This year, I have been working with two grade teams with integrating blogging into novel studies to create quality learning tasks and intentional connections to the program of studies. Current research to supports a positive relationship between blogging and the development of communication skills, reading comprehension, critical thinking, writing for an audience, and student motivation and ownership over their writing (Cassidy, 2008; Frye, Trathen & Koppenhaver, 2010; Handsfield, Dean & Cielocha, 2009; Murray & Hourrigan, 2008; Swanson & Legutko, 2008).
Through a novel study on Freak the Mighty, it was noticed that student achievement increased significantly on a blog post about how to be a good friend. Students were tasked with the following:
This task required students to engage in thoughtful questioning to explore their ideas and communicate their connection between their reading and the real world. Some exemplars of our final product of this blog post are captured below.
While we did notice an increase in communication skills, reading comprehension, writing for an audience, and student motivation and ownership over their writing, by collaboratively analyzing student work through the PLC process, it was also noted one area where many kids could have done better – the explanation of their “how to” before their connection to the text. For example, above, the students identified the “how to” trait and made a connection to the book, but they forgot to explain why this trait means you are being a good friend.
Reflecting on this through conversation, we collaboratively made modifications to that task for next year.
As well, I suggested we try a second activity on types of conflict where we explained to the kids both the noticed improvement AND area for growth from the “how to” and gave the students an opportunity to show improvement through types of conflict – they were provided with actionable feedback and a second opportunity to demonstrate learning, thus experience responsive instruction driven by formative feedback. For example, as a class, we talked about what information was missing from the first task – the why – and I explained to the students this with types of conflict, they needed to define the conflict of choice before giving the book exemplar.
Here are the responses from the same two authors above:
When introducing the second blog post, students were provided with meaningful communication where they were told about how we met as a group of teachers, noticed an area of weakness and are now responding to this so students can have an opportunity to demonstrate their learning, which will be reflected in the informative grading of progression up the 4-point scale. Upon assessing the second post, it was noted that only 2 students received a “1”, with most of the class achieving either a “3” or “4”.
Cassidy, K. (2008). To blog or not to blog. Connect Magazine, 21(4), 1-3.
Frye, E. M., Trathen, W., & Koppenhaver, D. A. (2010). Internet workshop and blog publishing: Meeting student (and teacher) learning needs to achieve best practice in the twenty-first-century Social Studies classroom. Social Studies, 101(2), 46-53.
Handsfield, L., Dean, T., & Cielocha, K. (2009). Becoming critical consumers and producers of text: Teaching literacy with web 1.0 and web 2.0. Reading Teacher, 63(1), 40-50.
Murray, L., & Hourigan, T. (2008). Blogs for specific purposes: Expressivist or socio-cognitivist approach? ReCALL, 20(1), 82-97.
Swanson, K., & Legutko, R. (2008). The effect of book blogging on the motivation of 3rd-grade students. Online Submission, 1-8.