10 Reasons Your Students Should Be Blogging


In case you can’t tell by the content of each of my posts this week, my students started blogging on Monday and we are all pretty pumped about it. While I am nowhere near as experienced as some of my inspirations – Greta Sandler, Pernille Ripp, Linda Yollis, and Kathleen Morris, just to name a handful – I have seen enough enthusiasm and possibilities from my students that I feel I can present this list of 10 reasons your students should be blogging.

1. Blogging is a confidence builder. My students are tremendously proud to have their words featured on the internet. There is still a bit of disbelief in their eyes when they open our site and see their name with comments. The fact that they type with their own fingers and have people around the world consider those words important enough to comment makes them feel super special. The more people delivering that message to our students, the better.

2. Blogging is cross-curricular. Blogging is authentic writing and reading. Because it’s authentic, the buy-in is much greater than traditional school experiences in those subjects. But aside from the obvious, blogging helps develop a sense of geography as you learn the places around the world from which commenters and other bloggers write. Comments can be counted, graphed, and worked into word problems (how many more comments did Joey receive than Sandy, etc.) Blogging might even very well become my secret to teaching grammar and the finer points of punctuation that seem to vex students and those who try to teach them. Then there’s the whole digital citizenship element of blogging: students who blog need to learn and be vigilant about internet safety. (I am among the growing crowd that believes we need to embrace teaching technology and how to use it safely, rather than the cohort that only sees the potential dangers).

3. You can grow your own personal learning network. This was something I didn’t really anticipate, but given how Twitter works, I should have. First, if you do decide to blog with your kids, you’ll need to get them exposure by tweeting at #comments4kids. From there, cool people from around the world will comment, reply, retweet, and share their own students’ blogs. You’ll make connections as a neat little byproduct of your students’ efforts.

4. Increased exposure of your students’ talents in the school. Two days ago I wrote about my colleagues’ interest in the student blogs. Blogging is allowing my students to, in a way, show off to others just how wonderful they are. Administrators have also chimed in in the comments section, praising the kids’ work.

5. Authentic writing for authentic audiences. The writing is authentic because kids are writing about whatever they want. Even if I decide to give them prompts or topics to write about, they know teachers and other students will be reading them – not just me. Again, it’s all about their investment, and no doubt knowing you have an audience waiting with baited breath to read what you have to write is something that motivates.

6. Exposure to today’s technology that students might not otherwise get. Most of my students don’t have computers at home, and in many cases, they will not be heading to the library to blog. So, by bringing out laptops in school and putting them on the web, students are getting an experience they, truly, might never otherwise have. That’s a powerful thing. For now the novelty of blogging is fresh, and as long as school remains the only place for students to blog, I imagine it will remain so.

7. Collaborative experiences. I have five, maybe six computers for 11 students. This sounds like a pretty good ratio, but it still means not everyone can blog at once. In the interest of fairness, kids do sometimes collaborate on blogs. Doing this, they need to decide on a topic, take turns, converse, help each other spell, share the computer, and problem solve. And when reading, it is inspirational to hear one voice joining in another on tricky words, or pointing out errors to further understanding.

8. You can build a writing portfolio for each student on their terms. This is a big one. Assume, as in our writing program, that students publish one piece per month. You wind up with a handful of pieces that are, in general, finished and polished. With a blog, you see daily or weekly progression in writing, which is a much more comprehensive display of growth than the published pieces produced in a traditional manner. In fact, I am in some ways using my students’ earliest blogs as a baseline for what they need to learn both as bloggers and writers. My paras are on board, too: the students need to write as independently as they can so that, come June, we can all look back and say, “Look how far we’ve come.”

9. Blogging levels the playing field for kids who don’t like to write in the traditional way. I have had many kids in my career who hate to write. I’ve had some success giving kids the option of using a pen, but there are plenty of students who just find nothing endearing about moving the hand in different shapes to produce letters and words. Stick a computer in front of them, though, and now you’re really speaking their language. Blogging and typing are both writing, and let’s be honest, our world is transitioning to a place where handwriting will someday be obsolete, anyway.

10. Blogging creates instant engagement. Blogging is novel to young learners, and because I don’t assign a value to what they do, there is plenty of motivation to continue. While I have my own motivations for students to blog, in their eyes it’s just something fun. They don’t realize they are doing exactly what I need them to do – writing, reading, learning. Choice plays a big role in this, too. I am able to assess and teach them using whatever they choose to write about.

