I never thought I’d be a blogger. And when I started teaching five years ago, I definitely never thought that student blogging might be my best project ever.
In August, five years ago, I wrote my first-ever blog post. It was simply called, “My First Day,” and shared a little about my first-ever day in my own classroom. Each post for the rest of that lovely and painful first year had a title with the school day # and something creative that tells you nothing about the post’s content. I hadn’t yet discovered tags, and I have a very difficult time finding anything I wrote about from those early months. I’m proud of the effort I made, if not terribly proud of the result.
I am grateful to those who have followed along since the beginning, because I cringe at many of those first year posts (shout-out to Kaelyn and Sarah for leaving my first encouraging comments!). My stories were primarily stream-of-consciousness, written during my lunch period as things popped into my head. The main function was as a place for me to process all the crazy. I didn’t think much about my tone, or my audience, and my fear was that a student would one day discover my blog and like Michelle Trachtenberg in Harriet the Spy (1996) when her friends discovered her notebooks, I would have no one to talk to at lunch.
Perhaps you’d disagree, but I feel I’ve come a long way in five years, both as a teacher and a writer. I love the authenticity of the blogging genre, sharing my experiences with a sliver of the world, with the assumption that I might possibly have something to offer a reader – even if it’s just a really important story I write about but forgot to tell my husband (yeah, that’s happened).
|Today’s blogging spot
Almost since I started teaching, I have wanted to share that sense of authentic writing development with my students, but I have had no idea how to start. How do I safely and effectively have my students blog?
My first year, I had my students create personal portfolio websites. They used Google Sites and developed pages with personal mission statements, career research, and future goals. It was a cool idea for a final project, but definitely needed tweaking (plus the grading was HORRENDOUS).
The next year I modified it to be more binder-based and added a part where they had to Google themselves. This was the first time many considered their presence on the internet. I’ve continued to update this “I Love Me” book with my juniors each spring, and students tell me every year how valuable this project was to them. They tell me they love writing that actually matters. Students crave authenticity as much as I do.
This afternoon I spent several hours reading through various articles and professional development (PD) resources I’ve bookmarked over the past few years having to do with blogging in the classroom. From Edutopia to The Guardian to a Ph.D. candidate’s dissertation, tons of teachers have explored this venue for writing instruction and collaboration. Why not me?
I created a Google Doc where I copied and pasted some of my research with links, then used the Comments feature to make notes to myself as I think through this potential yearlong assignment. Teachers differed on if blog posts should be graded or not, or offered for extra credit, or how to encourage constructive comments, but I didn’t find anyone who felt this practice did not increase student collaboration and engagement and create noticeable improvements in writing ability and confidence. All encouraged students to write about things that interested them, not teacher-specific prompts. This is what I want!
I have never truly done a year-long project before, but this fall my school is pioneering a new modified block schedule where I will see my students three times a week, so since I already have to revamp my curriculum arrangement, I can’t think of a better time to finally begin this project.
I will have to figure out both purpose and logistics; there are a lot of questions to work out. What platform works best on the ipad? Should I approve posts before they go out? How can I teach students about privacy online? How often should they post? Stay tuned for more details on this project. I’m very excited about it! If you have any experience with something like this, please share!