Tuesday, February 8

Student Blogging Turmoil

My students fell in love with blogging. After a slow start on my part, once I implemented this new
adventure, the excitement was palpable. I will always treasure the day they discovered comments. I could barely contain them they were so excited. Now, I’m stumbling.

I’m struggling with time!
Writing happens all day long in every area of my curriculum. I even have my students write about math and how they problem solve. Why can’t I get them on the computer to blog? What am I doing wrong?

I have checked out numerous classroom blogs via Comments4kids.com and I’m in awe of how many entries some students have posted. Why aren’t my students blogging more?

I will not, under any circumstances, assign blogging for homework. I do not want the students to view it as another item to check off on their homework log. Blogging should be something that
inspires them and beckons them.

Again, what am I missing?

Maybe I am being too controlling? I work with my students one-on-one for every writing assignment. I change the color of my pen every time I meet with them and it turns into a rainbow of colors on their papers. The students enjoy the attention and encouragement, and they have learned that writing is a process. We are never “one and done.” Currently, we are working on multi-paragraph speeches that describe their hopes and dreams for their jobs, families and contributions to society. I don’t consider these blogs… but should I?

Perhaps I should just allow the students to cycle through our classroom computers and write whatever they want without me checking for proper paragraph construction, grammar and mechanics. On the other hand, I would never post a blog without proofing and editing. Plus, I have people who I have told to email me the second I make an error so I can fix it. It is a reflection of me. Shouldn’t I teach good habits from the beginning?

So, I’m in turmoil. Do I let them write whatever they want without hovering and set them free to mass produce? Do I focus on quality vs. quantity?

There must be a balance somewhere!

I would love to hear how others are managing classroom blogging.


Cristina said...

Hi Nancy,

I had quite similar questions some time ago (I even blogged about that). I think there is not a single recipe on how blogging is supposed to occur in the classroom.

My students are second language learners so I do not focus on their mistakes.Proofreading can be tiresome and could easily make the motivation curve drop.
I think it all depends on HOW you picture blogging: is it a way to "show off" the best of what your students can do or is it a tool for actual LEARNING - which is messy, dynamic and necessarily implies mistake-making.
As for whether blogging should be compulsory or not...I think it should not. (I hate homework and never assigned one in my 15 years of teaching). I DO however, require my students to check the class blog daily - so they can read new posts (either of mine or the other kids'). I sometimes use the "flipped classroom"method - where I would post new material prior to the lesson itself so during the actual class (at school) we could focus on questions, connections, skills. That is why checking the blog is mandatory. Posting is not.

I think ultimately it is the teacher's choice. You know your students best and what works best for them.
Cristina (@surreallyno)

Nancy C said...

Hi Nancy -
I teach 4th grade and I do have the kids blog for homework. Mostly I have found that they are excited about it. There are a couple of kids that don't do it (for various reasons). I usually give them 2 nights to complete it.
We are in the early stages of blogging (not yet to the point where they just want to hop on and write) so I try to guide their focus.
I too am concerned that they are not using proper grammar and the techniques they are being taught. But it is something I plan to go over with them. Like you I do not want to squelch the joy.
In my class I can get about 4 students on the computer at a time unless we are in the lab - so I hate to wait until we have lab time as we try to write daily.
Not sure what the answer is except that you are trying and reflecting on your process. That is a sign of someone who wants their students to do well - continue questioning and revising and it will work out (at least I hope so because that is what I'm doing).


NancyTeaches said...

Hi Cristina,
Thank you so much for your comment. I agree that there isn't a single recipe. Your sentence " HOW you picture blogging..." really resonated with me. Am I showing off or is it actual learning? I think of blogging as publishing so my goal was for it to be in the "show off" category. I can't imagine publishing with errors, so I want the kids to be held to that expectation as well. I want them to always work at their best level rather than showing the messy and mistake making process. I've seen what they are capable of doing, so I want them to show off how they write.
I guess if I focus on the quality rather than the quantity I will have found my solution.
Your comment helped clarify my thinking. Thanks so much.

NancyTeaches said...

Hi Nancy C,
Thank you so much for taking the time to comment. I'm grateful that you pointed out something I wasn't seeing! You're right! I'm reflecting, so I must be on the right path. As I stated above with Cristina, I want to make sure the students are establishing good habits that will stay with them as they create their digital footprints. I don't want them to "cringe" later because of careless errors that can be avoided. I will keep trying to find the balance between quality and quantity. Thanks so much for helping me. Nancy

LiteracyDocent said...

Hi Nancy,
I'm finally getting to blogging with my 5th grade students. I am struggling with the same questions. At this point I'm planning to hold them accountable for the following before their piece can be posted:

1. Capitialization of first word in sentence & proper nouns.
2. Ending punctuation.
3. Complete sentences (of which only 2 can be a simple sentence)
4. High frequency words used and spelled correctly.

The rest I am going to let go of. I want to keep the process of writing with purpose and audience in mind at the forefront of our work. I'm teaching them how to use the tools to help them find their spelling and grammar mistakes but will still expect that there will be mistakes.

As for making them blog, I'm not assigning it as homework but have encouraged them to access their blog from home if they have something burning to be written. Several of my students do not have access to computers at home which is another reason I wouldn't consider assigning it as homework.

I am requiring 2 posts a week as a part of their classwork. They must also comment on three other posts sometime during the week. We are fortunate to have a lap top cart and the computer lab so at this point availability has not been an issue.

Because we are just getting started, students are excited and engaged. Your reflecting has helped me think through what I will do should my students hit a wall though. I'm not sure how it's going to work out but I'm going to enjoy the journey and see where this takes my students at readers and writers.


Henrietta miller said...

Hi Nancy
I'm not sure if this will help but I blogged last year with my year 5 students and am starting again now with my next class. I started the year encouraging them to visit other blogs, read and comment first. I spent several weeks trying to teach them how to write good comments before allowing some to 'earn' their own blogs. Then I encouraged them to blog about things in their lives and about what they were up to at home. I only really worried about correct grammar and punctuation if it was obviously an item of work from school. I also started http://thebloggerscafe.edublogs.org to give them a site to visit and complete challenges at.

Hope that helps feel free to visit our class http://year5.edublogs.org

NancyTeaches said...

Hi Susan,
Thank you so much for your post. It really helped me figure out which areas I want them to be accountable. I appreciate hearing how other teachers are figuring out this new aspect to our curriculum. We don't have a lap top cart, but ALL of my students have internet access at home. (I know because of the numerous parent emails I get!) So, I will continue to search for the right mix of quality vs. quantity. Thanks again for helping me. Nancy

NancyTeaches said...

Hi Henrietta,
WOW! Your bloggers cafe is amazing. I an in awe of what you created and can't wait to explore some more. I just signed up and can't wait to show my students. This is why I blog! I am so inspired by what other teachers create and from one simple blog question, I've found an abundance of support and resources. Thank you! Nancy