Everyone knows that middle school students ought to be writing across the curriculum a lot more than they do in most schools. And…everyone knows it is often like pulling teeth to engage students in a writing project. Enthusiastic writing teachers, however, will tell us that it is quite possible to overcome student reluctance to write and write well. A couple of conditions need to be in play.
- an authentic audience
- a choice in what they write about
- to feel that what they have to say is valued
- examples of good writing
Teams around the country find blogging is a powerful way to give students voice, choice, and an authentic audience. Students are willing to write and take pride in the quality of their work. Teams working together offer students a variety of opportunities to blog:
- Displaying their work
- Offering their expertise
- Commenting on local, state, national, and international issues
- Maintaining the team blog for communicating with families
But some readers are thinking…Yes, but what does it look like?????
Here are some samples.
1. Leawood Middle School blogs from Leawood, Kansas : http://lmsblogs.org/
The blogs in this middle school are used for several purposes. In some cases, students are summarizing the learning in a particular class for the day. Just think about the positive aspects of this blogging!
- Communicates with parents what is going on in class
- Lets absent students keep up with what they missed in class
- Students are synthesizing the day’s lesson and identifying its big ideas
The blogs are also used as a way to share projects and learning resources. Everyone has access to the information 24/7.
2. Paul Bogush’s Blog Page –Moran Middle School in Wallingford, Connecticut: http://moranmustangs.org/
He uses his page for several purposes–communicate with students, with parents, and to have students blog. A team could use a blog for the same purposes!
Student work is kept in a Google Reader Folder which is open to the public. Other middle schools use free blogging sites like WordPress. Students only use their first names and there is no identifying information. Mr. Bogush’s students blog on a variety of topics related to their social studies curriculum and what’s going on in the world. The blog posts are not long, but it appears that the students are writing frequently.
3. Heather Wolpert-Gawron shares in a post the steps she takes to introduce her students to blogging (http://tweenteacher.com/2010/09/08/blogging-with-middle-schoolers-frontloading-and-first-steps/). The post includes questions from her readers such as “How did you convince your administration to allow you to do this?” Heather gives thoughtful responses that teams will find helpful.
- Practice writing
- Learn how to use hyperlinked writing well and responsibly
- Discover their own, unique voice
Communicating digitally is an important skill we should be teaching our students. Teams that collaborate and give students multiple experiences with blogging will be addressing 21st century communication as well as traditional writing skills.