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Blogging Adventures

blogging

We’re thinking and talking about student blogging at my school. There was a lot more of that this year, and as students blogged more, teachers wondered how to support writers as they delved into this genre.

Let me back up and explain the significant increase in student blogging. Last August we launched “Fab Fridays,” in grades K-4. This year we set aside almost four hours each Friday for student initiated learning. It was a grand adventure. I wrote about it here.

We wanted students to document and reflect on their Fab Friday learning, as well as to connect with a wide audience about their interests and projects. Blogging was a way to do that. And so they began blogging regularly.

But, to be honest, students’ initial posts were disappointing. They lacked detail, were too full of emojis and exclamation points, and fell far short of what we hoped for in terms of capturing the rich learning that was happening in classrooms each Friday.

We teachers realized we needed to back up.

  • We realized that blogging, like personal narrative or essay writing, is a genre. This sounds so obvious. It is almost embarrassing to admit we hadn’t considered it with that lens from the start. We hadn’t thought much about supporting writers in an unfamiliar platform.
  • We realized that blog writers needed to know more about the genre- what compelling posts look and sound like. What makes posts interesting or dull, easy or hard to read. Blog writers, just like fiction and essay writers, need a vision.
  • We realized bloggers need an audience to read and respond to their posts.
  • We realized we could teach blog writers certain craft moves.

Students realized some things too.

  • Students realized that some posts got more comments than others. Did that mean that more people read those posts? If so, why? How, they wondered, do we get more readers and commenters? They already knew that responses to writing are motivating.
  • Students in the third grade classroom where I was teaching on Fridays, wondered how to make paragraphs in a blog post. In Writing Workshop they had studied informational writing, and drafted animal reports, and they had learned why paragraphing makes writing more effective.
  • Students in third grade recognized that blog posts sounded and looked different from other kinds of writing, and they wondered what made them different.
  • They wondered if they could use emojis.
  • They wondered how to convey strong feelings like excitement or surprise.
  • They wondered about spelling unfamiliar words.

And so, from student wonderings and teacher noticing, grew blogging mini-lessons in third grade. On Fridays, towards the end of project/work time and before reflection/blogging time, my co-teacher and I presented brief, targeted mini-lessons to help student bloggers craft stronger posts. We started this work later in the year than we would have liked. Next year we’ll begin blogging mini-lessons as soon as new writers begin blogging.

Here are a few mini- lessons we taught, or realized we should teach. We’re still adding to the list. Other things will come up, as we see what next year’s blog writers know and can do, and what they need to lift the level of their posts.

  1. Catchy titles (Next year we are going to keep a list of ones we especially like and encourage blog writers to use them like mentor texts)
  2. How to make a post visually appealing:
  • Using bold and italics feature
  • Using bullets
  • Adding photos, videos and links
  • Using emojis in moderation
  1. Making a post readable and enjoyable for the reader:
  • Relaxed, conversational style vs. language that is too casual
  • Paragraphs
  • Spell check
  • Buddy editing
  1. Encouraging reader responses:
  • Developing voice in blog posts- using bold, italics, upper case letters and punctuation
  • Including targeted questions
  • Requesting feedback
  • Including honest sharing about what’s going well and what is frustrating with Friday learning.
  1. Writing posts that are understandable for a reader who is unfamiliar with what you’re writing about.
  • Including an introduction
  • Briefly explaining your work

My co-teacher created anchor charts to help our third grade bloggers recall mini lessons and develop independence. Next year we will create more effective charts.

blog anchor chart 1 blog anchor chart 2 copy

A word about editing:
We spent time debating how much student work should be edited before it goes out to the world. Should teachers correct spelling? Add punctuation? For now we’ve decided to take a fairly hands-off approach. While we teach and encourage editing, we don’t correct spelling or expect perfection, opting to give the writer more control and ownership of his/her post.

And a word about parents:
It is important to educate and inform parents about student blogging. Many will be unfamiliar with blogging, and its more casual nature. We explain that we are teaching blog writing skills just as we teach skills for other kinds of writing. We encourage parents to comment on their child’s post, focusing on content, not spelling and grammar.

Check out the third grade blog posts.

Perhaps one of the most exciting blogging moments came when one boy who was investigating safety features of military planes got a response to this post from a teacher who never would have known what he was working on had he not blogged about it. Turns out she knew a C130 pilot, and the very next Friday that child spent thirty minutes conducting a Face Time interview with that pilot. Victory!

What challenges do your student bloggers face? How are you supporting their growth as blog writers?

Lisa Keeler reads, writes, learns and teaches in Charlottesville, Virginia. She is the writing workshop coordinator and teaches third and fourth grade reading and language arts at an independent school there. In her spare time, Lisa loves to cook, exercise, and spend time with her busy teenage daughters.

34 thoughts on “Blogging Adventures Leave a comment

  1. Lisa,
    So many powerful instructional moves seem to be nested within a blogging community. The power of a well – crafted message because words do matter. The power of photos in a post. Is a picture still worth a thousand words? If not, then how much? Can a blog post have too many pictures?

