For the last few years the first assignment my Grade 12’s write is their This I Believe blog. This assignment immediately reveals the hearts and minds of my students and helps us to quickly bond as a community of learners, readers and writers. Often students declare this to be their favourite piece of writing, which is powerful because it is their first – this is a confidence builder. Confidence is an essential foundation for us to then build their writing skills to improve. Also, because it taps into their hearts, minds, and spirits – voice emerges quite authentically.
This year my goal is to get their writing viewed on a global scale – hoping for COMMENTS to be made on their writing from near and far, while helping them to see the relevance of purpose, audience, and digital footprints. Please consider reading their blogs and, ideally, leaving a comment:
Last semester I taught AP Language and Composition and we saw quite an interest in our blog-writing with 3800 pageviews from September to January. This is really remarkable if you consider a traditional English class where usually the only “pageviews” are done by the teacher and the student writer, with maybe one or two others who look over the piece for editing. Despite all the wonderful writing on this blog – what got the most attention was our This I Believe blogs. A wonderful friend and former coworker – Ricardo Avelar – who now works in Panama had his Grade 10 IB class read and comment; this international connection really inspired the students to offer their best writing to the blog for the rest of the semester.
- AP HUNNI Blog – 2015 This I Believe blogs
Also, here are links to past years with more inspiring This I Believe blogs:
- The Hunni Blog 30-1 – 2015 with favourites featured here at Storify: This I Believe blogs
- The Hunni Blog 30 (from 2011-2014)
Commenting has been the gem behind this assignment. The student writers each are assigned one student to read their This I Believe and to then offer comment feedback following my expectations as outlined on my blog post Etiquettes with Blogging, then they can choose their 2nd student to read and offer feedback. This is when you witness the walls of the classroom literally and figuratively disappear. See Iffrah’s blog post “Angels are my Best Friends” and the beautiful exchange between Iffrah and Keelee in the comments – here’s a brief excerpt of their exchange (comments can be found after Iffrah’s blog linked above):
Keelee: “…Iffrah, you are a beautiful girl. So quiet but so powerful with your words. This piece gave me a connection to you and it made me feel like I know you. It was also nice for me to know that I am not alone and there are other people that feel this way aswell. I would love for this to help us become closer this year and I feel like we can do that through this type of thing.”
Iffrah: “…I love how you felt so touched by that one line, and the story you had behind it moved me to tears, cause that’s truly beautiful. I really hope we become close with what is left of our high school year. It’s quite amazing how you get to know more about a person through their writing, and the connections that you can make with people is so incredible.”
This I Believe offers students the inspiration and engagement to begin the class as writers, readers, learners and even co-teachers. By writing about their beliefs, they begin to believe they can be writers, planting the seed towards their success in ELA – this I believe.