Lee Hewes

is totes becoming a teacher…

#20WC – The 20 word challenge.


Last year I was lucky enough to work with Michael Sky and the Phenomenal 15 – AKA The Outback Turtles. Whilst there I learned about the 100 Word Challenge,  a cool initiative to give real world purpose and audience to the writing that students do in school. Having seen how well Michael’s students do with this task, and how well their writing has developed over the last year since I was there, I thought it would be cool to do something similar with my class.

Now, my students are very different to the students up at North Star, predominantly from backgrounds in which English may not be the language spoken at home, and they are also much younger, in kindergarten and year 1. Due to these facts, I thought that 100 words might be a bit too much of a challenge, especially at the start of the year, and I didn’t want my students to become overwhelmed or anxious by the daunting prospect of an overly onerous  writing task. I want them to love writing and to want to keep doing it!

So with these things in mind I set up the 2o Word Challenge with K/1L. Here’s how it works.

Each Monday my lovely wife, Bianca Hewes gets her year 7 students from Beyond 57 to come up with a writing prompt for my students. This could be a sentence starter, a question, something visual, anything for kids to write something about. I then show this to the class and we have a discussion about what we might be able to write about the prompt. What does it look like? What’s happening in the background? What colours can you see? What do you think might be going on? Is there anything random that could possibly occur in the next instance? What might have just happened? Whatever.


I then get my students to write 20 words in response to the prompt in their writing books. They then bring it to me, I mark it, give them some formative feedback and they edit their works and bring them back to me again. I give them more feedback and then I log each one of them in to the nearby computers, open up a Google doc and get them to rewrite their work on that document. This week was my first week running the #20WC and it was hilarious to see how the students reacted to the fact that they were all editing the same document on several different computers! I don’t think they’d ever seen anything like it, so cool! 🙂

Michael has been given access to the document, so after my year one students have completed their writing he gets his year 3 or year 4 students to go through what they’ve written, to edit it and give my students even more feedback! I then read through the edited works on the IWB with my class before posting the writing to the class Weebly.

Bianca’s year 7 students then read though the posts and choose a ‘writer of the week’ who I give a book to keep. Literacy Central!

This week it went really well. My students were engaged and invested in their writing and the most confident year one writers in my class were able to get their writing on to the Google doc. I was able to also sit with other students in my class and get them to respond verbally to the prompt so that I could write their individual responses down for them to copy. This week I think I’ll have more of them ready to get their writing on to the G doc. It’s been really cool.

The other thing that, as fortune would have it, has really pleased me about the 20 Word Challenge is that the writer of the week this week was a student who had told me in response to a previous blogging activity that he “didn’t like blog cos it was hard.” When I told him he had been chosen as the writer of the week his face visibly became excited and happy. I don’t think that he had thought he would ever receive any recognition for his writing, particularly from other children. #EduWin! 🙂

My net connection is being totes lame atm so I can’t upload anymore images than the one below. When it’s not being totes lame I’ll upload a couple more photos of my legendary little learners completing their 20 Word Challenges!


4 thoughts on “#20WC – The 20 word challenge.

  1. This is a great project Lee. I would love to run something similar if you don’t mind as I am at 4 primary schools and have all stages/ages. Brilliant and authentic way to get them all to connect. Great stuff =D

    • Hi Kate,

      Yeah that would be really cool and I would love to hear how you go. I have some students in the class who share the same space as me who will also probably join the #20WC soon, maybe they could team up with some of your students?

      Anyway, just a thought, and donkey me know how you go! 🙂

    • That is, *do let me know, not donkey me know, lulz.

  2. Hi Lee, I need to ask you a couple of questions regarding Google Drive. I wanted to email you but can’t find you on the DEC system. Can you please follow me on twitter @scu006 and DM me your email address. Don’t forget to donkey me when you do =D

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s