As the role of technology in the classroom continues to grow, teachers are turning to blogging to give students a voice, inspire purposeful writing, provide an authentic audience, and publish student work. Blogging is a powerful tool that gets students excited about writing and allows them to connect with others around the world. But as they say, Rome wasn’t built in a day, and effective blogging with students takes time. To set up successful student bloggers, teachers need to take small steps and lay the groundwork before students begin publishing.
Explicitly Teach Digital Etiquette
The audience of a student’s blog post goes far beyond the teacher with the red pen. Therefore, teachers need to discuss digital etiquette and ask students how they want to be viewed online. Emphasize to students that they are building their online identity and want to be seen as an effective contributor to their learning community. As an elementary teacher, my class discussed the norms of conversation and how those norms are the same when blogging. You would not yell at a friend when asking a question so why would you TYPE LIKE THIS?
Start With Paper Blogging
In my experience, Paper Blogging is the most effective tool for initially teaching students about blogging. Students’ first blog posts are done on a piece of paper and hung around the classroom for all to see. The students then use Post-its to “comment” on each other’s blogs. After the students have completed the activity, your conversations about writing a compelling blog post can begin.
When all the blogs are posted on the classroom wall, students can easily see who wrote way too much and who wrote too little. This leads to discussions about what amount of text is “just right” when blogging. You can also discuss effective writing techniques that keep the reader interested in your writing. Finally, look critically at the post-it comments and have students determine the qualities of an effective comment.
Discuss Blogging Faux-Pas
As a class, decide what your classroom blogging “faux-pas” are and make those clear to students. In my class, writing “cool” as a comment is a blogging faux-pas. We decided that comments must always ask a question or make a personal connection. Mrs. Yollis has an awesome video about the characteristics of a good blog comment. I highly recommend it when teaching effective commenting. Boring titles are another faux-pas for our classroom blog. Before I starting having these conversations with my students they would post blogs titled My Vacation or My Blog Post. How boring! I learned that I needed to discuss the importance of titles and explain to students that if the title is not enticing, no one will read their blog. It is for this reason that boring titles are a major blogging faux-pas in my class. These blogging faux-pas will vary from classroom to classroom, teacher to teacher, but what’s important is to set clear-expectations for students so they can be successful bloggers who have a clear voice and contribute to their learning community.