21 November 2010

Beginning Blogging, Part I

Way back in September, Karen McMillan posted about how she teaches her middle-schoolers to blog. In a nutshell, she talks about introducing students to blogs and what they are (frequently they are what I would call specialty writing). She also emphasizes that blogs are part of a conversation that is dependent upon the blog readers who leave comments on posts. She has her students create paper blogs on a topic of their choice, then they do a commenting session.
I have discovered that my journalists really aren’t familiar with blogs. They read blogs on Tumblr, but they admit those blogs are mostly short quotes or pictures. They might read blogs on Xanga, but not too many students are there anymore. They DO recognize that Facebook posts aren’t the same as blog posts. At any rate, we reviewed what blogs are. I showed them several that I view on a regular basis (I was hard-pressed to find one that doesn’t relate to education) and talked about why I found them appealing. We discussed style and tone, then I had them create their own paper blogs.
I did not take the time to have the students plan out the whole blog or design the page, though many of them did. I was more concerned that they get something on the paper about one of their passions. Students had time to get about a paragraph on paper before the bell rang.
The following day, we reviewed comments on blogs. The emphasis was on moving the conversation forward and backing up your comment with evidence. In other words, it’s not enough to say “I like your post.” Great comments add to the conversation.
At that point, I dipped into my sticky note collection and passed around the coveted bright colored notes. Students then, as McMillan describes, read the blog posts of their classmates and left comments on the post-its.
I was surprised how many of the students enjoyed both the writing exercise and the commenting. In a hustle-bustle world, they often don’t have time to read each others work in a way that allows them to enjoy what their peers are writing. This was a nice break. I could hear whispered conversations about what they were reading. It was awesome!