Inquiry, continued

I’ve decided to begin my blogging inquiry by using two main activities with students – learning (b)logs and commentaries.  I’ll explain both below.

Students will write weekly reflections on their learning under the category Learning (B)logs.   I’m still working on the guiding questions for these Learning (B)logs.  (Though my goal is to teach students to be able to reflect without relying on a prompt, I want to have a rather structured prompt at the beginning to scaffold for students.)

Students will write “commentaries” on class readings a la Sheridan Blau.  This summer, Mr. Blau presented a workshop at UCLA on writing commentaries, which are essentially 1- or 2-page responses to literature (we responded to a poem).  Through writing, sharing, and discussing their commentaries, students develop an understanding of how an academic discourse creates its own conventions and elements, driven by the intellectual needs of the community.  (An example:  an autopsy report is written as straightforwardly as possible, moving from the subject’s head to toes, and including only empirical observation, because its purpose is to be admissible as evidence in court.  Contrast this to a poem or a memoir, whose purpose is of course quite different; how bizarre and even ghoulish it would be if a coroner wrote with “voice” or used figurative language or irony!)

(The commentary is very similar to the Read Around that Bob Land has presented at CSULA for many years.  The Read-Around is described in greater detail in Practical Ideas for Teaching Writing as a Processedited by Bob’s frequent co-researcher, UCI Writing Project director Carol Booth Olson.

I’m trying to imagine how to help students blog about their interests as a kind of “third category,” a category that is student-driven and could take many different forms.

I have two major questions about this.  First, how do I model this for students, especially since I have struggled to maintain a blog myself?  One idea would be to survey students on their interests, and then ask them to read blogs about a particular topic of interest – we could read mentor texts for the “third category” while practicing our writing with the “first” and “second” categories.

Second, how do I “fit this in” to the demands of the pacing plan?  The “commentary” blog posts will fit nicely with the need to have students respond to literature, and the “learning (b)logs” are easy to justify as part of Common Core implementation.  I suppose the “third category” blogs will be the challenge in terms of “fitting it in.”


As I took part in the National Writing Project’s Connected Learning Massive Open Online Collaboration (CLMOOC) this summer, I got back into the blogging habit.  I’d like to continue that habit as we move from summer toward fall.

I’ve begun planning a CLMOOC-inspired inquiry for the upcoming semester.  The Connected Learning research synthesis calls for research into the possibilities of using digital technologies to promote student learning, which made want to pursue an inquiry project in my classroom.  At the same time, my experience in CLMOOC and the LA Writing Project Summer Institute brought questions about scale and sustainability to mind.  I want to pursue a project that can be rigorous but also replicable.  I also want to push my own teaching practice into i + 1 territory, if you will:  something that stretches and, I hope, changes my practice, without being so overwhelming that I give up.  (This has happened, quietly, to inquiry projects that I’ve conceived and begun in the past.)

After thinking about all this, I’ve come up with a question:  How can student blogging at Kidblog improve student learning with respect to academics or civic engagement?

My follow-up questions:  What data can I use to measure “student learning”?   What, if any, other areas of learning can I explore, aside from academics and digital citizenship?  (Can blogging promote career-oriented learning, especially in the two sections of the 12th-grade Expository Reading & Writing Course (ERWC) I will teach?

I plan to use the rest of the summer to design my inquiry and read more about Connected Learning and blogging with students.