Why should children blog?

I am fairly new to blogging and as part of undertaking an online course in blogging, 31 days to be a better blogger, I have had to reflect on my learning.  The learning in technology has been enormous – technorati, google analytics and heat maps to mention but a few but there has also been some quieter, less obvious, learning and that has been around me as a writer and how this might impact on teaching children.

I have never considered myself to be a writer although I do think of myself as a reader.  Someone recently said to me whan I was talking about not being a writer  “Well you blog don’t you?”  And yes I do, so I am a writer.  So what has made me think I am a writer and kept me going?

The first thing is that there are people who read the blog and comment.  They are listening and responding and joining in with the conversation.  The delight in switching on in the morning and finding that not only has someone read what I have written but have also commented.  It is one of the things that keeps me writing.

I am slowly discovering my voice and my niche in this blogging world.  I have tried out a variety of different types of post and content and am learning about what appeals to my audience.  This is a small, global audience but one that has interests in common.

Not everything I write is of interest to everyone so I can make mistakes, in terms of content or quality of writing and nothing happens.  Literally.  This means that I can try things out.

In order to write, I need to read.  I therefore read a lot of blogs.  I read them because I am interested in what the authors have to say but also read them and think about why the post appealed to me.  I am reading and responding as a reader but also reading as a writer.

Commenting on others’ blogs was quite scary to start off with. But this is what blogging is all about.  Establishing contacts and discussing. I didn’t know whether other bloggers would be interested in what I had to offer the conversation.  However, with time and practise my confidence in this area has grown.

The reading, thinking and involvement in social networks generates further things to blog about.  This post is as a result of the interest in a previous post about blogging to improve children’s writing and belonging to the 31 days be a better blogger group.

Are these not the things that we want children to experience as writers?  I think these  have implications for us if we want children to blog.

  • We need to set up a method by which children have access to a range of blogs in areas that they are interested in.  I am not writing about literacy and ICT because someone told me to.  I write about it because I am interested in it.
  • We need to find a community that will read what children have to say.  Not just adults who are supporting the process but those who are also interested in the content so that we can be thinking about audience and purpose when we write.  We need to establish this community so that feedback is given to the children in a meaningful way and nourishes and nurtures their writing.
  • We need to givem them access to a range of ways of writing blog posts so that they can try things out and find their own style and voice.
  • We need to encourage children to write about what they are interested in when they have something to say.  For some this might be a lot more frequently than others.
  • Not everyone need have an individual blog.  There may be some common interests that mean that a group blog could be established.
  • We need to teach children how to comment so that it shows you are thinking about the ideas in the writing.
  • We still need to teach children about how to communicate their ideas effectively.  Grammar matters! (I am a literacy consultant after all!)

Blogging to improve children’s writing

Many teachers are now using blogging with their pupils or students.  There are a whole range of types of blog post and these can be used to develop a range of writing styles and text types particularly in non-fiction writing.  These ideas have been taken from the slideshow The 25 Basic Styles of Blogging by rohitbhargava.

  • Review blogging – this type of post can be used by writing reviews of books read, films watched or software used (non-chronological report)
  • List blogging – this is a very common type of blog post and quite often attracts a lot of readers.  Children could write top 10 books read, games played, dinosaurs or anything they are interested in
  • Ambition blogging – this is blogging about something in an effort to try and achieve it.  This type of post could be used at the beginning, middle and end of the year to set targets and review learning.  It would be especially useful linked in to parents evenings (chronological or non-chron report depending on how organised)
  • Photo blogging – also known as phlogging is a great way to ring the changes.  Here children would use an image or series of images to deliver their message.  This could be something such as the Flickr idea of a story told through five images, images from the classroom or an event
  • Video blogging – or vlogging is a great way to share film that children create
  • Interview blogging – this is where an interview is included in the post either as a podcast or video.  It can be linked to a visitor to the school or classroom or children can go out and interview others.  The quality of the questions used will determine the success of the interview
  • Life blogging – for children this is often achieved through role play and drama where the children write in character.  They are the pirate or the character in the story and the posts are literally a diary of events and feelings. (recount in the form of a diary or biography)
  • Event blogging – this type of post is not difficult to achieve in a school.  There are sports days, trips and major incidents all of which provide a stimulus for writing. (recount could be in the form of news report)
  • Survey blogging – this is where the blogger asks their readers for an opinion about something.  For instance if writing a discursive text they could ask their readers for an opinion about the subject
  • Link blogging – this is where the post contains a series of links to other resources with a brief description about why they are being suggested.  Children could create posts like this towards the end of a topic as a bibliography or in preparation for a special event.
  • How to blogs – these posts explain how to do something and frequently include labelled diagrams.  This might move children away from always writing recipes when they have to write instructions. (instructions)

Each of these types of posts on a blog require slightly different ways of writing and have their own structures and language features .  The challenge is for us to extend children’s repertoires.  They can also challenge us as teachers to write.

