Learning About Blogs FOR Your Students- Part II-B: Student Writing

We acknowledge that most of us (teachers) did not grow up with blogs, nor did someone teach us how to write our own blog. If we require our students to blog,  we need to be become knowledgeable about blog writing.

In Part I– I reflected upon the need of the importance of READING blogs as a first step of becoming better blog writers.

Part II-A Learning About Blogs FOR Your Students- Writing addresses the need for teacher to be writers (bloggers) and to experience the process of learning for themselves, if they are to teach/model/coach/facilitate writing via student blogs.

Image licensed under CC by Andrea Hernandez- http://www.flickr.com/photos/21847073

Part II-B looks at student writing on blogs.
Disclaimer: When I talk about “student blogs”, I am referring to blogs, intended for academic writing sponsored by a teacher.

I have seen too many student blogs, that are of very poor quality. I have to ask myself:

  • Where was the teacher?
  • Are students not supervised, guided and coached as they blog?
  • Are the expectations set too low?
  • Does the teacher know what quality looks like on a blog?
  • Does the teacher not see that writing on a blog should have the same quality writing standards they have set for analog writing.

There is a need for us to sketch out and define what a QUALITY student blog looks like.

Quality blog writing includes:

  • age and developmentally appropriate content, grammar and vocabulary
  • focused quality and relevant content
  • traditional quality writing characteristics
  • evidence of writing for an audience
  • reflection
  • logistics of digital writing, such as hyperlinking, embedding media, categorization, etc.

A quick survey on Twitter, revealed the following responses from other educators:

What are your primary objectives for student blogging?

Blogging is surely not about learning the logistics of typing and uploading  posts. It is not about the tool, but about the skills that the tool can facilitate. We MUST keep this in mind as we are asking students to write on blogs.

There are many resources available on the web, if you need help in defining or refining what quality student writing means to you.

On Teaching That Makes Sense, Steve Peha lists six traits of quality writing:

Ideas that are interesting and important. Ideas are the heart of the piece — what the writer is writing about and the information he or she chooses to write about it.

Organization that is logical and effective. Organization refers to the order of ideas and the way the writer moves from one idea to the next.

Voice that is individual and appropriate. Voice is how the writing feels to someone when they read it. Is it formal or casual? Is it friendly and inviting or reserved and standoffish? Voice is the expression of the writer’s personality through words.

Word Choice that is specific and memorable. Good writing uses just the right words to say just the right things.

Sentence Fluency that is smooth and expressive. Fluent sentences are easy to understand and fun to read with expression.

Conventions that are correct and communicative. Conventions are the ways we all agree to use punctuation, spelling, grammar, and other things that make writing consistent and easy to read.

As teachers, it is our job to teach and coach our students in becoming better writers. If you have chosen to use a blog as the vehicle to do that, YOU NEED TO GET GOOD at recognizing quality writing in blogs. As with anything else, in order to get good at something, you need to practice.

  • Start reading student blogs (your own students and others from around the world)
  • Read A LOT OF STUDENT BLOGS! (While you are at it, leave comments for these students too)
  • Consciously be aware of what you like and don’t like. What stands out? What is unacceptable? What is missing? What makes you go “Wow”?
  • Start rating blogs you read in several categories, ex. content, presentation, connections, etc.

Via the blogs of Kathleen Morris, Kim Cofino and Clarence Fisher comes a perfect baseline of a blogging rubric, you can use to help you assess student blogs. Here is the link to the original rubric, so you can make your edits to fit your own needs.

It is imperative that as a teacher, who is blogging with his/her students, becomes a coach for them. In order to be a good coach, you need to know what you are talking about.

Learn about blogs FOR your students!

If you have created a blogging rubric or have more ideas on how to coach students in writing QUALITY blogs, please share your experience and/or links to further resources.