Authentic Writing

My 6th graders just completed their Digital Citizenship websites using iWeb. I am very proud of them as this is the first project we have completed together and it is the first project they have completed using Macs.

As I have no server yet, I had the students hand their work into my favorite site, They were instantly able to see and comment on each other's sites. I handed out our rubric to help them focus their comments on our guidelines (Layout, Graphics, Fonts, Spelling & Grammar and Content Accuracy). I told them they had a chance to 'practice what they preach' when it comes to Digital Citizenship by following good netiquette when leaving comments.

As I expected, there were a few mean comments (this is not the first time I've done this lesson so I was prepared) so we discussed how to handle anonymous bully-like comments. I was able to delete the comments that were borderline inappropriate, also modeling how webmasters can decide what they want to remain on their site and what they want to take down.

From reading their comments it was obvious that they knew what made a good website, that they had read and understood the rubric and that they had read each other's text. In addition, I was able to view all of the websites and comments in one place and I left each student a personal message about his or her project.

There is huge opportunity, when letting students share and respond to each other's work, for deeper reflection, higher levels of motivation, and a classroom culture built around constructive criticism, higher order thinking and collaboration.  No longer are they writing and creating for the teacher, they are writing and sharing for each other. I am excited to see what effect this has on their writing process and progress.

In the words of Neil Postman:
Once they have become literate, most people have intellectual and emotional powers that are irrevocable.
Postman also asks:
When was the last time you wrote a 'composition?'
In the 'real' world, we write with a purpose. We write from the heart, we don't write cookie cutter, 'constructed responses' that follow a pattern and a uniform structure. (Can you find the topic sentences in this post?)
Don't you think a school year ought to be a continuing exchange of ideas, rather than a series of staccato "lessons" and "units?"

quotes from Teaching as a Subversive Activity, 1971


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