Using Student Blogs in the Classroom
by Darren J. Butler
The Internet overflows with blogs, and this is a good thing! It means that people – normal, everyday people – are writing. Blogs are not limited to any one subject area, rather, they cover everything from raising children to decorating your home. Of course, there are the ones you would expect – politics and religion.
But what about student blogs? The idea raises many concerns over Internet safety. While a teacher may see the value of creating student blogs, his or her concerns about a student’s identity being shared across the Net is a little frightening. My question is – who said it has to be on the Internet?
For teachers who wish to avoid sleepless nights worrying over Internet safety, start with a “Blog in the Room” approach. Designate one area of your classroom to be the “Blog Wall.” Allow students to write blogs based on their interests and hang them on the wall for everyone to view. This can be a wonderful first step. It allows students to utilize The Process of Writing and do so in a meaningful way. Let’s face it – before anyone starts publishing, they need to practice, practice, practice.
When you are ready to take the next step, blogging can be moved to the Internet. Actually, this gives you a reason to teach and practice Internet safety. There are a number of apps and websites available to teachers for this purpose.
With that obstacle out of the way, we come back to the concern – “Is this a waste of time?” My answer – “NO WAY!” Blogging is a wonderful way for students to share their interests and knowledge they gain. When a teacher points out, “But we’re tired of writing about our favorite sport and all that…” I respond with, “Why?” Students need to start writing about things they know and understand. It allows them to practice using many details to explain. Remember, they want to share what’s going on in their world just as much as adults do – on blogs!
Once a student is using a process to write and they are writing fluently, it is easy for the classroom teacher to blend in content area material. For instance, if you’re studying The Boston Tea Party, ask your students to write a blog from the point of view of a student their age about the experience. It blends in a little narrative with history and language arts. But, you are not limited to narrative. The student can take the approach of a blog topic with – “The Boston Tea Party – A Waste or a Stand?” This allows the student to use the knowledge they’ve learned in social studies and apply it to a right or wrong theme.
Using blogs in your classroom allows you to meet your students half-way. It brings social media and writing together for something with purpose. And, if you’re keeping track, think of the many, exciting ways you are blending writing, language arts, technology and a number of subject areas together.