Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Collaborative writing

I really liked the Bledsoe article because it was an excellent yet realistic example of collaborative writing process. Note, though, that he said I will teach the curriculum my way, which is collaborative for students but not for teachers. I see the focus in the school district now as being one of teacher-share: small mixed-class reading groups, collaborative SMARTBOARD lessons, required team meetings, for example. I see the curriculum being jammed into short, fragmented days which don't allow the freedom to create over the length of time Bledsoe takes with his projects. We can 'do it,' 'make it happen', but the more compressed and compartmentalized and skill-driven teaching becomes, the less viable an authentic collaborative writing workshop may be.

Over the years, I have participated in both cross-grade and intra-class collaborations. For several years, I paired my fifth graders with a primary class for a poetry unit. The big kids were amazed by the imagination of the little kids and the little kids were impressed by the attention and writing skills of the fifth graders. One of the favorite types was color poems. The fifth and first or second graders would alternate images a la HAILSTONES AND HALIBUT BONES. One year my fourth graders wrote and acted in 'animal plays' that they wrote in small groups. It was an act of faith on my part to give the students so much freedom, but they rose to the occasion and made everyone proud. I haven't done anything electronically, but I see a variety of potential explorations.

On a personal level, I do a lot of newsletter articles for a variety of groups of which I am a member. Sometimes people like what I've written, but other times I really have worked collaboratively with another person not just as editor but as co-author. Two heads are usually better than one.


  1. Interesting thought about the compartmentalism (probably not a word!) of the school day as we collaborate more as teachers. In our building we are just in the very beginning stages of RTI, and I'm behind the idea of RTI 100%, but it does challenge us to use our time in the most efficient way, meeting the needs of as many learners as we can across teams. But collaboration in any form, and especially collaborative writing, is not necessarily an efficient process. It can be increasingly efficient when we introduce tools that make communication and shared work easier (wikis, etc), but at other times it's more about the give-and-take, the testing out of ideas. And if feels more and more like we don't have time for that in the classroom. I admire the teachers who have figured out how to make it work with their students.

  2. I love the cross-grade level idea you shared. It is a great way to use digital technology to enhance writing collaboration! However, I disagree with your implication that the RTI structure is leading us to a "less viable authentic collaborative writing workshop." RTI flex grouping takes place 3 times a week for one hour. That still leaves 30 to 60 minutes a day of Language Arts time, depending on the grade level. There still is time for a writer's workshop that could be collaborative. Why limit ourselves? What if we followed Bledsoe's model while integrating social studies or science topics in this writer's workshop a couple of times each year? That is the type of writing students will be most likely to need in their future school work and careers.