Are your children writing a range of types of post?  Why not join the edublogs 2009 Student Blog Challenge

 

Using Scooby Doo to Improve Writing

For some time now we have used film to support writing.  Here we use a Scooby Doo trailer to explore how focusing on different aspects of a film changes the writing.
We always turn the sound down on this trailer and stop it before the Batman outline turns into Scooby Doo.  The children need to watch it several times just to respond to it as it is, no sound and no Scooby Doo as that completely changes the film.  We would show them it all after we have finished.
Divide the children into groups and ask each group to focus on a different aspect: camera angle and movement, light and dark and colour.  The children watch the trailer several times and m ake notes about what they see and then discuss.  Share what they see.
They then watch again but jot down words and phrases that link to their focus and the film.  The camera group often come up with things such as swooping up and over, racing along, gliding down the corridor, turning and choosing the doorway.  Here the verb choice to describe the movement and prepositions are very strong.
The light and dark group might jot down phrases such as moonlight shining on water, lit up house, shadows of trees, light entering the gloom from the moonlit windows, patterned shadows.  Here noun modifiction and expansion are strong.
These can then be crafted into sentences to describe the film clip.  Depending upon the focus for observation, the paragraphs will be very different and that can then lead into a discussion about what you as a writer want your reader to see and feel.
There is also something interesting about the fact that whatever is moving around the house is hidden from the viewer and with older children it would be worthwhile exploring how you hide something from the reader and then decide to reveal it.  The revealing in this clip leads to humour and completely changes the tone.  Different ways of revealing could be explored in writing and the impact upon the reader.
Do you have any film clips you like to use to support children in writing?

Happy New Year

And to celebrate the new year her is another fantastic resource from Pie Corbett: Jumpstart! Poetry  Games and Activities for ages 7 – 12.

 

If you click on the open book icon in the image of the book you can see for yourself what is in this book.  I particularly like the section that Pie calls strengthening the imagination.  Teachers frequently come across children who have a limited imagination and this sections helps to try and understand why this might be and what we can do to support children in this area. 

Every KS2 teacher should have a copy of this book!

Jumpstart Story Making by Pie Corbett

Games and activities for ages 7 – 12

This is one of Pie’s latest books based on his recent work around talk for writing .  The book is packed full of ideas for developing children’s story telling and story making.  The sections based around creative warm-ups and strengthening the imagination are especially valuable for dev eloping a writer’s ethos in the classroom.

If you search for this book on Amazon, you can look inside the first few pages and see some of the activities.  I like the idea of Video Writing as a way of releasing words from children.

All KS2 teachers should have a copy of this book.

 

Writing Myths and Legends

 This site http://myths.e2bn.org/ is a great online resource for writing myths and legends produced by the East England Learning Grid.

On the site you will find myths and legends which you can share and enjoy as a class both in the written form and animated.  The best part of the site is the Story Creator where children can create images and write their own myths and legends.  The site has a full gallery of images to include in stories as well as sounds but you can also upload your own images and record your own voice over.

Once stories have been created they can be added to the site and others, who have been approved by the site, can view them and comment on them.

If you have used this resource let us know how you got on by posting a comment.

Visual Literacy – Comic Life

comic-life-pod – to hear about Comic Life click on the link.

 

This is a fantastic bit of software.  It takes pictures from your computer or captures them from a webcam and then puts them into a comic format.  See the software at http://plasq.com/comiclife-win where you can download a free 30 day trial.  You can add text and call-outs and decide which bits of your photos should appear in the boxes.  This would definitely be useful for motivating children to write for a whole variety of purposes.

Uses for Comic Life that spring to mind immediately are:

  • telling a life story
  • looking at the pace of a story and what type of box should be used in slower parts and the quicker parts
  • retelling of stories either through images from the web or from those taken by the children
  • explaining a process – mummification jumps to mind

Charles Thacker has written a detailed article with references about using comics in education.  With many thanks to Digital Teacher for the recommendation.

There is a free 30 day trial on this software and after that it is only £49 available from Tag.  Well worth it.