What could the list below possibly represent?
- Fitness and well-being
- Dog breed specific legislation and news
- Football team trivia
- Best places to travel
- Student life
- Sports car talk
- Getting faster at Pyraminx
- Importance of medical science
Could it be article topics from buzzfeed.com? Possibly, but that’s not quite what it represents to me.
That list represents just a few student-chosen topics you’d see if you visited a few of the blogs created by my 8th graders.
You might be thinking, “Wow! I didn’t even know 8th graders were interested in some of those kinds of things.” My response to you would be me either! But, that’s just one of the things incorporating student blogging has brought into my classroom– more of an awareness, on my part, of what my students are passionate about!
Student Blogging: The Why
If you’re looking to have the learners in your classroom take more ownership over their writing, read more, collaborate with peers, and/or practice creativity, student blogging is the answer.
Sylvia Duckworth tweeted this phenomenal sketchnote that summarizes basically everything I would have typed here (and more). Check out her top 10 reasons for students to blog.
Our district uses a writing curriculum that has specific units focused around standards, but I was finding that there wasn’t a unit that focused around students sharing all the knowledge they held regarding the things they were passionate about- the things they talked about after school, the things they participated in during the weekends, the things they YouTubed (that is a verb now, right?) in their free time.
Student-created and student-driven blogs solved that one for us while still meeting several of the expected standards in 8th grade.
Student Blogging: The How
I wish I could tell you that having students create blogs is a seamless process that will only take a day or two out of your set schedule.
Actually, I don’t wish that. Here’s why…
If the blog creating process was nice and neat, students wouldn’t have challenged themselves, learned new things, or taught each other as much.
If the blog creating process only took a day or two, students wouldn’t have been able to really be creative or truly take ownership over their site.
So, although the process was messy and my classroom was “controlled chaos” (the chaos was controlling us, that’s for sure), I really enjoyed every second of it; more importantly, the students did.
Basic Steps to Embrace Student Blogging in Your Classroom:
- Discuss this with your admin. Use Sylvia’s sketchnote as a persuasive tool 👍
- Get parent permission. Even if you don’t need the permission, it is still a great way to include families in their children’s education and show off the awesomeness taking place in your classroom.
- Decide on a platform. Basically, decide on a site that you want to use to. I use www.edublogs.org and have only ever used this site, so I may not have anything else to compare it to, but I’ve loved my experience with it.
- Explain to students the why behind student blogging. I promise they’ll love it, but showing your students that you care about what they care about is important. (I had one student who didn’t want to blog because he didn’t like using computers. He’s now got a blog set up around his favorite sport and actually enjoys creating posts!)
- CREATE A BLOG YOURSELF. I know there’s some cliché phrase out there that says something like, “You learn best by doing,” and it is absolutely true. Playing around with your own blog will help you so much when you go to help students!
- Guide your students through setting up their blogs. Depending on what platform you use, the steps will be different. If you decide to use Edublogs, shoot me a tweet/comment/message and I can share my step-by-step doc that I used with my kids.
- (Optional, but extremely helpful) Design a FAQ sheet/doc for your students to reference during blog creation work days. This sheet/doc will take some time on your part to create, but you’ll be thanking yourself on those work days when you don’t have 23 hands in the air asking questions that could be easily answered. Again, I have created one of these for Edublogs. Reach out if you need me to share it with you.
Tips from Me to You:
- Give your students TIME IN CLASS to customize their blogs AND write blog posts. If you want students to take this seriously, you need to show them that you’re serious about it. Giving them time with you in class will do that!
- On that same note, customization is not a 1-2 day thing. It can be, but if you are looking for a quality blog, you’ll need to give students more time.
- Allow collaboration and discussion during blogging time. You’ll be surprised how quickly your students pick up on this blogging stuff. They’ll be able to answer questions from their peers; let them be the teachers too!
Student Blogging: The What
When it comes to the topic and content of the student blogs, that’s obviously going to be your call. Many teachers do it different ways. I’ve seen teachers give students blog post topics to write on. I’ve seen teachers use blogs as class journals and/or portfolios.
The route that I took was, to me, the one that was most like any other real-world blog: students had complete control over topic and content.
Obviously, there were some guidelines. Blog topics had to be school appropriate and approved by me. Content needed to be purposeful. My biggest “rule” though, was that the topic had to be something that they geeked out over, as John Spencer would say. It had to be something they really, really liked. I encouraged students to pick topics regarding things they knew a lot about or things they wanted to know more about.
Again, it is completely up to you. Decide what works best for your learners.
Student Blogging: My Reflections Thus Far
As I type this blog post out and reflect on how student blogging has been going in our classroom, two things come to mind:
- Why did I not start this sooner?
- What opportunities will arise for my students through this?
Every time we have blogging days, I am amazed at the learners in my classroom. Amazed at the knowledge they hold, amazed at how creative they are, amazed at the ideas they come up with.
My kids have completely blown me away. The posts I read and the sites I’ve seen are simply amazing. The uniqueness of each one of my students shows through their blog.
As I explained to my students, their blogs will stay with them after middle school, through high school and beyond. It is up to them to make what they want out of it. I am eager to see where their blogs take them. Will their writing land them a scholarship? Will their site be possibly the only place they feel comfortable enough to open up and be who they truly are? Will the skills they’ve acquired from this process assist them in their future careers? I can’t wait to find out!
Honestly, I could probably start a whole new blog and write just about student blogging, which is why I’m going to cut myself off here.
I hope you at least entertain the idea of incorporating student blogging into your classroom (you don’t have to be an ELA teacher to do student blogging). Your students have so much to share with you and the rest of the world. Why not support them in that?
Reach out to me on Twitter (@itsmrspenrod) for any of the resources I’ve mentioned or to chat about how you use student blogging in your classroom. This is new to me, so I’d love feedback, questions, and ideas!