Writing Longer, Writing Stronger: The Power of Young Authors Sharing through Digital Media
I began an inquiry project last fall for a digital literacy course I was taking, using the perennial question of how to sustain the writing process in an elementary classroom given both the time constraints and less than enthusiastic responses to many writing suggestions from my 8 and 9 year old students. I played around with a variety of possibilities for engagement until I landed on the idea to use Skype, or video conferencing to hook my young authors into the writing and revision process. I’d only used this digital media once before, as a way to chat with my daughter when she was traveling in Spain. I began looking for answers to my inquiry questions by collaborating with a fellow Southern Maine Writing Project Teacher Consultant who teaches a fabulous group of honors English students. I thought that by hooking my most reluctant writers into the world of video conferencing, they may work a bit harder on their pieces knowing that someone would be reading and responding as they worked towards publication. I created a rubric that included praise and polish to guide the feedback from the high school juniors and then we were off! By the beginning of January my students were writing up a storm; wild and blustery, but writing nonetheless. While the range of mastery is wide, the one constant recently is the motivation caused by our inquiry project.
I began this project with the following questions:
1. At the elementary level how do you sustain the writing process in order for young authors to move from “all done” to engaged writers?
2. What would rehearsal/pre-write look like with two different (culturally/age) groups using a digital media such as Skype?
3. How would incorporating digital media opportunities enhance canned writing programs?
I have been challenged to find the magic that will encourage my young authors to see the writing process as an extension of who they are. I’ve tried to show them that they do have engaging stories to tell and important things to say. As 8 and 9 year olds, they love to share orally, but when it comes to written production, I found they limited their elaboration, and completely shut down when it came to revision. My writing curriculum encourages the generation of seeds and adding daily to a writer’s notebook, in addition to using mentor text to help students recognize what good authors do. While this feels natural and allows for 90 minutes of writing workshop five days a week, I found that many of my students were reluctant to try the lessons presented to them. Along with the challenge of engaging these young authors, I also struggled with finding an authentic destination for their finished work.