I am going to have each of my eighth grade Language Arts students maintain a blog this year, and I keep grappling with the same questions. My biggest one at the moment is whether student posts should be polished pieces of writing (i.e. they have taken the piece through at least some steps of the writing process) or whether to let them jump on, write, do some editing, and viola. I am wondering what others think and do. I can see both sides of the argument.

Tags: blogs, writing

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Good question.
How about you? Are YOUR blogs polished pieces of writing?

I'd say to allow them to LABEL some pieces as "WIP (Work in Progress)." I think that's one of the good things about blogs--they can be edited or totally deleted. Also, if you moderate the posts, any that are exceptionally full of errors you can send back to the kiddo for editing, right?

Interested to hear what others think.
-Michelle TG
Debra, I'd like to share a blog entry I wrote recently.
http://www.mguhlin.net/archives/2008/07/entry_7592.htm

Some of the quotes that jump out at me:

# Expression and publication are not put off until the students have mastered the canons of correctness.
Tech Connection: Aren't blogs and wikis excellent ways to encourage children to express and publish their work BEFORE it's perfect?
# Students learn to be critical of inequities, become critical agents
Tech Connection: Use citizen-journalism approaches--and the digital tools--to fact-check reality portrayed by "authoritarian" sources like the media, the government, institutions, etc. Use technology as a tool to understand the world and when injustices are uncovered, act not simply complain.
# Provide conditions where students can speak, write, assert their own histories, voices, and learning experiences.

It's important that we allow students to share their writing before it's perfect. The knowledge that they are publishing to a REAL audience will drive them to improve their work...this I have observed in the blogs our teachers and students are doing in our schools.

Miguel
The replies here have brought up some very valid points. I worry though that we are trying to take away the enjoyment of blogging by making it "schoolish." I anxiously await the results of this project. Good luck.
Thanks for the replies. I hope that we can continue this conversation.

I have been teaching writing for 15 years, and I have always taught my students (eighth graders) that by the time a piece reaches the publication stage, it should be of the highest quality. This means that it has gone through the writing process, including revision work and careful editing. I guess that is why I am struggling with the whole blogging idea because my strong sense is that most students publish on blogs and that it is, essentially, first draft work, and I'm not sure how I feel about that.

As for my own blog, I absolutely take my posts through the writing process. It takes me quite a long time to post, as I am doing so much revision work along the way.
Thanks, Debra, for raising this issue, which I appreciate the opportunity to discuss. I think that it's very important for students to understand that when they publish a blog post on the web, their writing represents them to a global audience. Like you, I would never publish something to a global audience without reviewing it and revising or editing as needed in order to make a respectable effort at effectively communicating what I want to say.

As others have mentioned, writing for real audiences is a big part of what makes blogging so appealing. Teaching students to consider the implications of this should not discourage them. (If you're interested, I have written more about this in my blog, Authorship 2.0, and in another discussion forum titled Teaching Writing with Web 2.0 Media.) Applying the writing process is really nothing more than making sure that what you have written fully expresses what you want to say before you share it. In the real world of writers, the writing process is much more iterative and recursive than it usually appears in classroom instruction. What you describe your own writing process to be is worth explaining to students. The so-called "steps" in the writing process as described in textbooks are not really a true representation of how expert writers write. Most writers review, revise, and edit as they write, and they usually reread a text multiple times to check that it represents them well before sharing it with readers.

Respected bloggers (or published writers in any genre or medium) are those who are professional about their writing, and it does students no favors to keep this a secret. There are other media that are more appropriate for sharing developing ideas or texts, such as private journals or online discussions. But once you publish your writing on the web to the world, it lives on and represents you in ways that you cannot control. So I think it's important that we help students understand each medium, the scope of its audience, and the implications of that.

Even though I did not write multiple drafts of this discussion post, I reviewed and edited it before deciding it was ready to share with the world. That does not mean it is ready for publication in a journal, and I have other places where I write notes that are not yet ready for an audience beyond myself. It's our job to teach our students good writing habits such that they consider their audience and purpose for each text that they compose.
Cathy, I appreciate your interest in keeping students engaged in writing through blogs, and I agree that we should not treat classroom blogging the way writing has been treated traditionally in many classrooms (i.e., as a dull chore rather than an empowering experience). However, I think that we can capitalize on what is engaging about blogging, namely communicating authentically with real audiences, while also helping students understand how to maximize the effectiveness of their written communication. We don't worry that classroom talk will take the fun out of lunchroom or playground talk, so we should not worry that kids cannot understand that different contexts demand different conventions in the realm of written communication as well. We just need to communicate this.
This attached article is not about blogs but is about how writing increases learning in all subject areas. It's published but the South Australian Teachers' Registration Board and is a synopsis of recent research of writing and learning.

It seems like an important article to me, suggesting that in writing students are learning at a deeper level whatever they are writing about. There are suggestions for writing also in less obvious subjects like PE and Science.

When students are blogging they can be engaging in a deep way with their subject and coming to new understandings. This article might also be shared with parents to talk about the value of writing and blogging.
Attachments:
Thank you so much for taking the time to share your thoughtful comment. Your insights really added to my thinking.
I actually just started blogging myself and I am excited to share my process with my students. If anyone is interested, I blog at http://msbaker.edublogs.org/
Debra
My main objective for my students is that I want them to write, but to write quality responses. What I mean is, I don't want them to answer a prompt or provide a reflection with one word or a short sentence. That's an easy way out, and they are getting a grade out of this. Over time, the writing they do on the class blog does carry over to their formal essay writing. Once they get going, I do ask them to go back and self correct for spelling and grammar. Most take the time to do that.
I’ve used blogs in both my 7th and 8th grade language arts classrooms—creating a community of learners is my primary objective, and by using 21classes.com, I am able to maintain a classroom community where students ask questions, draft, evaluate, revise, publish, and so on... I’ve used blogs to write poetry, short stories, expository, persuasive, and analytical essays—from start to finish—and in between The most important piece, I believe, is that students know what I expect for each given assignment—whether that is a quick free write or a final processed, published piece of writing. I find the power to be in the process, whether that includes shared inquiry, peer response, or self-reliance… My favorite blogging experience has been using the novel Illustrated Man—students read several of the short stories, then work together to build an understanding of theme, characters, and other literary elements—once we’ve completed several of the short stories, the students write analytical essays. Students love to blog—and many continue to use their blogs after we’ve moved on to other assignments… An excellent classroom tool! I guess it just comes down to what your objective is--short or long term...

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