Here at ISB we use the Reader’s and Writer’s Workshop model of literacy instruction. We have been fortunate to have the wonderful Maggie Moon consult with us on a regular basis over the last two year.

Working with Maggie MoonOne of the best things about working with Maggie is that she is open-minded about what literacy can mean and how to ensure we meet the needs of our students in today’s world. Last year we started on a path to define digital literacy and to see how we can fit (at least some) aspects of digital literacy into the Workshop model (which does not reference anything beyond the traditional view of reading and writing).

This year, with the addition of Jeff and Tara, we are continuing to push forward and have begun to develop a full Writer’s Workshop unit focused on digital literacy. Our plan is to implement this unit in September of 2009 in grade 5, with Tara, Jeff and I co-teaching in our 7 grade 5 classrooms (that’s going to be an interesting logistical nightmare, since they all teach Writer’s Workshop at the same time and there’s only 3 of us and 7 of them…)

We are only in the initial stages of the planning process, following the Understanding by Design format, and I would love to get some feedback from you!

Here’s what we’ve got so far (we’re using a Google Doc, so planning updates can be found here):

Personal Narrative with Blogging

Enduring Understandings

Students will begin to understand:

  1. Purpose and audience for communication determine the appropriate media choice.
  2. Design and layout impact the quality and effectiveness of communications.
  3. reflect on, organize, analyze, interpret, and synthesize information effectively communicate and create ideas.

Students will begin to understand:

  1. Writers attempt to have a story unfold in a show, not tell, fashion through well-chosen details that make a story come alive

Essential Questions

How do I effectively communicate?

GRASPS Task (still working on the wording here, essential the entire blog will be the task)

Build Understanding Through the 6 Facets:

Explain: Reflective blog post: After collecting entries: try various stories to see how it goes – select a story and improve it, why did you choose this story?

Interpret: personal narrative practice, once you’ve selected your story, what is this story really about?

Have Self-Knowledge: Author’s message – the way you write and present the story shows the significance of the story to the reader. Reflective writing after – why did you write this story this way, how does it reflect you? What was challenging for you? What do you understand about yourself from writing this?

Have Perspective: Reflection: who is your audience, why/how would you change this story for a different audience (how do you change the way you write based on your audience?) – during revision, write the same story for a different audience – how do you change your writing for different audiences.

Empathize: after the blog post is up, how do you respond via the comments (to something that you don’t have a connection with).

Apply: Design your blog post for your audience, choosing images, paragraph spacing, headings, etc (choosing an image that shows depth and connects to your post)


  • Allow students the choice to either write in Writer’s Notebook first or directly on the computer
  • Have students write in MS Word before posting online (to avoid technical issues)


  • Teacher models same sort of writing as the students are doing. Write a portion of personal narrative and then show how you would change it for a different audience. Give students the choice of who their new audience is.
  • What does good blogging look like? (synthesis, analysis – not just copy and paste)
  • Students link to other sites in his/her writing (for example, if you snorkeled on Phuket, link to a Phuket site)
  • Students reflect on why he or she is choosing this piece of writing.
  • Commenting and how to make it constructive. Set a minimum expectation of how many comments a student must write on someone else’s writing.
  • Students incorporate comments from others and make revisions to his/her own writing based on these.
  • Final reflective blog post linking back to prior drafts, comments by their audience that helped change their minds, and reflect on how the interaction with their audience helped improve their writing.
  • Choosing and inserting an image, citing sources for images


First 8 instructional days: brainstorming in the writer’s notebook, across those 8 days, choose 2-3 stories to post on the blog (reflect online why they chose those three) – these posts should be in draft form, then students will choose 1 to stick with and take through the writing process (reflect online why they chose the final story)

Final Thoughts

One of the reasons we’re doing this as a discrete unit is so that teachers can see how it will fit within the Writer’s Workshop model. We’re hoping to do it early in the year so that teachers and students can take advantage of this new model of writing throughout the year. Personally, I hope we’ll end up using these blogs as ePortfolios by the end of the year, but I don’t know if that will happen.

What do you think? How does this look? What are we missing? What needs to be revised?

11 thoughts on “Writer's Workshop Goes Digital

  1. What a great post! I think the idea of writing workshop going digital is such an important one. Love the details in this and how you are going about it! I think so many people see technology as separate from workshop and really, it just gives our students new tools for creation.
    Thanks for sharing!

  2. Kim,

    I am thoroughly impressed with the idea of you being transparent and willing to share what you are working on with the students.

    Using a Reader’s and Writer’s Workshop model combined with Unit by Design is certainly strong pedagogical approach, and by the sounds of it your consultant has a sense of the changing times of what it means to be literate as well.

    I have already bookmarked your Google Doc on this and look forward to any changes as you progress through this project. After reading it through you had me wondering about one of your bullet points under your mini-lessons:

    “Final reflective blog post linking back to prior drafts.”

