Encourage authentic writing and grow students' voices.

"You want me to do what? No way!"

My 10-year-old daughter is on the autism spectrum. When we met for her annual review this year, one of her goals revolved around her learning how to extend her writing. I cringed. Last year, I'd bought a marble composition notebook. and I told her that we would write every day -- it was like pulling teeth. She didn't want to do it. I was driving myself crazy (and making both of us miserable) trying to make her.

But this year, I was determined that I would come up with a plan that would both encourage her to want to write and allow me to keep my sanity. The answer was so simple, and I couldn’t believe I hadn’t thought of it sooner. She would create her own blog! In conversations with teachers, I consistently recommend that they allow students to experience blogging because of the many benefits. Why did it take me so long to come to this conclusion for her?

Where Do I Start?

I first began to make connections with other classrooms through the Quadblogging experience. Since its 2011 debut, teachers from all around the world have used Quadblogging to gain a real, authentic audience for their students. With Quadblogging, you're assigned as a group of four. Each week, one of the classes will be the "focus class," while the other three classes visit and comment on that blog. After four weeks, each class has had the opportunity to be the "focus class." We would normally be paired with one U.S. classroom and two international classrooms. That experience really allowed us the opportunity to see how different things were in other parts of the world.

In addition to Quadblogging, each year we would participate in the Global Read Aloud (GRA) initiative. Created by Pernille Ripp, the initiative's theme, "One Book to Connect the World," encourages classrooms all over the world to make connections in a variety of ways -- like blogging. My students connected with classrooms in North Carolina, Kentucky, and Texas. They had conversations about their thoughts and predictions on the book and about what life was like for a sixth grader where they lived. In addition to that, something else came out of it -- students began providing constructive criticism to each other, forcing them to be more attentive when deciding when they were ready to post.

An (Almost) Impossible Task

In many schools, an ELA teacher is responsible for basically three subjects: reading, writing, and vocabulary. Teaching writing is a laborious task. It's an individual process and takes so much time to provide feedback to students, becoming an almost impossible task if you're tackling it alone. Blogging shifts writing from this individual process into a collaborative one, making the impossible, well, possible!

Seeing the difference blogging made in my students' writing encouraged me to create blogging buddies within the classes and our grade. I decided to do this for two reasons: 1. It was obvious that the peer feedback worked, and 2. It helped correct basic grammatical issues so that I could focus on the content. Although it was still a difficult task to read all those essays, I felt like the feedback I provided really focused on improving the students' writing voices.

Effective Feedback

How many times have we attempted to use the peer-editing model, only for our students to come up short? Using the techniques found on Linda Yollis' blog, my students provide feedback that:

  • Shares something they liked
  • Shares something that could be improved on
  • Makes a connection
  • Asks a question that might allow the writer to extend their piece

Building a Community

How often do we talk to students about being aware of their audience? When students write an essay for class, it often isn't seen by anyone but the teacher -- especially after elementary school. No longer are weekly folders sent home, and often there's a disconnect between home and school. Because of this, I made a point of sharing students' blogs with their parents and other family members. In addition, my principal, coordinating teacher, and other colleagues would comment on students' posts. After reading the comments, my students realized that their words mattered! Blogging has made a world of difference to my students, and I truly believe that it will make a world of difference for yours, too.

Carla J.

Education

B.S. Claflin University, Elementary Education

M.Ed. Winthrop University, Educational Leadership

I am an 18 year veteran teacher. I have taught middle school English and Social Studies, been a curriculum facilitator, and an administrator for special needs. I am excited to embark on my new journey as the Instructional Technology Coordinator for the Darlington County School District.

I love children and I love technology! So I spend my days doing the my two favorite things, blending the two together. I am so excited for the opportunities that will happen this school year.

Educational Philosophy
The aim of education should be to teach us rather how to think, than what to think – rather to improve our minds, so as to enable us to think for ourselves, than to load the memory with thoughts of other men. ~Bill Beattie

Reading enriches our thoughts, widens our vision and enhances our knowledge. The more we read, the better our power expression in both written and spoken will be. An avid and voluminous reader is always filled with ideas and great thoughts to express himself on multiple and various subjects effectively and comprehensively.

The importance of reading permeates every level of education. To encourage reading is paramount. To restrict what is read is beyond comprehension. The importance of what we read is necessary to define. In particular, a broad knowledge base of all genres is crucial to a well-developed mind.

Personal Philosophy
If you are not a part of the solution– you are a part of the problem.

I could have been a lawyer or doctor – but I chose to educate them.

God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change; courage to change the things I can; and wisdom to know the difference. – Reinhold Niebuhr

“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.” – Marianne Williamson

Personal Hobbies/Family Info
My husband and I live in South Carolina with our 6 year old daughter (full-time) and five other adult god-children (part-time). I enjoy reading, listening to music, spending time with family and friends, providing service to my local community with my Alpha Kappa Alpha sisters, and thinking of ways to keep my students excited about learning. I am a technology junkie and love getting new gadgets to play with.