Blogging for Writers includes Elbow Grease

As I read the wonderful posts about quality blogging while participating in Silvia Tolisano’s blogging series and audit meme, I considered several strategies, audiences, and purposes for blogging. What else do writers do?

First of all, my students and I have also learned so much about blogging and commenting from Linda Yollis & Class. We also have adopted Linda Yollis’s Class Quality Comment Guidelines for our checklist. As Andrea commented in Tracy’s Quality Blogging and Audit Meme post, sometimes our comments sound forced and constrained because they are using the checklist. Tracy shared Gina Fraher’s Color Coding Checklist, adding that students need to start somewhere; we all do. Following a model is one way to learn, and this color coding strategy is one I’ve used with younger students learning to write paragraphs. Evaluating our work, and writing excellent posts to share information are two reasons for blogging.

Writing is not easy. That’s why we break the task into a writing process and a writing traits. Tracy adds, “Breaking the task down and working through it together.” Learning the “parts” means that sometimes our blogs and comments will be stilted and forced, but that is part of learning to break writing into the parts to work on improving them— such as asking questions to carry on the conversation, –when it’s valuable, because as Linda Yollis commented in Tracy’s post, “sometimes there isn’t a need for a reply.” Kids need to learn that too, and that decision could be part of the rubric “Choice to comment reflects purpose of post/comment.” Critical thinking is part of reading and writing through blogging, another purpose.

As I began to visualize all these marvelous models we’ll have from Silvia Tolisano’s blogging series and audit meme, I considered the voice from those who consider blogging a personal venture.

I wonder if we need to add one more strategy  and purpose for blogging and writing. Our goal is better writers, and we are asking our writing to be powerful and clear for the reader. Sometimes the audience and purpose, though, in blogging is as much for the writer as it is for the reader. That’s the “What Else.” Peter Elbow recommends that we sometimes struggle through “messy writing.” Writing just to discover the ideas. Writing just to capture that gem of powerful writing amongst the stones. Just as we learn to read well, not only through instruction, but also by reading a lot, so too we must allow students time for both instruction and for independent writing. This discovery writing will be “messy writing” to discover our ideas and to gather ideas from others.

Here’s a class document based on Peter Elbow’s Writing with Power. We call it Elbow Grease for Discovery Drafts.  [Revised Copy]This type of blogging does several things:

  • allows writers to explore ideas
  •  connects writers and readers
  • develops writing fluency and voice
  • provides evidence of writing process
  • allows the experience of real and messy writing
  • encourages the flow if ideas
  • connects formal and personal writing
  • honors writing time as instructional and evaluative as well as personal and explorative

The Elbow Grease activity provides a writing and audit strategy that may also benefit students new to blogging, allowing them a place to develop their ideas in the digital format of today’s connectedness. I think we need both. I think Denise’s comment is an example — she let her “stream of consciousness” discover important ideas about the different purposes for commenting (on photos, in student blogs, part 2 of the conversation). This is how writer’s think through their ideas. Students need this time also, with the added benefit of asking the readers to add to the conversation and discovery, and a chance to develop a personal style and voice. Do you think there’s room for both such formal and informal blogging in our classrooms?

Of course, we always remind students that “Internet writing is your footprint, a path back to you; prepare your path wisely.”

What do you think? Do you think there’s room for both such formal and informal blogging in our classrooms?


on “Blogging for Writers includes Elbow Grease
5 Comments on “Blogging for Writers includes Elbow Grease
  1. I have not been very successful with students adopting their blog spaces for more personal use. I think that to a certain extent I should take responsibility for that, but I think a large part is that my students don’t “get it”. While I use their blogs as the way for them to “turn in” their work for me, it is so much more than that. Maybe the online world isn’t a place most people want to live in? Maybe we don’t have the right to expect them to share personal thoughts online…

    • My students have used their Google Docs for their “elbow grease” writing. It’s not for personal sharing or expression, but rather for free-writing to discover what they know and don’t about a topic about which they would like to pursue. They love hitting ‘return’ for a fresh start on the same or a new thought. They do share with peers to ask them for more ideas, but we have not used our blogs for this. I think it will be a personal choice by the writer, if s/he wants to share thoughts so others can add in very transparent flow of ideas. That is why I suggest that the first lines of such a post would need to explain the purpose. So I agree that I would not expect them to share their personal thoughts, but a blog of discovery on their interests might be useful to obtain leads for further research. It would be like this conversation from your #justthinkin’ tweet. Thanks for the thoughts.

  2. Hi Sheri,

    Wow, what an incredibly insightful post. Pondering if the “elbow grease” has a place as a post is a great question. I’ve never considered it before. If you were to publish an “elbow grease” post, would you state it so readers would understand why there’s a different format or voice? I’m wondering if a wiki would be a better place for the “elbow grease” than a blog so comments can be made right in context. I think of a wiki as the drafting room and the blog as the showcase of the final product. But, maybe there’s room for both in a post.

    I absolutely love the resource you added–Elbow Grease for Discovery Drafts. That went strait to my Diigo bookmarks.

    Thanks for writing this post!

    Kind regards,

    • Hi Tracy, I also like wikis or Google Docs for drafting before publishing a final draft as a post. But I did get such a feeling of freedom and such a flow of ideas while taking part in NaNoWriMo that I think there is value in allowing writers to just write for their ideas and request help from others. I use another strategy called “Quick Revise,” also from Peter Elbow, to be used after a free or power writing period. I think we will use our Google Docs to get the feel for Elbow Grease, and those students who begin to feel that power will write discovery drafts on posts. I think it would be better for older students too. If students write in the Discovery Draft style, they will put this disclaimer at the top: “Note: This blog post was written to develop my ideas and to ask for help to understand the ideas; please respect it’s errors and flow for what it is: a power-writing, free-writing strategy to become a better writer.” I think that a Discovery Post may also offer reluctant writers a format that encourages their ideas. In this digital world, with digital natives, it might be an important strategy. Thanks for adding to the discussion; I so appreciate your ideas. Peace, Sheri

      • Hi Sheri,

        I wanted to come back to your post to let you know that I continued to think about it, and believe your idea is incredibly powerful. If the students use their blog to publish free-writing, and then discuss their ideas or what they were wondering as they were writing, that would be amazing. It took me a little time to wrap my head around it, but now I get it. Thanks so much for pushing my thinking here.

        Kind regards,

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