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The Conundrum of Writing: How 8th Grade Blogs Are Helping Students Learn to Love (or at least like a little) Writing

February 26, 2013

8th grade Language Arts students have entered the world of blogging! This project came about as a result of my students lacking engagement, effort, and ownership over their writing in Language Arts. It’s hard for 8th graders to see the relevancy of academic writing and how things like spelling, grammar, and punctuation matter in their everyday lives. I asked my students to list 3 words they associate with “writing;” the results were varied, but it’s clear there are some recurring beliefs that writing is difficult, hard, boring, and confusing. Check out a mash-up of their responses below!
Writing Words
As a teacher, I was SO excited to allow my students the freedom to choose a topic they were deeply interested in. I hoped by creating an authentic audience and the idea their writing would be public to the entire world would increase their interest and effort to create stronger, more academically sound writing. So I bubbled over the whole week leading up to the creation of their blogs; I was hoping my excitement would be contagious. The day before the students created their blogs, I asked them, “Are you excited to start blogging?” The results below show my excitement was not really catching on. WHAT?

Despite their initial lack of excitement, Tuesday, January 29 was the blog kick-off day! Allie Holland walked our students through WHY people blog, and how to set up a Blogger account. When she asked the students, “How many of you are excited to start your blogs?!” there were resounding “nos” and “ughs.” As a teacher I was learning a majority of my students do not like writing assignments, no matter the context. The good news: There is hope!
Blogging

Since the first day of blog set-up, students have been writing weekly posts on a topic of their choice. The students are required to locate and read an article or professional blog associated with their topic, and then write at least 300 words for their posts. Once they got the hang of blogging, once they realized they were in charge of the content, the excitement started to build. Rather than me dictating what they read and wrote about, the students were learning to direct their own thinking and learning outcomes!

Now that the students are becoming more adept at using the Blogger platform, students will ask me to teach them the writing and digital skills they want and need to know. Students are ASKING to learn new skills, seeking out help to improve their writing, and finding they WANT to write more than the required amount!

Students have been asking…

“Miss Kappler, how do I cite images from the Internet?”

“Miss Kappler, how do I embed YouTube videos into my blog?”

“Miss Kappler, what’s a better way to search for an article?”

“Miss Kappler, what’s a better word for [insert overused, boring word here]?”

“Miss Kappler, am I allowed to write more than 300 words?”

Being realistic, I knew not all of my students would find blogging to be enjoyable, and I was expecting there to be some students who do not complete their blogging assignments. HOWEVER, I have learned many of my students are posting more than once a week. In their spare time they are adding videos, pictures, sharing links to sites of interest, and giving their opinion on issues that matter to them.  They are writing for fun!

My fears about blogging being worthwhile were put to rest when within the first weeks, a reluctant reader and writer bounded up to me and said, “I’ve had 27 page views this week! Someone even left a comment!” All of a sudden, students who initially viewed writing as “hard,” “boring,” or “confusing” found reason to get excited about writing! And just today, one of my students who struggles to write even a paragraph said, “Look Miss Kappler. I have 332 words and I’m not even close to being done!”

8th graders are learning to love (or at least like a little) writing!

Here are a few links to some exceptional 8th grade blogs! Some are from students who were initially excited to blog, others are from students who are discovering they actually like to write!

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