Quad blogging – an inquiry into teaching writing

I’m excited to be at the start of an action research project with three other schools – our aim, over the next five weeks or so, is to inquire into whether we can use quad blogging to improve student writing.   Quad blogging is something new, it was started last year by a David Mitchell, a Deputy Head in the UK, whom I first met at the Google Teacher Academy in London in 2010.  A teacher at our school heard about this initiative  and was keen to join a “quad”.  She contacted a school in the UK who were also interested in blogging, and I found her other classes around the world in Japan, Hong Kong, China and Chile who wanted to join in too.  Her class was involved in two rounds of quad blogging during March last year.

Quad blogging, which has been called the most interesting development in the last 20 years of education, is basically a group of four classes with blogs.  Each week one of the classes is a focus for the others – to visit their blogs and to leave comments for the students.  Recently I was contacted by Silvia Tolisano who wanted to use quad blogging to investigate the benefits of blogging on 3 different levels: for the students, the teachers and the curriculum – of course I was keen to join in with the inquiry.  Our quad is made up of four schools in four different countries:  the USA, the Czech Republic, Thailand and Switzerland.

Last week we had a Skype conference call where we talked through the form our action research will take.  We talked about the fact that good blogging starts with reading other blogs and so it would be necessary to set aside time during the four weeks of the quad blogging to focus on reading each others’ blogs.  We discussed different ways we could do this, for example have a Drop Everything And Read a Blog time each day.  We decided that it is important to set up a routine for reading the blogs, before we start to think about how to reply by writing comments and we all felt that this should be part of the normal reading and writing lessons not an add-on.  We discussed the way that students read blog posts now and about the fact that some students don’t really read a post in depth but just jump around in it.  To encourage students to read in more depth, we thought it might be valuable for us to set aside time for student to talk about and share what they have read.

Our quad is made up of students from three different grades – one class of Grade 3s, two clases of Grade 4s and one of Grade 5s.  In addition there are students who are learning English as an additional language in all these classes, and in one school the students are bilingual English/Hebrew speakers.  We felt it important to let the students know that we don’t expect all the writing and commenting to be at the same level.

We talked about the fact that we should make sure that each student in the class is assigned one student to post a comment on, but that after that we can encourage them to respond to as many others as they like.  We think it could be a good learning activity to reflect on why some students’ posts get more comments than others.  Perhaps if a student only gets one comment this might provide us with an opportunity to teach about improving the quality of their writing or how students can increase the amount of comments they receive – for example they might need to network more and perhaps leave more comments on other students’ blog posts asking students to get back to them.  We can teach students how to add a link back to their blog post into their comments.  Above all we thought it really important to ensure that in the week that is focused on their blog, the students reply to the comments they have received.

In order to know if quad blogging can improve student writing we need to do a pre-assessment so we know what level the students are already writing at.  Silvia developed rubrics for writing and for commenting.  We decided we would ask each student to choose a blog post that they have already published this year so that as teachers we could use this to pre-assess the writing using the rubric.  Then we will ask them to choose a comment that they have written on someone else’s post and self-assess their comment based on the comments rubric.  This way we will have both a teacher- and a self-assessment before we start the quad.  At the end of the quad blogging we will use the same rubrics to see if they have improved on the posts and comments they are making.

Our action research is focused on 3 main areas:

  • Students – how can they improve blog comments and posts?
  • Teachers – how can we become better writing teachers using blogging as the genre of writing?
  • Coaches – how can we best support teachers?
We are also looking at the impact this has on the reading and writing curriculum.  As we go through the four weeks of the quad blogging we decided we’d video interviews with our students – all four teachers will be asking their students the same questions.  We will also make anecdotal records about what we observe. We’re particularly interested in how quad blogging is working with reluctant readers and writers and with our EAL students.  At the end of the quad we will measure our success or otherwise in improving student writing of blog posts and comments using the same rubrics and will discuss how this process has impacted on our own teaching and learning.

Why not follow along with our action research yourself and share your findings as to how blogging can impact student writing.
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7 Responses to Quad blogging – an inquiry into teaching writing

  1. It is so good to see Quad blogging here! I run 100 Word Challenge which links in well with David’s Quads. We have liaised together & realised the link. The 100WC (& 5 Sentence Challenge for younger or SEN pupils) provides a vehicle for quads to share good practice. The latest week is here http://100wc.net/?p=369 quads could all take part then comment on each others work as well as being available for comments from other schools across the world. There is a team of adult volunteers who also comment each week.

    I am very keen to build a team of older pupils who comment regularly on 100WC entries. Perhaps along the lines of ‘Adopt a Blog’ where a class / tutor group adopt a class & comment on all their entries. This provides excellent experience in the whole blogging culture as well as giving students the opportunity to read some wonderful writing. I would be glad to speak to you & give you more details so please get in touch!
    Julia

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    • Hi Julia,
      I had never heard of the 100 word challenge before but having followed the link I can see how great it could be for some of our teachers and students. I’ll share this with them when I’m back at school.
      Thanks for sharing this!
      Maggie

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  2. I am excited about this new engagement in classroom technology. I wonder how this could be applied to early childhood education? I have a literacy & music program (MyLMNOP for Literacy) for early learners 6mos.-5yrs. I’ll be sharing this with the owners of these child development centers and we will be following as this research progresses. Thank you for this.

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  3. What a fantastic idea! It’s a wonderful way to enrich not only the students’ experiences but our own. One of our teachers teaches a course called Contemporary World Issues. Due to the challenges of our schedule but good student interest, the teacher decided to try to offer this as a virtual course within the school this semester. Though the students do meet face-to-face once every seven days, most of their interaction is via virtual modes. One of those is their blog. It would be wonderful if any of the readers here would view and comment on it:
    http://cwicurrentevents.blogspot.com/

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  4. Tasha Cowdy says:

    I am quad-blogging with my Kindergarten class and am still exploring how best to manage it. A particular challenge at the moment is to try and develop some depth to our comments (making connections rather than simply “we liked your …). We read a post and leave a comment, the other school responds, we leave one more comment, the schools responds, and then, just as we are getting some depth, the week is over and the focus switches. Your post has given me food for thought. I need to reflect some more on the purpose of quad-blogging (for my class, not for quad-bloggers everywhere!), and I need to explore other models of what quad-blogging might look like in a Kindergarten class. Hmmm!

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  5. Pingback: Why I made this blog « Ali Husnaen

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