    What great study ahead . . . as well as learning!!! ENJOY!!!

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  2. I love this article! I am going to be teaching a creative writing class (high school level) for the first time next year, and I definitely want to include a unit specifically on blogging. Some of my students are aspiring novelists, and as a new author myself, I’ve come to realize how crucial blogging is to one’s writing career. I love how you talked about blogging as its own genre of writing because it truly is! I like your mini-lesson titles; it gave me a sense of direction about what to cover when I teach my blogging unit next year.

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  3. Wow Lisa, what an awesome idea. I have never thought of teaching blogging as a genre. We are only half way through our year here in Australia and just about to break for mid year holidays so I will be planning to try out a few of your ideas in the 2nd half of our year. I think this is a wonderful way to differentiate our curriculum too, for those students who are looking for ‘a bit more’ and those who we struggle to motivate. Thanks 🙂

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  4. Lisa,
    I love how you, your team, and your students dissected blogging as a genre.

    When we started blogging, I shared posts from other student bloggers, but I don’t think our initial immersion was enough. Once students began blogging, reading and responding to other student posts and comments their understanding of the genre and their writing improved significantly. Your post makes me realize the need for digging in a bit deeper into mentor blog posts. Thank you for some terrific teaching points to angle toward for next year’s work.
    -Julieanne

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  5. Lisa, this list of minilessons will be so helpful to teachers who want to introduce blogging to their kids. I know I will return to this post again and again next year in my work with teachers. Thank you for sharing your thoughtful and reflective teaching with all of us!

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    • Hi Dana,

      I hope we will add to this list next year. And since I was concentrating mainly on third grade this year (and for this post) I’m thinking there will be other things that come up in other grades.

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  6. Lisa,
    It’s so true kids need to read what it is they are trying to write and they need guidance from writing mentors. Thanks for sharing your journey for others to learn from. I have been blogging with my 1st graders for several years now, but I have found many points in your post I want to be more explicit with in the year to come.
    I would love to connect our kids next year along with the others here that are reaching out to extend their writing communities!
    ~Deb

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    • Thanks Tara. It was such a good lightbulb moment for us to realize that we needed to think about it like we thought about other genres and figure out what tools bloggers needed to feel more independent and successful.

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  7. This post provides teachers with a great list of things to think about as they launch blogging as a genre in their classrooms.

    When I was in the classroom, very few of my students had access to technology at home (and we had one computer in the classroom — mine!) so we didn’t do classwide blogging. I did have a few students who started blogging on Edublogs and the biggest thing for them was making their writing easily readable (i.e., using conventions and proofreading) to their audience. If I could turn back time, I think I would approach teaching them about blogging differently. But I’m going to refrain from being too hard on myself since that was back in 2007-2009 and I was pretty new to the blogging world at that time.

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  8. Blogging has become integral to my classroom. You bring up so many important points in this post. The benefits of this kind of writing are exciting, especially when unexpected connections are made. My students loved getting comments from real authors. Twitter helps us connect our writers with their heroes.

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    • I agree with you Margaret. The comments and connections are incredibly motivating. We’ve had a few instances of classes making connections with published writers on Twitter and I’m not sure who is more excited- the students or the teacher.

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  9. What a great post about blogging. My students have been blogging all year long, and I have noticed the countless benefits of this genre. They have learned many things about each other that otherwise they may have never known, and have grown kinder and more tolerant of each other as well. I am definitely hooked and I think my students are too!

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    • Last year (2014) my fourth grade group participated in the March SOL classroom challenge and I too discovered that unexpected benefit- it really strengthened our community of learners. We got to know one another better. You are so right about countless benefits.

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  10. What a great list of ideas to support this genre. I think many teachers have an interest in blogging with students, but don’t know how to get started. This list has me thinking I can take the plunge next year!

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  11. Hi Lisa,
    This is just what I needed to read!! I will be teaching 3rd grade next school year at a school where I’ll have the opportunity for my students to blog. I am a beginning blogger myself and you have me fired up that blogging is definitely something my students can do!! Thank you!!! Know that this summer I’ll be revisiting this post and studying it with my teammates to get our 3rd graders blogging. Also – Wahoowa!! I see you are in Charlottesville. I am a proud UVA Curry School grad and did my student teaching at Hollymeade and Broadus Wood. Such fond memories living in C’ville!!

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  12. Hi Lisa,
    This was a very helpful post that I will return to as I prepare to be more thoughtful and explicit about teaching third graders to blog. I love how teacher noticings and kid wonderings led to targeted lessons and that blogging was a platform to share the Friday learning. I would love to connect our classes next year for blogging. This was a fantastic post!

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  13. I love this approach to teaching blogging! This is such a complete list of mini-lessons! My sixth graders blog and for most of them, it’s their first experience with it. I wonder how different it would be if they had the opportunity to blog in earlier grades. LOVE reading about these third grade bloggers!! Happy Blogging!

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    • We are wondering that same thing Michelle. Our first graders are blogging, but until this year we hadn’t really thought about explicit teaching of some of the skills and craft moves they might need to create better posts. Thanks for reading and commenting.

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