Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Blogging with students

Recently a teacher from Missouri e-mailed me asking for info about how I've used blogs with my students. Here's what I've done so far, and what I'd like to do in the future:

Last year students posted three assignments online - a short fiction story, an essay on The Old Man and the Sea, and a favorite poem from their poetry anthologies (click here for more info on the anthology project).

Students wrote the essays at home and in class using laptop computers from one of our school's two computer carts. After peer-editing and revision activities, students passed around one of my USB drives and saved their writing as word documents on the drive. I then uploaded the text to Blogger by copying and pasting their writing into the "create a post" text boxes.

Some students also saved images as jpeg files, and I included them with their writing. Click here, here, and here to see the three student blog pages I created last year.

Once their entries were up, I posted comment criteria, and as a homework grade, required that they provide specific responses to a minimum (three to six) number of posts. This year, I am also going to require that the original authors reply to the comments, in an effort to further the dialogue and encourage reflection, insight, and improvement.

In an effort to protect student's identities, only last initials were used. I have also only used my initials in identifying myself, and have not referenced the name my school.

My purpose in creating classroom blogs was to give my students a real audience, and to allow them to grow and learn by reading each others' work. Some of my students are very strong writers, and exposing classmates to their work and insights into the writing process can only make everyone stronger articulators of the written word.

A number of students were also able to share their writing with friends and family members, which helped to demystify just what exactly we "do" in English class.

One of my goals for this year is to find another teacher to collaborate with on similar assignments. I think it would be great for students to receive feedback from a group of peers in another state or, even better, country. If any teacher is interested in collaborating - even just for one assignment - please click here to contact me by e-mail, or post a comment below.

Eventually I would like to teach students how to create their own blogs, and give them more ownership in the process. Right now I am planning to again have class blogs, where students give me their writing and I do the postings. Eventually I would like to segue to individual blogs, but it will require teaching Blogger (or some other application) and instilling a code of ethics and guidelines, as well as getting parental consent.

If any of you have had success with individual student blogs as venues for students to share and receive feedback on writing, please leave your links in the form of a comment so I can check them out!

Also, anyone who has questions about what I did last year or plan to do this year should feel free to ask.


Rita said...

I'd like to try blogging with my seniors this year. We have ridiculously limited access to tech in my building, but this group coming in should all have access from home. I wish I could do more with technology, but even the few lesson plans I have I end up cutting due to the dearth of labs. Oh well. I'd be interested in collaborating on a blog if we teach any novels in common.

BTW, I read today about the achievement gap in the MA state teacher's test. In MO, we take a couple of tests that I thought were pretty minimal (C-Base and Praxis). Is the MA test that difficult?

Mr. B-G said...


My seniors read Siddhartha, Oedipus, Macbeth, Lord of the Flies, Brave New World, and 1984, in addition to a variety of short stories, non-fiction, and poetry.

Let me know if we have any overlap, and if you decide to give blogging a try.

As for the teacher test, I passed the tests on the first try (Communication and Literacy and the 8-12 English subject matter test), although there are a number of people who don't.

The passing rate for minorities is substantially lower than the rate for whites, which leads one to believe that either the tests are biased, or the minorities who take the tests are receiving second-rate educations.

It's definitely eye-opening and alarming.

Rita said...

Except for Macbeth, your seniors are very well aligned with my sophomores. I decided to do Shrew with my seniors this year since the local Rep is doing a production in Nov. My seniors are doing Frankenstein, Wuthering Heights, Pride & Prej., A Tale of Two Cities, Heart of Darkness, Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, Mrs. Dalloway, and Ceremony. I'll let you know if I come with something.

I'd vote for second-rate education with a smattering of bias. Bias might be a problem, but I wouldn't think large enough to cause that big a discrepancy. We have a local teacher's college that enrolls nearly all minority, and their graduates have a terrible time passing the state exams -- and the English teachers I've seen come out of the program are horror shows (but they get jobs in the urban districts). I'll bet if they looked at the data by university, they might see a different pattern.