Blogging is a unique form of writing that presents students with new challenges. Taking advantage of students’ keen interest in technology and combining it with language arts curriculum objectives allows teachers to use one project to create productive as well as highly motivating lessons.
Students as Consumers of Information
Traditional classroom writing assignments have students play the role of consumers of information: they research, study, or summarize facts that they have read, watched, or heard from another source. Social studies, science, history, and geography writing tasks generally have students retell and demonstrate what they have learned. The focus is on the information and as a result, language arts skills may often be overlooked. If the focus is on the writing instead, progress can occur in leaps and bounds.
Students as Producers of Information
Blogs, by their very nature, place the writer in the role of a producer of information. Bloggers write from an area of expertise or interest. They do not have to search for material or facts. The writing comes from within.
When we introduced blogging to Grade 7 and 8 students, we asked them to choose a subject about which they were familiar or a subject in which they had a personal interest. We were amazed at the topics they came up with! The range of topics seemed infinite: food, sports, family, hobbies, television shows, video games, fashion, books, shopping, and more. Once students started writing about an area of interest, they were hooked! Even reluctant writers and students new to the English language had lots to say.
Just like any other curriculum assignment, students were given required elements to their writing. To cover a range of styles, we chose three distinct writing activities:
- The first blog had to introduce an area of interest and offer a personal insight or connection.
- The second post was an advice article.
- The final blog was an opinion piece, allowing students to express a viewpoint.
To fit the blogging format, students read and commented on each other’s work throughout the project. They learned how to make meaningful, respectful comments. This had an added incentive for students – knowing that their peers were going to read and make comments on their work seemed to spur them on to greater efforts.
First Person Narrative
Another unique feature of blogs is the first person style of writing. In primary grades students routinely write journals, but after that writing from the “I” point of view seems to be rarely practiced. Writing blog posts is the perfect format for practicing a new narration style.
Finding Inspiration for Writing
Some students struggled with this new format. They felt the need to ‘go online’ and look up facts and figures, as they were used to doing. But with some encouragement, samples, and explanation they quickly got the idea that they really were experts. They were soon convinced that they did have a great deal of knowledge and lots of ideas to share. Then the writing took off!
It was a rare and wonderful treat to have students exclaim, after finishing a writing assignment to say, “So, when are we starting the next one?” Blogging is my new best friend in the classroom.