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Ready to jump into the writing experience!

Reading “The Age of Composition” on Jeff’s blog let me reflect about my own history of writing and how it changed in my personal and teaching life.

I have never felt very confident writing about something, no matter whether it is in my mother tongue German or now in English. The worries about being superficial, not to say anything new, not finding the right words or just about spelling conventions are always there. I don’t have any good writing memories of my own school life, but I do remember seeing my parents writing letters. For a while as a teenager I had a lot of pen pals so I got a letter each single day. I loved it. I also wrote letters in notebooks with female best friends and a personal diary. It was obviously very, very meaningful for me. Since then I think writing was more or less always for assessments at university or resulting of work. Sure, once in a while I’m writing a personal postcard or email. But that’s it.

It seems to be clear where the insecurity is coming from. BUT I’m ready to jump into a new writing challenge, to become more confident and to build my network which enriches my life so much. It is sometimes overwhelming and it means being out of the comfort zone. But that is the way where learning is coming from, right?

In this case writing this post, it happened exactly what Jeff was describing in his blog post:

  1. I’m reading REACH, page 28, about Literacy Development.
  2. Followed the link he mentioned on that page
  3. Reading his blog post about “The Age of Composition”
  4. Created a timeline about my own writing experience in school, at home, my past years
  5. Yes, sat down and started composing (luckily I don’t get sick reading and writing in the car)
  6. and will publish the post as soon as I have internet connection again. NOW 😉

Am I on the way to develop what Jeff called in his book Network Literacy?

And how to I support my students to develop writing skills which are driven by ideas and content and not just written for the teacher? The most important point for me is that it is meaningful for the students. When I’m reflecting on few past units especially with Grade 4 & 5 I always tried hard. They wrote f.e. an instruction for a self-created magnetism game (which was presented during a short exhibition), they wrote old fashion letters to an older person to ask about the change of written communication in their life, they wrote appeals to the community to get awareness of the impact of inventions and at the moment the students are getting into the community of a wikipedia. I always aiming to keep in mind that is has to be meaningful for students as learners or for ourself as learners.

3 replies on “Ready to jump into the writing experience!”

Hello Verena,

I too, struggle as a writer. I possess an absolute love for words and am happy to wallow in literature for hours on end bathing in the ideas and thoughts of someone else, imagining what it must be like to be blessed with the gift of the proverbial pen. Despite my passion for language, the starkness of reality hits when I sit down to write and am left with nothing but panic and a blank screen. It is as you stated in your post, what do I have to say that someone hasn’t already said or that someone would even care about? Accompanying this pathetic state of mind is mind numbing paralysis. I give up before I even start.

So yes, this course will certainly push me way beyond my comfort level, but I have to have faith that this is good for me both personally and professionally. The true test will be if I stick with it once the course is over:) I follow a lot of people’s blogs and learn so much from these communities, yet, as Jeff states, I am a lurker, gaining much but giving little. I guess it is time to give; however, I remain feeling uncertain that I have much of value to give. My hang up I know, but I am somewhat relieved that others feel similar to me.

You asked, “how do I support my students to develop writing skills which are driven by ideas and content and not just written for the teacher?” Excellent question; I grapple with it myself as a middle school humanities teacher. For the past few years, I have requested that my students create their own blogs and establish an authentic audience in which to write to. A good idea in theory, but my desire for control got in the way as I assigned what they should post for each blog. Upon reflection, I realized I was more of a control freak than I would like to have been and loosened my reins a bit the following year by allowing the students to write posts of their choice around the yearlong theme of “What is worth fighting for?”

I thought this was a grand step forward, appealing to adolescents’ sense of justice, until once again, upon reflection, I realized I was expecting them to write a certain type of essay for each post even though it was a topic of their choice. After reading Jeff’s article and your post, I realize I am going to have to loosen the reins even more, perhaps give them up, and allow the students the choice and style in which they would like to write in order for it to be true blogging. Thank you for making me pause and rethink. Flexibility certainly is necessary in education.

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I think we forget that point about “meaningfulness”. We always see productivity go up in ourselves and in students when they see something as meaningful.

I have a feeling students see a lot of what we do in school as not being meaningful to them and so then they “play school” to get through it…and spend their time at home doing the “meaningful stuff”.

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Hello Verena,

Not sure what happened to my last comment; I clicked Post Comment and it disappeared. I will try to recreate what I stated the first time. I too grapple with the challenges of writing. I possess an absolute love for words and can wallow in the beauty and meaning of language for hours on end. My favorite books are filled with dog-eared pages that hold the treasure of a phrase that spoke to me. Despite this adoration for the written word, I approach writing with much trepidation. Establishing a PLN in which you move from ‘lurking’ as Jeff stated in his book to an active member, scares the living daylights out of me. Really, what would I have to say, that others haven’t already said? I have to admit that I took some comfort in the fact that there are other internet introverts that feel the similarly to me.

Your question, “how do I support my students to develop writing skills which are driven by ideas and content and not just written for the teacher?”, is a good one. I have struggled with this over the years. Educators know that students learn more when content is meaningful and relevant, but it isn’t as easy as one would think to make the paradigm shift that is necessary to create this meaning. Three years ago I had my humanities students create a blog for the course. Mistake #1, I assigned what they needed to create posts on; the blog served more as a homework platform than anything. I had no idea I was such a control freak! Upon reflection at the end of the year, I realized I needed to loosen the reins on blogging if students were going to take more ownership, so I allowed them to write a post that responded to something that I had posted on the class blog that centered around our yearlong essential question of “What is worth fighting for.” Better? Wrong, it was Mistake #2 as they could only respond to what I posted. Again, upon reflection, I loosened the reins and told them they could write any post that was related to the yearlong essential question. Better. However, I still find myself dictating that the post must follow the structure of a persuasive essay…blah, blah, blah. I had no idea I desired such control! I now know I need to let them run free on their blog; they can practice their writing skills and techniques in class and apply them to the post of their choice in the style of their choice. I am assuming I will see a renewed interest in their writing as they share ‘their’ thoughts, not ‘my’ thoughts with the world as well as showcasing their progress in meeting the assigned standards and benchmarks.

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