Saturday, 20 April 2013

Term 1 Action: Establishing a Writing Blog

While I had played around with a writing blog 2-3 years ago, it never really got off the ground.

This year Writing Rocks is our place to present work in progress, elicit constructive comments and re-work our writing in response to those comments.

We have been using this blog as a place to set writing challenges, attach resources and from which to promote our writing community.  It is from this blog that pieces ready for final publication are later posted to the Team Endeavour Blog.  Pieces are then converted into movies, e-books and other exciting publishing options.

  • Model more - steps, editing, process with teacher writing, photos of student drafting etc.
  • Break down the 'Writing Process' steps clearly
  • Provide more links to motivators and challenges for 'Writing Seeds' and free choice writing
  • Continue to promote work on this blog through teacher and class Twitter

Teaching and recognising constructive commenting

After being 'Focus Blog' for #comments4kids, we received a huge influx of viewers and comments.  While all of the comments boosted motivation and added sense of our audience, only a few comments were valuable for use in the editing process. These following comments were in response to Josephine's 100 word challenge blog post. 
  1. Dear Josephine,
    I am Thomas, one of the kids from QSI International School of Sarajevo. I like how you were so imaginary of the challenge, how the moon melted, and you slid into the gooey middle. I have also done something like that before, although you have to make a story using a specific group of words, not amount. The moon though, because of its G-Forces to Earth, most likely wouldn’t melt. Speaking of school work, I am doing a blog, that I would think you would enjoy. One last thing; does the boy look like he fell in mud in the picture? Well, hope to hear back!
    Thomas B.
  2. This was a really good piece of writing! It was really imaginative and fun to read. If you want to see my school blog here's a link to it
  3. Sarah

    I love your piece of writing. Very creative!
  4. Wow sounds like you had a good time. That was a great story and I liked the deatail
  5. My name is Jelena and I think it was fun and if you really want to go to the moon you should get a rocket to go there!!!
Loooove it! I especially like the part where you go to the moon. Very exciting! From Selma (QSI Sarajevo, 3rd grade)

The first comment from Thomas was the only one to discuss the actual writing rather than just a personal response to the content.  He discussed the use of words then challenged the writer to look more carefully at the child in the image and incorporate a description of their face.  Thomas also pointed out the scientific improbability of this piece, acknowledging the writer's imaginary approach.

  • Teach students to recognise the difference between social and constructive commenting
  • Review writing comment success criteria and paste checklist in drafting books
  • List the next steps a writer could take in response to a constructive comment

Student responses to writing posts should always be constructive and give the author ideas on how to improve their work.  This requires them to have an understanding of the success criteria for any type of writing and make an evaluative decision on the next steps they would take if it was their own work.  This can only strengthen the editing of their own writing as they have learned to recognise achieved success criteria and identify next steps learning.

Term 1 Action: Making connections

Another step I took was to sign up with #comments4kids in an attempt to increase the size of our audience.

Signing up for #comments 4kids
We were the 'Focus Blog' for Team Endeavour and Writing Rocks for two consecutive days.  The response was huge on both with the Endeavour Blog visitors increasing from an average of under 100 to a massive 371 and on Writing Rocks the audience increased from and average of 5 to totals of 70, 60 and 26 in the following days.  This also resulted in four new comment sources on Team Endeavour and 19 new comments on Writing Rocks.

Action: (after the holidays)

  • Analyse the source of our audience, the quality of the comments we received
  • Respond in kind with constructive comments and a link to Writing Rocks URL to encourage further interaction with what was mainly QSIS 10 Year Old Class  a class of international students in Sarajevo. 

Term 1 Action: Constructive Commenting

Whilst still researching, I did get started on a number of steps within the class writing challenge.

Teaching constructive commenting - with clear success criteria
We can confidently explain the success criteria of a blog comment but constructive comments given by students tend to only happen when there is a whole class focus and not when they are independently writing comments.

Comments before training:
18.2.13   We relly love the movie and we think we are in the movie the little aliens are cool. 

Comments during a class focus session:
5.3.13      Nice work Liam I like your simillie. Maybe next time you could put an alliteration like silent sleepy shadows. And what does he sound like when he speaks? By Phelix and Alfonso. 

7.3.13       Hi Chloe and Maggie Your writing makes me wonder where he is and why is he there? It really paints a picture in my mind.

2.4.13     Maggie, I really like the way that you used similes to describe the clock and the character in your story. It looks spooky as the clock face shimmers like the soft sky. You have also used adjectives to describe things like...glowing roof tiles, golden light. This makes the story interesting for people to read. Next time you could add another simile. joshua.g (Scribed by teacher)

Independent comments: (comment from home)
4.4.13  Well done lucy I read it to my sister and brother they both loved your shadow story. Daniella 

  • Further analysis of comments in groups and whole class.  
  • Learning about social vs. constructive comments.  
  • Comments success criteria checklist poster from the class wall copied and pasted in individual draft books for reference.

