Blogging in Writing Class

Hopefully, some of you can identify with and be helped and encouraged by these experiences of a regular classroom teacher in a very rural area attempting to bring 21st Century processes into the classroom.

The Situation and Problems
What has caused problems?

As the middle school writing teacher with nine old computers in my classroom, I wanted blogging to be a major part of writing class to help improve writing fluency and skills while writing for an audience and purpose. However:

  • Permission slips: waiting slowed the start
  • Tech savvy students: know about certain things, such as clicking on links
  • Tech un-savvy students (same students): didn’t know how to use toolbars and couldn’t keyboard– using up writing time for tech skills or slow typing
  • Curriculum Requirements: these are more than time allows to teach both writing and technology
  • Topic Block (Writer’s Block): students had limited knowledge about topics of interest and asked for more information
  • Online Etiquette: past experiences by students in MySpace and other network areas allowed us to create guidelines to counter those experiences

When you first started blogging what aspects of blogging worked well?

I started small, with the eighth grade class. After students obtained permission slips and understood guidelines, we joined a blogging site with other teens, called Youth Voices to ensure that students were part of a community of learners so our writing had a purpose and an audience. The organizers created several templates for helping the student bloggers, including suggestions for writing comments.

Stumped for ideas of their own, the students started reading blog posts which resulted in a need for more ideas, facts, and opinions in order to respond with their own ideas. To counter this Topic Block, we started our journey into blogging through comments. We read and discussed the other teen blog posts. We did further research from sites I found (to save time), and students applied suggestions from the comment templates while using our guidelines to respond to blog posts.

Our process included:

  1. Search for and read a blog on a topic of interest
  2. Discuss as a class or with partners
  3. Research for information, if needed (I provided links when students asked for more info)
  4. Quote from the blog of interest when writing the comment, and respond with one’s own “overly positive” words and facts
  5. Check back for replies

This process allowed us to work through technology issues easily and to develop background knowledge on many issues of importance to them (poverty, global warming, domestic violence, smart phones, teen drama) for an authentic purpose and audience. We applied many writing requirements in this process of writing thoughtful comments (see note at end of post). It gave us focus and saved time.

What would you change?

This year, I hope our research and comments help students formulate blog posts. Students thought through their ideas on the topics on wiki pages. Because of other writing curriculum requirements, we lacked the time to develop those topic drafts into blog posts. The commenting experience, however, helped students view others’ perspectives and respond to them in positive ways even when disagreeing. We applied 21st Century communication processes to an authentic audience for student purposes. Hopefully, our connection and communication in such a positive way will transfer into the students’ personal network spaces.


This post has been written on “Question 2: what worked? what were problems?” as part of The Edublogger’s Competition!


Note
Essential Academic Learning Requirements for Grade 8 Writing

1.1.1 Uses prewriting stage to determine purpose, analyze audience, select form, research background information, formulate theme (for narrative writing) or a thesis, and/or organize text.

1.2.1 Drafts according to audience, purpose, and time. Drafts by hand and/or electronically.

1.4.1 Proofreads final draft for errors.

1.5.1 Publishes in formats that are appropriate for specific audiences and purposes.

1.6.3 Decreases time for prewriting, drafting, revising, and editing when writing on-demand, in-class pieces.

2.1.1 Applies understanding of multiple and varied audiences to write effectively.
·       Identifies an intended audience.
·       Analyzes the audience to meet its needs (e.g., uses tone appropriate to culture, age, and gender of audience).
·       Respects the cultural backgrounds of potential audiences (e.g., through word choice, topics).
·       Describes how a particular audience may interpret a text (e.g., by defining terms, using formal language).
·       Anticipates readers’ questions and writes accordingly.

2.2.1 Demonstrates understanding of different purposes for writing.
Writes to pursue a personal interest, to explain, to persuade, to inform, and to entertain a specified audience

3.1.1 Analyze web-based and other resource materials (including primary sources and secondary sources) for relevance in answering research questions.

3.1.1 Analyzes ideas, selects a manageable topic, and elaborates using specific, relevant details and/or examples.
·       Presents a central idea, theme, and manageable thesis while maintaining a consistent focus (e.g., “Commercials influence the spending habits of teenagers.”).
·       Selects specific details relevant to the topic to extend ideas or develop elaboration (e.g., quotations, data, reasons, multiple examples that build on each other).
·       Uses personal experiences, observations, and/or research to support opinions and ideas (e.g., relevant data to support conclusions in math, science, social studies; appropriate anecdotes to explain or persuade; information synthesized from a variety of sources to support an argument).

3.1.2 Analyzes and selects effective organizational structure.
·       Writes unified, cohesive paragraphs (e.g., inverted pyramid: broad topic, narrowing focus, specific details).

3.2.1 Applies understanding that different audiences and purposes affect writer’s voice.
·       Writes with a clearly defined voice appropriate to audience.

3.2.2 Analyzes and selects language appropriate for specific audiences and purposes.

3.2.3 Uses a variety of sentences consistent with audience, purpose, and form.

4.1.1 Analyzes and evaluates writing using established criteria.
Explains accuracy of content and vocabulary for specific curricular areas


6 comments

  1. Sheri,
    I want to applaud your amazing efforts and successes with student blogging. Obviously, you faced some major challenges but you forged ahead. I think this is so commendable and worthwhile for your students.
    The other thing that impresses me is that you are not a young teacher, yet you are pushing yourself to keep up with the world of technology and the keep informed about the student’s tech infused lives.
    I started my teaching career at the grade 7-8 level but I am no longer in the classroom; I honestly don’t know if I could still do it!

    I not only applaud you, I give you a standing O!

    All the best with your future ventures,
    Karen Barnstable
    http://www.kbarnstable.wordpress.com

  2. Hi Sheri, thanks for entering The Edublogger competition and sharing your journey. Writer’s block is a common challenge faced in student blogging.

    I’ve noticed that most that are achieving excellent outcomes from their students use a mixture of specific posts that their students have to write blended with student’s own topic choice. For example, they might need to write one post on a specific topic and at least one post on a topic of their own choice. Lauren and Abbey’s (who are student) explain how their teacher does this well – http://laurenc604.edublogs.org/2009/08/13/edublogs-advice/ and http://abbeyr604.edublogs.org/2009/08/29/starting-out-blogging/

    I’m not sure if you’ve joined the Student Blogging Challenge but educators and their students are finding this an excellent way of connecting while increasing their blogging skills – http://theedublogger.edublogs.org/2009/08/25/join-the-student-blogging-challenge-now-starts-sept-6/

    • Thanks, Sue. You always help out with referrals to great tips. I’ll read the student blogs and look at the challenge. Sounds like fun, and a great way to start. Thanks again.

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