Teaching With Blogs
About this Strategy Guide
This Strategy Guide describes the processes involved in composing blogs in the classroom, the process of writing regular posts, or entries, that are published online.
Reading and writing texts online are basic skills that students need to be literate citizens in the 21st century. Teaching with blogs provides the opportunity to engage students in both of these literacy activities, and the strategy has the additional benefit of enabling students to publish their writing easily and to share their writing with an authentic audience.
When students write entries and comment on the entries of their peers, blogs become an integral part of a lively literacy community. Students can post on such topics as journal/diary entries, reflections on their writing process, details on their research projects, commentary on recent events or readings, and drafts for other writing they are doing.
Once a student posts an entry, others in the class can respond, provide supportive feedback, and offer additional suggestions or perspectives. By writing and commenting on blogs, students write for real readers (not just for their teachers). As a result, students focus on clear communication and get immediate feedback on whether they communicate effectively.
Strategy in Practice
Students can write blogs that fit any genre from diary entries to reading journals, from reflective comments to literary analysis, and more. Any genre that a student can write with pen on a piece of paper can also be written online as a blog entry.
- Review your district's appropriate use policies to determine the requirements for a blogging site that students can use. Remember that anyone can post to most of the public blogging sites. Some material on them will be inappropriate for your classes. Some schools filter blogging sites, so you may need to speak with your technology coordinator ahead of time to get approval.
- Make sure that all students have e-mail accounts, which are needed to set up accounts with blogging sites.
- Choose a method for your students to blog:
o Use a free, Internet-based site. These sites allow students to connect from any place there is an Internet connection, so they are often more accessible and open. However, because anyone can access these sites, you must take special precautions to ensure that students work safely and avoid inappropriate content. Choose and test a blogging site for your class. Free blog hosts include LiveJournal, MySpace, Blogger, and Facebook. Most course management software, such as Blackboard, Ning, or Moodle, include blogging tools as well.
o Use an Intranet-based site. Intranet sites can be set up within your school or district network, so they are usually accessible only from school computers or via school logins. Because these are closed networks, they provide a greater ability to control the content that students access and to protect students from those outside the school's network. Choose a blogging site such as ePals or 21Classes. You can also work with your district's technology specialists to set up a private site using software such as Drupal or Moodle.
- Review Common Blog Features and some example blogs with students. Discuss the features that are available in the blogging site that you have chosen for the class. If students are familiar with blogging, you can invite class members to share what they know about the different features.
- Share online help and any available cheat sheets on the specific blogging site that you have chosen for the project. If you are using Blogger, use the Getting Started with Blogger, and Blogger Entries and Comments sheets. Otherwise share the details for the blogging site that you have chosen.
- Demonstrate the blog hosting site that you have chosen for the class. Students should know how to accomplish basic tasks such as making text bold and italics and adding a hyperlink.
- Choose a purpose. For their first few blog entries, provide several writing prompts that students can respond to. Choose writing activities that fit your goal for the blogs. For instance, if you want to use the blog entries to discuss literature, provide some discussion questions based on recent readings.
- Remind students to preview their text before posting their entries, to make sure that the entry is ready for others to read it. Once a post is published, show students how to revise a post if necessary.
- After students have posted entries, talk about the purpose of blog comments. Look at the comments on a popular blog or posted on a local newspaper in response to articles. Emphasize the importance of providing useful suggestinos and supportive feedback.
- Share the Online Commenting Guidelines and discuss these general rules. Add details on your district's acceptable use policy as appropriate.
- Begin the commenting process by asking students to respond to a certain number of blogs each week or to respond to everyone in their writing group each week.