Words are Powerful

A year ago I decided to change things up.  I had been teaching grade 4 and 5 for a few years and was ready to freshen things up a little, do something different.  I went into the year with a goal, I wanted my students to see they had a voice and they deserved to be heard.  In the upper grades is quite often where students start to lose that willingness to risk and share things because they might look “stupid” or feel judged by their peers.  I really wanted to help them develop a confidence in the power their words could wield, if they were willing to open up and put it out there.

There were many little things I did that to help me reach this goal with my students, but one of the more powerful ones I did with them was blogging.  I went into it at first, like many, questioning whether this would really work.  Were they mature enough?  Did I have time to fit this into the myriad of things and objectives I needed to teach them?  Would they actually open up and be willing to try this new form of writing out?  So many of the “what if’s” went through my head, but I decided that I had to try this out and if it didn’t work out the way I hoped, then it would be a learning experience for all of us.

The experience of having my kids blog turned out to be something that started out small, like a ripple.  At first, they were intrigued and really got into it because it was something new they had never done before, but then once the thrill was over, some of them really started taking it seriously.  The blogs written, the comments shared are hard to describe – some made me laugh, some made me cry (in both good and bad ways), and some made me look at that student in a different way.  Once I gave the power over to them, I explained that what they were writing was giving others a glimpse into who they are as a learner, as a person so how they wanted to share that was totally up to them, it was quite amazing what happened.  I didn’t tweak or edit (even though I wanted to), I let them share what they wanted to share. And yes, I ultimately still had the power because I was able to see everything they were sharing and if I felt it was not appropriate, I could delete their work.  However, again I was often able to take those situations where I was not entirely comfortable and use it to have a conversation with that student to help them see where they needed to be aware that what they thought was “funny” didn’t come across that way to others.

By the end of the year, my students grew in their confidence, in seeing that they had important things that should be heard.  Was everyone the same, of course not – some grew in leaps and bounds, others in tiny steps.  But all that mattered to me was that they were able to see themselves the way I saw them, to take pride in the ideas they had. Did I reach  my goal – you bet I did… but more importantly my students did.

And interestingly enough, to those that might question blogging with students, whether the students really bought into it,  I would tell them this – it is now summer holidays, my students have been out of school for almost 3 weeks and I still have seven or eight of them blogging about their summer, talking to each other which I think is marvellous.




6 thoughts on “Words are Powerful

  1. Paul Solarz

    I love it Catherine! I guess I read this blog post at exactly the right time, because it inspired me to try something new next year with my students. This is the phrase that reminded me that I shouldn’t be their only audience: “I wanted my students to see they had a voice and they deserved to be heard.”

    I was sitting here, planning a new unit for next year. It involves asking my students intrapersonal questions that might have private answers. To respect their privacy, I planned to use spiral notebooks as their writing medium, but now I decided to have them answer on a blog. Instead of having them share personal feelings (which they are still welcome to do), I’ll have them share advice to other students!

    I’m kind of excited! Thanks for the inspiration!!!

  2. Dena Glynn

    Catherine, I totally agree in the power of blogging! Giving students an authentic audience of people outside of their class and school (most of whom they’ve been in school with or on teams with for some time) truly elevates the power of words. Connections are made allowing students to see other perspectives in different parts of their country or world with a new appreciation and realization that there are more things similar than different. It draws these parallels we, as teachers, can only cross our fingers for within the classroom. Definitely a game-changer. 🙂

    1. catherined2014 Post author

      Thanks so much for your comment Dena. I totally agree that it upped my student’s game so to speak. Having their peers read was one thing, but connecting with other students their age across the country really added. Seeing other students’ perspectives, both similar and different was a powerful learning experience. I can only hope to be able to recreate this experience with my new group of students, grade 3 will be a whole new ball game I think. 🙂

  3. Catherine

    Thanks so much for your comment, Paul. It really means a lot to me that I was helpful to you because I consider you one of my “twitter mentors”. I continually look to see the things you do and then wonder how to make them work in my classroom because of how much you amaze me with what you do with your students. It just reinforces how powerful twitter is for me in that we can all connect as educators and learn from each other.

  4. Paul Solarz

    Thank you so much Catherine! Believe me when I tell you that we all truly learn from each other! I’m not sure if I have any “truly” original thoughts, because everything I come up with synthesizes what I’ve learned from others with my philosophy! That’s why I wish everyone could discover the power of blogging and tweeting! We’d all learn so much from each other!

    Please keep blogging Catherine! You’re inspiring people every day!

  5. Tanya Braybrook

    Great post Catherine! I too, took that leap of faith this past year with my grade threes (so it can be done!) and found it incredibly empowering for myself, but more importantly, my students. Little steps were very important, for me and the students, as we were all on a pretty steep learning curve! I had a similar experience to you, in that some of my students grew leaps and bounds (and have continued to blog through the summer), while others took a few small steps. The excitement of receiving comments from others, including grandmas, was pretty cool too. It was such a great way for the students to share themselves outside of our classroom. Awesome stuff and I know you’ll do awesome with the grade three’s! You’ll have your PLN to help you through!


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