Because I Know From Whence They Came

I just spent 40 minutes on a Friday night approving a few blog posts and a ton of comments my 5th graders authored today, and I was thrilled. We’ve been working really hard on editing our writing and finding the obvious mistakes … like not capitalizing words we know should be (“You can’t find the mistakes you don’t know are mistakes … but the others you should find). Most of my students are second language learners so they often make syntax and basic errors in grammar too. While the posts and comments they made are not entirely error free – they are greatly improved, and the students are so motivated to do their best right now. As my students got to work this morning word processing the posts they had written for homework about their experiences on Halloween, I was calling a doctor about my daughter who has been sick with migraine of late. Linda Burge, the ESL teacher that spends a lot of time with my students, watched the class as I stepped outside. She has not been in class much the last 3 weeks because of a spate of testing she has had to do with all the second language learners. When I returned she came right to me to report how sharp focused they had been and how improved their writing was since she had last been in class. She mentioned it several times.

So this is probably not the first post you’ve read by someone singing the praises of blogging. But this post is not so much about the improvement my students have made … but about how I’m almost the only person that can look at their work and note that. (well, Linda comes to mind). Go look at what my students have written of late on their blog. Much of it is not polished prose – its mostly pretty simple stuff … you probably won’t be overly impressed. But I sure am. Why? Because I know from whence their work came. I have had students in the last few weeks read back to me all or parts of their writing that are fractured and misspelled and mis-punctuated to the point of incoherence and not notice a thing wrong. So when I see what they put out today I just about want to shout hallelujah! … they’re finally getting it!!!!

The point? Those that come by school for a walk-through visit to see how things are going … look at some classrooms … note work displayed on the walls … can’t really appreciate it unless they know the students, the individual students, and from whence they came. How did this student get here, this piece of work get here? Why is this piece posted on the wall (or the blog)? I mean, I see mistakes … they posted this? Yes we posted this because it shows growth and learning and progress and this student has the right to be as proud of their improvement as anyone else. Don’t they?

Learning is messy!

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8 thoughts on “Because I Know From Whence They Came

  1. Brian, it is amazing to see struggling writers start to make improvements in their writing through their blogs. When I first started using blogs I tried it out with a remedial reading and writing class. These were the students that everyone said couldn’t even write a sentence. Through writing on their blogs their writing started to improve dramatically. When they see that you value their writing, and what they are expressing, they start to actually enjoy the writing.

    I really appreciate where you are coming from when you write about using blogs with your struggling young writers. Weblogs are a powerful writing tool that absolutely, unequivocally help students improve their writing and thinking skills.

    Are we on for next week? I’d like to see what your students have to say about our movies. 🙂 George

  2. Hi Brian. I’ve been paying attention to you ever since you first put up “Inclusion” on Teachertube. Now I subscribe to your blog, and we even follow each other on Twitter. I’m an elementary teacher who has morphed into an assistive technology consultant who is passionate about UDL That’s why “Inclusion” first caught my attention.

    This week, I did a workshop for classroom teachers on using blogging in the classroom as one UDL approach for ALL learners. There were questions about the quality of posted student writing. So, here are my questions to you. Do you approve and/or edit every student post? How much editing do you do? How time consuming is the process? (I notice that you were working at it on a Friday evening!) Do you have any related tips for teachers who are holding back out of concerns in this area?

    Thanks ever so much! –Paul

  3. I know exactly what you are talking about. Blogging is so much better for classrooms and the use of computers in classrooms need to rise.

  4. As a student who uses blogs in my government class, it is cool to read how other classes are using blogs to further the education process. I can see in my class how the students are reacting very positively to blogging as opposed to old paper and pencil methods.