Over the weekend I was cleaning out some papers that had gathered dust in my office at home. I came across an email that I had sent Will back in 2003. It bears repeating. To give you a little background this was the first elementary group I blogged with and we ended up collaborating with Will’s high school journalism students. Will had emailed me and asked how a session went after our groups connected.

OK, Will, this is going to be a long email but I’m on the tip of something and not quite sure just what it is, so here goes!

Today was puzzling. Something is taking place among my elementary students that is unusual. My kids are truly very excited about your kids helping them but something has been in the air that I haven’t been able to get a handle on. Now they are really into this but something has been amiss. I think I figured it out today. They absolutely realize that their writing is out there, exposed for anyone to view. They also feel like their writing is not good enough. Now, in some ways this is a good thing but I feel like I am treading on new territory. I have empowered them with their blogs and they loved it! Now they have to take a leap of faith and just sort of be exposed. I don’t know how to explain it otherwise. It is a scary time for them and they don’t think they can do it. Typically elementary kids just barrel on through and do not have such concerns. They turn a deaf ear to the teacher saying the same thing over and over, to some extent. This is a different story though. They want to be able to do it. They want to deliver. They have an audience they really care about.

They came in today with leads ready and got right down to posting. Then we just gathered in a little group for some discussion. I always encourage them to tell me how they are feeling, what they think, how this can be better, what do they need, etc. and they do. You have to understand that for the most part this is just not done in elementary schools. They are usually told just what to do, when, and how. even down to the time they all troop to the bathrooms! We had a deep discussion on their feelings and having the opportunity to have your journalism students help them. They are so afraid that they will not measure up. One of mine said, ” I am so nervous about the negative part.” They phrased it as having students put down their writing and this would be upsetting to them.”. They then went on to say that they really wanted the help and wanted this to continue. They are a bundle of mixed feelings.

Anyway, I give you all this background to let you know that I am witnessing a new phenomenon and I really am not quite sure what to make of it. What I do know is that I have a terrific group of kids, they will handle this, they want to do this, and they will help us all learn and see what will work and what doesn’t.

This week, have your kids check in and comment on the leads, give feedback. Encourage them to comment on anything else that the kids have written, if they like. If you want them to go ahead and plan mini lessons on good reporting- nut graphs, quotes, leads, etc. We can expose my kids to that but maybe not expect them to deliver all of it.

Next week they are coming to class with this assignment:

  • News story with good title

· Good lead

· Details in an overview

· More details

· One quote

· Good ending

  • Bump up vocabulary

· Good flow

They tend to put personal comments and thoughts in their stories which I want to continue. I know it defeats good journalism in news reporting but I want to leave the essence of elementary students writing and thinking within their reports.

I think that if I have the students continue writing a news report (elementary style), your kids can use those to comment on how to improve, what they like, note when they have a good lead, handled a quote correctly, etc.

Do you think it would work if your students pointed out things they are doing well, things they need to improve, but not expect a full fledged correct report while at the same time we’ll tell them what that would be? Making sense????

After meeting with the students today, I met with their classroom teachers for a weblog workshop. They were really impressed with what was happening with their students. One of them has a student who is being considered for the gifted program and this student has to submit a piece of work that they are most proud of ..guess what, it was his weblog. The committee probably won’t even know what he’s talking about- :_). Each teacher stated emphatically that they had noticed much improvement in these kids’ writing. Others made comments that reaffirmed what we have been saying about this process. One parent today told me that her son cannot wait until Thursdays, that it is the most important day of the week for him. NOTHING keeps him from getting to school on Thursdays.

Not to say that I wasn’t aggravated with Manila during the workshop today √ it never works seamlessly! Your post today brings up many things that we really need to think about √ what have we gotten into???? No, not what have we gotten into but how are we going to tame it to have it reach the possibilities we know exist in this arena.

Please, give me your thoughts.

Seeing this email again was uplifting to me. It reminds me what can come out of struggles – good things! I am really struggling with my high
school weblog groups, Getting Heard and Teacher Cadets. Mostly it is the ‘Getting Heard’ group. I wish we did a better job of making school relevant for so many of our “at-risk” kids.. This email was just the boost I needed to remind me that the struggle is definitely worth it.

Will blogging help? Who knows? They look forward to the blogging days but is it the novelty? I don’t know yet but I do know that they are willing to write on blogs. They try very hard and the writing does not come easy. I’m convinced they need to be heard and I believe in the possibilities. I’m going to keep on struggling for those good things to happen!