As the 4th grade American history teacher for our school, I was searching for a way to make my students’ learning deeper, more authentic, more meaningful, more engaging… the list continues. It just so happens that the 7th graders at our school take American history yet again in their 7th grade year. How do we connect these two groups of children who are both learning about American history but at different times in the year and at different levels?
An idea came to life. Let’s blog! We decided that the 7th graders were at an age where blogging was age appropriate and potentially a cool way to connect them with people around the world. The 4th graders, however, were not quite there yet. Our plan was to have the 4th graders journal write using Google docs. They would share their docs with the 7th graders who would read and comment on their docs with feedback and commentary. (Think: a positive note; a deeper comment; a question; a fact) The 7th graders would create a public blog using Blogger to share with the world and with the 4thgraders who would also read and provide comments.
What were they blogging about? The goal of each platform (Google docs and Blogger) was to have our students write for real audiences and from the first person point of view to better understand the history they were learning about in class. For example, the 4thgraders “toured” colonial Williamsburg one day in our class and visited different places that were located in colonial Williamsburg. (They made shoes at the Shoemaker’s Shop, wrote with ink and quill pens, visited the church, and so forth. An awesome, engaging moment in room 107, I must say!) After they visited colonial Williamsburg, they then wrote a letter home using Google docs describing their experience at colonial Williamsburg. The 7th graders read the posts and commented on their adventure. (See example below.)
The 7th graders would learn about a certain time period/topic/unit in class and then blog about their experience as if they were a person living during that time period. (See example below.)
Do typos and grammatical errors exist in the blog and journal entries? Absolutely! But, did you see the knowledge pouring out? The creativity? The connection between commentary and concrete details that they learned in class? The fact that the author convinced us in their writing that they were one person and then, out of nowhere, they said they were Pocahontas?! So many different factors occurring in both writing samples that would have never occurred had we not had them blog/journal write as a person from that time period. I have seen their writing drastically improve from the beginning of the school year until now. By creating the blog/journals, we found a way to create a true audience and created a purpose for their journal entries.
Now I challenge you! When creating a writing assignment find a way to create an authentic audience. How? Blogging, cross-curricular, cross-divisional, letter writing to another class, writing letters home… The list continues. (Add ideas to comments below.) How do you connect with a class from another school? Try tweeting a post saying that you are looking to connect with another class.