Why Blogging Needs to Be in My Curriculum and Why My Students Need It!

The day before yesterday, I brought my students to our computer lab to blog again. It was so wonderful to see them so excited about writing! 

It has taken me a few years to develop a system of how to teach students to blog. It has also taken me a few years to effectively incorporate writing skills I usually taught in other ways into a blogging curriculum. And, I hesitate to even use the word curriculum because I think it is only the beginnings of one. I have also not done this alone. With the help of fabulous technology teachers, Andy Hanes and Jennifer Robinson, we really are starting to make it come together for kids, and ourselves!

We began the year with showing students what blogs were: what was the difference between an article and a blog? I then asked my students to make a list of what they would like to read about. My colleagues and I responded by making a Mentor Mob list of blogs that fit their criteria and were safe for them to read. After giving students about two 1/2 hour periods in the computer lab to simply browse and read, we began to have discussions about questions they had regarding the blogs. Some questions were: How can we tell if the information is coming from a reputable source? What do we do when information is really mixed in with opinion? Can we use blogs as sources for research? Why do some blogs have pop up ads or ads on the screen and some don’t? What formats do we prefer…the writing on the right side of the page? The left? Do we like pictures on the page at the top? Is the page too busy for us or too boring? They commented on being annoyed when someone didn’t capitalize the word “I” or put too many exclamation points. They loved it when someone was able to tell a clear story and put lots of details in. 

We are taking part in the Student Blogging Challenge on Edublogs, but using KidBlog to blog. As a teacher, the ability to check my students’ writing before they post, as well as approve comments before they are posted, is extremely important to me. For the challenge, students needed to first write an introduction of themselves so we checked out a couple of examples and talked about which one we liked best and why.

This brings me to our class we had two days ago. Students were so excited to write and read other classmates’ blogs! During class, I was able to individually conference with students who had finished and submitted their blogs for review. It was differentiation at its’ best! I could help students with their specific writing difficulties and build on their strengths. Some students needed to understand how to appropriately use colons, some needed help with organization and learned how to cut sentences out and move them to a different place so that it made more sense, some students just wanted reassurance and praise. Yes, there was time to individually praise students! We are learning about compound subjects and predicates and next time we blog, I can have them copy and paste a favorite sentence into a Word Doc, or better yet, something collaborative, like Pirate Pad. We can then highlight subjects and predicates using their own writing. We can also take that opportunity to share why they love that particular sentence they wrote the best!
When my colleague, Jennifer, who was working with me at the time, asked students why they loved blogging, their responses said it all:

Because it’s fun!
Because real people are going to see it that aren’t us!
Because when I make mistakes, it makes more sense when I have to fix it!
Because we get to learn more about our classmates and people we
don’t know!
Because it isn’t made up, it’s real.

My students need this kind of writing. They need it because it means something to them, it motivates them to learn and be better readers and writers. They need it because it builds on their interests, taps into their creativity, invites them to be collaborative, and begs them to think critically. What more could you want as a teacher?

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5 thoughts on “Why Blogging Needs to Be in My Curriculum and Why My Students Need It!

  1. Heidi,
    I think you have really struck upon an essential element of why blogging is a useful tool for teaching kids to write. The audience is genuine! We all step up our game when we know someone is watching. I know as a technology integrator, I am constantly teaching with colleagues in the room. This makes me a better educator. I am constantly thinking of how my lesson will be perceived by others. Likewise, kids know that someone (besides their teacher) will be reading what they have written. They care that it looks right, sounds right and isn’t littered with mistakes.

    I was so moved by one of your students comments they other day when they said, “blogging is kind of scary.” Fifth graders are understanding that in publishing your work to a wider audience, you face an element of risk. I think that is such a valuable lesson for a kid to learn, especially in our highly digital world. I imagine that this might help shape the digital citizenship of these kids in ways we can’t imagine.

    The second thing I notice in your post is how this kind of writing motivates kids. Would that all the things we plan for our students had such intrinsic value! I am so eager to see where this journey takes you this year. Thanks for taking time to reflect on the value of blogging with your class. This kind of thought continues to shape my ideas about how to develop curriculm in the 21st century.

    Jennifer

  2. Ha! the funny thing is that the whole reason why I wanted to blog about blogging was the comments our students made at the end of class! I forgot to include them in my blog! Yes, I loved when Manny said “blogging is kind of scary.” Another student also asked if we could go over “what makes a good comment” before they commented on each other’s blogs! They really care about what they are putting out there. Beginning with reading and looking critically at what makes a blog a good one, was extremely worthwhile and also enjoyable! Can’t wait to learn more with you and Andy this year.

  3. Thanks for this Heidi. I enjoyed reading about what led up to your blogging session. It makes me wonder if what we are doing in third grade, for example, amply prepares the kids for this kind of blogging when they get to fifth grade. I like that they understand the difference between, for example, an article and a blog, a comment and a post. I have been enjoying what is going on on my class kidblog and am currently looking for other classes to put onto my blog roll. I have had limited success.
    Great writing and keep it up! I enjoy reading your blog.

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