I was going through old files in search of a document and found the following article about the first group of sixth grade bloggers at Trinity School. While it’s making me think about what I’m writing for my “How People Learn” class, it’s also reminding me of the power of blogging. While I wrote this article in the fall of 2007, it’s a good reminder of the transformative power of authentic writing in a middle school classroom.
Prior to the fall of 2007, weblogs were a foreign concept to us. Limited in our understanding of new trends in technology, we approached the world of blogging with fear and skepticism. A proposal for a tablet unit in which students would keep individual blogs was quite basic in design. Students would gain exposure to this world and try posting their thoughts on their own blog. Our students’ experiences shifted our fear and skepticism to enthusiasm and commitment to a new medium of writing and thinking. Our small experiment has yielded significant results.
As teachers, we find that weblogs transcend curricular boundaries, enabling and honoring the melding of reflection and critical thinking. After the sixth grade class visited the Joseph Sams School in January, many students chose to capture their thoughts and reactions by posting to their blog. Wellie D. makes the connection between values discussions on prejudice and her experience:
I had a small group with all boys. None of them were able to fluently talk, but they all showed their kindness through the hugs and grabs that they gave us. They were the friendliest, funniest, cutest kids that I have ever seen, and it is sad to think how people could be prejudiced against them. Through this experience (and values class), I have learned that pre-judging somebody is never a good thing to do, and you should take the time to get to know different types of people.
Another surprising element of blogging was the students’ excitement for writing in a new medium. No longer bound to paper and pencil, students eagerly shared their insights with their peers. A shock came when interested readers outside of the Trinity community began to comment on sixth graders’ writing. Helen J. connected with a blogger in Ohio who shares her passion for horses, and the two continue to correspond.
In reflecting on their blogging experience, Austin M. writes:
I have learned a lot about their [his friends] lives away from school and what they believe in. I have also learned about other things beyond the surface. If my friends write multiple posts around one subject, I get a feel about what really interests them the most.
To read more about what captures the imagination of sixth graders, visit the Writer’s Exchange on Trinity’s new website (found in the Virtual Trinity section). Topics range from Alex F.’s post on giving Open House tours, to a post about college football by Grant H., to Matthew K.’s tribute to a mother’s love, to Emma R.’s thoughts about an interview with the author of White Lilacs, the class novel.
Phoebe J. sums it up, “I learned that even the people who don’t talk a lot in school have great ideas and opinions. I learned that even though someone is quiet, you shouldn’t underestimate them because they might have some powerful stuff floating around in their mind, just waiting for the opportunity to come out.”