Functional writing. Bo-ring.
Every year I take a deep breath, try and tie it in to topic work and hope that it will be more inspiring to the kids than it is to me. Most children fall into two types: facty kids who like to write about what they know and imaginative kids who like to write about what they don’t. I would class myself as one who naturally reads, writes and enjoys teaching the latter.
This year, with an ICT and language remit, I decided on using wikipedia to make report writing more meaningful. In a “yessssss!” moment I found that our school did not have it’s own wikipedia article and so the project began to take shape.
Over the last 5 weeks my three language classes and me have become experts in wikipedia. We started by exploring wikipedia pages: clicking on ALL the tabs and links to find out what they do, using articles for reading skills (skimming and scanning) and completing homework tasks. We then created class wikis where the pupils collected information for our school wikipedia article. Finally the P7s edited together a final version and next week they will follow the style guide to add the content to wikipedia.
Feedback has been overwhelmingly positive with a dare-I-say enthusiastic response to wikipedia homework and the majority of pupils saying that they now feel more confident using wikipedia. I am so pleased. The more time we spent in the world of wiki the more convinced I became that this is such a crucial tool for lifelong learning. Of course the danger is that children become too reliant/lazy using wikipedia, so a future skill will be to work HOW to use information, plagiarism etc. but in the meantime I’ll settle for enthusiasm : )
My final report? There’s always a way to make writing relevant and motivating – even for the most dis-functional (sorry!) teacher…
• Assume nothing. I assumed my digital natives would have a pretty good knowledge of wikipedia, but this really wasn’t the case. Though most knew of it, like many adults (including myself until a recent teachmeet presentation) they felt unsure of how to approach it, overwhelmed by the vast amount of information and some clever clogs were understandably critical of its reliability.
• Beyond wikipedia. Exploring this one website gave great opportunities to talk about transferable digital knowledge such as the logo/home button, hyperlinks and the authenticity of websites.
• Simple wikipedia is awesome; great for building up skills and for differentiating.
• Wikis are also awesome. Pupils very quickly understood that a wiki is a place where multiple users can edit a text. Was really easy to set up and allowed for fantastic collaborative writing/information gathering.
• Pupil choice gives a sigh of relief. Throughout this block children were regularly writing reports to build up their abilities. Their best work by far came from the week where I asked them to write a report on something that they are experts in (a hobby, animal, computer game etc.) I was overwhelmed by the variety and quality of reports, especially from one boy in particular who wrote about 5 times more than normal as it was a subject he was passionate about (Phew! He CAN write! Now how to get this kind of result with every piece of writing?!)
• Just heard another teacher talking about getting their children to set up wikis themselves (listen to the last 5 mins of episode 61 of Inside Learning) encouraging exciting digital problem solving. I wish we had done this!
link to the school wikipedia page coming soon!