A blinking cursor replaces the pen or pencil aligned with a blank page, but the overwhelming frustration of not knowing what to write doesn’t change.
“Miss, what does this have to be about?”
“Anything you want - make it about your learning.”
“How long does this have to be?”
“As long as it needs to be.”
“Is anybody even going to read this?”
Writing is arguably one of the most important skills students need to take away from their formative and secondary years of education. As teachers, we struggle to share that importance by communicating its necessity and truly having students embrace the power of written words in all of their content areas, not just English.
Likely the sole act of sitting in a classroom writing an assignment for a teacher is not going to inspire a unique and developed voice for any student. It lacks meaning and urgency. If they don’t understand the purpose, the writing will mirror the effort.
With today’s society shifting to technology, writing and publishing has become immediate and public. Students don’t have to only write for an audience of one. From their phones they can write whole blog posts to share with an authentic global audience whenever they want from wherever they want. Our job now needs to be to hone their unique voices and inspire deep levels of reflection on their terms, not ours.
There are many platforms that are free and easy to use and made age appropriate for all levels of students. Whether using a Google account with Blogger or starting with Edmodo or Edublogger, teachers can use the right platform to help students express thoughts publicly.
Publishing is no longer just for scholars and established authors. We can all be authors and encouraging a public space to develop the subtle intricacies of writing makes even the novice writer empowered.
If our end goal is to get students writing more, then we need to allow for some of that writing to be less structured. The mere act of thinking and communicating in writing, often, improves the way we think, even if the writing isn’t terribly good at first. More importantly, writing becomes a habit of mind, one that students enjoy doing as they manipulate their blogs and real people share feedback and comments about their thoughts. It’s less about the correctness and more about connection.
In the digital age, social media has changed the way kids speak with each other. Instagram, Twitter and Facebook offer short spaces for status updates and pictures of the world they see. We need to capitalize on the public spaces kids are already inhabiting and show them how to be effective in them. Subsequently, this will carry over into their writing academically.
Kids have lots to say about many things. We need to take the restrictions off, provide them a safe forum and encourage them the sharpen their voices. Using precise diction and syntax, the way a child thinks can be relatable to many readers. Our job is to help them get those amazing ideas into a public space where others can connect.
Imagine a classroom of kids, engaged in writing because they like it; they want to do it. No more sighs and audible “ahs” when it comes time to blog. It’s easy and it’s fun and best of all, it doesn’t feel like learning, but it is.
Seniors in my old school blogged about their transitions between high school and college. Each child tracked their experiences all year. This space became their reflection, their record, their memory of the time spent preparing for the next part of their lives. Blogging doesn’t have to be limited to just reflection, however. Younger students can use it for homework help or student publications, changing the traditional column into a flavorful stream of thoughts that don’t have to wait until deadline to be shared.
Teachers can model good blogging behaviors by writing their own blogs and using them as a tool to share with students. The more authentic we can be in what we teach, the more likely students will be to hear us. Create a space that is truly yours to share ideas, reflections, experiences and then experience the power of an audience to validate them all. Blogging connects us in a way writing in a classroom never can and that’s why we need to be using it.
How do you use blogging with your students? If you don’t, what are your concerns? Please share
The opinions expressed in Work in Progress are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.