The Wiki Connection – Critical Reading and the Writing Process

March 9, 2008 at 4:49 pm (wikis)

Writing process was a part of the culture of my school long before I arrived.  It is something near and dear to my heart.  Many students don’t fully understand the importance of each stage of the writing process until they are immersed in Writers’ Workshop, prewriting, rough copy, revising, editing and final draft, something Nancie Atwell writes about passionately in her book In the Middle.  Schmoker reminds educators of the importance of following up critical reading with purposeful writing.  Wikis allow for both with the added benefit of a real world audience. 

Braun (2006) says, “[o]ften writing on a wiki is reality based” because students:  

  • participate in the process of writing
  • publish for a large audience
  • particularly suited for nonfiction writing

As a result, the large audience has potential to be a large number of readers.  Furthermore, it meets the needs of some boys who prefer non-fiction. 

The Reading-Writing Connection
The critical reading of wikis supports a student’s developing writing skills in a number of ways.  Richardson (2006) says

“students need to read critically first, if they are to find the areas where information is missing or disorganized.  Even though the writing is not their own, they must take it as their own because they have the ability to edit and make it better.” 

This can also apply to critically reading their own wiki contributions.  In doing so: 

  • “teens can analyze information and learn how to decide the accuracy and validity of the information”
  • “they can analyze information in order to determine what makes nonfiction writing readable and interesting”
  • “use technology to practice individuality… [in] their own writing in order to create content that is accurate and readable”
  • “The history feature of wikis has a strong connection to the writing process of editing, revising, and so on.” (Braun, 2006)  

Because of this:

  • readers can compare entries, even side-by side (as a teacher, I love this feature)
  • there is the opportunity to model and discuss how and why revising is important
  • it also addresses the importance of content quality related to conventions including spelling and grammar  (Braun, 2006)

Early in this course, someone suggested using a wiki to document revising and editing of the writing process.  I was intrigued by the idea and have presented it to my students on a couple of occasions.  However, they have been quite reluctant.  Perhaps, now that I have created and particiapted in a wiki, I will be more convincing and they will be less reluctant.  At some point, I have to give them a gentle push to take the risk as well.  I am glad that I waited as my experience now helps me to understand how the process works.  It would not have been fruitful to have a wiki with one page and 30 students trying to edit.  Each would be lucky if they even had five minutes of editing time.  Having explored some examples of how teachers have collaborated in a wiki, I now have a better idea of how I could structure or scaffold a wiki discussion or collaboration for my students. 


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