This week, I kicked off a new project with my juniors. I had intended to do this last year, but with the mad rush the year started in (new construction, no copiers, no printers, no Blackboard [online hub for kids to check homework, get test dates and announcements, etc.] etc.), it just didn't happen. This year, I am creating my own mad rush.
I set up a blog for my juniors to use - my blog (not this one) is a central hub, an umbrella under which the others are located. But each student has his or her own, personal, and hopefully personalized, blog where they will conduct 3 types of posts. The first is informal - journal entries in freewrite fashion where they are not penalized for grammar or spelling as long as they do the length requirement. The second is formal - for the first time, we are attempting a Writing SoL online, and the students need practice in NOT using text-speak or i.m.-speak while writing. The third is an on-going project where they are supposed to write, consistently, on subjects of their own thought. They are required to do a certain number of posts at certain times, but anything above that is for their own voice.
I have only gotten a true handful going, due to time constraints (and fire drills, and live announcements on the tv, and substitutes...), but what a wonderful thing this is turning out to be. These kids have so much to say. The few who have really taken off on this project have discussed everything from money (or lack thereof), open-mindedness, philosophical viewpoints, and music. They are showing more depth in a few paragraphs than most people would give credit to the demographic as a whole.
Journaling has always been an important part of my curriculum for the sake of the students and their voices. But there is something magical about finally making this portion of my class technologically applicable that truly speaks to this generation. It seems they feel more freedom in posting online this early in the year than they do in writing this freely just for me. Paradoxical in a sense, but I'll take it.
Their first assignment isn't due until later this week, but I started posting comments on each and every blog that had done something (changed themes and header, already posted writings, etc.) just so they know I am learning who they are, and in an attempt to let them know who I am. I want them to feel free to discuss what is on their minds, and I want them to know that someone SOMEONE is listening. Sometimes, that's all we need.