are the techniques I think my students lacked when I previously focused more on final drafts of work.

My OHP allows me to wander around the classroom and return to it to add a sentence I’ve thought of or noticed an adjective I want to change. It allows me to correct as I write and model the things that writers struggle with throughout the writing process. I write the same tasks as students, displaying how a metaphor might be more appropriate than a simile in one instance or how a complex sentences might not be as powerful as a short, simple one. I am the best writer in the room. Why would I not model that for them?

‘Though students know that writing is hard, they do not realise that more experienced writers often struggle as much as they do. Our students stand a greater chance of internalising and embracing the complexity of writing when they see their teachers struggle to internalise and embrace the complexity of writing.‘

(Gallagher, Kelly, 2006, Teaching Adolescent Writers,

Stenhouse Publishers, Maine, p.50)

I use my Ipad a lot in class. I have students blogging and doing all sorts of ICT related activities when appropriate. However, I can honestly say that my OHP is the most effective and reliable piece of tech in my classroom. I couldn’t live with out. And I won’t until something better takes its place. You may laugh: you may mock. In fact, I know you probably are

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