Anecdotal Notes

I've spent this year watching my students writing; talking to them about their writing; thinking about my own writing; and doing that 'metacognition thing' - thinking about my thinking.

As adults we need affirmation for our own writing. I often ask trusted friends to read through something before I post it (thank goodness for Google Docs) - I know I need that critical feedback. It stands to reason then, that students also need to have the same.

There's a test we do here in NZ that has a little smiley face assessment at the beginning - the questions ask the student to rate how good they think they are at writing, how good their parents think they are, and how good their teacher thinks they are. I could never figure out why my students always said that I thought they were very good at writing until this year. I see now that I have been guilty of meaningless, unspecific, general comments about my students' writing. I've learned that I need to be the opposite - and this year I have become much better at that.

James Nottingham talks about process praise and process criticism.
Intelligence praise vs Process praise

If you're working with process praise you're giving your students something to hang success/progress on. I think this is a real key for meaningful commenting. In my class, if we've been working on paragraphing for instance, and I review some writing by a student who has clearly attempted to paragraph, I can talk to them about that specific learning that they've hooked into. When I'm talking one-on-one with a student about their progress, I often ask them how they feel - "When you look back at the writing you did at the beginning of the term, and then look at this writing, and you can see [1] the difference, how does it make you feel?" They're proud of their writing - not because it's easy to do but because they've learned how to do something specific.

I'm a passionate blogger. I've been blogging in one form or another since 1998. There are traces of all my various online blogs floating around the ether.[2] Since starting my eFellowship I've been pondering why I blog and why on earth I have so many different blogs. I was very grateful when DK spoke to the eFellows and talked about how he uses blogs as types of folders - you put things into them and then come back to them when you need to. I was able to identify with his description (and felt enormously relieved as well). Seth Godin's video also helped me understand the importance of blogging to me. It's all about the metacognition - if people read my blog and respond - I'm happy; if they don't - I not only don't know about it but I also don't worry about it. Ultimately blogging is something for me and if others benefit from or are provoked by my thoughts that's an extra bonus.

The biggest difference for my students has been using Google Docs in the classroom. Each student has an account with four apps available to them: email, calendar, docs, sites. The most used app is docs. We do a lot of work online using GDocs and the routine for literacy works roughly like this: each week there will be set activities that need to be completed; there is always a writing component and a reading component; students can choose when they do these activities; whole class teaching and small group teaching also occurs and I will specify who needs to attend the small group teaching (and others can opt in).

The difference in the writing is HUGE! Here are a couple of examples.
Example A
When interviewed this student said:
On writing in his draft writing book:
"'s hard to write, I get really confused with letters..."
" I get confused about where my story is."
On writing on the computer:
"...I don't get confused with my letters because the keyboard has capital letters."
" I write a lot more on the computer - easy to write more and I don’t have to go looking for where the story is."
"It's easy to see what’s already there."
An early piece of writing, written and edited in his draft writing book - none of the edits made it to the finished product. Word count=69

His latest piece of writing; written using my iPad in Google Docs; he wrote without needing encouragement to stay on task; the editing was collaborative and the final result retained all of it. Word count=353

Example B
When interviewed this student said:
On writing in his draft writing book:
"... (it) takes time (for a story) to get into my head - spend most of time trying to come up with an idea"
"...sometimes hard to find where I'm up to..."
"Easier to draw in my book."
On writing on the computer:
"It helps with spelling; it's a lot easier..."
"... it's easier to start off with some ideas and then brainstorming and then with bullet points and then writing...
"My writing is all in one place - easy to look back to what has already been done."

An early piece of writing, written and edited in his draft writing book - none of the edits made it to the finished product. Word Count = 50

The collaborative editing process under way - I used the inbuilt chat feature to work with him; he loved that we were in two different rooms to do this; he stayed on task for the whole editing session.

The finished piece of writing - I love that I was his friend that he took with him on his adventure; he was so proud of this piece of writing. Word count=157

  1. ^ It's a visual thing, because this is often writing on their blog or in Google docs
  2. ^ Pre-1999 - website with my ISP - I did the HTML coding myself; 1999-2006 - my own website hosted in various locations; 2003-present - Livejournal account - no longer maintained; 2007-present - edublogs account under the domain name dragonsinger57 dot com - this is my professional, reflective blog; 2008-present - various blogger accounts; I have or have had various Tumblr, Posterous & Wordpress accounts too. (I also have a number of wikis but they have a different purpose.)