Bringing Blogging into the Classroom with Student Blog Projects
Many of the ideas in this blog post are inspired by two of my favorite teaching blogs written by Jennifer Gonzalez and John Spencer. Visit their blogs to learn more and celebrate their work!
Blogging has been one of the most valuable tools I’ve had over the past few years. Not just reading blogs, but writing them.
Writing blog posts has given me a space to reflect, connect, and grow.
And while I do write exclusively about work on this blog, I’ve surprisingly found blogging to be an escape for me to explore the topics I’m genuinely interested in.
I don’t mean for this to sound self-important or self-indulgent. In fact, I oftentimes feel nervous sharing my ideas online. I regularly experience feelings of self-doubt, as a young educator who doesn’t have decades of classroom teaching experience.
But as I think about the role of blogging in my own life, I feel excited by the affordances that blogging may offer our students.
In this blog post, we are bringing blogging into the classroom with student blog projects. I’m sharing ideas for captivating student interest and boosting student engagement with a blogging project.
A Brief History of Blogging
Though the exact history of blogging is up for debate, many credit Justin Hall, a then-Swarthmore-College undergrad, for writing the world’s first blog post in 1994 (Hubspot).
Early on in this medium’s history, “most [blogs] were basically diaries, individual people’s personal musings on life,” and while blogging at one point in time may have been considered “self-indulgent” to some, this form of writing has since expanded in value and popularity (Cult of Pedagogy).
Today, blogs (formerly called “weblogs”) offer writers a platform to share ideas and expand their reach online. Blogging has even become a career path for many: from mom-bloggers to industry-and business-bloggers to even video-bloggers on YouTube (often called “vloggers”).
How are Blogs Structured?
The more blogs you read, the more you’ll notice that they oftentimes have a similar structure or formula.
- Consist of a series of blogs posts dedicated to a certain topic or topics
- Have regularly scheduled posts (or articles) that go live daily, weekly, or monthly
- Appear in reverse chronological order (newest posts at the top)
- Use categories and tags to filter and connect posts by topic
Most blog posts:
- Have a captivating title
- Are organized using Headers and Sub-Headers
- Have short paragraphs (1-2 sentences long) and include lists (like the bulleted list you see here)
- Incorporate multimedia elements (like images and video)
- Include key words to help optimize the likelihood that the post will appear in a Google Search (called “Search Engine Optimization,” or “SEO”)
What is Student Blogging?
Much like the blogging we see online, student blogs can have a similar structure.
Student blog posts may be dedicated to a specific topic or subject area, may incorporate more casual language than a formal essay, and may even be uploaded on a regular basis.
Student blogs are also focused on content, or writing a collection of blog posts to demonstrate an understanding of a content area (Cult of Pedagogy).
Effective student blogging projects also have a set of learning goals or standards. Some of these goals may include reading, writing, digital citizenship, multimedia composition, and media literacy skills.
Lastly, student blogs may have different audiences, depending on factors like privacy. Student blogs may or may not be visible to anyone on the Internet – this is a privacy consideration you will need to make (and depending on visibility, also request guardian consent).
Steps to Launching a Student Blogging Project
Step #1: Determine your learning goals and standards
To launch a student blogging project, first, you’ll need to determine your learning goals and standards. What goals, objectives, and standards will be met with this project? How will students be assessed on those standards?
Step #2: Choose a blogging framework
Once you have chosen your standards, I recommend selecting a blogging framework that will help students meet those standards.
For example, if you want students to practice nonfiction writing, you may consider using the “News Blog” or “How-To Blog” formats.
In the section below, I share four different blogging frameworks that you can implement in your classroom!
Step #3: Plan out the project timeline and logistics
Every project has logistics that need to get sorted out. Some of these logistics might include:
- What tech tool will students use? (More on this in a later section)
- What is the start and end date of this project?
- How often will students update their blogs?
- What content areas will students write about?
- How will students be assessed on their blogs?
- How will students reflect throughout (and at the end of) the project?
Step #4: Launch the student blogging project
Now, you’ll be ready to launch!
Choose a Blogging Framework
In the previous section, I shared the idea of selecting a blogging framework that will help students meet your learning goals and standards. I am sharing four different frameworks to help you get started: (1) The News Blog, (2) The How-To Blog, (3) The Genius Hour Blog, and (4) The Project Process Blog.
#1: The News Blog
Blogs can be a useful tool to spread information, including news-worthy stories! Students can write News Blogs to share school-, community-, and even global-news stories with a specific audience.
