Saturday, November 19, 2005

Collaborative Writing and Community Weblogs

I have had success twice with collaborative writing assignments and class weblogs. Both times the context was an integrated grammar and writing class For their first composition, I asked them, "Is Carbondale a Good Place to Study English?" and I accepted simple "yes" or "no" responses. Based on their answers, I put them in mixed level groups of 2-3 students and gave them an outline to organize their arguments. Though all the students are new to the area, they had already compared Carbondale to other communities for a Listening and Speaking class activity, so they were able to quickly describe and evaluate Carbondale. They did need to negotiate, especially in regards to whether or not the nightlife in Carbondale qualifies as "no entertainment." All the groups turned their notes into opinion paragraphs, which you can see at the General English or the Advanced English 1 class weblogs and look for a series of posts about Carbondale written on September 21st.

With this assignment, I also introduced students to comments and encouraged them to give the other groups feedback through this channel. Some of the students have taken this more seriously than others, but overall it has encouraged them to read their peers' work so that they have something on which to base their comment.

About two months later, I decided to try out collaborative writing again, this time with a different group of students, though the same mixed-level grammar and writing context. This time the writing followed a reading / discussion activity, where students read model paragraphs of different styles of writing: descriptive, narrative, etc. The groups worked together to analyze the different features of the distinct styles and then worked together to write their own version of a specific style. The results can be seen My Worst Trip, Jay's Whole Life, and Carbondale Town. Again, the students were encouraged to comment on the other groups' work. For the last post, Carbondale Town, a random reader dropped by and commented. The class was both surprised and glad that and "outsider" had noticed it.



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