Addressing gender gaps in achievement (and improving literacy skills in boys) remain hot topics in education: blogging with your class is a terrific way to make strides in letting the writing flow. For those students who are hesitant to put their ideas down on paper, using a web 2.0 tool like blogger.com can provide an alternative method of producing wonderful writing.
Once you have a class blog page setup, it is an easy process to add student blog pages to your account. This post will again refer to http://blogger.com. Follow the steps below to make this endeavor a reality:
Adding Student Blogs to Your Class Blog Page
1. In the "Design" tab, click on the "add gadget" link where you want your student blog names to appear.
2. Decide what you want to assign as a title (e.g. Our student blogs) and type in the URL address for each student blog that you want to add (e.g. johnnystudent.blogspot.com).
3. Click "save" and your new gadget is all set and ready to view.
*If you need to setup student blogs for your class, follow these steps to begin the process by providing students a blog (especially for elementary school students) who might not already have one. To do this, you will need an email address for each student who is going to have a blog page created.
In some school boards, each student is given an email account from their school board - this would be an ideal solution. If not, you would need to ask students for an email address if they already have one OR possibly even gain parent consent to create an email account for them (or have them use one from home). The email address is solely used to setup the blog page initially and would only be used to verify the google account or contact the student with blog-related alerts, if needed.
Creating Student Blog Pages
1. Go to blogger.com
2. It will ask you for a google account OR ask you to create a new one.
3. Enter in the required information and use the student's school email or personal one (if it applies).
4. When assigning a blog address, choose a template to follow (e.g. http://myschool.johnny.blogspot.com) and then simply change the student's name for consistencies sake.
5. Choose a starting background template and give it a temporary name (e.g. Johnny's Blog). The student can change these things once they get going.
6. Your student blog page is created and ready for them to personalize!
How to Use Student Blog Pages
One of the greatest first-steps in using blogging is to release the reigns and allow students a chance to "make it their own." Don't be afraid to give the students 'free-writing' tasks, as well as suggested topics and sentence starters (e.g. The scariest thing that ever happened to me is...). Once students have bought in to this kind of writing forum - by using their own creative devices - they will be more willing to invest their energy into topics that you assign as well.
On my class blog page, I have added the gadget "Pages" where I have created a page for "Blog Assignments" and "Glog Assignments." These pages are where I create a number list of topics assigned (e.g. Free Choice, "My favourite band") and the dates they were assigned on. Students can access my "Blog Assignments" page in order to check their progress with past blog work and find new blog assignments as they are assigned. This is a great way for students (and parents) to keep up-to-date with writing work both at school and at home.
Why Blogger Matters to Kids
Even the most reluctant writer wants to be successful. For many students, writing stories or written responses in notebooks is simply painful and uninteresting. Blogging is a way to bridge the age gap between teacher and student using web 2.0 technology. In the same way that you hear that kids don't email - they text. Many students don't write - they type. Give them a forum for their ideas with the novelty of technology, gadgets, feedback from classmates (or even a global audience), and they will dive in and tread in the waters of literary excitement.
As teachers, we need to incorporate new ways to address traditional learning. Writing matters. But not the writing on the ruled paper with holes to the left; rather, the writing that comes from the meaning and purpose of the writer whether on a blog or in a text message. Writing is communication and our global world (and its technology) have been re-drawing and re-defining this on a revolutionary scale for some time now. It is on our shoulders to find ways to catch up and keep the learning both relevant and preparatory - for life...not just the course syllabus.
Good luck with your student's blogging journey. This could be the thing that hooks them into being lifelong learners and writers - which is what we are, in fact, here to accomplish.