Visit the site below to see how I use blogging in the classroom. I don’t use the word “blogging” in the traditional way– the students aren’t actually blogging. I post a blog– an article, a writing prompt, a critical thinking question, and require students to respond to it.
Thomas English 8th Grade Blog: http://mbmsenglish8.wordpress.com
Some typical “blogs” I post:
- Articles I find interesting or that I think kids will find interesting
- Critical thinking questions pertaining to our curriculum
- Quotes for students to respond to
- Videos to elicit student responses
- Poems for students to discuss
- Parts left out of the movie (for To Kill a Mockingbird)
- Examples of literary devices found in real life– similes in songs, alliteration in store names, allusions in clothing brands; and an explanation
- Random topics: “If you were an animal, what kind of animal would you be?”
Students are asked to click on the “Comments” button and write a response. I usually ask students to write a minimum of 100 words, include a topic sentence, supporting evidence, and explanation to support their assertions, and practice good writing skills. For some students this is a stretch, and others write double and triple the minimum, depending on the topic.
Students who struggle with some of the more abstract concepts in the blog question are able to read what other students have written to help them understand the question. Reluctant students don’t often search out “more reading” before doing their writing (and often think they “get it” even if they don’t), so I have done lessons requiring students to find another student’s work that they think is good and analyze it for quality prior to writing their own answers. I have found that students are curious about what their peers are writing, and are often surprised to the writing of the people they know. They are then able to see the academic work that is expected of them.
Additionally, because the student comment is immediately published, I find more students rereading and editing their work (often in Word or Pages) before publishing, which improves the quality of writing. Students are holding themselves accountable to their peers.
Students can be asked to read through the blog and find best answers, interesting ideas, and otherwise review a topic.
GRADING: I have finally decided how I like to grade student blog entries. I experimented with generous grading directly from online, giving students points in a gradebook for completion and following directions. This was difficult when I have different sections of the same class because entries weren’t by class period and I jumped around my gradebook. I then made a full alphabetized list of all of my students, recorded grades, and then had a student TA record the grades in my gradebook. This, too, is cumbersome. Finally, I decided my expectations were also a problem– they were too easy and didn’t allow me to encourage good writing mechanics and reinforce topic sentence/supporting evidence paragraph structure.
My current strategy is to copy all blog responses and paste them into a Word document. I increase the font size to 12, decrease the margins, and check through pagination to make sure no response spans two pages. This requires about 10 minutes of time and several pages of printing. I then grade each response for structure, content, and mechanics out of 20 points. What I like about this is that I can have students revise if they want. I can also have students paste all of their graded entries onto a piece of paper and assess personal weaknesses in their writing– lots of run-ons, poor spelling, etc. This helps with goal-setting for writing for the year.