In the Classroom with Franki: Sharing my life as a writer

We are really excited to start a new occasional series on the Stenhouse blog with teacher, author, and blogger extraordinaire Franki Sibberson. In her first post Franki ponders what it means to be a writer and comes to the realization that it’s not just about notebooks and pens anymore.

I launched our fourth grade Writing Workshop as I had many times before—by sharing my life as a writer.  I brought in notebooks from past and present, read a bit of notebook advice from Ralph Fletcher, gave kids time to write a few entries, and shared some of their process as writers.  But at the end of the day, something just didn’t feel right. I felt like something was missing.

Yes, the students were writing happily in their new writers’ notebooks. Yes, there were good things to share and discuss.  Yes, I felt that the introduction to writing workshop was authentic. But something seemed off. I came home that night and moved through my evening routine of checking email, reading blogs, updating Twitter, etc.  It was then that I realized how much of my writing life I had not shared with my students. I realized that I had only shared a piece of my writing life and that my digital writing life had not been part of our conversations.

I had planned to talk to students about digital writing.  We’ll have a class wiki and blog set up so I knew we’d get there. But I’d planned to start with notebook writing and go from there.  In the four years since I left the classroom to become a teacher librarian, my life as a writer has changed incredibly. Not only has my life as a writer changed, but also the ways in which we define writing has expanded to mean more than just text creations.  I was fooling myself to think that I could separate out the tools of writing and launch writing workshop as I always had.

So, on Wednesday, I started Writing Workshop with a mini-lesson about my life as a digital writer. I started out by sharing with students that I had shared my notebook writing with them, but that writers use lots of tools and I wanted to talk to them about the other tools I use as a writer.

I used the Interactive Whiteboard in my room to begin sharing my digital life as a writer. First, I took them to my blog: A Year of Reading ( I talked to them about how Mary Lee Hahn and I write this blog together and I add to it a few times each week. I showed them some of my posts and talked about how the focus was on books and reading. I talked to them about the visitors we get and our audience in general.

Then I took them to my Slideshare account. I told them that I thought writing was about more than just words and that I sometimes “wrote” or created PowerPoint presentations to share with teachers at workshops. I showed them a few of these slideshows and talked about how much of my writing for these was about finding pictures that shared the message I wanted to share.

I showed them my Goodreads account where I log the books I read and those I want to read. I showed them the part of the page that lets me write quick reviews so I can let other people know what I thought of the book. I told them that I rely on review of people from all over the world to decide what to read next.

Finally, I took them to Choice Literacy where I showed them some articles for teachers that I wrote. I also took them to the podcasts and let them listen to the beginning of my podcast interview with Kevin Hodgson on digital writing.  We talked about the idea of podcasts and they thought they seemed similar to audiobooks.

We spent the next several days exploring tools on computers and iPads that writers use. I wanted students to see computers and iPads as tools for creation right off in the school year. I wanted them to begin to think of writing in new ways and to begin to think about the possibilities ahead. We explored Keynote, Pages and Garageband on the computers. And we explored Explain Everything and Popplet on the iPads. Playing with each tool allowed students to further explore the idea of digital writing.

This was only the beginning of our conversation about what it is to be a writer. Since those first few days of school, we have continued to define as a class what it means to be a writer.  I continue to overhear conversations in which students process the ways in which they might use various tools or the kinds of things they might create.  This week we’ll continue to learn about keeping a writer’s notebook. We’ll also explore blogs from around the world.  Students will most likely notice the ways in which movies, podcasts and images are embedded into these posts. They will start to see the various ways to publish and the various options they have as writers.  As we move toward publishing on our class blog and wiki, these beginning conversations will come to life.  Students will be able to use a variety of tools to write and publish.

Authenticity is key to any writing workshop and I learned this week that to keep the writing workshop authentic, I needed to share with students all that it meant to be a writer today.

3 comments September 24th, 2012

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