As we are reading, my students begin to create a list of "Characteristics of Great Writing." My new students begin a bit hesitantly to add to the list as I've requested that they explain and justify their answers. I ask a lot of questions to guide them in this kind of thinking. They've been so trained to think that there is only one possible answer or conclusion to a question that when I told them that most questions have a multitude of possible answers, you could see a burden being lifted off of their shoulders. They were so eager to grasp this new kind of thinking. This discussion led students to making conclusions not only about the craft of writing, but also they purpose of composing using correct grammar and mechanics.
All of these fabulous conversations lead us into our blogging conversation. None of my students have ever blogged before and most of them were unclear about what a blog was. I used a variation on McTeach's blogging lesson, but the students naturally linked the importance of good writing from our Frindle discussions to our blogs. We also read and discussed parts of Net Cetera (I ordered copies for each family) to ensure that the students understood digital citizenship, Internet safety, and cyberbullying.
One strategy that I love is that I let my learners create their own criteria/rubrics for each of our activities. It puts the power of expectations into their own hands. After all, this is their blog, they should have a say over what should be included. (Note: I realize that many feel that blogs should not be evaluated. However, those that read my blog regularly know that this is not a luxury that I have in my classroom. See: Homework and Reading Logs)
Since this was the first criteria they were going to create, I led them through it as a class. Here is the list that they created of their Blogging Expectations:
- Use proper capitalization, organization, punctuation, and spelling. (As they explained, "If you don't edit, it doesn't matter what you've written; no one will understand you.")
- Be safe with all of your choices.
- Create posts that show what we've learned.
- Always use appropriate and kind words.
- Think about the audience.
- Explain and give great details in your posts. ( As one student said, "Who wants to read something that's boring?")
- Compose three or more blog posts a week. (They really wanted to have more in this number, but several students do not have access to a computer outside of school hours.This was a heated debate...pretty cool that most of the kids were fighting for MORE work instead of less, huh?)
- At least one of your blog posts will be about what you are reading. (The class actually cheered when they figured out this was going to replace the dreaded reading logs.)
- Create comments that are thoughtful, relevant, and continue the conversation.(One learner actually pointed out that by creating comments like this, they were also giving evidence that they were reading...score another point for getting rid of reading logs, but still meeting that independent reading standard on the report card. Yep, he got a high five...wish I had though of that.)
- Practice using characteristics of great writing in every post.