How did it go?
My original project proposal was to create a blog for my classroom that would illustrate both aspects of transparent and reverse teaching. I wanted to use the blog as the vehicle to keep the parents of my students informed about what was going on in the classroom. It would also provide my three sixth grade classes with the opportunity to communicate.
This was my first year at a new school. I teach both Social Studies and Language Arts in a Humanities approach during one hour. Teaching two subjects in one hour is an ambitious task in itself. What I also didn't realize was how much pre-teaching would be involved in creating the type of blog that I wanted to set up. My school is completely standards based which is both wonderful and a challenge. Many of my students have gaps in their basic skill sets. The blog has really only just started to take the form in the way I hoped for in the last couple weeks.
The students were tasked with writing a historical fiction short story on their own individual blog. I set up the blog to represent the transparent piece of our writing process in Humanities. Each aspect of the writing process would be reflected in the blog either through the students' posts or the students' comments.
The students posted their rough drafts directly on the blogs. Once their rough draft was posted, they needed to make revision comments on other posts. Students made revisions to their post based on their peer comments. I asked students to put the changes they made to their post in either bold or underlined font. Peer revision became transparent for the parents. One of the most challenging things I find explaining to parents is how the peer revision and editing process works in my classroom.
Students then began the editing process. First they were required to self-edit their blog. They made editing comments on each others posts and then made the editing changes to their draft. They were required to put their editing changes in red. Again the editing process is transparent in the classroom.
What really works about this for me is the management. When I normally run writing workshop in the classroom, I have students in a variety of places and I keep notes about where everyone is in the writing process. Instead of keeping a binder full of notes that parents can't see, I keep track of everything through the blog. Everyone is on a different step in the writing process and I can easily keep track of who has finished rough drafts, peer revision and editing, and who has published the final draft.
What didn't work?
I didn't realize how long it would be before we would get to actually posting on the blog. Between NECAPs, NWEAs, assemblies, interruptions, and a mandated test taking strategies unit, we didn't start our research for their stories until after the beginning of the second quarter.
I was unprepared for my students lack of understanding in the writing process. On top of teaching students the research skills I wanted them to have prior to beginning their stories, I had to teach the steps in the writing process. Going over what a rough draft was and the difference between revision and editing was not on my original agenda.
I was also unprepared for students lack of basic computer skills. I had quite a few students who had difficulty with the basic navigation of a computer. I still remember my shock at helping sixth grade students learn how to press the up and down arrows to scroll in order to see the rest of a page.
Students are all over the place in the writing process and completing their stories. The majority of students have their rough drafts posted, but they are still working through the revision and editing steps in the writing process. I want to use the blog in other ways. I would like for students to communicate about what they are reading in their literature circles. With three sixth grade classes it would be the perfect opportunity to create asynchronous groups.
How will you change it?
I want students to have more of a role in the reverse teaching aspect of the classroom. I would like to have students create explanations of our mini lessons in class to share with other students. I want to have the students taking on more responsibility for the lessons.
Link to my website (reverse teaching)
Link to some of the examples from our blog (transparent teaching)
Note: I have temporarily lifted our security block of requiring a password to read the posts.
Our Middle Ages Blog
Blog Example 1
Blog Example 2
Blog Example 3