Saturday, 21 February 2015

Day 21 #28Daysofwriting - A post for Bridget

I've just got home and seen a member of my PLN asking for help as part of her #28daysofwriting, it seems only fair that I post a response as part of my own #28daysofwriting challenge. Bridget, I sincerely hope that you don't mind this as method as a response, but you've actually inspired me to start writing straight away. I hope that you find some value in my post.

Purposeful blog writing vs a series of recounts
I see the dilemma, I had different issues around class and individual blogs over the last two years and this year we're using blogs in our year 4-6 common.

At the start of each year I had started with a more traditional rotation and part of the activities included blogging with the expectation that children would visit other blogs and write comments. The design for this was multipurpose. First, I viewed this as a meaningful form of literacy, learners were engaged in choosing their own posts to read and when they found something that they wanted to comment on they would write quality comments. Clearly, writing a quality comment is an artform in itself and within our PLN we regularly talk about wanting to receive & produce more comments. It is also a significant factor in Tom Barrett creating the #28daysofcommenting challenge to follow on from the success of the #28daysofwriting challenge. For my learners it meant that their comment writing was purposeful, they were going to be read by other students. Not all children would engage, but that can be said for any classroom activity. To generate readers for our class/individual blogs we used Quadblogging [International] and Quadblogging Aotearoa also.

I believe the reading of blogs is relatively easy to motivate, kids find this far more interesting than any journals or whole-class novel. They're able to navigate their classmates, or blogs from around the world according to interest and personality.

As to the writing, I agree that writing can start becoming like a series of recounts. However, for some of my developing or reluctant writers I was more than satisfied with this, after all mileage is an important objective for young writers. I'm conscious that many teachers require their budding writers to draft their posts into their books. I understand that they're worried about the quality of posts but as far as I'm concerned, why not take all the fun out of it! I only ever asked children to draft their posts in their book if there wasn't a device available. I regularly go back to my own posts to fix a mistake, this is part of writing and the writing process on a computer, is still the writing process.

The crux of this is your objectives for blogging, I was trying to engage the children in writing so any posts were a positive and therefore I was happy to let my children choose their own topics. Some of my children were happy to write recounts about school events and important moments in their lives and that is where their blogging journey finished. However for others they used it as an outlet for their creative writing, sharing their interests and publishing projects. While some of these posts had higher readership than others, for me the key was in the writing not the page views. Our school community never really bought into the whole blogging process, I'd wanted to run a family blogging competition using a point scoring system (idea was stolen from another blogging guru Linda Yollis). Again though, for me this wasn't the primary objective, just a great addition when it happened. However, a tear almost came to this lad's eye when I was told that one of my children's blog was helping keep a Dad connected with his child while he worked in the Abu Dhabi. As I say this comes down to objectives that the teacher has for the blog and the writer, and hence how students approach their writing. 'Pimping your blog' was another measure I came across, if running individual blogs set a goal of x number of posts before an individual can introduce their own templates or additional gadgets. While I don't advocate changing your objectives to suit your output, I know that I found any quality writing was still worthwhile, regardless of the writing form.

Source: What is Engagement?
A purpose that I'd never expected from blog reading and blog commenting was the way that it informed my planning. My students would often get excited by things that they read and I was able to integrate these ideas into the activities and experiences that I would provide for the class. The most successful of these was when a boy who didn't engage in art spotted some Picasso-inspired art done on a blog and asked if we could do these in class. I couldn't refuse!

Perhaps you should try an action  @JJPurtonJones used recently, discuss your problem with the class and see how they would remedy this? Their actual problem was how to create a writing programme that was more engaging for their school, so very similar to your problem, albeit a slightly different medium. Mileage, while not going to be your primary objective, is still important for your learners as they hone their skills as young writers.

Add caption
Choice is crucial I believe, we all struggle when we are forced to do something aka compliance. How this choice may take shape in a your classroom could take many forms, writing style, publishing type (wiki, class or individual blog, shared writing posts, etc), the style of our own blogs. Consider the variety of choices employed on the blogs you read, this is all down to individual taste, skill and audience. Some of us blog regularly, others infrequently. But the variety of topics that are written about is astronomical also, I'm forever agog at some of the innovative topics that I read and Tom topped this off last night with his tweet to you and I about his most recent post.

I sincerely hope that my post will give you some food for thought. I'm sure that others may be able to find aspects that can help their own or their classes blogging. For me, I feel that this has been one of my more meaningful posts - even if it for an audience of 1.

As an aside, I'm counting this as my Day 20 & 21 post - its taken a while but it has been worth it.


  1. Agree with you that choice is crucial. I found that my more reluctant writers wrote their best work on their blogs. Love your idea about reading other blogs as part of a reading activity.

  2. Such a helpful post, Reid. I appreciate it so much. Thank you.
    I think the age of the kids has an impact on what I expect from the content. There is definitely a huge place for recounts in blogging and if I taught younger kids I'd be incredibly stoked with great recounts. My girls are Y8 though and have done a lot of recount writing which is great. I am happy with a lot of that on the blog but as Anna Garthwaite put it, how can I use the blog to enhance their learning rather than just be a showcase of our classroom programme through recounting events? I wonder if I can share some of our philosophy work?
    That's a fantastic story about the boy with a dad in Abu Dhabi. I agree that parent engagement isn't the be all and end all and I guess that shouldn't drive us. I do love connecting with people we wouldn't otherwise have ben able to connect with.
    I love your suggestion of tackling this with the class a la JJ Purton Jones. I'm going to give this some thought.
    Thanks so much for taking time to write this, Reid. I'll keep you posted.

  3. Thanks Reid. I enjoyed reading your perspective on your class blog. I read Bridget's blog the other day and it reflected what I have been feeling about my class blog this year. Between both of your blogs I am beginning to think more about the purpose of my class blog and what directions I can take it. I also like the idea of presenting it as problem solving situation and getting my students to make decisions about it. This is something I want to develop more in my class this year - student autonomy. Thanks heaps.