I’m one of those teachers who is a bit slow to adopt technology in my classroom. Not because I’m opposed to it or because I’m afraid of it. Rather, just because I have to think about things for a really long time before taking action.
I’m the same way with menus and shopping, but that’s another story. We just really don’t have time.
Sometimes, however, there are moments that jumpstart me.
Last spring I experienced one of those moments.
You see, for the past several years, I have required my students to keep reader response notebooks. This was originally an outgrowth of the writer’s notebook. I wanted to adopt a notebook tool for my AP Literature class, but I didn’t want to create an extra task for students to do that wasn’t directly related to my course material. I also wanted a place for students to respond to the literature, to respond in a more personal, evaluative, visceral way than they really can do in a class discussion or in an analytical essay.
This worked . . . not very well. A handful of students wrote thoughtful responses to the literature, but many wrote I-just-finished-this-last-period-in-band-but-hey-it’s-done responses. More students than I would like simply wrote summaries of the reading assignments rather than true responses.
I’m of the mindset that if enough students aren’t completing the assignment the way I want them to, then there is something wrong with me or my assignment.
I need to fix this response notebook assignment, but I also need students to respond in human ways to the literature. If students are not interacting with literature in a way that teaches them about their own humanity, then my class is stripping the art of its power.
Last spring as I was grading the last set of response notebooks, I almost threw one against the wall in frustration. I decided that the notebook had to go. Not the responses, but the notebook.
Enter the blog.
I had heard my friend Amy Rasmussen talk about how she requires her students to keep blogs at one of our Writing Project Inquiry Days. Her explanation and her student samples were convincing. So much so that I started writing on my own blog in earnest. So much so that I created a blogging unit for my creative writing class.
This year, I’m taking the plunge. I’m requiring my students to keep blogs instead of notebooks. This new series of posts on my blog will document my trials and sure-to-be-errors as my students and I explore this new digital tool in the AP Literature classroom.
Do any of you require students to blog? Please share your experiences! I need all the help I can get!
Looks like I’ll be your first comment, Jennifer. I love your thought (your troubling, insightful thought) about the experience of “stripping the art of its power” in an AP Lit class. I’ve felt that tension for some time, and I always feel I’ve gone off task (sadly) with my students when I wax eloquent about the significance of a poem or passage instead of staying focused on “how the meaning is conveyed.” As to the blogging experiment, I’ve been wondering about that myself for awhile now, but I haven’t quite worked out how I’d manage it. I’m quite content for you to go first and then tell me how to make it work. Good luck. (Hope you’ll continue to post thoughts about it on Twitter; that tends to be where I hear you first.)
Thanks for reading! I’m a bit apprehensive about how I’m going to make this work, but I’m motivated enough to try it now. I’ll keep documenting my thoughts and findings here and on Twitter. The kids actually seem to be excited about it.
Yay! So proud you are taking the plunge. My newest convert! Cannot wait to hear how it goes. For me, the best part of my student blogs is the improvement in their voice. Love it!
Thanks Amy! You have already been such a help to me in this process. I would not have done this if I didn’t know you were there to hold my hand!