by Contributing Writer
Helping students to cultivate the skills needed for writing is often about cultivating a love of writing.
It’s true that not every student has a budding author in them, but each of them does have a need to be able to express themselves clearly, concisely and intelligently. Whether they want to go on to write the Great American Novel or simply present business ideas to colleagues, writing skills are essential. The best way to help them develop those skills is to make writing personal and give them a vested interest in communication.
Blogs have become one of the most popular website formats in recent years. Websites like Blogger, WordPress and Weebly have become the essential ways for people of different walks of life to broadcast their personal stories, challenges and insights. This has created both a new generation of budding writers as well as a generation with a keen interest in the stories of others.
Developing a Skillset Through Immersive Education
Ask any teacher and they’ll tell you the best way to teach a student is to make them think they’re not learning a thing. This isn’t a negative reflection on students – it’s simply human nature. Throughout the years, teachers have always strived to find ways in which students can become truly and fully engaged in activities which help them to learn more effectively. Foreign language teachers have taken students to field trips to neighborhoods and countries where the language they teach is spoken. This type of immersive teaching is perhaps the most well-known technique that simply cannot be implemented inside of the classroom.
Blogging offers this same immersive experience. Students are simply encouraged to begin a blog chronicling their life story or a subject that ignites their interest. That’s when the skills are picked up and developed as a matter of course. The initial blogging assignment should be simple, but at the same time offer a bit of a challenge.
First, choose a platform for blogging which offers a way for students to customize their blog. Encourage students to suggest platforms they know about and discuss the pros and cons of each. This will give students the feeling of control over their blog and the responsibility for its design and content.
Choosing A Blogging Assignment
Once you’ve settled on a platform, begin with an assignment for students to introduce themselves as the blogging authors and define the purpose of their blog. A tool that can be useful to gain some momentum here is live-blogging–a real-time, running stream of ideas that functions a lot like a private twitter stream. (You can read more about liveblogging in the classroom here.)
In some cases, students may simply want a place to share their own creative writing efforts, book and movie reviews or other casual topics. Teacher should allow as much creative freedom as the curriculum will allow but make sure students understand that blog posts must include non-fiction topics as well. While freeform creative writing should be encouraged, specific assignments with deadlines should also be included. This helps students develop time management skills. Meanwhile, varying the topics for blogging assignments hones their research skills. Some sample assignments may include:
- Censorship – Internet savvy students today are usually familiar with censorship, particularly related to online activities. Give students a list of banned books and have them write reviews of the stories themselves and the ensuing controversy. Tie those posts in with stories from the news about Internet censorship to have students connect censorship in the past with today’s Internet culture.
- Make it Musical – The days of the Mix Tape may be long gone, but that doesn’t mean music is any less powerful. Have students create a playlist for a pivotal moment of their life (the death of a family member, changes in school, etc) or a list that simply reflects their own personality. Show them how to link to credible, royalty-free videos or samples of the songs. Suggest them to write explanations of lyrics and how argumentation why each song fits into the theme of the playlist.
- An Open Letter – Have students write an open letter to someone famous – living or dead – or to a relative, friend or organization. This assignment teaches students letter writing which will help in study program admissions and, may be useful for further job applications. It also gives them a chance to tackle an issue or concern they may have never had the courage to address before.
- Fantasy Field Trip – Ask students to create the Ultimate Fantasy Field Trip. Have them list the location, activities and events they would include as well as some links back to their education specialty.
Blogging As the Way to Assess Writing Skills
Keep in mind that Blogging is more than just writing. It is also about interacting with readers. Encourage students to comment on the blog posts of others and respond to the comments left on their own blog. This type of interaction should be closely monitored in order to prevent bullying. Be sure students understand the difference between an opposing viewpoint and harassment. Debates begun on blogs can be carried through to the classroom and can offer the perfect jumping off point for lessons on research, debate and literary criticism.
Comments, likes, shares actually play the same role in blogging as grades in usual writing. Students who spend time and efforts need to receive feedback on their work. They need to be sure they are evaluated, and sometimes the responses from fellow students work better than teacher’s estimation. They receive criticism better and learn to improve themselves listening to the views of others.
Writing in a blog offers a number of ways for students to develop every writing skill they will ever need. From grammar and spelling to essay construction, plot development and even story arcs – blogging offers a fun, casual and accessible way for students to develop, hone and perfect these skills without making it seem like work. Working on a regularly updated blog also helps students to develop time management skills and the ability to conduct research on their own.
Blogs can be turned into long-term projects continued and developed for several semesters, giving students and educators a virtual timeline of student’s skill improvement and personal development.
More importantly, it gives students the opportunity to learn firsthand how powerful their words and ideas can be.
Teaching Writing With Technology? Blogging, Blogging, Blogging; image attribution flickr user woodleywonderworks