Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Reading and writing for an audience

The discussion of a common reading experience for all students and faculty in the upper-school (grades 9-12) and the recent article adopted by the National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE) with regard to 21st century literacies raises an idea that is not necessarily original but also not something going on yet at D-E as far as I know.

Update on 3/3/07: I'm pleased to report that my statement above was incorrect. D-E's first experiment with student blogging started in our Middle School in early February with the Umpleby Independent Reading Book Review Site. The blog was setup for a similar purpose to what I am suggesting except that students read and wrote about a variety of books rather then a common reading experience.

While I would prefer this comment to come from a full-time classroom teacher and not me (as some people see me as having a "techie" agenda), here it is anyway rather than risk the idea not occurring to others who might support it.

It is worth kicking around the thought of encouraging or at least providing a place for students and faculty to publically share thoughts on the book that is chosen while it is being read or shortly after finishing it. Doing this in the one-shot, adult-lead discussion group fashion like has been done in Community of Readers has value. However, an asynchronous opportunity to write might appeal to different students (and maybe faculty) in different ways and might also prolong the conversation.

One way to do this that has seen increasing use in schools nationally and internationally is through a web log (blog). (What you are reading now is a blog although it is not a good example of what I'm suggesting.)

Teachers or students can write "journal" entries that anyone on the Internet can read and comment on. (For example, you can click on Comments or Post a Comment at the bottom of this blog article to write your reaction on what I'm saying.) In addition to the obvious benefit of just encouraging students to write, posting articles publically can give some students extra incentive because they consider the audience more authentic than writing just for their teachers. In some cases, others outside of the school who have also studied or have experience with the work (including professionals and sometimes even writers) have commented on students writing presented this way and that could be quite a motivating factor for students to continue to write.

While we could also do this with a Blackboard discussion group, it would not have the public access that has the potential to make a positive difference in some students interest and engagement in writing about what they are reading.

That fact that the Executive Committee of the NCTE adopted a statement on February 15 that includes using communication technologies as an essential skill for twenty-first century readers and writers is also interesting and relevant. (Will Richardson, a prolific educational blogger, writes more about this NCTE statement and literacy at the blog Weblogg-ed.)

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