If you aren’t yet blogging with your students, I hope you at least begin to consider it. If you are a seasoned veteran of student blogging, please tell me what reasons I missed. Why else must students be blogging? Please share in the comments section.

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57 responses to “10 Reasons Your Students Should Be Blogging

  1. I read your students blogs and started blogs at kidsblog with a couple of my students who are also excited about it.

  2. I’m curious to hear more about when and how you incorporate it into your curriculum. I feel like our days are SO jam-packed with our regular routine that I don’t know when I’d fit it in.

    • Miss Brave,

      You have to change the way you approach your classroom and lessons. You are not *adding*, you are *replacing*.

      I used to spend a lot more time on projects that were only published in class. Now I try to modify those projects and make them into blog posts. Maureen Devlin gives a great example of how to do it in her comment above.

      Lots of support/ideas on Twitter for bloggers, too!
      ~Linda

      • Teaching in the same system as Miss Brave, I understand where she is coming from. I started off with a shared writing lesson about blogging and then did two days of less than a period in the afternoon to blog in school. Now I am transitioning into the Blogger’s Cafe (blogging at lunch) because I know the reality of the situation.

        That being said, I agree with Linda. I’m thinking blogging is something I am planning to make a forum for showing understanding and discussing books or content. Just have to figure out how to do that without it becoming a task.

  3. Yes, yes and yes again! I will surely share this post with colleagues and others who are interested in blogging. Thanks!

  4. Miss Brave, I fit it in by replacing other things. For example this week my students are blogging about Eastern Woodland Native American culture of the past. I introduced a slide show this week. I published the slide show so students can review it at home (as many times as they’d like). Then I asked them to choose one aspect of Eastern Woodland culture from the past that they would like to experience on the blog. I posted my example written with several sentences and an image related to weaving baskets. Once they start sharing they will begin to “make the content their own” and think more deeply about it which will lead to remembering and natural conversation as they’ll be able to read classmates’ posts. In the past, this might have been a test, worksheet, written report or letter. Also, by sharing the slide show I created I’m modeling an informational slide show which they’ll create later on related to endangered species. I’m sure that others have many more examples of how to fit it in, and I’ll be interested in reading those examples. Thanks again Mr. Foteach for being a thought leader!

    • Thank you, Maureen for always contributing something valuable to the discussion. It definitely takes some outside the box thinking to get blogs ingrained in students’ experiences. How do you approach the issue of students who can’t blog from home (ie. those who do not have computers?) This is a very real issue in my class.

  5. Dear Matt,

    Fantastic list of reasons your students should be blogging! I’m certain your post will encourage other teachers to start blogging with their students.

    I remember the first post we did on the class blog. I’d added a ClustrMap gadget and the kids noticed that there were a few scattered red dots. Every head in the room snapped around to look with surprise that we had…visitors! That’s when I knew that blogging was powerful.

    Right off the bat, I noticed that my students were motivated by the thought that they had an audience. They wanted to produce quality work for their new readers. Many asked if they could stay in at recess to get a story written.

    Learning how to be a positive member of an online community is an important skill for today’s students (and teachers!). Blogging is the perfect avenue for these lessons. I recommend explicitly teaching commenting skills with new bloggers. The comment section is where the blog comes to life!

    The only thing I can think to add to your list is that the lessons and units that a teacher is doing in the room can be revisited and reviewed by students and parents. For example, we sometimes create video tutorials that students can use from home if they get stuck. Parents appreciate them too! Example:
    Quadrilateral Tutorials

    Here is an wiki I put together to help new bloggers:

    Educational Blogging Wiki

    My comment got a bit long, but that’s what happens when I start talking about blogging…like my students, I get excited!

    Thanks for a fabulous post, Matt! :-)
    ~Linda

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  7. This is such a cool idea! I hope it really catches on because all of your reasons are absolutely true!

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  9. Dear Matt, A question for you and any others who want to weigh in. What age is the best for students to start blogging?

    • Well, I don’t think I, professionally or personally, was ready to put a blog at the fingertips of my 1st and 2nd graders last year (nor did I have the resources in front of me to do so) but there are people out there blogging with children as young as 6. Keep in mind, blogging doesn’t have to be an independent activity – in a pinch, I have scribed for some of my third graders who don’t have the keyboarding skills yet. Maybe younger kids can benefit from that, too.

