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Saturday, January 16, 2010

Benefits of Weblogs in the English Classroom



I want to replace the reading journals I have been using in my English classroom with Weblogs. Traditionally, students
have been writing reflective pieces about the novels or short stories we read, including brief summaries to demonstrate their understanding of the material, questions they have as they read, and opinions
and personal connections they make as they read. I read all the students' reading journals, and they read a sampling of each other's journals in small groups during class. Students generally have time during these small group sessions to read and respond (in a couple of paragraphs) to three or four of their classmates' journals. How much more effective it will be to post reactions to the readings and responses to peers online! It will save class time, allow students to read more of their classmates' entries, and allow me to grade this work much more easily. This will also be my way of beginning to use Weblogs in the classroom. Teaching students to do so using their reading journals will make the transition comfortable for them, since they are already accustomed to writing these entries and they are already familiar with my expectations for this type of writing.

Why teach blogging in English class? I am currently reading Richardson (2009) "Blogs, Wikis, Podcasts, and Other Powerful Web Tools for Classrooms." He describes several benefits of blogging with students. The audience becomes real and the work becomes relevant for students. Students are able to connect and to work collaboratively with a diversity of other learners worldwide. He also explains that blogs keep work organized and searchable, that they support learning for all students in a more democratic way than a traditional class discussion, and that they assist students in focusing and developing their expertise on a particular topic.

Most intriguing to me is what Richardson calls "connective writing." By writing their reading journals in a Weblog format, students will be required to read each other's work closely and thoughtfully, and their responses will demonstrate their analysis of each other's work. They will make connections and build on each other's ideas. They will have the opportunity to receive immediate feedback and clarification as well. I foresee students looking back over their blog for a particular novel in preparation for a test or paper about the novel. They will have developed an entire conversation throughout the unit that they can reflect on. They can see what they have learned. They can look at my responses and their classmates' responses to further their understanding of themes and specific details of the novel, and even to make connections and comparisons amoung novels throughout the course.

3 comments:

  1. Hi! I love the idea of using the blogs as an opportunity for to replace the paper and pencil, traditional reading journals. I'm wondering how you plan to make accommodations for those who do not have computers at home? Does your school have computers that are available for their use? Will you give them extended time allowances considering that they don't have the easy access that others who have computers at home?

    Also, have you figured out how you will score them?

    I am curious as to how successful this is as I might be interested in doing this with my sixth graders. Right now, only about half of my students actually have computers at home. The computer lab is not open and there are only 8 computers available in our library for student use. So, I'm truly wondering how to make it easily accessible for all. Great idea, though. Please share how this turns out.

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  2. Miss A

    It is challenging to deal with the variations in students' access to the technologies I want to use. Some are easily able and very experienced using computers at home and at school, while others are forced to get all their work done at school because they don't have a computer at home. Fortunately, almost all of my students do have the Internet at home now, but I do have to keep this need in mind as I assign learning tasks. There are computers available at school for everyone, though.

    In my school district, in Maine, we are fortunate to have laptops for each Middle School student and for all teachers. I was teaching at the Middle School level the year the Laptop Initiative began here in Maine, when each seventh grader recieved a laptop to use at school. Now, several years later, sixth graders each receive laptops to use at school, and seventh and eighth graders receive laptops they can take home with them all year. (Along with a big contract that must be signed by students and their parents, of course!)

    Needless to say, lots of training was needed and lots of changes were made when we got all these laptops to use in our Middle School. Now, we use them all the time. Unfortunately, our Department of Education could not afford to follow through on the laptop initiative to the point of distributing laptops at the high school level, but we have maintained them at the Middle School level. The upside of this is that all of my high school students are very proficient in using the computers we do have at the high school, as they are the same Macs they had at the Middle School. Of course the down side is that at the high school, we have to share big cumbersome laptop carts that we sign out and roll around from room to room. Still, I am thankful for the computers we have available, as it sounds like other states are struggling with a lack of such resources.

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  3. Sherrie,
    I enjoyed reading your ideas regarding journaling. I think these will benefit the students not only in their writing skills, but in critical reading as well. This is an area my students need to gain proficiency, so I am particularly interested. You are very lucky to have laptops for every student to take home; I thought we were fortunate to have a classroom set! I really found this statement in our text reveling “Blogging, at base, is writing what you think when you read others. If you keep at it, others will eventually write down what they think when they read you, and you will enter a new realm of blogging, a new realm of human connection. (Smith, 2004)


    Smith, K. (2004, March 30) CCCC waves and ripples. Retrieved September 25, 2005, from http://www.mchon.net/site/edublog_comments.php

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