It’s about to start – Sue Wyatt‘s annual Student Blogging Competition! This year I’m really looking forward to bringing some 4th and 5th grade students into the competition – and watching them grow as readers and writers in the process.
But how do we transition new bloggers from the “That’s cool!” or “Me too!” kinds of fluff responses to meatier responses that are likely to foster extended conversations, invite dynamic classroom connections, and push literacy skills to the next level? I have a few tips to share on that topic, five to be exact:
#1. Provide students with examples. Chances are blogging has not yet been presented to them as its own genre. In order for them to become thoughtful, effective bloggers, they’ll need to see samples from other student bloggers. For elementary age bloggers, I recommend they spend some time reading student work posted to Brian Crosby’s class blog and Mark Ahlness’s class blog. Be sure to checkout Mark’s strategy of having blog reading as part of his SSR program.
#2. Include reflection and self-evaluation as part of the blogging process. I really like the templates for reflecting on posts and reflecting on comments posted by the Rotorua East Lakes Learning Community. While I think students should certainly be allotted a number of “me too” or “that’s cool” comments, they should also be held accountable for a minimum number of self-selected “best” posts or comments.
#3. Teach students how to hyperlink. Here’s where blogging beats the heck out of paper-pencil writing. When students understand how easy it is and how important it is to support their opinions, for instance, by including links to their resources – including other bloggers – they then start to make those inter-textual connections that lead to literacy bumps. I agree with Wes Fryer that “Hyperlinked writing is the most powerful form of writing because it permits authors and readers to connect words to a variety of other ideas and multimedia files on the Internet.“
Students may wonder how to include hyperlinks when posting a comment, since most comment boxes do not include a formatting toolbar. The one piece of html coding I would, therefore, teach them is how to turn text into a link by setting if off with anchor tags. By placing <a href=”url of the site“> in front of the text and </a> at the end of the text, they can easily include links in their comments. To turn Blogwalker into a link, the coding would look like this:
#4. Invite students to share their strategies for bringing others into their conversations. Students need to know that far more bloggers will read their posts than will actually respond to them. They also need encouragement to respond to ideas, not individuals. Connecting students to classrooms in other regions, states, or countries will help them make that distinction. When students don’t know who the “cool” kids are, typically, it is the thoughtfully-composed posts and comments that receive the most response.
#5. Begin an on-going conversation on digital citizenship. Blogging is a great way to teach students how to use the Internet safely, effectively, and ethically. Sending a letter home, such as Bud Hunt’s sample, is an excellent way to bring parents into the conversation. Besides understanding – and agreeing to - guidelines on posting personal information (i.e, no last names, phone numbers, or home addresses), students will also likely need some help with handling diverse perspectives. It’s a good idea to provide a bank of sentence starters, such as “That’s an interesting point. I’m wondering if you’ve considered …” or “I understand what your trying to say, but …“ Knowing how to respectfully disagree is a skill that requires much practice – but can be essential to maintaining a positive digital footprint.
A huge thank you to Sue Wyatt for organizing and hosting the the 2009 Bloggers’ Competition – and to Sue Waters for supporting and promoting the efforts of teachers to bring their students into the blogosphere!
Note: This post has been written on “5 most important tips for educators starting out blogging with students” as part of The Edublogger’s Competition!