Digital Writing = Reading + Writing + Listening + Collaborating

The National Writing Project Book Because Digital Writing Matters… has a chapter titled “Digital Writing = Reading + Writing + Listening + Collaborating.”  Reading that made digital writing seem more do-able.  As an English teacher, I understand that to my core. It’s what I want my students to do!

That’s one reason I’ve embarked upon a blogging project with my seventh grade English students. Blogging requires students to–

  1. Read various texts to support their writing ideas. (Bonus: This often includes research.)
  2. Write blog posts.
  3. Read classmates’ posts. This is the listening part of digital writing.
  4. Write comments in response with the goal of furthering the online discussion. This is the collaborating part.

Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about how to help students write useful comments to each other. Their instinct is to simply write, “Good job!” and obviously I want them to go beyond that.

The commenting system that has been working in my class is based on Troy Hick’s Digital Writing Workshop, a book I go to again and again as I work on digital writing with my students. In fact, I will be blogging about how to assess student writing soon and most of my ideas come from Hicks’ rubrics.

First, I gave students the basics with this Google Presentation. Notice, the second slide has an example of what a comment might look like:

Next, students wrote comments on paper. I did this for two reasons: 1) We don’t have enough technology access at my school for us to use computers or tablets every time we need them. 2) Writing on paper allows students to think about the new skill (how to comment on academic blogs) without the technology interfering.

Here’s the handout I used for students to write “academic blog” comments.

Later, I gave them another document for them to refer to while posting to actual blogs: Commenting on Blogs
I do have some good examples of student comments, which I’ll try to post next time. Some of the students are posting the minimum required, but others are commenting much more. At the very least, the comments are much better than the responses I’ve seen students give each other in years past. I’m excited to see where this takes us.

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