What we learned from Recursive Discussions

The semester is over for my ENG 4U class, and now I have time for reflection.

Tania Meldrum and I decided to offer an English PD Day Workshop Friday, February 15th about our experience with Grade 12 Blogging and Talking in the classroom. I often decide to give workshops because they force me to think and to reflect, and perhaps, because of my latent masochistic tendencies.

What we did

Our English Head, Kim Mendham, made the insightful decision to include blogging as the summative task for grade 12 English, so I began researching and thinking about the purpose and how to plan my instruction. I read this really interesting article about the Language of the blogosphere and a study that was conducted on articulation in this medium. This is what prompted me to think of blogging as a form of dialogue with delay. It is a conversation with pauses for critical thought and careful composition.

Much of today’s media texts are interactive sound bites of instant gratification. We then ask students in English classes to create texts that have a single audience member – the teacher – that are largely composed in isolation requiring lengthy investments of time.

Blogging can be different, and done correctly develops critical thinking, patience for reflection, composition, and discussion.

An Alberta teacher, Nicole Lakusta created this Blogging Continuum and you can find her blog here: http://ottomat3ch.wordpress.com/2010/11/24/the-blogging-continuum/


We decided to begin with a group blog using Blogger during our study of the novel, The Great Gatsby. You can find the blog here:  http://englishravenspace.blogspot.ca/

These are the assignments and handouts used for the The Great Gatsby Unit:

Blog Posts & Discussion tracking template GG Book Club 1 GG Book Club 2 GG Book Club 3 GG Book Club 4 GG Book Club 5 GG Unit Book Club Presentations and Blog Rubric handout TM

We then moved to having students create individual blogs using WordPress during our study of the novel, The Namesake.

These are the assignments and handouts used for The Namesake Unit:

Blog – Principles and Process of Layout Blog Research and Reflection Notes Blogging with The Namesake Google Form Template for Student Blog info gathering The Namesake Blog Comment template The Namesake Unit Plan MW The Namesake Unit Plan

And then we worked to build a community of bloggers who could comment on one another’s posts outside of the classroom further to our classroom discussions on Hamlet.

4U Blogging Rubric for Hamlet Hamlet Unit Plan (draft)

Finally for the summative blog, students worked in small study groups, brought their ideas into the classroom for further thought, development, and oral presentations.

4U summative Blogging & Oral Rubric Dec 12 Summative Task handout Dec 12 

What we learned:

I decided to experience the act of blogging along with my students. I learned about the process, how much time it takes, and I discovered a secondary benefit to blogging. Having my students follow my posts on my blog allowed me to fill gaps missed in class discussions, to extend the discussion outside the classroom, and to provide links and support material for the course. They could read my posts the night before class, then we talked about the ideas in class; we had recursive discussions.

Students learned critical thinking skills, concepts such as audience, and representation which became experiential. They talked about the experience as difficult, awkward at first, but they eventually found a way to represent their individual voices through words, images, research, links, and collaboration.

What students said:

“By the end, I felt like I understood blogging, as it was a learning process throughout, with each new book adding to my depth of understanding. I feel like it was difficult at the beginning, however my understanding grew as the blogging progressed.” Grant

“Sometimes you awkwardly wait for a comment or response… but over time you develop a commitment to blogging and decide that you should just put your thoughts out there to show what you know.” Malek

“Our voice is there in our blog. I think that is what we like about it most. We are there. That, we are there.” Noor

Here is the Powerpoint for our presentation, and since this is a blog, please leave your comments! Recursive Discussions by Melanie White and Tania Meldrum

About melaniewhite2012

I am a high school English and Media Studies Teacher, an editor, and writer of educational publications for McGraw-Hill Ryerson, Ltd, and a mother of three. I distance run, exist largely on raw food, fresh air and sunshine, good literature, thoughtful radio, film, and laughter.
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