I am a writing teacher. No matter what subject I’m teaching I am a writing teacher. I believe writing is one of the most important skills we help our students develop and if we can transform our students into writers then we have given them a key to the world. Fortunately, most of my post-secondary career has been in writing classrooms, so I was expected to teach writing, but this year my teaching load has been only First Year Seminar. While my subject area for FYS is comic books and superheroes, I am still trying to create writers.
I have two primary tools I use to foster the development of writers – community (see Community Doesn’t Just Happen) and low stakes writing (see Avoid a Grading Avalanche). I believe strongly in the power of community to support learning in general and writing in specific. I talk about social capital in my classes and model it for students as well as use it for many class activities (think Vygotsky’s Zone of Proximal Development). Our class blog assignment supports both community development and low stakes writing.
The class blog is about writing practice, but the writing has a real audience, the class, and purpose, connecting the ideas we discussed in class that week and/or read outside of class. The blog is an extension of learning and continuation of a conversation. The blog is intended to spark one or more occasions of thinking about these ideas. I want my students to associate writing with reflection and learning and thinking (redundant?). I sell them the idea that our weekly blog posts will help them remember ideas from previous weeks as well as develop a deeper understanding of the ideas that came from those readings and discussions. I stress that blog posts are about connections: connecting to and from the ideas of their classmates as well as a broader discussion about these topics and questions.
I love that although I always start the conversations (their turn is coming soon according to our semester plan) I never know where we will go and I learn new things along with my students. That is the way learning should be. We are currently in the process of shaping these conversations and ideas into projects so there will be more formal writing but these blog posts have provided ample fodder and helped students clarify and deepen their thinking. Blogging helps my students grow as writers and as thinkers. What does blogging do for your students?
Stay tuned for a post about how to simplify blog assessment!