Yesterday, I took part in the Western Massachusetts Writing Project‘s Best Practices in the Teaching of Writing. This is our annual event to showcase some of the inspirational work going on in our classrooms through workshops and roundtable discussions.
I led a workshop called Blogging for Beginners, and the teachers who worked with me created their own blogs through either WordPress or Edublogs this morning. Instead of a traditional written reflection, we opted to record their voices as they discussed how they envision using blogs for personal, professional and/or educational uses and post it as an audiocast. (That move was inspired by Paul Allison’s efforts on his site called Teachers Teaching Teachers — thanks again, Paul, for providing a framework and inspiration).
Take a listen to the reflections of teachers
We also had the pleasure of a wonderful keynote speaker, Anika Nailah, who discussed passionately how fiction writing can bridge cultural divides and allow people from different backgrounds to “come into the same room” as others. Anika also had the audience doing some writing and examining our own cultural backgrounds with language. She also allowed me to record her speech (I am the technology liaison for the WMWP) and audiocast her talk for members of our network who could not attend.
Listen to Anika’s keynote speech
I came across this very wonderful resource put together by a group of fifth graders from Conyers, Georgia. They created an ABC guide to Blogging for Kids and it is a wonderful production that not only provides great information but also, as a project itself, showcases some wonderful inquiry and presentation by young writers and researchers (including the use of idioms). The entries include illustrations by the students. All around, this project is very nicely done!
The ABC Book of Blogging
Some examples from the students’ work:
- From the Letter A: The anticipation we feel just before opening our blogs is awesome. We’re “all ears” listening to Mrs. Anne Davis and each other as we begin the day discussing what we will be doing during our blogging session. Some times we have our articles ready to post. We are most anxious to hear from our internet audience and can’t wait to answer comments. We’ve got a good attitude because this is “A Place to Be Heard!”
- And on to Z: After good discussions full of dialogue from everyone we really get good ideas to use while blogging. Of course, that’s after we omit the zany comments. Derrick told us about Zaxlies, who don’t always project their voices. We have learned to project our voices and zero in on the writing. Sometimes Mrs. Davis tells us to zip our lips and blog away! We zip to the lab and zoom in on our computer screens. We have a lot of zest when we are writing on our blogs.
— from http://www2.gsu.edu/~coeapd/abc/index.html
I am working with two distinguished researchers/writers in the field of composition (Charlie Moran and Anne Herrington) from the University of Massachusetts Amherst to develop a book that examines how our view of teaching writing and composition is changing with the integration of technology. Anne and Charlie have looked at writing practices from a variety of angles, including writing across the curriculum and genres. Now they want to add technology to the mix.
We are looking for classroom teachers in grades 4-13 who can write about their experiences. We have just published a call for proposals in English Journal and other sources but I wanted to use my web of Blogs to get the word out, too.
Here is our Call for Proposals:
Practically everyone agrees that writing is changing, as writers compose more on screen than in previous generations. But how has this change in what we consider “writing” affected teachers’ classroom practice? In the context of emerging multiliteracies, what are teachers’ goals for their students’ learning? How have teachers revised their definitions of writing in the age of digital literacy? How are these expressed as changes in their classroom practice? And what new writing do the students produce?
The primary goal of this edited collection is to examine the ways in which teachers in grades 4 to 13 understand changes in writing, and to examine the ways in which these changed understandings are reflected in their classroom practice and in their students’ work, particularly given reductive definitions of writing now current in national and statewide testing. Classroom teachers will principally author chapters in this collection. Each chapter will include the teachers’ understandings of the ways in which writing has changed, new goals for students’ learning, and the ways in which the teacher has adapted curriculum and classroom practice to respond to these changes. Chapters would include excerpts from students’ new writing and the teacher’s criteria for assessing this writing.
Editors Anne Herrington, Kevin Hodgson, and Charles Moran seek 500-word proposals for chapters of 3,000–4,000 words. The deadline for proposals is January 15, 2007. Please email proposals as Word or RTF attachments to email@example.com.
Please consider contributing to this project, as it will inform the teaching practices of many (hopefully) others in the field of writing.