Research summary

I have spent a the whole of Term One searching blogs, research papers and twitter links regarding improving student writing by using an authentic blog audience.  I am still gathering information and will continue to add my findings as the year progresses.

There were some over-riding key points that emerge:

Teachers have to get connected:
Blogs are not an authentic audience if writing is only getting comments from the class teacher.  It was found that students put more effort into writing and commenting if they know there is an authentic audience from which they receive comments/replies to comments.  As a result, the teacher must get connected by building their own PLN so they can promote student writing to a wider audience for relevant and authentic responses.

  • Teacher must connect student writing to a wider audience using tools like twitter, facebook...
  • Join #comments4kids to access a wider audience
  • Teacher and students constructively comment on other blogs, leaving our URL for return visits
  • Join Quadblogging to make connections with three other classes from around the world
  • Join activities like the 100 Word Challenge that posts student writing for an enormous audience and comparisons to other student writing can be made
  • Training workshops for parents and wider whanau on constructive commenting and the value of family engagement
  • Tracking the number of comments and audience source over each month to assess audience

Langwitches Blog - Quadblogging reflection
EDUTOPIA - 10 Tips of becoming connected
Inquire Within - effect of Quadblogging on writing
Declairingit Blog - effect of Quadblogging on writing
Teaching with Tech - Authentic Audience Research Paper

Comments must be constructive rather than social:
Many of the comments received on writing posts are social rather than constructive and have no value to the editing of writing, only to the motivation of having an audience.  Constructive commenting must be modelled and scaffolded.


  • Include a link to the success criteria of that writing type so that comments can be precisie, directed and constructive.  This will be a learning point for some readers, a referral point for our writers and help improve the value of comments received
  • Run training sessions for students, parents and wider family on constructive comments
  • Provide a 'page' on the blog with instructions on effective commenting
  • Samples of student comments compared over the year 
  • Tracking the type of comment to assess how many are constructive
Medbury School - Success criteria posted with writing
Langwitches Blog - Blog comment rubric
Teaching with Tech - Authentic audience research paper

Donald Graves says that writing is a public act, meant to be shared with multiple audiences.
Howard Brown shows that the mechanics of writing improve when it is for publication.
(Cited in Teaching with Tech - Authentic audience research paper)

We are aiming for children who are:  
1.  Aware of their audience
2.  Taking an active role in the blogging community
3.  Show personal responsibility in the writing process


Blogging rubric

Blogging with students
Authentic audience
Engaging parents



Action Research Question

My action research this year is to take the next step on from last year which was to use ICT tools to motivate children to write.  I found that children were enjoying writing and but not willing to take the next step of editing to publication.

Research Question:

This research question fits within the shared beliefs of learning that we have within our school:

Learning will be Motivating and Fun: We will …
  • provide purposeful meaningful activities that capture the imagination of the learner
Learning will be Challenging: We will …
  • have high expectations for learners
  • challenge learners ideas and/or misconceptions within a supportive and respectful environment
Learning is Based on trusting relationships: We will ...
  • build self awareness
  • create partnerships which involve child, home and school working together towards clearly stated social and academic goals
Learning is Relevant, Clear and Purposeful: We will …
  • use success criteria to co-construct learning outcomes
Supported with Modelling, Exemplars and Assessments: We will …
  • provide time for self-reflection and assessment
This one question also opens up an army of smaller points to consider for both the teacher and the student.

Teacher questions:
Is the motivation stimulating with a driving purpose for the students?
Are the students clear on the success criteria?
Do they know their personal writing target, editing steps and can they independently use them?
How can I increase the community of our readers and encourage quality constructive comments for my writers, especially amongst our wider whanau and learning community?  
Are the students given support and time to re-edit pieces before and after posting on the blog?
Are our writers giving themselves and others reflective and constructive criticism based on the success criteria?
Do the students enjoy writing?
Are the students producing a body of quality written work?
Do the students have a sense of responsibility to their on-line learning community?

Student Questions:
Who am I writing for and how do I know they are really reading my writing?

 Is this writing ready for publishing - have I edited to an acceptable level?
Can I use the writing process independently?
What success criteria can my readers see in my writing or next steps do they suggest?
How have I improved my writing based on my reader's advice?
Can I help other writers by giving them constructive comments!

The beginning of a journey

In class we have been learning that a team shares their ideas, takes turns, helps one-another and listens to the ideas of others.  So if I am to be an active part of my PLN or personal learning network,  I need to stop just taking or lurking and start sharing.

This blog will be an opportunity to clarify my thoughts and act as a conscience to keep me accountable for the things I commit to doing.

Please feel free to comment in the form of encouragement but more importantly as a critical friend that challenges any misconceptions or bias.