The moment has finally arrived. It’s every teacher’s dream. Students are no longer writing for a grade or for their teacher. Instead, they are writing for their peers and generating their own topics. Can this really be possible?
In the fall of 2011, I introduced my students to blogging for the first time. Little did I know what a game-changer it would be in my classroom. Blogging has enabled my writers to discover their unique voices and uncover a true love of writing. It has given them a creative outlet where they can express themselves, challenge their writing skills, and build their self-esteem.
There are many approaches to incorporating blogging into the curriculum. Some teachers assign topics, and some don’t. In my class, we have a combination of teacher-directed blog posts and student-initiated pieces.
Throughout the year, my students respond to specific prompts as an assignment. They may be asked to reflect on their learning at the end of a unit of study or explore a topic that is directly linked to an upcoming lesson. My students’ blogs also serve as an ePortfolio showcasing the projects they have completed throughout the year.
However, because I also want my students to have ownership of their own blogs, I encourage them to write on topics that resonate with them personally. They are allowed to write about any topic as long as the content is appropriate for the educational space. It is through these self-directed writings that I learn wonderful details about my students. I discover that some have a passion for dancing or golfing. Others grapple with what it means to be a teenager or how to live up to their parents’ expectations. Some are quite opinionated and aren’t shy to tell you exactly what they think of the world. Others use their blogs to publish short stories that they have written. I love that some have found their own niches and that they find blogging to be a powerful form of self-expression.
There are also writers who move me with their intellectualism and maturity, like my former 8th grade student Crystal. She was an extremely high-achieving student who was very shy in class. She was brilliant, but had few opportunities to share her hidden talents. Her debut came in the form of a beautiful post she wrote about teaching her immigrant grandmother to use the Internet. In her piece, she comes to an epiphany about her heritage and her relationship with her grandmother.
“We were so different: me, with my slang and my grandma with her traditional Korean. Our history drew a barrier between us and yet it was the very thing that drew a common thread, stringing us together. Sometimes I would wonder, where would it all go, the traditional practices, the languages, the cultural legends, and customs? With our society so muffled by the trend of modernized-speaking and entertainment-based culture, who will carry on the source of our identities, the history of our very existence?”
Her blog post was outstanding, worthy of publication, and now, because of blogging, she had a platform for her creativity.
I am now no longer the sole reader of my students’ writings. The world has become their audience, and I have sought ways to expand their readership beyond the confines of my own classroom. I’ve reached out to my Personal Learning Network (PLN) on social media, solicited readers using the Twitter hashtag #comments4kids, found educators through S2S Blog Connect, and signed up to form partnerships with other teachers via Quadblogging.net. As a result of these connections, our blogs have readers from many parts of the world. My students regularly look forward to reading comments left for them by our visitors, and they swell with pride at all the praise they have received. As for me, I am as excited as they are. I am awed by how reflective, mature and intellectual their posts have become.
Blogging may not be a typical writing genre in many English classrooms. But perhaps it should be, especially if it means we can inspire a generation of students to become prolific writers and talented bloggers. Our students are incredibly creative; they just need a stage where they can shine.