Wednesday, September 19, 2012
Questions to consider: Why give students choice? How do we foster independent and/or collaborative inquiry? How can journal writing serve readers and writer?
“Inquiry and choice—a defining element of the writing workshop approach—allows students to pick topics, explore genres and styles, develop pieces, and select publication opportunities. It permeates the very essence of the workshop” (Hicks 2009 p. 15). This element of choice motivates students to want to explore and write. The challenge facing educators today is, how do we allow for student choice while still addressing various genres, topics, and components of the curriculum? Allowing students to choose their topics gives them a sense of empowerment and freedom. It makes them take ownership over their ideas. Journal writing is a way for student to explore their choices. It can be informal and expressive. Journals can act as a gateway to other genres and topics, addressing this challenge.
When a teacher introduces journal writing into their classroom, whether it is a response/dialogue journal or simply a personal one, they usually start with a class brainstorm so students have a jumping off point. This brainstorm triggers ideas and sparks creativity in other students. Once a student has written freely in their journal about a topic, with no regard for spelling, grammar, or the looming right/wrong connotation, teachers can take these student developed ideas and have them meet standards. In a way journals can act as the pre-writing process of writing workshop. Journal writing is one genre that I am definitely going to incorporate into my classroom and daily instruction. The dialogue created between a student and a teacher through journals has endless possibilities. I was truly inspired by the power of journal writing through Sapphire's book Push. The teacher, Ms. Rain, asks her students to write in their journal everyday. Precious, the protagonist, can barely spell words correctly, let alone write full sentences, yet Ms. Rain breaks through to Precious and the communication and relationship they create through this writing is so beautiful. I want my students to know that I support them and believe in them 100 percent. Steven Levy, an educational author, wrote, "Someone once said that children need one thing in order to succeed in life; someone who is crazy about them" (qtd. in Sousa and Tomlinson 2011 p. 17). Through journal writing I will create a safe place that lets my students express themselves. Through this genre I will convince my students how strong of an advocate I am and inspire a sense of hope-- hope that they will succeed, hope that they can write, and hope that they will improve. To apply this genre to the digital workshop, this interaction through journal writing can take place online or through blogs. Student choice can be used in this scenario as well. I can give my students the option of a traditional journal or a digital one. If they choose to engage in an online journal, these journals can remain private or go viral, students again have another choice to make. In addition, if they choose to publish their digital writings through a blog or wiki, this fosters both independent and collaborative workshops. Once a teacher introduces these ideas of digital publication and access students can realize a whole new aspect to independent and collaborative inquiry. If I allow my students this option I not only create a dialogue between them and myself, but I also open them up to conversation with their peers who may understand what they are going through even better than I can.
In Hicks (2009) chapter two, he introduces "fostering student choice and inquiry through RSS, social bookmarking, and blogging" (p. 15). Through the use of Really Simple Syndication (RSS), an online tool which allows a user to have the most up to date blogs, articles, and research sent to them at one location based on personal preference and choice, Hicks (2009) not only incorporates student choice, but also inquiry. In a time of the effervescent world-wide web, learning how to navigate these vast and at times treacherous waters is more important than ever. Using the RSS, teachers can monitor student research and still support their inquiry. Students can also use this RSS to collaborate and work with one another sharing their findings or connecting with others who have the same interests or questions. The possibilities are endless.
I am aware that technologies like RSS and social bookmarking, or even blogging seem like a daunting aspect to add to writing workshop. If we do not introduce and expose students to the technologies and digital capabilities available however, we will never make them ready for the twenty first century real-world. I feel that explicitly teaching students how to use these tools would be an essential part of my classroom.
Growing up, I was always the student that wanted to use the computer or word-process my writing. I always understood computers and could easily navigate my way on the world-wide web. Technology always intrigued me. My sisters would always put me in their home videos. I always ended up acting like the crazy person or bad guy. I was never the hero or the head singer in the band, and you could always guarantee that I was going to be a back-up dancer or the person "behind" the camera. It didn't matter to me, maybe I was too naive, but I just loved being a part of the process. It is this process of self expression that always drew me toward language. I also remember, however, being limited by teachers who felt that this technology was unnecessary. Maybe due to generational differences, they were unable to see the value and benefits that technology could have on my writing and expressive process. With this in mind, I could never stifle my students and their desire to express themselves through different modes. If tools such as RSS and social bookmarking can aid in my students' research and exploration process in a way that benefits and does not detract from their writing, who I am to hold them back? No, I need to be the advocate to lead them forward. Forward into the age of technology. Forward into a time where written expression surpasses words written on lined paper.
RED = Revisions