Muddling through the blogosphere

Five Tips for Helping Students Become Better Bloggers


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:

<a href=””>Blogwalker</a>.

#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!


    1. Gail,
      Thanks very much for the mention in your post. I love running the challenge, even though it takes a while each time to get the details set up such as links to every participant’s blog and RSS feeds for posts etc.

      One thing we will have to teach the students this time, especially those doing the commenting challenge, is the HTML code. I will have to be reminded of that again as I always leave something out and then my link doesn’t work.

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    4. Gail,

      Thank you for the fantastic tips. I’m starting two classes down the blogging road in a couple of weeks. Each student has their own blog and I’m a bit nervous.

      I especially like your reminder about hyperlinking. I will be sure to include that in my instructions.

      Thanks again!

      • Page, just dropped by your blog and am excited to be sharing the Bloggers’ Challenge with a SoCal colleague:-) – who is also a high school English teacher (I hang out quite a bit with Nat’l Writing Project and NCTE folks quite a bit!).

        Checkout Sue’s comment below. I think teachers and students will love having a quick reference for posting/commenting samples, no?


    5. Thanks Gail for sharing your tips and as always they are excellent tips. I really love the idea of examples.

      Perhaps @Sue Wyatt and Gail – I should create a list of examples of student bloggers by age group for on The Edublogger? Thoughts?

      One of my favorites is Abbey’s blog because of how she explains the difference in her blogging when she first started blogging compared to now.

      Please encourage your students, if they join the challenge, to drop past The Edublogger and leave a comment so that I can follow those comments back to their blogs and say hi to them.

      • Sue,

        Teachers will love having samples organized by age level to share with their students! I can already imagine the rich conversations that will take off around the sharing and comparing of different writing styles and content – even mechanics.

        In MHO, the fastest route to students’ becoming more fluent writers is by allowing them to write ‘from the inside out,’ drawing from posts and comments, for instance, that are personally meaningful.

        What’s so perfect for us in the US about the Bloggers’ Challenge is that for most schools, it corresponds to the opening of a new school year. What a great way for students – and their teachers – to be able to document their own growth as writers!

    6. Gail,

      Thanks for checking out my blog! I appreciate the response.

      Abbey’s blog is fantastic. She’s only in 7th grade? Amazing. Her post is the first place I am sending my students. Her tips are perfect and the way she explains them, just right.

      @Sue student blogs by age group would be very helpful.

      Thanks again everyone!

    7. Very nice, Gail. Thanks for sharing this. I have an entire third grade ready to do all writing instruction through blogs this year. I will share this with that literacy teacher to see what she can utilize for her students. Great stuff! Thanks again.

      • Scott, what a great way to start the new school year, providing students with an opportunity to connect across geographic (and socio-economic) boundaries! One widget I’m suggesting teachers add to their sidebar is the Clustrmap. As students see the dots appear from other regions, states and countries, I bet some great global citizenship conversations will start happening.

        I’ll look forward to following your 3rd grade classes!

        • The ClustrMap is what helped grow blogging into what it is at our elementary. One teacher added it and then created a big map in the main hall adding a flag with a string to the country and a banner over it asking, “Someone from these countries visited our blog. Have you?” It went over great. They even had an article written about them in the local paper. The class was for special ed kids. They knew more about other countries than most of our high school kids.

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    10. Thanks so much for sharing these tips! I’ve mentioned your thoughts on my blog post today and will definitely adding your blog to my “What I’m Reading” list!

    11. Wow! You just made my day. I have been trying to figure out how to hyperlink in my blog. . . and you just explained it to me. Thank you so much!

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    13. Thanks for sharing. It’s nice having someone walk before you on dark stormy nights. 🙂

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