    Will students be posting “rough drafts” on their blogs? Or is the final reflective blog post a result of the comments made to the finished work that the student posted?

    Thanks for all that you do!


  3. I like this whole project. Was great meeting you in HK Kim.
    Suggestion – I like the “minimum expectation of how many comments a student must write on someone else’s writing”, however, you might consider two points:

    1) perhaps focus on quality, not just meeting the minimum

    2) acknowledge / teach that there are different types of comments (content, grammar, spelling, ideas, encouragement, etc.) that all have different functions and value

    Good luck – I’ll be following and keen to see the results.


  4. Your post is quite timely for me! Our teachers are currently receiving training in Lucy Calkins Writer’s Workshop. With our 4th and 5th grade teachers coming up soon, I’ve been thinking about what a unit of study using blogs would look like so this is great food for thought.

    One of the things I see happening in the Calkins units of study and in the units that some teachers have written themselves is that they usually begin with immersion in the genre that will be taught in the unit. During this immersion, they would begin to help students understand the elements of, for example, narrative writing.

    Using what I’ve seen as a model, I know that I would need to begin to gather some good examples of student writing on blogs so we would be able to recognize the different ways that blogs are written. If you were going to provide your students with models as you enter this unit, can you think of any student blogs that would be used? I’m thinking that I’ll begin by looking through some of the blogs at Classblogmeister.

  5. Incorporating technology via classroom bolg is an excellent way to transform the way students are able to create, share, and comment on their work. Not only will the blog provide a new medium, but it will also increase student motivation. Just knowing that other students and even other people can view and comment on their work will help to ensure quality writing. Have you considered posting drafts on the blog and allowing for students to provide feedback to assist with the writing process? Another fun idea would be to post the beginning of a story and allow the students to blog the rest of the story. This activity could help to familiarize students with blogging.

  6. @Fraki,

    I totally agree – somehow digital literacy seems totally separate from the rest of the workshop model. Our hope is that this type of unit will bring the two together in a way that teachers can easily implement in their classroom.


    Thank you! We’re thinking that students will post some of their earlier ideas on their blog, as well as finished work. We feel that this reflects a true practice of blogging – sometimes you post unfinished thoughts in order to gain insight and expertise from your readers. Of course, any drafts that are to be posted will be those that students would like to seek feedback on, and are ready to be seen by a wider audience.

    A reflective blog post could link back to those previous versions and reflect on how interacting with their audience helped refine and improve their own writing (and thinking). I had an especially powerful experience with this earlier this school year: Going Full Circle.


    Thanks for your points – they are exactly the kind of feedback I was looking for.

    There is nothing I hate more than professors assigning me “3 responses a week” and then grading me on quantity instead of quality – we need to make sure we’re not doing the same thing.

    I also like the idea of different types of comments which serve different purposes. I usually tell students to stay away from the grammar check type comments because I want them to focus on the content, but just looking at your list makes me realize that all of those forms of feedback are valid, we just need to know when to use them.

    Maybe your students would be interested in working with us next year?


    I agree!


    Yes, you are totally right, this is something we need to work on as well. This might have to become a project for me and Jeff. One thing that frustrates me about student blogging is that it doesn’t always meet my understanding of true blogging (I like Will’s definition in Blogs, Wikis, Podcasts and Other Powerful Web Tools for the Classroom).

    Thinking about that, we might actually be better off looking for adult blogging samples – because usually don’t students look at published books (which are usually written by adults?). Those blogs, of course, would have to be appropriate for our grade level and understandable by the students, but I think looking at true examples of blogging would be better than looking at mediocre examples of student blogging. What do you think?


    I agree! Yes, we are going to have students post drafts and get feedback (see my comment to John above). I’ve done the “never ending story” idea a few times with both blogs and wikis, that would be a nice addition to the unit.

  7. Diane’s suggestion of immersing the students in examples of quality blogs is a good one I think. I’m considering integrating blogging into Writer’s Workshop next year, and it’s really forcing me to consider what blogging is. In some sense, it can be considered a digitally/socially enhanced container for other genres (i.e. personal narrative, poetry, etc). Maybe more like a writer’s notebook where you are trying out ideas. At times, it feels different enough to a genre unto itself. I’m not sure exactly how to think about it yet, but I definitely look forward to more blog posts on this topic.

  8. @Tyson

    Such a good point! I wonder if it’s possible to find some blogs that focus on specific genres because that’s what the author likes to write? Or if the reason that they can contain many genres is because that’s naturally what writers like to do – try out different forms for different purposes. The whole ideas of self publishing as an avenue for writers is something new to Writer’s Workshop, I think, and especially instantaneous self-publishing like blogging. It does make me wonder how formal programs like WW can adapt to social media and new forms of communication…

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