Bud the Teacher continued a conversation a few days ago about how it is taking â€œtoo much timeâ€ for tools like blogs to be embraced and utilized by educators. A seemingly unrelated favorite activity I re-visted today with my sixth graders motivated me to write this response:
Today my sixth graders played a writing game called â€œWrite Itâ€ that I learned years ago from the Bay Area Writing Project. In this game students write notes to each other as a way of promoting writing as a communication tool â€“ but they are not allowed to talk AT ALL. They must make a positive comment to the note recipient, ask them a question, deliver the note, and wait for a response â€“ but they may not talk or they are out of the game.
So what?â€¦ Well as always I noted their focus and delight as they deciphered and replied to the comments and questions dropped off to them by their classmates â€“ but I also watched as students that have language issues or arenâ€™t sure how to spell another studentâ€™s name have to deal with that and figure out how to communicate with them without asking for help â€“ or embarrassing themselves â€“ in other words, they are left to their own devices.
A grinning, happy face suddenly becomes furrowed with concern as the student realizes they arenâ€™t sure how to spell the senderâ€™s name (even though it is written on the back of the note) or the exact wording they require to reply. They turn to ask a neighbor for help andâ€¦ whoops!â€¦I canâ€™t talk. What will I do? You see students moving their lips â€¦ sounding out â€¦ looking for clues around the roomâ€¦ trying to envision words, phrases.
And it happensâ€¦communication happens! Students have been briefed before we start that they may see their name misspelled, they may have to problem solve to get meaning from some notes â€“ and it happens. And it happens with a supportive, fun tone that fills the room as students grasp that they are communicating effectively. They self assess their language and communication shortcomings this way and when the game ends the debriefing spontaneously erupts as they inquire about the proper spelling of each others names, grammar mistakes (some unintentionally hilarious) and chicken-scratch handwriting examples.
Immediate, supportive, authentic audience â€“ thatâ€˜s what leads to the magic. I am new to blogging â€“ my students arenâ€™t doing it yet â€“ but they will â€“ hopefully before this school year ends â€“ and I see a similar potential for motivation, self -assessment and self-mediation.
Blogging isnâ€™t new to most reading this post, but most teachers in tech presentations and inservice classes I teach have slim to no knowledge of what it is or why it might be valuable for their students.
Like many of you I have been completely discouraged by how slowly tech integration in general has been adopted and adapted by the education community. Note that tech equipment has quietly become pervasive, albeit excruciatingly under-utilized in schools, and so now access to tech isnâ€™t as remote as it was â€“ so as the education community in general wakes up and becomes motivated and encouraged to get started – the fact that they wonâ€™t be starting from scratch might jumpstart things a bit.
Learning is messy when itâ€™s done well – and many are reluctant to get dirty until they remember and/or experience that the dirtier our students get the longer the dirt sticks and the harder it is to get rid of.