How Blogging in Schools Builds Better Writers
In most places, school starts back up in a few weeks.
For some teachers, that means thinking about how to help your students develop their writing and reading comprehension skills in the year ahead. For others, it means finding ways to help students retain and use concepts they learn in science, art, history, and math.
Having your students write for, read, and critique a class blog is an easy and engaging way to help them become stronger writers, more astute readers, and more adept at working with the knowledge they learn in class.
If you’re not already familiar with blogging and have never set up a blog before, this post will walk you through the why and how of using student blogs in your classroom.
How does blogging help students? Let us count the ways…
The ability to write clearly is one of the most in-demand skills among employers, and it’s important for acing college entrance essays, scholarship applications, and pretty much every email your students will ever send. Blogging can help your students become better writers through:
- Carefully selecting topic ideas that will appeal to their readers.
- Finding reliable sources for their blog posts.
- Drafting and revising their blog posts.
- Reviewing other students’ posts and offering constructive feedback.
- Listening to, processing and using feedback from other students.
- Practicing, practicing, practicing.
Everyone can benefit from being a better communicator, but strong writing skills are especially important for student journalists whose intended careers center on writing. They’re also highly valuable for kids who are interested in STEM careers. Engineers and scientists have to keep clear, concise, and accurate journals during college and in the workplace. And writing clearly is critical to success in business, where so much communication happens via email.
Writing and reading blogs also helps students develop other skills, like distinguishing between fact and opinion, identifying trustworthy sources of information, and following online rules and codes of ethics. In any subject, a blog run by students can reinforce information and open up discussions that move learning forward.
Unlike writing with a pen and paper, which can seem tedious to kids who are used to texting and using email, typing out a blog post feels familiar and comfortable to students who’ve only known a world with computers and smartphones. Students whose families are on the analog side of the digital divide need hands-on experience with digital communication tools as well as writing practice in order to succeed.
General blogging for grades 3-12
There are blog lesson plans for students in all but the earliest grades. Scholastic offers blogging lesson plans for grades 3-5 that include blogging rules, defining what a blog is, writing blog entries, and evaluating blogs written by others using a rubric that covers grammar, topicality, originality, and tone.
For older students, ReadWriteThink has a blogging strategy guide and a long list of related resources for middle school and high school student blogs. Among them are a grade 6-8 five-part lesson plan series on career exploration through online research and blogging and an ongoing lesson plan for high school students that focuses on writing evaluation in blog format.
You can create a classroom blog to reinforce knowledge and build skills in just about any subject. For example, yearbook, school newspaper, and AV club teachers can explore these student journalism blogging lesson plans from the American Society of News Editors.
How to set up student blogging for your classroom
Another advantage of class blogging is that it’s easy to set up. It’s a good idea to review your school’s technology and privacy policies and to touch base with your administrators before you begin. Then you – or you and your students – can choose and register a domain name for your class blog. You can review some best practices for choosing a domain name for your blog here,
Once you have that domain name, or URL, you’re ready to choose your web hosting plan. (What exactly is web hosting? Find out here.) Your host will store your classroom blog’s text and other media on its servers, and provide security for your site. Ideally, your web host will offer a WordPress option that makes it easy to choose a theme to design your blog and plug-ins to add extra functions like social media sharing tools. Find out which type of web hosting best matches your needs here.
After that, you can develop a blog writing, editing, and posting schedule that fits your curriculum and classroom goals. You may want to use a single username for all posts to protect your students’ privacy, or let them choose their own individual screen names so they have a sense of ownership over their posts as well as some privacy online. Once the blog is up and running, be sure to share the URL with parents so they can keep up with what’s happening in the classroom and discuss it at home.
Does your classroom or school already have class blogs? Share your favorite examples in the comments!
Casey Kelly-Barton is an Austin-based freelancer who enjoys writing about business development and marketing, e-commerce payments and fraud prevention, and travel.