Thursday, October 29, 2009

Student Blog Score Sheet

Students have spent time in Reading Workshop reading and writing blogs, so their grade should reflect their efforts.  In a previous post, we looked at How to Grade Student Blogs.  However, students need an easy method to evaluate their work, and  understand the grade that it merits.   A Blog Score Sheet is an easy way to accomplish this. 

Students can easily check the areas they have completed successfully.  This also provides the opportunity to look at different blogs, and show examples of excellent writing.

Once students have evaluated their blog, then I will score their blog.  If there is a difference between their evaluation and mine, then I can explain what needs to be done to improve the blog, and help it meet expectations.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Who Else is a Little Crazy Around Here?

The word for today is sanity. Statistics say that one of four persons is suffering from some sort of mental illness. Think of your three best friends. If they're okay, it's you.

And what brings up the word for the day?  Tomorrow is the start of a five day break.  We may all be a little crazy, but I am sure when we return on Monday, after a little R & R, we will be rejuvinated, and chomping at the bit to get back in the educational saddle.

Don't eat too much at the Pumpkin Show and enjoy the break!

Monday, October 19, 2009

A Writer's Voice

When someone reads a post you wrote, do they know it's you?  Having a writer's voice and a style of your own comes from writing, writing some more, and writing some more.  Eventually, your writing will take on a style of its own.

Authors with several books published are usually easy to recognize by their style.  Gary Paulsen with his wordy, descriptive, "I have been there and done it" style is consistent in his books.  John Scieszka with his choppy sentences, constant dialogue, and wacky events amuses his readers.

Dr. Scott McLeod wrote the following on his blog, Dangerously Irrelevant:

Blogging cured me of my writing blahs. It provided me with an outlet that fits me like a glove, helped me discover my writing voice, and made me realize that I LOVE to write - indeed, maybe LIVE to write.

What about you, student bloggers?  Are you beginning to write in a consistent style?  Can your readers recognize you by your tone?  Or by the way you discuss topics?  By the end of a year of blogging, will you have found your style?

Thursday, October 15, 2009

This is Sharing Your Thoughts

As we start a new year in Reading Workshop, one of the main goals is making writing meaningful using descriptive writing with many supporting details.  It really does not matter whether the writing is a response to a question, a blog post, a journal, a letter, or any other type of writing.  Quality writing brings the reader into the mind and the heart of the writer.  Details help the reader see, and feel, and understand.

When I read Katey's blog post, it grabbed me and I knew immediately, this was a great example of what I expect in  students' writing.  This was in response to a prompt from Larger-Than-Life Lara.

My first impression of Lara was "Whoa, what in the world is she describing?" I actually didn’t know what to say about Lara, it was just like an "OMG!" moment, I was speechless. I don’t know if that was what the author wanted people to think, but that was my thought (sorry if that makes anybody mad). When Lara was first described by Laney I thought she wouldn’t be like she is. I didn’t think that Lara would be always smiling and cheerful. I was also suprised after Laney descibed her, that she was a new student.  At first I thought she was an adult, but when she said that she was a new student I was shocked.
Image from

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Why Student Blogs are So Valuable

I read Cassie's blog yesterday, and thought about it several times throughout the evening.  I woke up this morning and thought about it again.  She really nailed it.   She compared the meanness in Larger-Than-Life Lara with what she sees and feels some times at school.

As we work towards improving higher level thinking, and writing that supports ideas and opinions with explicit and intricate details, she  wrote a post that was extraordinary.  However, there were many mistakes in PUGS (Punctuation, Usage, Grammar, and Spelling).  Her post shows how blogging will build writing skills, while pushing students to think, and reason, and consider themselves, their lives, and how people treat others.

Opinions are sometimes really mean like when someone talks about you.  When you talk about them and it is not nice but it could be nice sometimes. When people do that it is just like them talking about you. How would you feel if someone talked about you? It would not feel to good. 

