Tag Archives: Digital Writing

Crafting a Guiding Philosophy of Teaching Writing using NCTE Position Statements

This post is written by member Peggy Semingson. 

peggysemingsonNCTE has so many excellent and readily available digitized resources for teachers and teacher educators via the main web page. In this blog post, I describe how teachers and teacher educators can make use of a specific resource: the 2016 NCTE Professional Knowledge for the Teaching of Writing for educators to reflect on practice and foster dialogue, for instance within Professional Learning Communities or within literacy-focused teacher-education courses.

As a literacy teacher-educator, one of the graduate classes I teach for P–12 educators in our online master’s program in literacy studies is a class on teaching the writing process. For this course, I draw extensively on the 2016 NCTE Professional Knowledge for the Teaching of Writing. This is a prominent and important document. Previously, Lisa Fink posted on this blog about the use of the belief statements and led a blog-based reflection across several posts. A 2015 NCTE Twitter chat focused specifically on the belief statements.

The first ten belief statements were designed by an NCTE subcommittee and updated and reposted most recently in February 2016. I have found the concise belief statements to be extremely beneficial for the practicing teachers in my class to read, reflect on, and use as a tool to craft/write their own guiding philosophy about teaching writing. The statements cover a broad array of topics relating to writing instruction. Each statement provides concrete connections to practice such as “What does this mean for teaching?” as well as related links to other connected NCTE position statements. What is especially useful about this position statement on writing, is it encompasses several areas that have been prone to debate such as automated grading and multimodal writing. Additionally, the statement is a quick read and definitely worth a read for all educators.

How I integrate the reading and evaluation of this specific position statement with educators is described here in a modified version.

Step 1: Read the 2016 NCTE Professional Knowledge for the Teaching of Writing. Annotate the position statement with your own thoughts, analytics, critique, applications, connections, etc.

Step 2: Consider the position statement resource, as well as other resources you have come across: teacher blogs, your own experiences, books, conferences, podcasts, authors, and other sources of information and inspiration regarding the topics of writing instruction. Write a reflection on your own beliefs about the teaching of writing, drawing on the ideas from the 2016 NCTE Professional Knowledge for the Teaching of Writing. This can be shared in a notebook, on a blog post, on a Google Doc, or in other public or private place to write.

Step 3: In addition to a digital written reflection (long-form blog post or essay), consider creating a short podcast (e.g., using VoiceThread on a mobile device) or video that is one to five minutes  long describing your beliefs about teaching of writing. Extension: Consider sharing a link to your beliefs via social media, a blog post, or other digital medium. If posting your short podcast or video to Twitter, consider using the hashtag #NCTEchat and @ncte to connect to the broader NCTE Twitter community.

It is my hope that educators can consider exploring and using the 2016 NCTE Professional Knowledge for the Teaching of Writing as a tool to reflect, synthesize their thinking about writing, and share that knowledge with others in digital formats.

For more on other NCTE position statements, click here.

Peggy Semingson is an NCTE member and an associate professor of Literacy Studies at The University of Texas at Arlington. She is the Layered Literacies column editor for The ALAN Review for 2016. You can reach her at peggys@uta.edu.

A Reflective Glance at a Digital Writer and Her Students’ Writing for Change

This post is written by NCTE student member Kathryn Caprino and guest Melissa Davenport. 

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Kathryn Caprino

We met when Melissa agreed to enroll in a six-week online study group about the connections between digital writing and critical literacy I (Katie) was facilitating. An avid digital writer, Melissa wrote frequently on her blog. When I observed Melissa and her students, one thing I noticed was that Melissa’s students were given time in class to write.

Work commitments prevented Melissa from finishing the entire six-week study group, but she believes her time in the study group has informed her writing pedagogy greatly.

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Melissa Davenport

It’s been a year since the online study group, and Melissa and I want to share a few tips that might help you think about writing instruction in your classroom.

