Spelling and Writing
Spelling and student writing: Does it matter much? Should it matter more? | Get Schooled.

I came across this article today and it raises a very important question and one that I hear regularly from teachers exploring blogging with students for the first time. Does spelling and grammar count?

For me, the answer is…it depends.

Sometimes yes and sometimes no. It depends on purpose and context. Ultimately, it all comes down to the task at hand, what I would like the students to get out of it, what the expectations are (curricular or otherwise), and what the learning goal is.

If the task is brainstorming, collaboration, and inquiry, then I say “No” – spelling and grammar doesn’t count. I would much rather students explore their thoughts openly without fear of being graded / evaluated for structure  In my experience, especially with blogging, is that if students are concentrating on mechanics then they tend to filter their thoughts – their creativity is stifled. They end up spending way too much time concentrating on spelling and grammar and not near enough time and energy on thinking, exploring, and collaborating. I also didn’t expect proper spelling and grammar* in replies to blog posts as these, too, are more conversational and supportive in nature.

*Note: I’m not talking about wildly crazy text messaging language here, either, there has to be a happy balance 🙂

On the other hand  if the blog at hand is a digital portfolio of learning then I would like to see process in exactly the same way I would have expected it earlier in any traditional task – exploration, development, revision, and polish.

To differentiate a blog in this way and to have it serve both purposes, a student could categorize or tag their posts accordingly (i.e. brainstorming, conversation, polished, published, edited  etc.) In this case, students would have to consider the purpose of their work, the audience, and how they would like their work to be seen. The writing / creative process can be honoured and the continuum of learning made visible.

If the blog is a collection of polished work only then the rough, unpolished, process work can be posted as a  password protected post and shared only with the teacher. The teacher could comment to the post in a private nature this way, thus offering support to the learning of the student in a place separate from the eyes of others.

Another way I explored this was to have students collaborate, explore and share topics in reply on my blog informally and offer more formal work on their personal blogs. This can also be done in groups or forums on social learning network installs like HWDSB Commons or Edmodo.

Spelling and grammar is obviously very important in formal and professional contexts. It shouldn’t have any priority in the process of learning, though – IMHO. Learning is messy – it’s a process – we need to honour that.