Although I never had the opportunity to use blogging with my students, I am a big fan of the idea of incorporating blogging into the classroom, even with young students. The following are my top 5 reasons to include student blogs as part of your classroom routine.
1. ELA Skill Building
To get better at reading and writing students need to do a lot of reading and writing. Why not add blogging into that reading and writing repertoire? It’s a new and different medium for practicing those English/Language Arts skills (spelling, capitalization, clarity of written expression, elaboration in writing, reading critically, considering authors’ purposes, etc). Students will not doubt enthusiastically embrace the opportunity to occasionally shift from pencil and paper to screen and keyboard.
2. Authentic Audience + Feedback
The real power of blogging is writing for an authentic (and possibly wide) audience that provides constructive feedback to the student author. It’s exciting for students to know they have “fans” who are waiting for another installment of their writing. It creates genuine motivation for students to provide quality writing that their readers can easily consume. Now spelling, punctuation and clarity of organization matter: we want our readers to understand our message. Now elaboration, tone and imagery makes our writing stand out, and hooks our readers to want to come back for more.
3. Technology Integration
In Texas we have technology application student standards that begin in Kindergarten. They are standards that are intended to be integrated into the general curriculum where possible rather than taught separately in isolation. With the increase of technology devices in classrooms, this task is becoming easier.
Blogging is a great way to incorporate the teaching of technology skills. Students have to know the basics of operating a computer (or a mobile device) plus the blogging application in order create and maintain a blog. They are utilizing keyboarding skills, spacing, font attributes, inserting images, saving drafts, publishing, and knowing where to point readers in order to access their blog externally. Through commenting correctly students are practicing global communication and collaboration skills as well as digital citizenship. Digital citizenship also comes in as they cite sources of information and images. And, naturally, blogging allows students an avenue to showcase their digital creativity and innovative thinking.
4. Parent Connections
Blogging is a great way to connect parents to our classrooms, keep them up-to-date on what students are learning and how they are doing, and extend the walls of the classroom beyond the school day. Parents can read and comment on their students’ blogs (and the blogs of other students if you decide to open that option) giving students encouragement and solidifying that home-school connection. Parents can keep up with the topics being studied so the “What did you learn in school today?” conversation transforms into “Tell me where you learned all that awesome stuff about the three-toed Amazonian tree sloth!”
With tools like Kidblog, teachers can set up a main classroom account and assign student login information. Students do not have to create individual accounts; this protects their privacy. Teachers can also assign (or students can chose their own) code names to protect the actual identities of the students in their classroom. This is particularly helpful for younger students. Teachers have control over who can access student blogs. You can limit viewing and commenting to just the students in your class or you can allow collaboration with another class in the same school or district. Once a teacher feels the class fully understands digital safety and citizenship, the blogs can be opened to wider audiences…the ultimate goal behind classroom blogging.