I teach a course for students who are scoring below proficient on the writing exams we administer in Colorado. The idea for hte course came about five years ago. If we can create a safe space for students to write, they will improve. We facilitate a writing workshop model for our students and it has proven successful.
Last year I ran into problems because my students were more engaged with their phones and games than with writing. It became clear to me that I needed to find another way to pique their interests and find ways to teach them something that will hold more value to them. I needed to use their social currency to pull them back in to writing.
I have used blogging this year to bring them back into the process of writing. We began the year examining the structure of blogs. What they look like on the page can offer students who struggle insight as to how to utilize the text to add power to their writing. I’ll write more about this later.
Once students had a strong working understanding of the structure of blogs and how they work, it became time to explore topics to write about. I’ll be honest. I’m not hung up on what they’re writing…I just want them writing. The best way to improve writing scores is to write, after all. They have had complete choice in what they write about. East student has chosen the topic their blog is about.
Once we set up their blogs, students chose three mentor blogs about the same topic they are writing about to examine. They analyzed the topics, the structure, the organization of the writing, etc. Once they did this, we began writing our own blogs.
For each blog, students find something from their blog mentors they would like to try in their own writing. I confer with students about their goals to make them rigorous and standards based. Students post their goals on Google+ with an example from their writer.
They then begin to write. I grade them on their goal only. This piece alone has been most liberating for me as a teacher. The conferences I have with students are much more focused than they ever have been.
We do grammar, mechanics, and punctuation mini lessons to examine their role in writing. Students upload their writing to Turnitin.com where the ETS Data is turned on. It highlights their mistakes in purple with an explanation. Students make corrections to their writing before turning it in, so this takes care of the MUGS pieces of their writing.
Moving towards one writing one goal has created focus with my struggling writers I have never seen before.