My Thoughts on Literacy and Publishing to the Web

Photo Credit: Behrooz Nobakht

Today, someone posted a question on a list serve I subscribe to. Being a longtime literacy teacher, it struck a cord with me. I’d love to hear your thoughts on both the question posed and my reply.

Her query:

We have a teacher who just started a literature circles blog where her 5th graders will discuss various novels. She mentioned that she is in the process of figuring out how to edit (correct) what they have written before she posts their comments. What do you all think about this? She has encouraged her students – and stated in the rules for the blog – that they are to use correct spelling, capitalization, and punctuation. If they do not, should the teacher make corrections before she publishes their comments? I’d appreciate any input that you can offer. Thanks.

My response:

Like Miguel, I’m a literacy teacher (but I’m not old 😉 ). I have extensive training in both New Jersey Writing and National Writing Project. I’ve studied just about every aspect of the writing process you can. While I can care less about state tests, I recall maybe one failure in the 7th grade writing test in my classes over a 10+ years at that the middle school.

All of that to say this: mistakes are an important part of the writing (learning) process. If we cannot let our kids make mistakes safely and learn from them, then we are not doing it correctly. Yes, spelling, grammar, and punctuation are important. No, they should not be the deciding factor between publishing or not. Mini lessons are meant to help in these such events. How do you fix the errors unless the kids recognize them themselves and buy-in to fixing them. 

Agreed, we do not publish the street lingo stuff (unless it directly pertains to the final product for a reason, see this for example: http://sites.google.com/site/bchscivics/unit/2-3-birth-of-a-nation/john-adams—4 ).

Consider that textbook companies publish and sell (with your tax dollars footing the bill) textbooks that are loaded with mistakes. They make it a multi-billion dollar industry. We teach our kids from mistake laden books.

So, remind your teacher that it is okay to let the “kids run with scissors” (credit to Gretchen Bernabei on the quote). Our students publish all of the time. The great thing about a blog is that it allows for editing. We all love to think we are perfect the first time, but we’re not. If it is a genuine effort to reach the publishing stage, then we publish. Anything less is cheating the child out of a learning experience.

Quick anecdote. One of the first collaborative literacy tools we used in class was a wiki. The kids grouped up and studied certain topics to present to the class via the wiki. I subscribed to the wiki so that I would know what was happening on it. One Saturday night, my email box begins loading up with “edit” emails. Someone was messing around on the wiki and changing things left and right. My first thought was a kid was thinking they could mess stuff up without getting caught. So, I went to the wiki to check it all out. It ended up being an Asian ESL student who was correcting spelling and such for my American students…ON A SATURDAY NIGHT. You cannot get them to do it on command, but they’ll do it if they OWN it. He owned it. He realized the errors in the group’s work. He edited it. We all learned from it (including the students who had their work corrected).

So, let them run with scissors.

Feel free to correct, chastise, or educate me.

3 thoughts on “My Thoughts on Literacy and Publishing to the Web

  1. My question back is, what is this teacher’s goals for the blogging activity? Is it to find out what her students thoughts are on the novels they are reading and to encourage conversation about these books? If so, then I would say to not worry about spelling and conventions, unless it makes the post unreadable. Otherwise she will just discourage the struggling students from writing at all. Remind kids of the spell check tools that are available within the tool she is using and leave it at that. My own daughter, who is a great writer, but a lousy speller, told me once, “I can’t write and spell at the same time.” Leave the editing for final drafts.

  2. Great point, Beth. It is disheartening for many kids to publish anything due to the red ink all over it when they finish. Spelling is important, but publishing and polishing after peers have reviewed it is as well. If you never let them publish, they may never see the need to proof their work with a critical audience.

  3. Here’s an idea for editing blog posts. If you have access to an intranet with a little storage space, how about setting up a folder for these blog posts. Students could draft them in Word, if they have it available, save them to the folder, have a peer editor open it from the folder, comment using “track changes” and then save it back to the folder. Then the original poster could choose to accept or reject the changes.
    Of course, you could do much the same editing using the shared option on Google Docs and the intranet would not be required.
    After going through the editing procedure, then students could copy their post from Word or Docs and then paste it into the blog. This would be an extra step in the posting process, but it would bring in an important collaborative opportunity for your class.

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