Thursday, July 9, 2015

Creating Student Community Writing Spaces

Using Kidblog, I tried blogging with my students during the 2013-14 school year, and while they did fine writing, we struggled with finding an authentic audience to comment on the 130 individual blogs.  I wanted to generate traffic with #comments4kids, but my district was very leery of having student writing set free in the wilds of the internet.  I understood the administrations skepticism and kept my students in a walled garden.  So our blogs became nothing more than online journals.

I know there are teachers and classes out there who are very successful at blogging, but for me it just could not continue outside of the classroom.  Quadblogging with other classes was out because I couldn't guarantee consistent access to computers for my students.  I entered the 2014-15 school year with PARCC looming and defeatist attitude towards blogging with my students.

But I did spy a certain kind of hope: my ELAFlip Voxer group is ever the wealth of ideas and support. And I asked the group if they would be willing to create an Edmodo writing group. Sticking with the theme of gamification for one of the teachers, we named the group Scribe City.  In this group, students post drafts of their work and receive feedback from students. The group is very organic. Teachers assign tasks as they align with their lesson plans. We don't have a set schedule for posting writing or giving feedback, and even when PARCC acquired all technology in my building, we could keep participating in Scribe City because students could access Edmodo on the phones or at home.

In Scribe City, students post writing as either part of the Edmodo Note or an attached Google Doc any time, and anyone in the group can comment. We encourage the students to comment on content, grammar, diction, style etc by providing constructive criticism--something that will make the writing better and not just confirm (ie "good job!")--even suggesting resources that would help. We also tell the writers that they are to provide an explanation of the task/assignment and state what they specifically would like feedback on or help with. We want students to engage in a conversation with the others about writing. General digital citizenship rules apply as students demonstrate collegial communication skills. Teachers monitor the group to make sure everyone is appropriate. To make sure the group is active, we let each other know when our students are posting assignments.

Scribe City has also become a haven for my artistic, introverted students, with one student making it her writing residence. Maddy was an Honors student in my 8th period 2013-14 freshmen class. Gifted writer, she was painfully shy and never spoke up in class. When I started Scribe City in 2014-15, I sought Maddy out in the halls and told her about the group. Giving her the join code, I encouraged her to jump in and share her writing even though she was no longer a freshmen. Without any additional prompting, Maddy posted her poetry and short stories.  She engage in conversations with the other students without trepidation.

Maddy's identity has been protected by a disguise. 

No matter what tools we share or strategies we devise, as educators we are constantly seeking out what works for our students and ourselves.  While blogging didn't quite work as well as I hoped, Scribe City has been success.  If you are interested in join the group, please contact me.  I also welcome any comments on how you've implemented blogging or created other places for students to write for an audience.


  1. Hello. I'm interested in having my students join Scribe City. Is there any way for this to happen?

  2. Hello,
    I'm interested too!Could you tell me what I should do for my students to join Scribe City?