Be a digital writer. One of the requirements for teachers to participate in the online study group was that they were active digital writers. We cannot overemphasize the importance of teachers being digital writers. An active digital writer, Melissa blogs regularly about running.

During the online study group, Melissa talked to me about her need to have time to write herself. She also emphasized the importance of writing for an authentic audience. It is no surprise, then, that her students are provided time to free write and have opportunities to create solutions for problems and share these solutions digitally with a real audience.

Let students have time for free writing. We often think about giving students time to read in the ELA classroom, but how often do we provide time for students to write? Melissa’s students love to write, but she’s noticed that sometimes writing time can be too structured or too focused on a particular purpose or receiving feedback. So she’s given her students this year more time to free write, and there have been some positive outcomes.

Some of her students ask to free write more. Right now students have about 20 minutes of free writing built into their weeks, but some students elect to have more because they want to write on Independent Reading Day.

What’s more, Melissa has noticed that as students are given more time to write, they explore genres and topics that they may not have explored in the past. Students write lots of fiction, especially fantasy. This is important to Melissa since fiction writing is not a large part of the curriculum. Students also produce a surprising amount of poetry during their free write sessions.

It seems that if we want our students to be writers, we need to provide them time in class to develop as writers. If we have our way, more students will have independent writing time during their ELA classes.

Have students write for an authentic audience. We know that too often the teacher is the only audience for students’ writing. This year, however, Melissa has committed to helping her students have authentic audiences.

Her Change the World project is one of her favorites. A collaborative endeavor with the math teacher on her team, the project encouraged students to explore a real-world problem. Students had to collect data about the topic and develop a way to solve the problem. Melissa and her colleague wanted students to have an authentic audience, so students posted their problems and solutions in a digital space to convince community members about the nature of the problem and their responsibility to get involved.

Students selected topics based on changes they would like to see made. Students were put into groups based on the topics they originally formed. Melissa was shocked during this process. Kids who never ever speak to each other raced across the room, saying, “You have to work with me,” because they had similar ideas for their research. Topics ranged from equal access to education to gun control to Black Lives Matter. Once they were into a particular topic, “students’ eyes opened,” says Melissa. “Just a little reading, research, and writing about gun control meant they suddenly had all sorts of critical questions.”

There were some topics that were more challenging to approach. Melissa and her students talked about the sensitivity of the materials they might come across and how to search safely by using Google Safe Search, filters, and very specific search terms. Overall, Melissa was impressed at the level of maturity students showed throughout.

Melissa and her colleague were impressed with the ownership students took in the project. Some students followed up with organizations to see about how the issues they chose for their projects were actually being addressed. Melissa and her math teacher collaborator worked with the students on this project. Whereas Melissa helped students spot bias in research, use key search terms, and how digital content differs from content in a standard essay, the math teacher helped students learn various ways to represent data. Future directions for the project might include a collaborative effort with the World History class in order to deepen connections for students.

This Change the World project meets one of the central goals of the online study group: to help students use digital writing to take action.

What is intriguing about this reflective look into Melissa’s classroom is I really do not know exactly what to attribute to the online study group about critical literacy and digital writing and what to attribute to Melissa’s effective writing pedagogy. But I do know that Melissa is firm in her conviction that middle school writers should be given time to write and writing projects that have authentic audiences. And the first step she took in this direction may have been to become a digital writer herself.

Melissa Davenport is an English Language Arts teacher at Cary Academy in Cary, North Carolina. After spending five years in Chapel Hill-Carrboro Schools and completing her Masters in K-12, she joined Cary Academy in 2012. In addition to being a classroom teacher, Davenport coaches middle school tennis, advises the Writing Club, and serves as seventh grade team leader.

 Kathryn (Katie) Caprino is a clinical assistant professor in English education at the University of Florida in Gainesville, Florida. She teaches courses in English methods, children’s literature, and technology and media. She researches teachers as digital writers and preservice English teachers.