A teacher brought this contest ran by the New York Times to my attention the other day as they were starting to prepare for teaching summer school. This is the third time the New York Times has ran the contest where they ask students to submit 350 word responses to articles they read on the site or in the newspaper.
Also not a bad way for parents to get their students involved in reading and writing over the summer. Reading and writing for a purpose around a contest.
But I think it could be more….what if…..
What if students had a blog where they could write as much as they wanted and linked back to the articles they were writing about? From what I can tell the New York Times doesn’t show/allow trackback links which kind of stinks as then students would automatically be linked to the piece they were writing about. Of course the way around this is to simply leave a comment on the article or piece of media you are writing about. Just like I’ll do on the link above in a comment. What if your child or students where responding to articles and wrote 1000 word responses or 1500 word responses or 200 words? What if we connected those responses to the articles they were writing about, reflecting about and learning from? What if some other readers of those articles followed the links to the students’ blogs and continued to read their reflections there? What if someone left a comment, or tweeted, or shared on Facebook one of the students’ responses to an article? What if we taught students how to build a network, how to use hyperlinks, and how to write for the audience that reads the New York Times. Of course students could still enter the 350 word contest and in writing blog posts probably make those 350 words more precise giving them an even better chance as winning the contest one week to the next. Once students realize they’re writing is linked to the New York Times and they start getting readers, then we start talking about improving the writing, working on technique, voice, grammer, etc. Because now there’s a purpose to be a better writer….you have readers.
What if during class time you pulled up a blog post written by a student and read it together as a class? What if you had a discussion about the writing; what you liked? What could be improved? What does the author (seeing they are sitting there in your class) thinks about the piece? What if you looked for the strongest sentence, or the weakest sentence and gave the author feedback on how to improve their writing the next time? What if you have a couple different students respond to the same article and their responses were different? What learning could happen from this teachable moment?
What if a blog posts gets tweeted or shared on Facebook? Can you track how many people saw that link? Or how many potential readers a student might have had? Can you teach about the spread of information within social-networks and then apply that to where status updates go when you post them on Facebook and how quickly a readership can multiply?
It’s strange all the learning that could come from a simple online contest that incorporates social-networking and sharing.
Just a thought….