I am always extremely encouraged when I hear about teachers who incorporate blogging as a tool for students to reflect and evaluate. There are some really great classroom blogs where teachers have provided some guidelines about blogging and expectations for their students. One good example of a classroom blog is the South Titan Government Blog. Read the posts, but also read the guidelines from the teacher on the side.
Unlike the above example, I have found that some teachers assume students already know “how to blog” and, therefore, do not provide any structure. In most cases, these are classrooms where the teacher is not a blogger and is simply unaware that students need some specifics about blogging topics, expectations, and even etiquette.
There is a big difference between knowing what a blog is and blogging with a purpose.
Here are a few tips and resources for being planful with your students in class blogs:
1. If you are an educator who does not blog, be sure to read some education blogs* first.
- You need to understand a little bit about the nature of blogs yourself before opening them up to your students.
- Feeling confident? Start your own edublog!
*Not sure where to go to find edubloggers? Try Jolene Anzalone’s “Blogs in the Classroom” page. Also, check the blogroll on the right side of this page. When you jump to another blog, view that edublogger’s blogroll, too. OR– use a search engine to find blogs about education.
2. Provide guidelines. Discuss digital citizenship and responsible, constructive blog posts and comments. Check out this network for discussion about digital citizenship by kids: http://digiteen.ning.com.
3. Classroom vs. Individual Blogs: Make the decision about having a classroom blog (one blog with many contributors), or each student create his/her own blog. If your school subscribes to a service such as Gaggle, students can blog within their own accounts in a safe environment.
4. Encourage constructive commenting. Remember the advantage of blogs vs. journals on paper is the instant feedback option.
- Students think more about their writing when they understand it will be read by more than just the teacher.
- If their classmates are reading and providing comments as well, students tend to think differently about what they write.
- Empower your class by allowing them to comment on each others’ blog posts. With appropriate guidance, students can help each other grow as writers by commenting constructively.
5. Start with something simple. Try any of these suggestions… they may be used in any subject/content area:
- If you’re not quite ready to turn over blogging to your students, start a teacher blog and allow students to comment on your blog posts. After you’re all comfortable with the functionality of a blog, you might consider a classroom blog or allowing students to have their own blogs.
- Provide your students a writing prompt for a blog post.
- Ask your students for a reaction to a class activity. What did they like most? What would they have changed about the activity? What did they learn from the activity? How could they learn more? (this could easily tie into using a graphic organizer for K-W-L-H activities, with the L and H sections added to the blog post!)
- Students can post blog entries about an assigned reading. If you already have your students journaling about assigned readings, adapt the journal activities/assignment for blog posts instead. Again, encourage students to read their classmates’ blog posts and comment constructively.
- Ask your students to debate one side of an issue as a blog post. They should include justification for their stance on this issue.
- Within students blogs, start a “Good Questions” category or tag for blog posts. When you ask students to think about good questions for a specific lesson or unit, they can enter these questions as a blog post and tag or categorize them as “Good Questions” for easy access later.
- Use a classroom blog for virtual trips and journal entries. Take your students around the world and then ask them to generate a class post about their experiences.
There are endless possibilities to how you might use blogging with your students. What is most important, however, is the impact on student engagement that good blogs can provide. Again, with proper structure and teacher guidance, blogging can add to a teacher’s ‘tool box’ for good instruction and learning opportunities.
Looking for some more resources and examples? Try these:
Using Blogs to Promote Authentic Learning in the Classroom – guidelines, help, more resources, blog examples
Collaboration Nation- A Middle School Blog – middle school blog from a Connecticut school
Rach’s Blog – a blog by a student from Australia
Mr. Klein’s 5th Grade Blog – classroom blog from Plainfield, IN, US
Creative Writing Chronicles – a literary journal from Stratford High School
Primary 5 L/W Class Blog – a primary class blog from Carronshore, Falkirk, Scotland
Stretton Handley Primary School Blog – a year 6 class from Derbyshire, UK
Excellent tips, Michelle. The most common reason why I see student/classroom blogs struggle is because the educator doesn’t blog.
So they don’t understand the importance of blogging and commenting for learning and reflection. Often what you end up seeing is poor lonely blogs without interaction.