How much allowance do you get?

There was a recent discussion in my classroom about allowance. It was lunchtime, and a small group of students was comparing how much allowance, if any, they received each week. The range was wide, of course; some students didn’t receive any allowance, and there was one lucky student who reported getting $10 each week.

Their conversation got me thinking about the kinds of allowance we teachers get. It would be easy to compare the monetary allowances that are given to teachers each year, which would most likely range from next to nothing to the $1,000 I was given at a past school district. But I also started thinking about the other allowances we get, the permissions and freedoms we get in order to teach our students.

I will admit to a small fit of jealousy recently as I read about the Student Blogging Challenge, and all of the students who were participating.  Kids from around the world were blogging, commenting, interacting and learning online. My district has recently “battened down the hatches” and has made it more challenging for teachers to set up blogging experiences for students.  In many ways I understand where they are coming from: they want to protect students and make sure that everyone is safe.  Yet at the same time, I can’t help but wonder if this hyperattention to safety is leaving my students behind. Are my students going to be at a disadvantage because they can’t blog?  How is my “allowance” impacting them?

Will Richardson recently blogged about teachers being learners, and how we need to be exploring our passions.  I’m beginning to think that I need to make this a passion of mine, because I’m suspecting that I will need to be an advocate for change.

Because I know it will take cold, hard numbers to get the attention of many, here’s what I think I’m going to explore:

I plan to examine the difference in 4th through 6th grade students’ writing achievement, as measured on standardized writing tests, between those students who are able to blog and receive comments, and those who are not.

To break it down even further:

Who: 4th-6th grade students

What: those who can blog and receive comments and those who can’t

Why: difference in writing achievement, as measured on standardized writing tests.

I don’t exactly know where this will take me.  Perhaps I will discover that my students are just fine without their online experiences.  But at the same time, I can’t help but think that they may be missing out because of my “allowance.”

12 thoughts on “How much allowance do you get?

  1. Wow! I had a similar thought about students and blogging; I found some resources I would like to offer you:
    Reading and Writing with Blogs for struggling students (http://heartlandaeatoc.pbworks.com/f/Scaffolding+for+Struggling+Students+Using+Blogs+and+Wikis.pdf)
    Blogging in the Language Classroom (http://tesl-ej.org/ej44/a3.html)
    HOT Blogging: A Framework for Blogging to Promote Higher Order Thinking (http://www.reading.org/Publish.aspx?page=RT-62-8-Zawilinski.html&mode=retrieve&D=10.1598/RT.62.8.3&F=RT-62-8-Zawilinski.html&key=C5546541-285E-4296-AF5F-82C23744D650)
    I was looking into these articles to make a case to allow my students to actively blog on the internet, I wanted my students to understand how they could interact on educational topics with students throughout the world. I would be interested in discovering where your research leads you and it Blogging does improve standardized writing scores. Good luck and happy blogging,
    Jennifer Hardy

  2. Stephanie,
    I get the magazine Educational Leadership as my principal shares her copy with me. There is an article in the March 2009 issue entitled The Joy of Blogging. I thought you might find it interesting so I found it online at

    http://www.ascd.org/publications/educational_leadership/mar09/vol66/num06/The_Joy_of_Blogging.aspx

    I found the article interesting because it talks about how after some students posted a blog, someone responded and it “informally introduced students to new words, concepts, and different points of view. They also provided links for students to further their understandings and frequently asked students for clarification and elaboration of their ideas. They posed questions to get the students thinking and respectfully pointed out grammar and spelling mistakes. By doing so, the larger blogging community made learning about language a creative, exploratory and joyful process.”

    Kathy

  3. Stephanie
    Writing is such an important topic, so many people feel that writing skills in general have declined greatly over the past decade. I am thinking along the same lines as you are. The immediate feedback of others may help students to improve their writing skills. I will let you know if I uncover anything that may of use to you.

  4. Stephanie,

    I’m in the same boat. I teach language arts to the bottom third of the eighth grade based on state tests. If you go to my class blogsite at http://www.crazyeights.edublogs.org you can read some of my students’ posts. One student, Harley, has the lowest state score of all my students. When I look past the grammar and spelling errors in his Character Sketch, I see a student with a good grasp of presenting a “character.” What I am finding is that reluctant readers and writers will engage and persevere when they are allowed to communicate with technology versus pencil and paper.
    As I conduct my literature review I will forward anything I think you can use.
    Thanks for your post, it also inspires me.
    Allan

  5. Stephanie,

    I am glad that you chose to do research on this topic. This year I started a blog in my 9th grade Business class and it was a long hard process to be able to get it going. My district has so many stipulations on what you have to do before students can blog. I believe that you will find a significant difference in the standardized writing test scores between the two groups.

    Andrew

  6. Jennifer,

    Thank you for passing along those resources! I suspect there is a lot out there for me to sift through; I know I’m not the first to wonder if blogging has benefits.

    I will most certainly share what I find out.

    ~Stephanie

  7. Kathy,

    You bring up many of the things that I think blogging would be good for: an audience for students beyond the teacher, and the sense that their writing is actually being read by others. Thank you for passing along that article. It gives me a nice jumping off point for my research.

    ~Stephanie

  8. Luis,

    I think you bring up a good point about people feeling like writing skills have declined. While my investigation isn’t quite going in that direction, I can’t help but wonder if our definition of what constitutes good writing is changing. When we adults are all doing our writing on the computer, it seems a bit absurd to expect our students to do most of their writing on paper. At the same time, if they only learn using the computer, perhaps they will be missing some important skills.

    I will be very interested to see what our research uncovers. I’ll certainly share good information with you!

    ~Stephanie

  9. Allan,

    I am excited that you are blogging with your students! It’s also been my experience that the reluctant writers are more excited to do it when it’s on the computer. I find that to be particularly true of those students who physically have a hard time writing; you can almost see the sweat dripping down when they have to work so hard to hold a pencil. I think it is great that you are able to give your students the chance to share their ideas with a wider audience.

    Did you have any trouble getting permission for blogging? What types of rules and or structures does your district have regarding students interacting with others online? I’m very curious about others’ experiences.

    ~Stephanie

  10. Andrew,

    I bet I will also find a difference between the two groups. Just out of curiosity, what kinds of rules does your district have? I’m wondering if my district is typical, although I suspect not, if many other students are able to blog and use wikis. I would also be curious to see, of the districts who do allow blogging, how many have a private, protected blogging area, so that students may blog and interact with each other and the school community, but not the world at large.

    The more I think about this, the more questions I find I have!

    ~Stephanie

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  12. Stephanie,

    I discussed my class blog with my principal, but I didn’t exactly get permission from anyone. I moderate all responses to the blog and my students’ identities are protected. I created an online identity at yahoo that all the students use but can’t access in any other way. I have had some snags. We created podcasts and I discovered when the students posted their podcasts that I ran out of allowed space on the blogsite. That sucked! Another problem is that the students aren’t doing much blogging in response to their classmates’ posts. They are still mostly concerned with getting their own assignment posted, but that will come with practice. Look at us! I sometimes fail to go back and see if the conversation is going forward (as I did with this particular conversation for which I apologize).
    Keep up the good work! I enjoy your posts.

    Allan

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