Last week, I joined an online conversation with folks through Teachers Teaching Teachers that explores the convergence of technology and teaching in its many varied forms. I have been curious about the concept of Elgg communities and jumped into the conversation with some questions (for my own benefit and for my wife, who is a high school teacher). As far as I can tell, Elgg offers the possibility of a safe online community that links members together through shared interested and through related “tags” that they create in their profile. It mirrors Facebook and MySpace, but without the advertising and mess of those sites. Dave Tosh provides a good overview of Elgg at his site.
You can listen to the podcast of that conference through the Teachers Teaching Teachers site. Or you can find that link here:
Listen to the podcast
Meanwhile, I notice that the authors of one of my favorite blog sites — Bud the Teacher — is posing his own inquiries into Elgg, so I hope to follow along that conversation, too. And I have joined a teacher Elgg, too, just to tour around and get familiar with the tools that are there.
The first writing project for my sixth grade this year is a BioPoem in which our young writers create an 11-line poem about themselves based on a series of prompts that explore emotions, fears and family.
To move beyond the personal and more towards a community of writers, we created Class Audio Biopoems in which each student contributed one line from their poem.
Take a listen:
Some days, you just stumble across a very neat idea and have to share it with other people, you know? Someone fed me this link to the Museum of Museums through a Delicious account and I was hooked.
This Museum of Museums collects links to the sites of any variety of museums from around the world, with the very ambitious idea of linking every single museum together for one mass site of collective knowledge. (It’s nice to have reasonable goals, I suppose). Art galleries, dinosaurs, music and any other topic that you can think of is someone’s museum obsession and can be found within the categories of this site. You can even view the Museum of Bad Art, if that is more to your taste.
And then, there are those virtual museums — the places that don’t exist in the real world and yet, are repositories of information. For example, there is a museum for toaster ovens, if that is your thing. And the Museum of Talking Boards (meaning: Ouiji) that can raise some goosebumps on people.
I can envision some neat virtual field trips from my classroom, with links and reactions and descriptions right from the class Weblog site.
The connections between writing and voice is an interesting one, particularly in this age of podcasts and audiocasts across distance and time, and I know that my NWP colleague Chris S. in Utah has been very much into capturing the voices of his students and researching the ways that voice can influence and enhance writing.
Last year, my students were part of a Cyberpal exchange with some students at Jefferson Junior High School in Washington DC (through another NWP partnership with Maria) and they shared some of their own personal narrative writing via an audiocast.
Students wrote a short personal narrative piece that focused on an object that represented some memories. Take a listen:
The National Writing Project received a wonderful feature in the National Staff Development Council’s publication (Summer 2006) which showcases the work being done by teachers in the NWP network.
“The National Writing Project is a leading example of how teachers, immersed in the practice of writing, are better able to both teach writing and lead peers to improve.” — By Mary Ann Smith
The article can be found PDF file from this link from the NSDC archives. Pass the link on to someone else who might be interested in the work of the National Writing Project and spread the good word.
(thanks to Troy for sending this along).
The emergence of technology as a source for user-generated writing, audio and video files is intriguing to me as an educator, but I still wonder about how everything will pan out in a few years. Will it all become a commercialized jumble of incoherence? (MySpace is an absolute mess that began with promise, I think). Or will we find a path to utilize these resources to generate critical learning and collaboration for our young student writers and creators?
Last semester, I took a course at UMass
and wrote a final paper about my thoughts on the integration of the Read-Write Web (also known as Web 2.0
in some circles) into classroom practice and so I share it here for anyone who might be interested in what I wrote. Will Richardson continues to explore the possibilities of these technologies in education in interesting ways and his Weblogged site
is always worth a gander. My own paper and inquiry remains a work in progress for me and a piece of writing I will return to at a later time for more reflection and work.
Read Kevin’s Seminar Paper
Today in my Sixth Grade Writing Workshop, students learned a bit about point of view narrative techniques in writing.
- First Person Narrative: stories told from the view of a character.
- Third Person Narrative: stories told from a perspective outside of a particular character
- Second Person Narrative: stories that insert the reader into the story.
Students then wrote in a First Person Narrative style that captured a leaf falling from a tree in Autumn. Some of those young writers, after sharing their writing with the class, agreed to help create this audiocast.