That is why I don’t like it when my friends make fun of people to make them look cool. It just makes them look like a jerk.  I don’t like it when people talk about people. It is just really mean. I really think that if we don’t talk about people there would be no fights at school and for people who do talk about people need to stop.

Don’t talk about people because when people do it just gets back at them and they talk about kids. People don’t like it when you talk about them because all it does is  start a fight. So thats why I don’t but I’m not going to lie. I have talked about people but I quit.

This was a super job relating Cassie's life to the book I am reading aloud in Reading Workshop.  As her writing skills improve, great thoughts like these will be a topic for discussion and growth for her, and her classmates.
Image from


Tuesday, October 13, 2009

How To Grade Student Blogs

One of the challenges of having students write all of their assignments on a blog is coming up with a fair and objective way of grading.  Writing assignments in Reading Workshop are graded with a rubric that looks at several factors to come up with an overall grade.

After considering several rubrics, I created the Stair Steps to Success.  As students' writing improves and posts get better and better, they can climb the stairs to writing success.  

These questions can help certain determine their grade.

Did you spell everything correctly? I would hope so. After all, who would want to write something that is available to the whole world, and misspell words? Can the reader understand the topic because you stick to it? Following these minimal standards will earn you at least a D.

Did you use correct grammar?  Did you take time to check your PUGS?  Can the reader follow your post in an organized manner? This is still a most basic expectations for writers that want to publish their work. The skills learned in the primary grades are not too much to expect for work posted on the Internet.  A C means satisfactory and not meeting this basic criteria would surely not deserve anything higher.

Do you have interesting content presented in a well-written way? To build loyal readers, you must grab the reader.  Supporting details draw in the readers and give them understanding. If posts are written cleanly with correct PUGS, the words illustrate the meaning, and the reader can visualize your ideas, you will earn a B.

Does your writing cause the reader to pause, and think, or cause the reader to agree or disagree? Sometimes hours after reading an essay, the reader is still thinking about it. When a blog post has that something special, then the writer deserves an A.  To earn this, the majority of posts must be of exceptional quality.

What step are you on? Have you climbed the stairs to writing success?

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Rules for Blog Comments

Everyone that blogs wants readers.  And, we wish that every single person that visited our blog would comment.  In fact, almost any comment is better than none.  So, the most important rule for blog comments is to comment.  If you agree, say so.  If you disagree, or have a different opinion, say so.  But whatever you do, take a minute and let us know you were here.

As students in Reading Workshop begin to build their blogs, post by post, the need for some structure in commenting is evident.  Hopefully these guidelines will help students engage in meaningful dialogue, comment by comment.

Here are the Reading Workshop rules for Blog Comments.

1.  Be nice. No name-calling and personal abuse, please.

2.  Keep on topic.  Don't write a comment that has little or nothing to do with the subject of the article.

3.  Opposing opinions are welcome, as long as they are respectful of the views of others.  If you disagree with the opinions of the author, express it politely.

4.  Don’t issue personal attacks or insults.  Attacks against  the author, other bloggers, commenters or people will be deleted.

5.  Avoid repeating yourself.  If many people have already said something, please don’t say it again.  Once you make a point, support it, but don't keep saying the same thing over, and over, and over.

5.  Avoid repeating yourself.  If many people have already said something, please don’t say it again  (See how annoying this is).

6.  Don’t make comments like “Great post.” If you read it, say why it was great.  Add some­thing to the con­ver­sa­tion.   Add your own view, or thoughts to the topic.

7.  Don’t use incorrect grammar or mispellings. Doing this makes the blog look like a low quality blog. It makes the blogger feel like you don't care enough to take the time to do it right.

For more information about commenting, see the post Comments That Count. 

Always remember the most important rule for blog comments is to comment.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Why Do Students Give the Teacher Control?

