Student blogs are in full swing! Under the collective title of Upstanding Bloggers, students have complete two blog entries. Here are links to my examples:
We have one more mandatory post: Who Is an Upstander? That is the biggie where students research and argue that that their person is so great he or she deserves his or her own postage stamp. As always, I am writing with my students and my candidate is author John Green. Why? #nerdfighters, of course. That alone gets him the stamp.
Maybe the prompt is bit contrived, but this blog doubles with our grade 7 common formative assessment. Also, most of my students have never used a postage stamp. That said, it is a more or less authentic writing task for students to test their research and argument skills. Another benefit is that the assignment allows for a wide amount of student choice. Students have chosen topics as disparate as Tyler Oakley—he’s a YouTuber in case you didn’t know (I didn’t)—to Helen Keller to Bob Marley.
Here’s proof that this type of writing has real-world applications. The New York Times recently published a series of editorials where writers argued for a female to be on the twenty dollar bill in place of Andrew Jackson. Here’s a link to the piece: A Woman’s Place Is on the $20 Bill Isn’t that great? I didn’t see this until after my students had already started their work, but I will definitely keep this article in mind for next year.
So far, the absolutely best part has been watching my students comment on each other’s blogs. Kidblog allows the teacher to moderate, so all posts and comments come to me first. This is good because my students are 12 to 13 and they sometimes don’t think things through before they press Publish. It is also bad because I have to be really consistent about checking the blog in order to publish new posts and comments. However, I’ve had to do very little moderating. Once I taught students how to comment (Introduce, Insert, Interpret—thanks to Troy Hicks’s Digital Writing Workshop), they were off.
There are still a few points of concern—
- Students who don’t have reliable internet or computer access at home are at a serious disadvantage. We do as much in class as I can manage given time and technology constraints, but I still see that this kind of work tends to increase the digital divide between the haves and the have nots.
- Correctness: How involved should I be in editing? I don’t expect the blogs to be 100% perfect all the time. These are students, after all, but where do I draw the line? For now, I’m writing private comments to bloggers who need to complete basic proofreading. For the most part, students are going back and making corrections. However, some are not. What’s an conscientious English teacher to do?
For those who are interested, here’s the Upstanding Blogger assignment via Picktochart: Upstanders Not Bystanders