Our school system subscribes to a password-protected academic internet service. Each teacher has a "course" with tools like a discussion board, blog, wiki, online assignments, etc. that students can access from anywhere they have an internet connection. One part of my English class involves giving my students the chance to write informally for an audience of their peers on our course's discussion board. I put up topics of interest like sports, music, pets, and video games and invite the kids to post at will. There are other more structured writing assignments, too, and we start the year with introductions. Each student has to write a couple of paragraphs introducing him or herself to the rest of the group. As a follow-up, they are asked to read and reply to at least five other kids.
Anyway, we were in the computer lab on Friday to kick off this activity, and so I've spent a good chunk of my weekend reading sixth grade writing, some of it rather silly indeed. Not that I mind-- I find what they have to say to each other pretty interesting, and this assignment can really provide a lot of insight into their personalities, interests, concerns, and of course, writing skills. Sometimes what they write is hard to understand, which is a good lesson for them, because quite often, whomever it's addressed to will reply in confusion, giving that writer incentive to revise the message.
Today, I read a post that temporarily stumped me. It was in reply to a girl who had written that she was excited about all the field trips we might take in sixth grade. To that another student responded, REALLY, REALLY, Kim Positive can't wait for the exciting (with bunny ears) field trips? WOW! I understood the teasing sarcasm-- it was the bunny ears that got me. I read it again and was just about to click away with a shrug and a note to self to ask him about it tomorrow when I realized what they were... He meant air quotes! I was fascinated by the implication: he didn't realize that the bunny ear gesture actually stands for punctuation marks, much less that he could have written them directly into his reply.
Now, that is going to make a good mini-lesson.