Moving Literature Discussions Online

One of the many benefits of using blogging in the classroom, particularly if you have multiple students in different buildings studying the same material, is being able to bring students together virtually to share in literature discussions. Traveling teachers who struggle to hold literature discussions with small numbers of students of a certain educational population, such as gifted students housed in different schools, are able to successfully combine these small groups for participation and discussion through blogging by means of incorporating them into a larger virtual class. Assigning these multiple small groups the same short stories or novels to read allows for a specific population of students to engage in meaningful literature discussions with their cognitive peers no matter how small their group may be in the school where they are housed.

When I create literature blogging questions for my gifted students in the three schools I teach, I shy away from traditional literature circle roles (connectors, summarizers, word wizards, etc.), and focus on higher lever open-ended interpretive questions that will enable students to reflect on both the material being read and their own personal experiences. I focus on the motives behind characters’ actions, relationships between characters that affect the plot, and questions that help young students better understand how subplots help mold storylines. These blog questions and topics lend themselves to strong, meaningful peer comments that allow students to examine their classmates’ points of view and allow discussion of alternate perspectives they may not have considered before.

Besides teacher-created literature blogging questions, quality higher level literature questions can be found among other sources. My students have had experiences with Junior Great Books and the “Shared Inquiry Method” , which lend itself perfectly to the blogging discussion and commenting experience. Often these discussion questions involve an event in the story that is controversial and not necessarily in the forefront of the story, but are related to the characters or events that influence the plot in a thought-provoking manner. Materials written and published specifically for gifted students, such as the William and Mary College Series “Jacob’s Ladder”, are another good resource that is adaptable for open-ended blogging questions and discussion through meaningful commenting. These sources focus on analysis and evaluation questions rather than knowledge and comprehension questions, and serve to promote deeper thinking and writing in students. In order to engage students in a complete literature experience through blogging,

I always include a writing activity that allows creativity, the highest level of cognition. Students are given blogging opportunities to create original conversations between book characters involving new twists on experiences they had in a story, write letters between characters offering alternate endings to books, and various other extension activities that allow their creative juices to flow. I find that my students really enjoy commenting on others’ creative writing, particularly when they have all have had the opportunity to blog as part of the literature discussion.

Blogging with peers who are physically in different locations but reading the same literature can open up a whole new world for students and for teachers. Literature blog discussions give students broader in depth experiences and a mutual appreciation for all that quality literature provides. Teachers can create these higher level blogging opportunities or explore and discover various resources that work for them and for their students, resulting in a rich blogging experiences for everyone involved.

View Marcia Armbruster’s latest Kidblog Webinar, “Getting Started with Student Blogging”.

About the Author
Mrs. A. is an elementary gifted education specialist in a suburb of Cleveland, Ohio. She teaches 3rd, 4th, 5th, and 6th graders in the areas of language arts and math. Mrs. A. has been teaching and advocating for gifted students and their parents for 22 years, and is a parent of two gifted adult children. Mrs. A. loves to travel and learn about different countries and cultures, bicycle and hike with her husband, and photograph the antics of her Labrador retriever, Porkchop.

2 comments

  1. May Small

    I teach literature to different groups of grade 12 students. While I do use the blog as a way to have students share responses to the literature with each other, I get the feeling that my students only read what they post themselves and don’t often explore how other students experience the same pieces. After reading your article I am resolved to create more opportunities and ways for them to engage in literature discussion with the help of blogging.

    • Marcia Armbruster

      I’m so glad to hear that! Thank you for your comment! I actually require my students to comment on others, specifically on classmates’ posts that have few comments. Sometimes we just have “Commenting Day”, and that allows my students the time to be part of a responding audience to their peer writers. Although my students don’t always want to comment, I remind them how much they enjoy reading others’ comments on their posts, and that helps them to reciprocate. My students are third graders; I’m sure you are experiencing a different dynamic with high school seniors!

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