Monday, July 5, 2010

Student Blog Experiment Update: Week One

We are one week into the summer and I have been watching the “blog experiment” from afar. I wanted to step back and see what Matthew would do on his own so I have made a conscious effort not to harp on it and say stuff like, “hmmm, I notice you haven’t blogged lately.” I wanted to kind of assess where his head is at with it and what place writing has in his life.

So far this week, Matthew has made two posts on his blog—a “cheese” about what’s doing with Lego Harry Potter and a “whine” about a family fight. (If you’re interested in reading and commenting on his thoughts you can check him out at Even though he hasn’t written since then, he has talked a lot to me about what he could blog about. Among the things he has mentioned being blog worthy: the wooden sword his grandfather made him, the tortoise we saw at a flea market, the waterslide that drops out into an eight foot pool, seeing plants like mandrake root and wolfsbane (both mentioned in Harry Potter) at a science museum apothecary in Syracuse.

One of the important things I have been learning by sitting back and observing Matthew as a writer is that he thinks about writing a lot more than he actually writes. I’m like that too. Last Tuesday, I sat down to rewrite the “About Us” section of the website. I couldn’t do it that day. I didn’t know what I wanted to say. I needed some time to incubate my thoughts. A week later, I can say that I feel ready to compose.

So often during writing workshop, I expect students to write “on demand.” I teach my lesson and I say, “Okay, everybody, now your turn. Get busy writing.” When kids don’t write, I call them “off task” and tell them to “get to work.” When I have that moment of intuition that alerts my sub-conscious that maybe this kid needs time to think, I dismiss it and tell my head to shut up because we have too much to get through. There just isn’t time to think.

This is a problem. How can we reconcile giving kids the time they need to think and reflect and learn with our long list of curriculum “to-dos?” Does it really count as teaching if we can tick it off our list?

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