Blogging for English

12 Mar

In every classroom in the United States that teaches writing – good writing – the goals are the same: write often, get feedback, make improvements, write again.  As an English teacher, my issue has always been, and will always be, managing the comments and feedback on every piece of student writing.  It’s laborious, time-consuming and leaves me carting papers all over the place, from work to Starbucks to home and back again.  After thinking, reading, asking questions, and researching late at night, there was only one thing to do, start a blog in my English class.

In the beginning it was rough, I had to get the kids on the blog then get them to write on the blog.  Most just wanted to copy and paste which doesn’t always work.  They were so caught up in the format of their writing that they did not spend time focusing on the quality of their writing.  So, to shock my students, I told them I would not grade the format of their writing, that writing a blog could be a little less formal than an essay.  They should still use correct grammar, paragraphs, punctuation and the like – but don’t worry so much about following MLA format or APA format.

Next came reading the blogs.  I would read the blogs on a daily basis, as the teacher I need to know what is appearing on my blogs.  I would leave one comment – focusing specifically on how the student presented an idea versus any grammatical errors.  I feel that any student can proofread for grammar (editing), but to proofread for flaws in logic, that’s a bit tougher skill.  The problem, students did not know to go and read comments.  Even worse, I would see multiple errors of the same variety, so I would create a post to correct these errors, and student would keep making the same mistakes while disregarding my comments.  So, I taught my students the importance of reading other posts – especially mine – and reading comments on their blog and making corrections.

I created weekly writing assignments.  In the beginning we would start the writing in class, and instead of correcting the assignments, students could have another person in class proof their writing, make corrections, and then post their work on the class blog.  This eliminated any paper trail and forced my students onto the blog for their assignments.

An example of some of my students' comments

 

Now, with weekly assignments up on the blog, I began to assign work that had students commenting on each others’ blog.  After thorough discussions about reading other people’s writing, we would select a student in class at random.  The students would go online over the next few days, and leave a comment on that student’s blog.  The first two students were bad as I got comments like, “you forgot a period when you said,” ‘you should use a comma,” or “I like when you said … it sounds cool.”  I put the blog up on the board and had the kids read the comments.  We talked about the types of comments kids were leaving, and how these comments really don’t challenge us to improve as writers.  A few blogs later, I started to get comments like “in your first paragraph you write … I think you meant … but it is confusing as you did not mention … ”  – and now I’m starting to see some critical thinkers.

I still have issues with students not checking their blog, looking for comments and replying.  However, I know I have done more writing and left more feedback with my students than I have in any of my previous years of teaching.  The best part, I now have an online portfolio for each student in my class.  The last writing assignment will be for the kids to evaluate their own writing, chart how they improved or to look for patterns in their writing.  They have an entire years worth of work to choose from, so my hope is that this personal reflection will let them see the value of their online writing endeavors.

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4 Responses to “Blogging for English”

  1. helpforyourenglish March 13, 2011 at 9:49 am #

    I’m glad your hard work has paid off. It is always good to see students develop. The students should also appreciate being able to see their own development over the year.

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