Mrs. Scott, the principal stopped by the room as she so often does, just to see how things were going.  Up came Chomper Sue, the gum chewingest kid to hit the class in many a year.  Mrs. Scott told her to spit out the gum.  Boy, did Sue just make her teacher happy.

To this point in the year, Sue had been doing fairly well--much better than last year.  It's a shame she couldn't see that she was well on her way to wrecking her great start.  In less than a half hour, she was chomping away again, slapping her gums together and cracking her bubble gum.  That made two write-ups in one class.

After lunch, Sue came up the stairs for her afternoon class, mouth wide open, chomping on more gum.  What a day--three writeups for the same offense.  This earned her some time on the wall during recess the next day.  Sticking to her pattern of self-destruction, Sue did not stand on the wall today, so this earned her two more days.

In less than two days, Sue aggravated her favorite teacher over and over.  She showed disrespect  chewing gum, which is so trivial, but then she just kept flaunting her disregard for school rules.

In the process of all of this mess, Sue who thinks of herself as an independent young woman, gave up all control of herself at school.  She became a discipline problem, disrepecting teachers and ignoring rules.  In the process, the teachers are forced to deal with Sue's behavior, and deal with the aggravation of a student that can not do the most simple things to be successful.

I wonder if Chomper Sue knows all she lost over three sticks of gum?

Friday, October 2, 2009

Fake Reading, Will Smith, and Being Successful

Her homework paper said she read exactly 30 minutes a day.  She read exactly 10 pages each time.  As I looked at the paper, I thought, "another fake reader.  Why?"

The Read at Home assignment is meant to be low stress.  All students have to do to get a good grade is read.  And the more they read, the better the grade.  And they can read any book they want.  But still she chose to fake read.

I know grades do not matter that much to her.  So why did she lie about her reading?  I had already been watching her in class and could see that she does not like reading and has no interest in her book.

I wonder if she is a Will Smith fan?  I wonder if she will believe him when he says she can succeed?  I wonder if she has the guts to want  to be something and the strength to chase it?

The student's task for the day was to pick one area that Will Smith discusses in the video and write a post in their blog.  They could rewatch that piece of the video.  The times are listed in parenthesis after the area.

It Can Be That Easy (1:00)
There's No Shortcut to Success (1:38)
Lay One Brick at a Time (3:00)
Focus on Making a Difference (3:48)
Represent an Idea/Possibilities/You Can Make What You Want (4:35)
You Have to Believe (5:00)
Nothing is Unrealistic (5:45)
Our Thoughts are Physical/Make a Choice (6:47)
You Really Have to Focus (8:08)
Attack Your Fears/"I Hate Being Afraid of Anything" (8:30)
Protect Your Dream (9:17)

You can check out their thoughts, ideas, and opinions by following the links to Student Blogs in the sidebar.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Goals and Benefits of Student Blogging

As the Reading Workshop students begin to blog regularly (see links in the sidebar), one might question, what do you want the students to get out of this project? How will it help them? Are the benefits academic and or social? Listed below are the goals and benefits of student blogs.

Goals with student blogs include:

1. Students will communicate effectively.
2. Students will share thoughts, ideas, and opinions, and support them with details that make understanding easy.
3. Students will become better writers, both in content and mechanics.
4. Students will become better readers, improving comprehension and the ability to read critically.
5. Students will share great books and enter into dialogue about them.
6. Students will use Web 2.0 technology as a tool to publish their work to share with their peers, family, and friends.
7. Students will finish the year of Reading Workshop with a published portfolio of their writing projects.

In addition to the goals for learning, there are other benefits to students. These include:

1. Blogging is fun.
2. Students can improve writing in an exciting and engaging manner.
3. Students can share their work with friends.
4. Students can comment on their friend's work, sharing thoughts and ideas.
5. Students can learn about using computers and web-based tools.
6. Students can show off their work to their parents, grandparents, and other family members.
7. Students can earn good grades for doing something they like.