By creating a News Blog, students will practice skills like research and nonfiction writing. Students can also engage in important conversations around digital citizenship, including media literacy, misinformation, and privacy:
- How do people access, evaluate, create, and manipulate media?
- How do people determine fact vs. fiction online? What responsibilities do journalists have?
- Who is our audience? Will our posts be private (accessible to the author or student only), semi-private (accessible to small groups or the teacher), semi-public (accessible to the whole school or other classes), or public (accessible to the world)?
#2: The How-To Blog
How-To Blogs are all about sharing how to do something. This blog post, for example, is all about how to incorporate student blogs into the classroom!
Students can write how-to blogs to give instructions or advice to readers. For example, students may write about how to make a delicious recipe, how to solve a math problem, or how to manage conflicts in friendships.
Students can even demonstrate competency of a specific subject area by teaching content to others in a how-to format.
#3: The Genius Hour Blog (or “Geek Out Blog”)
John Spencer calls them “Geek Out Blogs,” based on Genius Hour, where students can explore their own passions, interests, and ideas.
In a Genius Hour project, students have several weeks where they research topics of their choice and create final products to share with the community – either their school community or the community at large.
In a Genius Hour blog, students still pursue their interests, but publish their work through the form of a blog, allowing students to practice skills like:
- Reading and writing
- Digital citizenship
- Multimedia composition
- And more!
While the Genius Hour Blog may feel too unstructured to try at first, I do believe that student-centered projects like this one can still be fundamentally rooted in standards. Before planning your Genius Hour Blog project, consider:
- What standards will students learn?
- What content areas should students pursue (i.e. hobbies, causes, historical events)?
- How much time will student spend on these blogs (i.e. once per week, once per month, in a 3-week intensive format)?
For more guidance on Geek Out Blogs, visit John Spencer’s post here.
To get started with Genius Hour, check out this blog post.
#4: The Project Process Blog
Project-based learning oftentimes emphasizes process over product. As students progress through a project or unit of study, they can provide weekly updates on a blog to track their work.
In a Project Process Blog, students can share updates for the teacher on their goals, questions, and action items each week. Students can also reflect on the project process in a structured format.
For example, if students are working on an entrepreneurship unit where they create their own businesses, students might write posts about:
- Brainstorms of product or service ideas
- Business plans and strategies
- Drafts of logos, business names, and prototypes
- Results from user-testing or empathy interviews
- Updates on final presentation progress
- Reflection on final pitches
This blog will act as a portfolio of student work — and help the teacher organize and assess student projects!
What Tech Tools Support Student Blogging?
Once you have determined a blogging framework (i.e. The News Blog, The How-To Blog, The Genius Hour Blog, and The Project Process Blog), you can begin planning the project logistics, including what tech tools students should use!
There are a number of tech tools that can support student blogging projects. I have a few recommendations for getting started:
- Blogger: Blogger is a user-friendly blogging platform that can be accessed with a Google Account (Blogger is owned by Google). Blogger has simple design templates and a drag-and-drop interface that allows students to create quality blog posts – without web design experience.
- Edublogs: Edublogs is a blogging tool that was designed for classroom use. Edublogs encourages student expression and helps students maintain digital portfolios.
- Google Sites: While Google Sites is primarily used as a web design tool (rather than for strictly blogging), students can still use Sites to create their own blogs. Google Sites has easy, intuitive drag-and-drop features, and students and teachers can collaborate using the “Share” button that also appears on Docs, Slides, Sheets, and more.
Please keep in mind that all of these sites have varying privacy and security settings and features. Do your own research before using one of these tools in your classroom!
Launching a Student Blogging Project
When aligned to standards and learning goals, student blogging can have many positive outcomes for students.
From practicing research and writing skills to learning how to use a new tech tool to demonstrating knowledge in a content area, student blogging can support student learning.
And lastly, student blogging amplifies voice and choice.
Thank you so much for reading this blog post about bringing blogging into the classroom. What other ideas do you have? Let me know in the comments below!
I really appreciate how well this blog is broken up into headings and sections. I learned so much about the history of blogging that I had not known previously. On top of that, I learned about more sites that can be used for students to blog in the classroom. I have used Google Sites in the past, and had not thought about how it could be used for students to write blogs. The steps that you mentioned for starting a student blogging project are very useful and will help me immensely in the future as I explore the use of blogs in my own class. I also appreciate the four frameworks that you mentioned. I think starting students with the ability to “geek out” and blog about their own interests is a great way to get them engaged and encourage them to continue blogging. I look forward to exploring more and using blogs in the future. Thank you for sharing your ideas.