Thursday, April 27, 2006

Progress resumed

I'm happy to report that after my pointed remarks to the students involved and my moans here, there has been a return to activity on Progress Report It's less than a week now to the Standard Grade exam, and I suggested that they use the site to work on specific skills - maybe a paragraph using dialogue, perhaps including different dialects, or a bit of descriptive writing.

I'm realising through this that a blog set-up is brilliant for targeting in this fashion; at this stage it's a waste of time to write entire essays when you're still floundering with basics like the layout of direct speech. Once a student knows what 700 words in her own handwriting look like, she knows what her finished essay should look like on the page and can hold that in mind as she writes. I've been interested to find recently that if I write a Critical Essay from a Higher English paper, I will do it in about 700 words, give or take a paragraph. This happens whether I write or type, and is not the result of deliberate strategy. But with 8 Standard Grades coming up, few students have the time to write whole essays more than once in the last push of revision - like preparing for a marathon, it's better not to do the whole distance.

Blogging is a brilliant tool, but as I was commenting over at edublogs earlier today, the main ingredient in a successful student is not a grasp of technology, nor a brilliant teacher. Rather it is the fire in the belly that drives a student to want to improve and be willing to put in the necessary work. There is no magic wand. The deadliest drawback is the mixture of diffidence and complacency that characterises too many of our students - and I fear it is more often found in girls.

And now I'll stop before someone makes me!


  1. Diffidence and complacency are also found in lower achieving boys, who seem not to be 'bovered' if they do not succeed. Here, I feel, it IS the teacher that can make the difference by providing a set of varied tasks that lead to a product.

    In your students' case, if motivation were flagging more than it really is, I might have got them to record the audio for some of their paragraphs on, say, or odeo, and put a hyperlink through to it on their blog.

    Reading out your text often shows where the holes are and the change of medium to something even more personal - the voice - might make them take more time and put in more effort to completing their product - the story.

    With Yackpack their listeners or readers could also leave vocal messages for the girls. What do you think?

  2. I'd be interested in learning to use something like this, and if I had already, I might have considered it. But the pupils I have at the moment are perfectly capable of writing; if they want to do Higher English - and they do - they need to be able to cope with written media and have the motivation to do so.
    BTW - I agree with you about the place of the teacher with less motivated boys - but have found that when you get boys going you get a great drive to show off what they *can* do as well as a terrific, gutly honesty in what they write. I think English, especially Writing, differs from other subjects in this; it's at once the morst difficult thing to teach and the most rewarding.

  3. Aaargh! That should read "gutsy" - but what a wonderful word "gutly" is - no?

  4. I prefer "gutly" but I feel it conveys a different feeling.

  5. Jimmy7:18 PM

    I like the way that 'Literature' as an art can be owned by people who are (money) poor.
    But I suppose you don't really own a work of literature until you have found a substantiation with it, then it is a part of you. Could literature be likened to paintings and sculptures within the corridors and on the walls of your mind and heart.

  6. Great image, Jimmy! It'd be great to be given a tour of each other's collections, no?