For the last few weeks I have enjoyed the opportunity of teaching four home school students and have been using a wiki, a digital technology tool that is included in the second edition of Teaching the Story. If you're not familiar with a wiki, take a few minutes to watch this fun video. Or, check out this informative video that tells you about additional features. Very simply, a wiki is an editable website (think Wikipedia) which opens up worlds of possibilities for your classroom. (There are several free wiki hosts including www.pbwiki.com, www.wetpaint.com, and www.wikispaces.com. I have preferred the first for its ease of use and support services.)
Before our first class, I set up our class wiki and sent out an e-mail inviting the students to each create a page introducing themselves to one another. I encouraged them to upload a favorite picture so they could begin exploring the wiki's potential. Since I gave them all access to the wiki as writers, they theoretically could change someone else's work. As a result, it was important in our first class to discuss the responsibility and trust involved in using a wiki.
During the second week, I encouraged them to leave comments for one another about their descriptive paragraphs. I also created folders for each student for their weekly writing assignments which helped organize the wiki and helped us all to find a writer's work. In addition, I created my folder in which I leave their writing assignments. I use this folder to hold handouts which I upload from the Teaching the Story resource CD; they are responsible to print these out and bring them to class. This has been a great tool as it gives them responsibility to accumulate and organize their materials.
During the third class we played a writing and revising game, "Jazz it Up" and I showed them how to use editing tools such as the cross-out function and red font to edit and revise on the wiki. The process of critiquing each other's work strengthens them as writers as they must think: "What is wrong with this writing?", "How could I help make this writing better?" and "How can I avoid this mistake in the future?" Doing this with a spirit of co-operation also teaches students to respect one another and enhances collaborative work.
If you look in the girls' folders, you'll see that a lot of interaction goes on during non-class time. Since the class is small, I am encouraging them to each read, comment, and edit one another's work at least once a week. This amount of interaction would not be possible in a typical classroom and you would probably need to establish small groups of editing partners that were responsible to give each other feedback. Since the class will only meet eight times, the wiki allows me to instruct and provide input into the students' work while they are writing their stories, thus maximizing the entire learning experience.
Wikis are a way to help you cultivate the stories which your students write. As for myself, I would love to lead more home school and school workshops, so please contact me through this blog if you are interested in setting up a writing workshop for your students.