This week marked the beginning of Write Here Write Now, the web-based portion of my sixth grade English class, and so once again the end of the day finds me in front of my computer clicking through hundreds of student posts. A friend of mine and I collaborated six years ago to create this secure online community where our students could use writing both formally and informally to communicate with their peers. Now in its sixth iteration, WHWN has been tangibly different every year, inevitably shaped not only by the personality (and size!) of each group students, but also by where the two of us grown-ups happen to be professionally and personally.
One of our main premises has always been to encourage students to write by giving them a place and an audience. The first assignment is for each kid to write at least two paragraphs introducing him or herself to the group. When they finish, they must read and respond to some of the other kids. Then they can post to other topics of their choice, including music, sports, and pets. What I always love about this writing is how surprising and revealing it can be. Reading through their initial posts, I learn an enormous amount about my students both as writers and people.
Let me give you an example; this particular little girl seemed pretty average until I read her intro.
some times when i feel like the world is ending, i will drag my fat cat over to the widow( this is the part were it gets really dramatic) and look and him and i will study how his sea blue eyes are so sea blue and how his long, gray, tail seems to tick to the rhythm of the clock. And when he yawns I check and see how many teeth he still has.
How extraordinary is that! But, really-- that's the point. Who isn't an incredible individual when they have the opportunity to show it? Lucky for me, it's my job to give kids that chance.