  10. I really like this article…I think it gives very good reasons/arguments for the use of blogs in the classroom. I think that using technology in the classroom really motivates students, especially those that dislike writing. I also agree that it is better than a portfolio (in writing) because it is a more comprehensive display of growth.

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  12. The reasons for blogging could be used for all ages. In looking at them I see how they could be used very successfully even with college students who are working toward teaching certification. In having preservice teachers develop blogs (in learning groups) they will build the confidence and skills to implement them in the classroom.
    *This is somewhat off topic but I feel it is important to note–I noticed a comment about students ‘asking’ to stay in from recess to work on blogs. I applaud the enthusiasm on the students part and the teachers for motivating the students to be engaged in the project. Please keep in mind that movement is also a very important part of the students academic life and please encourage them to participation in physical activity as often as possible.

    • Dear MaryAnn,

      I don’t think your comment is off topic at all. I mentioned that my students ask if they can stay in during recess to blog as a way of underscoring how motivating the reading and writing activities are for children. Your point brings to mind another consideration about blogging…setting boundaries! :-)

      Although blogging is exciting, I tell parents to set parameters about time spent on the computer. Students and teachers need to get out and move around! Excellent point!

      Sincerely,
      Linda

  13. Is anyone here using blogging with high school students, and if so, do you review the students’ posts before they are published to make sure that the students are not writing anything that is inappropriate, offensive, or profane? I’m hopeful that Matt’s students are too young to engage in that kind of behavior.

  14. Matt,
    Thank you! Great points all! I’m currently in my 7th year blogging with 3rd graders, at http://roomtwelve.com

    Possible reason 11: blogging is the biggest carrot I’ve seen for motivating young writers in 30 years of teaching. Have a great year! – Mark

  15. Hi Matt:

    Excellent, well-written and concise post. It will be great to review this periodically when people question the ‘why’ of blogging.

    One thing I would like to highlight is point 7, Collaborative experiences. You have probably seen this TED Talk by Sugata Mitra: The child-driven education (http://www.ted.com/talks/sugata_mitra_the_child_driven_education.html). One point he speaks to is that students experience greater success with computers when they are shared by 2-4 people. Mitra even designed his workspaces to ensure there was more than one person using the computer at a time. Initially, the advantages seem unlikely, but as you have seen, having fewer computers forces students to engage with each other often producing better results. And this says nothing about keeping students on task: it is much harder to play a solitary game if one or three people are ‘using’ the computer at the same time.

    Thanks for taking the time to put together this post.

    – Ivan

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  18. Is there a kid friendly site you would recommend for blogging? I teach grade 4 and I think this would be great for my struggling writers. Thanks!

    • We are using Kidblog.org and many I know on Twitter also use it. You can moderate everything and keep the site private, if you prefer. It is so basic, my kids have taken to it very well with independence. I am excited for you and your students to begin your blogging adventure. It is so much fun!

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  20. Great article and thanks for sharing…

    Bill

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  38. Dear Matt.
    Thank’s a billion for sharing. I’m soon to finish my education as a danish and esol teacher and for my bachelor project – we do those in Denmark – I’m thinking about using this new brilliant genre to see how it will motivate the pupils when working with short stories in 7.th grade.
    I was thinking; Have you (or anyone else) used blogging in the combination with short stories? And do you ever read other blogs with your pupils for the sake of it’s literary means/ qualities. ?

    / Annasofie

  39. Hmm. Just realized that “- we do those in Denmark-” could come across a bit rude. All I meant was unfortunately I don’t know if it’s the same in other countries.

    • I’m not even sure what the equivalent of a “bachelor project” would be over here, so I can’t say whether we do them, too. :) I haven’t done short stories with students but being able to put their writing on the blog once it was ready (edited, etc.) was a good incentive and motivation last year. Having an audience certainly got them excited. Make sure you look at Linda Yollis’ blogging resources and if you’re on twitter, use the hashtag #comments4kids. I never got the time to look at others’ blogs with my students. If you read the post I wrote, “Opening the Blogger’s Cafe,” you will see this was a time-pressed endeavor to start. Good luck with everything.

  40. All these ideas are great to incorporate into the classroom!! I especially liked #9 where it offers an opportunity for students to succeed in written assignments in a method that isn’t usually traditionally used. Sometimes writing online in a format that encourages student voice can be more effective than writing with paper and pencil.

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  48. That entry is really good, I will keep those thoughts in mind.

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