Wednesday, October 7, 2009

What motivates kids to write?

The latest brain based teaching techniques? Cleverly designed Inquiry units? Interactive white boards? Inspirational teachers? Fabulous black-line master lessons? Accessing wonderful digital learning objects? Mood music?

I have been spending a bit of the holidays reflecting on this since attending the ILT (Inspiring Local Thinkers) Conference in Invercargill. This conference lives up to its name with every detail well thought out and anyone who gets a chance to attend should grab it. Set aside some time in the holidays in 2011 (the date of the next one) and go and enjoy some truly Southern hospitality. Speakers such as Marcia Tate, Eric Jensen, Rich Allan and Karyn Boyes challenged the attendees to think about how young people learn best and Christine Rankin closed the conference challenging us to stand up for what we believe is right. In between times the 'locals' presented a wide range of workshops. It was refreshing being at a conference where the solutions being offered were mostly outside the realm of eLearning that I inhabit most frequently. And it got me thinking, even where I was not convinced! With all the options being offered to motivate students to learn rattling round in my brain I arrived home and opened my RSS reader. What caught my attention was a flood of posts coming from blogs in our Manaiakalani cluster of schools. OK, some of these were coming from clever teachers who had scheduled posts of student content created at the end of the term to upload automatically over the break. This is a great idea because it not only keeps the blog fresh but also provides a reason to keep checking out their class blog over the holidays. And of course they are reading in the process. But what really caught my eye was the number of students who were posting. These are students CHOOSING to write during their holidays. How do I know that these were not cleverly scheduled posts? Because the content is topical. Leoden reporting on the Eels game and the Storm's win; Toreka with her recount of holiday camp and THE Fight, Destiney reporting about Totara Springs, Tanielu with his "Mountain Warrior TUAnated" etc.

What we are seeing is a bunch of kids writing without needing any of the raft of motivational teachniques and tools I started out with. So what is that all about? Maybe it is enough to teach kids HOW to write at school and if we give them the right environment to write in they will supply their own motivation. Or maybe it is that sense of audience....


  1. Well being mum to a couple of the students you've mentioned you've got me thinking too. When thinking of these holiday posts in particular, the driving factor for them seemed to be the fact that the subjects were things that had moved them. Moved them in that the events were said to be 'Soooo cool mum - awesome'. Toreka wanted to get it all done, her style of writing differing so needed to post in parts. Tanielu's post on the fight was done immediately after the boxing match - he was just so excited and didn't seem to settle until he had finished tapping madly at the keyboard. Plus having an uncle from Aussie who missed it all and was hurrying him to get his report up. It was as if he felt that he'd done us a favour - though loving this 'responsibility'to his audience. So yes to audience, yes to topical, yes to free choice, yes to the tools from school, yes to the opportunity, yes to the right environment and yes to audience and support that follows the posts. This is through mums eyes...

  2. Dorothy,
    Thank you for highlighting some of your students blogs. I have been sharing them with some of our teachers and children and they have commented of the depth of writing. I will find time to also comment on some of the children's blogs. They have been really inspirational.

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