Authentic Voices with Student Blogging
A student who struggled to write down the date on the top corner of his paper now sneaks in between classes to blog. A shy student opens up and starts reflecting in a blog post about a book he has been reading. Blogging is transforming the way students express themselves and communicate. So what’s stopping you from diving in and trying it?
Although Elizabeth Davis and Kelly Lanley are middle school teachers, they feel that blogging benefits students of all ages. Davis and Lanley are teachers in the Litchfield Elementary School District in Litchfield Park, Arizona. Davis currently teaches 8th grade reading and Lanley teaches 7th grade writing. Both were new to blogging, but neither hesitated to jump right in and swim alongside their students as they started. You can help your students navigate the rigor of the ELA Common Core standards with blogging.
Student blogging: Engaging in authentic conversation
Lanley chose to use the student blogging platform, Kidblog. Kidblog allows the teachers and students have the same platform, making it easier for them to learn how to access the teacher’s blog, create their own and interact through commenting.
While students are creating different types of informational text, such as writing restaurant reviews on their own individual blogs, they are engaging in the Common Core production and distribution writing strand. The focus is to produce published writing to present their ideas clearly.
“I started blogging because I wanted a place to publish and I wanted a place for more interaction. Right now when kids write stuff, I’m the only one who sees it. It’s really exciting that now they write it and now other people are reading it,” says Lanley. “It’s an authentic audience and now they have feedback. Why else do you write?”
Davis’ students used Google Sites and templates for their blogs. They formed reading groups based upon interest. One student would write the blog entry while the other two students responded by commenting with additional questions or insights.
By integrating blogging into her class, Davis felt her students were having real discussions about books. This addresses one of the key shifts in Common Core where students use evidence from text to analyze their reading.
“I wanted to have a way to facilitate a discussion that was more authentic to the kids. I feel like they’re more open to discuss things through a social media than in a classroom,” says Davis. She believes that traditional social barriers are not there when students are blogging. Students have a fear of criticism or being wrong; but their confidence grows when they are able to participate in a discussion.
“Blogging is a very effective tool for breaking down the social barriers, having authentic conversations.” Davis stresses students need to blog throughout the school year, not something that’s just done once — or it can fall into the trap of “just a project” and not something that has real world application
Davis and Lanley quickly realized that students needed to be taught the difference between texting and writing for publication. After the students’ first attempts, they overcame this obstacle through teacher feedback, modelling and revising their work.
The first time Lanley’s students were in the computer lab, students learned quickly that proper grammar and punctuation counted when blogging and commenting. Lanley would not publish their post until they had edited and resubmitted their blog post. The process was smoother the second time around.
Students may know how to navigate Facebook or Instagram, but they don’t necessarily know how to use technology that is learning-focused rather than socially-focused. “They don’t see the greater world of all the ways you can use technology. That’s one thing that I wanted to show them was that we use it for more than Facebook,” says Davis.
Davis assumed students came into class with tech literacy because they use and are surrounded by technology but found that wasn’t the case. She realized she would need to break down the technology tasks so students can feel more success and less overwhelmed.
Future plans: Taking it to the next level
“I have about 20 kids who are all over it, all day long. Those kids are forming their own community. They want to have a blogging club and a blog prom, where you vote for the King, Queen and Juniors of the blogs,” says Lanley. Next year, she plans to use blogging as communication tool. She will post assignments, communicate with parents, post pictures of what students are doing in class and projects on her teacher blog in Kidblog.
What made Davis dive in with her students and start blogging? Davis feels her success stems from “just getting the nerve do it. I went from turning on a computer to setting up websites. I had a lot of faith in the kids. I knew the kids could handle it.” After trying it out this year, she plans to have her students blog throughout next year.
What are you waiting for? Build up the nerve and start blogging with your students!