Last year, I introduced blogging to my sixth-graders because I believe it is the most authentic way to teach students how to  write. As I have shared in “10 Reasons Why I Want My Students to Blog,” I believe, in short,

  • Blogging provides an authentic way for students to write about their passions;
  • it invites students to practice civil discourse by giving and receiving feedback;
  • it recognizes that writing is a process that invites experimentation with different forms of communication;
  • it encourages transparency;
  • and it provides a launching pad for connecting with the world in meaningful ways for positive change.

Using the platform Kidblog, my students wrote at least nine blog posts (some even chose to write more on their own initiative), five of them as specific writing assignments and four of them as “free posts.” By the end of the year, I could see the giant leaps their writing had taken, but I wondered, could they? So, for their final post of the year, I asked them to evaluate their growth through blogging to make a case for blogging in the 7th grade (if that was indeed what they wanted to do).  Here’s what they had to say.

Skeptics Convinced 

Many students were skeptical at first, or at least unsure of how blogging would work out for them. It was new and untried territory. By they end, they had changed their minds and were won over completely.

  • I have really enjoyed blogging this year. It has been a fun way to learn new writing skills. In 5th grade I didn’t really like writing. It seemed boring and like a chore. When we started blogging this year, I was really unsure about it. I thought it would be just a trick to make writing seem more exciting. I was so wrong! Blogging has been really fun for me. Blogging has let me write about things I like and enjoy, such as holidays and video games. If we just wrote papers and essays this year, I would probably get burnt out. I would not try as hard, and it would not be very enjoyable. I really want to continue this amazing experience next year. –  Caden
  • I thought it would be fun to be able to make our own posts on subjects of our choice. I was a little put off when I heard that half the posts would be free and the others would be assignments…. Now I’ve made eight posts, and soon to be nine. I can really show my improvement between my first post and my 7th. – Nate

7 Ways Students Value Blogging

1. First and foremost, students valued the opportunity for self-expression and freedom to share their feelings when writing blog posts.

  • I want to continue to write these posts … because they help me put all my thoughts into words and to stretch my creativity. – Lani
  • I like how there is no limit to how long or short blogs are. I like the freedom of blogs and their structure.  — Giselle
  • Writing the free post blogs was the best part of all, just sharing something that is cool to you and knowing that at least a few classmates are reading your blog and possibly thinking it is interesting. Every time I heard we could do a free blog, I was excited to share and get my own blog published. That feeling is a great feeling, just knowing that you PUBLISHED your own work at school! — Jack

2. Many students also saw blogging as a way to explore voice or personal style, something they may be more hesitant to do with more traditional writing assignments.

  • I feel blogging has let me grow by exposing me to different styles of writing. On a blog post I can act funny, sarcastic, or happy, and I can put my own opinion in what I write about. On a formal paper, most of the time, I don’t get to add my own personal touch. — Nina
  • I learned that … if you want to grab a reader’s attention, you have to have an interesting opening sentence. You don’t want to have an opening sentence that states what you are going to talk about in the blog. Instead, you just want to go straight into the topic. I also don’t repeat words or phrases like “I think” as much. In my first draft of one of my blog posts I kept beginning my sentence with “I think.” My teacher told me that the entire blog was about what I thought, so I went back and took out all the “I thinks.” Now my blog post has a nice flow to it. — Catherine

3. Students remarked upon being surprised by their writing’s growing depth, detail, and fluency.

  • Blogging this year has helped me write more descriptively.My first blogs … were detailed, but they didn’t have as many specific details as my newest ones do. Now, I have improved by explaining and expanding my thought…. They are the longest, but that has nothing to do with how good and detailed it is. These [last] 2 blogs have a bigger idea that has been told with more detail and a better view of the story. – Riley
  • My best blog…had more than 1,600 words. It took me a while to write, but I wanted it to be the best blog I could write…. I was so excited, and I couldn’t wait to write another one. – Audrey
  • My writing is definitely more dense and interesting. Last year with my writing I was used to the teacher just handing us a topic to write about, but now since our topics are free, I think my writing has gotten stronger. — Diego
  • At the beginning of the year, my writing was dull and boring. There was no deep language that could transform the context I wrote about. But, nowadays, my writing is colorful and vibrant. It really has a deep meaning. My writing is more understandable. – Dania

4. An important element of blogging is the opportunity for students to write in a social context, to collaborate in their learning by sharing their work with one another.

