Write On: Improving Student Writing

“Remember what writing is for: to share what we see, think and believe, and invite response.” – Blogging in the classroom: why your students should write online

Over my career, I have noticed a common trend in my students when they enter into my classroom. They DISLIKE writing. Sadly, they often come into my classroom with a negative view of writing and when asked to complete the beginning of the year writing assessment, the room is filled with moans and groans. (I hate to admit it, but I was one of those kids too). Just like Elizabeth, writing has never come easy to me and I often struggle with writer’s block, so I can relate with my students when they come into my classroom. Usually by the end of the year my students leave the classroom with a new outlook on writing.

Some of the common trends I see in the classroom that spur on this hatred of writing are:

  • Too much focus on conventions or as Heather says, the writing process. Teachers love their red pen and LOVE marking every error on students writing; however, this is such a small part of the process of writing. In fact, it is on small part of the 6 traits of writing. In my opinion, ideas, organization, voice, and word choice are WAY more important than if you are forgetting a period.
  • Students are told what to write and their only audience is the teacher.
  • Authentic and real-time feedback is often limited.
  • Often the pre-writing process is not authentic and has too much teacher input. This causes students to get stuck on what to write about because they are trying to write what they think the teacher wants.
  • There is a disconnect between reading and writing.
  • When students are allowed to use digital tools to publish their writing it is limited to word processing.

Improving student writing has been a priority within our school division the past few years. At the same time our division has implemented a variety of new technology tools to help enhance and transform the way we teach and learn. One of the ways to leverage student engagement in writing is through collaborative writing tools that help build writing communities. Who are our students writing for? Who makes up the audience? How do they make the audience care?

“It’s not just 21st century skills but 21st century connections and how to make them.”  – Vicki Davis, Reinventing Writing

By reinventing writing and using collaborative digital tools within the digital writing workshop along with traditional methods, we are fostering community, allowing students to explore various perspectives, and with that acquire and synthesize new information. Using digital tools in the classroom doesn’t mean that you can sit back, relax, and let the tool do all the teaching. The teacher must be an active participant by facilitating learning, intervening when necessary, and providing relevant feedback.

It is also important not to get caught up in the bells and whistles of the digital tool. Some key questions to think of when integrating digital tools are:

  • How will this tool further student-centered learning?
  • What outcomes will this tool help to leverage?
  • How is this tool connecting students and creating collaborative learning?
  • Did I sent out information about the tool to parents?
  • How easy is it for me to set up this tool?
  • How easy is it for the students to use it or navigate the platform?
  • How will I monitor student work and passwords?
  • What is the terms of use of the tool?

(Questions from: Writing Assessment & Digital Tools Workshop by Regina Catholic Schools)

When we use digital tools and engage in authentic writing experiences, we are redefining the author’s chair. In my experience a great way to provide purpose for writing and an authentic environment for writing is through a blog. Blogging provides a place for students to develop their voice, make meaningful reflections, connect and collaborate with peers, curate content, and develop transliteracy and digital citizenship. By building your PLN on Twitter and using hashtags, such as #comments4kids, you will be able to connect your classroom with other classrooms around the world to make this process even more exciting, authentic, and engaging.

What makes a good blog post great?

Lately I have been thinking about what constitutes a great blog post? I am the type of person who doesn’t want / like to blog just for the fact of blogging. I want my posts to be authentic. I want them to have a purpose for me. I want them to be engaging for my readers.  Normally, I judge my posts on the amount of comments I get on them. If I get posts obviously I am tapping into someones funds of knowledge.

Well what changes your blog post from good to great?

Is it videos? Should it be long or short? Does it have to be about technology? Should you advertise it on Twitter? Can you make two posts in the same day? Do pictures help, if so, should they be your own? How often should you write? Are there any rules? Does spelling matter?

I would appreciate your opinion on what constitutes a great blog post.

Twitter in the Classroom

Twitter is: The people I connect with on a daily basis to get ideas and give ideas. I never thought I would come so attached to Twitter at the beginning of my ECMP class and did it just because of the assignment. However, now I find it such a valuable resource that I have learned so much extra on! I have been able to find sites that are relevant to me and it has helped me develop as a professional.

Thanks to everyone who posted their resources for Twitter in the Classroom on my other post. As some of you know, I am completing my final project, with Sarah, on Twitter in the Classroom. We are creating a wikipage that will provide you with a step-by-step guide on using Twitter in the classroom. I would appreciate any input you may have regarding how you might use it in the classroom, the advantages of twitter in the classroom, the limitations of twitter, and any ‘testimonials’ you might have.

As Sarah has mentioned in her post:

When this wikipage is complete, you will find:

– an explanation of what Twitter is
– the steps of how to set up a Twitter account
– an introduction to using Tweet Deck
– the benefits of using Twitter in your classroom
– some ideas on how to use Twitter in the classroom
– commonly asked questions about Twitter
– a list of resources that we used to complete our project
– and much more!

Some of the pages will have a video that matched the text instructions/steps as a visual for you to follow along.  We will be making these videos using Jing to record our computer screens while using Twitter.  Since we had never used Jing before, we decided to make a trial video to test it out.  So far, we have found it rather easy to use; however, we have struggled uploading the video to our blog since we are using the ‘free’ version and are not able to upload our screen casts to You Tube.  We have been able to post it as a link though, so click here to see our very first Jing creation!

Special thanks to Alec and Dean for helping us out after class tonight to teach us how to upload a Jing video to our wikipage. :)

So Far Apart, Yet So Close!

Sarah and I were working on our Major Project for our ECMP 455 class tonight.  We are working on putting together a Wiki that further examines “How to use Twitter in the Classroom”. As I was searching through some websites I came across the following Question and Answer, from a FANTASTIC website:

Q. How do I send a message to another person?

A.From Twitter page or twitter client you can type in “@” followed by the persons twitter name (example “@courosa” for Alec Couros)

reply screenshot

At first glance I didn’t notice anything, but when I took a second look I started to giggle. Sarah asked me what was so funny and I pointed out the picture. (Alec Couros is our prof for our ECMP 455 class).

Isn’t it funny how we can be so far away from someone, yet be so close at the same time with the help of technology. The world is a big place, but it seems that we are able to know more about the world and collaborate with so many more people because of technology, in this case, Twitter.

I started out with my Twitter account in the beginning of January and I currently have 102 followers and I am following 114 people. My network is growing every day, which means my bank of knowledge and resources is growing every day. I embraced the idea of Twitter at an early stage and I am learning how to use it to the best of my ability. My contacts from around the world are many miles away, but I can easily contact them with the click of a button. In the end we are so far apart, yet so close!


I just found out how beneficial Delicious is! I am away on vacation and I am not using my regular computer. As I was browsing through Twitter I found some great resources. I went to visit them and I thought, “Man, I wish I could bookmark this on my computer.” Then the light bulb went off. I can! I went to my delicious account and saved my bookmark.

 During our first synchronous session with ECMP 455 we had a guest speaker, Chris Betcher, who talked about all the wonderful things Delicious can do. (It was an amazing session and if you feel like you need some more insight on Delicious I recommend you watch it). I became a believe in Delicious after this presentation and began using it. I started using it for all my bookmarking needs; however, I didn’t see the importance of it as I always did this from my computer. I added the tags and everything, but it seemed like just a regular bookmarking tool. It wasn’t until today that I truly found this application useful to me. After adding my bookmark I began searching around and found the wealth of knowledge on Delicious that I can use as a search engine.

I don’t have any friends yet on Delicious and would appreciate the add. My user name is kdimini. What another great way to develop a PLE / PLN!