Student Blogging “Of Mice and Men”: How It’s Going So Far in Grade 9

February 4, 2012 — 1 Comment

Our English classrooms have been provided net books to use in class this year, making each classroom  a 1:1 classroom. Teachers have been using these net books for student blogs with seniors, or in responses to literature. The Freshman class was blogging about Of Mice and Men using Google’s Blogger software. The combination of reading with authentic writing was the incentive for one of my New Year’s resolutions in 2012, to improve student blogging beyond the “I like your post” response.

Our 9th grade team blogs are organized across the grade; students from different class periods or with different teachers collaborate as a team on the blog. For this assignment, we developed four journal questions in order to engage the students in discussions related to the universal themes of  Steinbeck’s novel; questions were centered on the ideas of goals, dreams, loneliness, privacy, and companionship. These journals were posted two or three days apart as students read the novel in class during silent sustained reading (SSR) or at home. An audio tape of the book was also available for some students who needed support with reading independently.

In order to begin the discussions, students first needed to post a response to each journal question, then they need to respond to another teammate’s post. Since the goal was to improve student responses to another student’s post, a set of criteria was suggested to help student in their response:

Good Student Response to another student on a blog will be:

  • thoughtful
  • consistently positive
  • respectful

Good Student Response to another student on a blog will also:

  • clearly add to the original discussion (compare, contrast, contribute, ask questions)
  • take advantage of the medium (linking, video, audio)
  • follow the standards of good writing

There were four journal prompts to Of Mice and Men; student responses to another student’s post are below each journal prompt:

Journal One:  What is your hope for life, goal, or even dream?  What do you think you want from the future?  Not the fairytale, but the reality?   What could you live without, dream-wise?  What couldn’t you live without? What matters, what are your priorities?

Patrick, I think your blog is good! It shows that you really want to be stable with your life. That you don’t need big things but you just need the things that make you happy and not stressful. We both don’t want to be stressed out and that’s something that a lot of people don’t want I think!

Sean, I think that my house would be similar to yours. I too would like to live in the woods away from big cities and government. I think it would be great to live in a log cabin style house with a large woodstove too. It would really give off that self dependent feeling, were you would have to chop your own wood, and produce many of your necessities.

Sara, It seems to me that you seem to know what you want to do when you grow up. Well, I have no idea really, so I envy you. I am disappointed to see you would move away from here, I love it here. good luck with all your plans!

Journal Two:  Do you have a pet? a younger sibling or cousin?  If so, describe your feelings and relationship with them.  If not, what do you think it would be like to have them?  How do/would you feel as the one on whom they depend?  How important do you think it is to care for or nuture others?  Do you want to be a mother/father?  Why?  What do you think about the role of parents, brothers, sisters, and family?

Johnny, I think you need to appreciate your sisters a little bit more!! Even though they can be a pain, they’re still always there for you and won’t leave your side.

I am commenting on Regan’s post: She did a very good job, she went into detail about each question such as when she explains how it makes her feel “It makes me feel good when he looks up to me and tries to do stuff that I do because It lets me know that I do have an effect on his life and when he does.” It is simular to mine because our brothers act the same way, she gets along with her brother too and we both have younger brothers.

 I’m commenting on Sara’s…I can definitely relate to when people say they want a sibling and you’re thinking ‘NO WAYYY….’ because they haven’t lived with one their whole life! But I’m also the same way with how I realize that I do have an effect on my little brother’s life and choices… it just wakes you up and helps you make good decisions.
Journal Three:    How important is privacy and space to you?  Can having privacy get too much like being lonely?  What about being with people all the time?  Which is worse, being always with or always without others?  How much alone vs. social time do YOU need?  Why?  When do you most need each (alone/social)?

I agree with you, Zach. Like when I was around mt best friend. We did EVERYTHING together. At first, it didn’t really bother either one of us. We where content always being in each others business. We knew EVERYTHING about each other. And by accident one of us (not saying who), spilled a big secret. That’s why it’s not a good idea to be around the same person ALL the time!

Riley I think your take on privacy is very good. I agree with you about how there are times that you dont want to be around people and if you are it can be annoying and distracting at a time where you’re trying to do your homework. What are some times that you do like being around people? Would you rather be alone or with someone else? Overall, you did a good job, those are just some things you could have included.
Journal Four:  What would you do to avoid losing your dream?  Are dreams easy to replace?  What would life be like if you didn’t have a goal, dream, or hope?  Can others take away your dream or not?
I am responding to Taylor’s blog. I have similar dreams to Taylor’s, how I dream of what I like to do. I dream a lot about going to the beach with my friends. Also I agree with Taylor’s thought of dreams being “easily replaceable”. I think that some dreams are hard to replace if they mean a great deal to you. Other than that dreams come and go very often. I also agree with Taylor that life without goals will not be very boring and you would not have anything to achieve!
 Agreed, Emily. I haven’t really thought about it that way, but after hearing your opinion, I have to say, I agree. If your dream doesn’t come true, it means that your destiny lies somewhere else. Unfortunately, destiny rules over dreams. Just like with Lennie, it wasn’t his destiny to “tend to the rabbits”, he was too strong and dumb to do that.
Ultimately, there has been some improvement in student responses on the blog. Many students wrote thoughtful responses which indicates that they understood that simply praising another writer’s blog was not sufficient. Students did like reading the post responses, however, I was actually surprised how empowered some of the students became and did not anticipate how seriously they would enforce the criteria in the original posts.
The only problem I see here is that you did not describe how you look up to your family… Everything else is very well done. I see no errors in spelling and no errors with how you described the way they acts, but remember to try and stay on topic” 
Your blog was good but it was not 200 words and it needs more detail so you should answer more questions in your blog to make it flow and so you make it longer and to answer the question more clearly.”
One month into the New Year 2012, and the 9th grade students are improving their ability to respond on a blog with something other than “good work!”
I’d say that is “great work”…but I obviously need to improve on my response!

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