  • I really want to continue blogging next year because I enjoy writing about everyday life and about things I like. Another thing I enjoy about blogging is reading about things other people like. — Laura
  • Blogging has helped me with my writing a lot, because it allows me to practice my skills more often. It has also helped me to express my ideas with others. This allows me to compare my opinions with my classmates in a faster and more efficient manner.  Lastly, I now know how to comment and discuss topics on other people’s posts. – Devin
  • I have learned to appreciate others’ blog posts, even though sometimes I disagree with them. Also, I have learned how to express my own opinions in writing. Some students have really advanced blogs. By reading those well-written posts, I have been challenged to write more detailed and longer posts. – Connor
  • When we look at each other’s blog posts, it’s almost like listening to an oral presentation.  I also like how people can comment and give you feedback and start a discussion that might not have been able to occur physically in the classroom. — Abby

5. On their own, students discovered the value in receiving quality feedback from their peers as well as their teacher.

  • I think that any piece of regular writing helps you progress as a writer, because it lets you practice your writing skills. The only reason I like blogging more is that it makes it easier to share and get feedback on your writings. Before Kidblog, we had to just put the writings on the wall in the classroom, and if we wanted feedback, we would have to take a whole class just to say how other people liked it. Now we can just give and get feedback at our house.  — Joseph
  • I have learned a lot more about writing from all of the critiques that I have received from Ms. Davis. At first a critique sounds really awful and rude, but it helps you learn something you didn’t even know could be a mistake! — Jack

6. My students came to their own understanding of why grammar and vocabulary matter.

  • Blogging has helped me learn and grow as writer because I now know how to use commas and how to make fragment a whole sentence.  Blogging is a good thing to use to help with grammar, because if you mess up, everyone sees it and it’s embarrassing. – Will
  • Throughout the year, I have learned new techniques for grammar from reading other people’s blogs and from some of my own. Every time I write a blog I learn a new way to use words. — Sterling

7. Finally, students recognize that the way we communicate is different today, and they appreciate ways to practice authentic 21st-century learning.

  • When I first started blogging, I didn’t enjoy it. I thought it would be a waste of time, and I would rather just write an essay. But as the year went on.… I realized that technology is becoming more and more a part of a student’s academic career. The future of a student’s essays will take place on an electronic device and not pen and paper…. I enjoy writing electronically and not just with pen and paper. — Duncan

A Little Pushback and Some Final Thoughts

Not every student has fully bought into the value of blogging – it’s a big leap even to see it as writing for some. Yet, the very nature of its difference from traditional writing is exactly what they like about it, so they worry that they still need more direct teaching of “real” writing skills to be able to succeed academically. And the process of responding to student blogs is slow, for me at least, especially for writers who are eager to have their work published and read by their peers right away.

  • I have enjoyed blogging so much this year, but I think we should do something different next year. The reason I say this is because we have not had our last two blogs posted yet. I do not blame the teacher because it takes a long time to read all of the blog posts. I do agree that it does help grow as a writer, but it is just a little boost, not a full jumpstart. – Will

Yet, the overwhelming majority of my students asked to blog again next year. With more freedom to post more quickly, before a teacher’s review of their work, they might really take off! Here are some of their concluding thoughts:

  • Everyone has gotten so good at blogging. I don’t think we will want to give it up. – Sam
  • It has pushed me to be the best writer I can be. I think blogging has been a big impact on our lives and has helped us grow as learners. Yes, we are not perfect bloggers yet, and I may have a few incorrect spellings or grammar errors, but we can change that if we blog next year. – Raegan
  • I think that blogging should be in every grade in middle school, because it is a great way to practice writing. – Josh
  • Why let your mind’s secret writing hide away and go to waste! – Dania
  • I like to look at blogging like swimming. Swimming is one of the best things for your body because it exercises every part. Blogging helps exercise every part of Language Arts, and it is also a good way to gain information on the world around us. — Maddie

I feel enormously gratified that my students themselves recognize how much they have learned through blogging.  Even so, it doesn’t hurt that standardized tests have provided concrete data to support their reflections about their growth: overall my students made significant gains in vocabulary and writing skills. One student even launched a consulting business, providing advice to other students about organization, through her blog. Other students boosted their confidence when they received unexpected accolades from peers who recognized them for “Best Post of the Year.” As a result, there is no doubt in my mind that blogging is one of the best tools we can use to help grow writers of the future.

Photo Credits:

laszlo-photo via Compfight cc

Riley, “Just Keep Blogging” via Recite (used with permission)

11 COMMENTS

  1. Susan, this makes a tremendous case for student blogging. I’m convinced I must try it with my 7th graders next year. I’m so glad you’re in our midst now and shall look to you for guidance on this! Thank you!

  2. Cate, thank you for your kind comment. I look forward to new blogging collaborations with my colleagues and students at ‘Iolani.

  3. Who better to make a case for student blogging than the students themselves? Just reading their reflections is proof of their (and your own) success. I’m sharing this one with our MS teachers and Dept Chair.

  4. I loved reading this, Susan! The innate motivator is writing for their peers to read–writing to communicate. They begin to think of the writing as sharing their ideas instead of just doing an assignment. That’s why I like using shared google.docs homework, too. When they know that their classmates will see what they wrote, kids love to put more imagination into the effort and–one HOPES–more careful craftsmanship! Yay!

  5. Thank you for your comment, Greg, and for sharing your TEDx Talk. I will now include it in my backpack of resources on blogging for parents, students, and teachers.

  6. I loved reading their responses. Kids are so insightful. I agree with Renee’s comment! This is great! Can’t wait to learn and grow with you this year, Susan!

  7. Hi! Our family is spending the year abroad and our 5th grader has started a blog about our adventures. At this point, it is more of a photo journal, but we have hopes (especially after reading this) that it can help her grow as a writer. Do you have any tips on how to develop her writing without stifling her creativity?
    Thanks!

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