How can student blogs help kids master the State Standards?
Take a look at the CA State Standards (on Links page). Notice this sentence in Grade 5 Reading Comprehension 2.0:
"By grade eight, students read one million words annually on their own, including a good representation of grade-level-appropriate narrative and expository text (e.g., classic and contemporary literature, magazines, newspapers, online information). In grade five, students make progress toward this goal."
That's several thousand words per day! Not only that, but they will need to be proficient writers. To reach these goals, they need to be motivated to immerse themselves in activities involving reading and writing. This needs to happen regularly and in a meaningful and fun context. We need to provide them with activities that will make them want to read and write and revise their work. Blogs provide such a forum. See the Testimonials page for what parents have said about this.
Student blogs are a great way to help kids to reach the state standards. The reason is simple: with their blogs, kids are writing for a real purpose, and an authentic audience. They know that their work will be looked at by real people (usually their peers, parents, relatives, teachers, and principals), rather than merely submitting it for grading by a teacher and then stuffing it in a desk or folder. Not only that, they are reading their peer's blogs, and commenting on how they can be improved.
Many of my students are writing on the weekends and vacations, and their peers are reading their blog posts and submitting comments-on the weekends! As soon as a student composes something on their blog or a comment is submitted, I get an instant email on my mobile device. The comments go through me, the moderator, and then as long as they are appropriate, I will allow them to be published on the author's blog. The kids love this, and the goal of having them read and write regularly for a meaningful purpose is being met.
As a teacher, getting an instant update on my mobile device on the weekends and vacations, and knowing that my kids are doing meaningful work on their own volition, is hugely rewarding. I love sharing it with my family and friends and colleagues in the educational field, and I can do it on my mobile device at my convenience.
Let's look closer at some of the standards found in the CA English Language Arts for Grade 5 (found on Links page)
Writing Standard 1.0: " Students write clear, coherent, and focused essays. The writing exhibits the students’ awareness of the audience and purpose."
Blogs help kids develop this skill because they allow the children to see how many viewers their posts get, and where in the world their visitors live. If they get a lot of "hits" on a piece they wrote, they can plan to write more about that subject in the future. This not only develops and awareness of an audience and purpose, it teachers statistics, because the kids are given demographic information on their readers as well as charts and graphs on the amount of hits they receive. This also helps them develop marketing and public relations skills.
Writing Standard 1.4 Research and Technology: "Create simple documents by using electronic media and employing organizational features."
This one is a "Gimme". Here's how one parent put it: "My son is learning to think of his computer as a tool, not just a toy, and is gaining skills that he will use throughout his life."
Of course, by reading other students blogs and revising their own work, they are engaging in activities that help them reach reading standards and editing and revision standards like:
Writing Standard 1.6 Evaluation and Revision: "Edit and revise manuscripts to improve the meaning and focus of writing by adding, deleting, consolidating, clarifying, and rearranging words and sentences."