Start Building Your Digital Writing Toolkit

I hate paper. While I’m generally a pretty organized person, paper is the beast I’m forever trying to tame: I can never find the piece that I want, I run out of it at the most inopportune times, and the piles of it that need filing never seem to get any smaller. It’s no wonder I always struggled with keeping all of the papers I needed for conferring with writers together in an accessible manner.

That is, until a few years ago, when I came across a magical blog post by Kelsey Sorum at the Two Writing Teachers blog, laying out exactly how to organize a writing toolkit using a pocket portfolio like this one. (Check out the book Kelsey co-authored, The Responsive Writing Teacher.) I immediately ordered the portfolio, pulled out my labels and markers, and got to work. I ended up creating a toolkit for each type of text: narrative, information, and opinion/argument.

Finally, a system that kept all my conferring tools organized!

Then the pandemic hit. Suddenly we were all figuring out how to do our work on Zoom and school districts were creating then changing policies almost every day.

It was impossible to keep up. One day I could share my screen, and the next, I couldn’t. Some days the tech worked, and some days it didn’t. On one such day when I couldn’t get my DIY document camera working, I quickly took a picture of the mentor text I wanted to share with a writer and shared a digitized version from my iPad.

It was then the lightbulb went on — I could digitize my whole toolkit!

Now I have both an analog and digital version, so I’m ready for any situation.

Take a peek at a quick video tour of my digital writing toolkit.

Equipment recommendations
Here’s some of my favorite equipment for building my digital writing toolkit:

  • iPad with Apple Pencil
  • GoodNotes app – You could use any other note-taking app, but I like ones that make it easy to mark up PDFs with a stylus.

How to set up your digital writing toolkit:

  • Folder for housing toolkits (notebooks)
  • Notebooks for each writing type and conferring notes
  • Pages with titles (add to outline)
  • Import PDFs of charts, mentor texts, paper choices
  • Write demo texts if needed

If you don’t have an iPad or other tablet brand, you could still keep much of your toolkit in Google slides or Google docs. You could also create a toolkit on Padlet like this one by Stacey Shubitz from Two Writing Teachers. Of course, if you don’t have an aversion to paper like I do, stick with paper!

How do you keep your conferring tools organized? We’d love to hear your ideas, or let us know if you try this version.

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