Whiteboard Duels: Collaborative Drafting

Collaborative Drafting

In my time outside of school, I often freelance as a speechwriter. My students know this, and when one of my students came to me with the speechwriting scenario of the century, I decided that a whiteboard duel would be perfect for the task.

This particular student is traveling throughout UN member nations researching and speaking about the Sustainable Development Goals. Her task is daunting and the complexity of her mission deserves its own post. However, the speaking portion of her mission requires that she speaks to various groups about her personal connection to these goals and her unique viewpoint as one who has spanned the globe to see these goals in action. In short, she has become a pseudo-expert for the UN, and she has an intriguing need to express her expertise effectively.

In helping this student prepare her remarks, I used a collaborative drafting method called a Whiteboard Duel.

We began our drafting by answering 3 metacognitive questions: What are you doing? Why does it matter? and Why should other people care?

The Materials

The biggest whiteboard you can find, two or more different colored markers, two erasers, and a timer.

The idea of the Whiteboard Duel is that two or more writers collaborate on a project in real time. In my scenario, my student and I decided to work on a specific portion of the speech, and we set a ten-minute timer. We then set about crafting a speech.

The Process

  1. Set a purpose
  2. Set a timer
  3. Draft

The Rules

  1. For the duration of the timer, talking is not allowed.
  2. Anything can be erased, but it must be replaced with new writing.
  3. Now is not the time for grammar and punctuation edits.

The beauty of this drafting exercise is that it provides two (or more) writers with the explicit authority to revise a collaborative text. While, in the end, this speech will be delivered by my student, and I will have little to no responsibility to it, the in-the-moment drafting gives both writers real ownership.

My words became her words and her words became mine.

The Duel in Action

After the first draft, we took pictures, erased the board, and moved on to transitions.

As we wrote and revised, we started writing all over the board. We worked on opening lines, transitions, golden lines, and lists. As we finished our drafts of different sections, we scanned the board and read each other’s work. When one of us saw fit, we erased the other’s words and revised the section. As often occurs, as I was drafting a key section of the speech, my student was following right behind me and revising my writing. This was the key moment in which the writing became co-owned. By the end of the duel, the whiteboard was covered in every color available and multiple arrows depicted the flow of the text. We drafted for over an hour and crafted a thirty-minute speech that was recently delivered to sustainable farmers in Tibet.


My next step with this exercise is to digitize it so small groups of students can engage in

The speech came together after my student and I listed the vital talking points and drafted golden lines.

the process without the need for a whiteboard. I see this exercise being useful as students co-create presentations for their historical, social, and political movements assignment. As pairs research a specific movement (Greenpeace, Anti-fracking, Veganism, etc.) they can draft their presentations on a shared Google Doc. While the process may lose the magic of the Whiteboard Duel name, what remains will be the philosophical process of co-creation that leads to co-ownership.

– Matt

How do you co-create with your students? How do you encourage students to collaborate? You can connect with me on Twitter @MGriesinger or on Facebook at facebook.com/movingwriters.

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