Wednesday, October 5, 2011

An Afternoon in "Pleasantville"

Today, we had the most pleasant afternoon. My students spent this afternoon blogging, answering questions and making comments to their collaborative partners on Moodle, and working on a Global Read Aloud Project. They were all sitting in different small groups all over the room, occasionally chatting about what they were thinking about, writing, or creating. There was just a nice, low hum of happy kids discussing what they were learning with one another. I loved it!

Moments like this just make me want to do a little dance. They are so highly engaged and independent from depending on me to tell them what to do. Of course, this afternoon didn't just happen. It's taken weeks of modeling, discussing and practicing how and why we use these tools and what behaviors they deem appropriate. They've set their own expectations and they are holding one another to those expectations.

The great thing about this afternoon (besides listening to their happy, thought-provoking and somewhat humorous comments) was that this gave me the opportunity to work with some students one-on-one. While they were all actively engaged in meaningful work, I was reading through their pending blog posts. By looking at their writing, I was able to determine if they had a misunderstanding with their grasp of not only content area but also with grammar and mechanics.

It was a great opportunity to visit with my students and have them explain what they saw in their writing that could improve it for the reader. Almost all of them would take a minute to look at what they had written and determine what should be corrected. Others needed a bit more prompting, but by leading them to making those discoveries meant much more to them. They found the error; they determined what needed to be corrected; they determined why it needed to be corrected. (By the way, those of you itching to write a comment about how blogging shouldn't be evaluated, need to read these previous posts: Did I Make the Grade? The Reading Log Conundrum and What is Homework? It's not a luxury that I have where I teach right now.)

This method of conferring, letting the students make the edits and corrections with your guidance, is much more powerful for the students. We use this in my classroom for all of our writing assignments regardless of genre, content area, or method of publishing. It allows them to make these discoveries for themselves. It's no longer a teacher telling them what to do and how to do it. It's them making these choices because it strengthens their voice in whatever they are writing.

So, I look forward to many more days like this where my writers are all engaged in meaningful, (and let's face it) fun and yet rigorous work. Now back to reading those blogs....they have passed 400 blogs since school has started. What do you think? Do my kids like to write, or what?


  1. That's amazing! I would love to observe in your classroom. I love it when students are allowed to construct knowledge and show their learning using multiple avenues.

  2. Your students are so lucky to have you for a their teacher, Julie!