Saturday, March 7, 2015

Blogging as a Genre

Recently, I sat down with a group of first through fifth graders to kick off our Slice of Life writing group.  Our group would have the goal to write every day in the month of March.  We would meet once a week to provide support for one another.  After much debate I had decided to set up a blog on Kidblog to host all of the writers.  They weren't required to write in this space, students could write on their class blogs or personal blogs if they had one, but most chose to stay in this space.  

As we talked about the blog questions began to surface:
"Can we write about whatever we want?"
"Can I get on the blog whenever I want to get on the blog?"
"Do we just write in the comments?"  

I hadn't expected these questions.  Of course students could write about whatever they wanted, but we did chat a bit our responsibility in public writing.  I assured them they could get on their blog anytime they wanted to get to their blog.  It would be possible for them to access the blog at home, at school, in the library, at grandma and grandpa's house.  I then showed them how they would have their own space to write about topics of their choice.  They wouldn't need to write in comments to my post, but would have their own digital space. 

Considering Blogging as a Genre
I have written before about blogging with young learners:  Am I Crazy?  Blogging with First Graders.  In this post I consider the reasons I think blogging with young learners is an important part of building a learning community.  The day we started our writing event and the conversation with students reminded me of the importance of teaching blogging as a genre.  In today's world, blogging seems like a worthy genre study.  Taking time to help students to understand what blogs can give them as readers and how they could use them as writers is worth some time.  

In teaching blogging as a genre we should consider the purpose of blogging.  Why do bloggers blog?  Why do readers read blogs?  As a reader, I have blogs I follow because I know they provide information I want to know.  I read blogs for entertainment, information, and to push my thinking.  There is something about having "fresh writing" that appeals to me as a reader.  I also read blogs to join conversations with others.  There's something about being able to interact with the author and other readers I find interesting.  As a writer, I blog to ask questions, to reflect, to join larger conversations across blogs, and to connect with an audience.  

In teaching blogging as a genre we should consider the characteristics of blogs.  Providing opportunities for young learners to read blogs and begin to consider the characteristics of these digital spaces through inquiry can help to understand blogging as a genre.  What do you notice as you visit blogs?  What are blogs about?  What does the space usually look like?  There are blogs that write about a particular topic.  You'll find blogs that focus on sports, cooking, books, movies, education, science, gaming, and other areas of interest.  You will find blogs where authors focus their writing around a topic, but you will also find blogs where people share life experiences with a larger audience.  Some bloggers write every day, others weekly or as they are inspired.  It's helpful to understand the features of blogs such as blogrolls, useful links, and other features bloggers will include in their spaces.  

In teaching blogging as a genre it is important to consider the connectedness of blogs.  Blogging changes audience and purpose.  Students can get their writing and thinking beyond the teacher and into their community and the world.  There's so much power to learning that your voice can make others stop to think.  Unlike other genres there is a connectedness to blogging.  There's something about being able to interact with the author to ask questions, add to thinking, or share stories.  There's something about being able to read through comments to find out more or join the conversation.  Often conversations connect across blogs and blogging events often help to support this connectedness.  

In teaching blogging as a genre we have to consider digital responsibility.  Of course, with public writing comes the need to understand our obligation as digital citizens.  In blogging, our writing will speak to who we are as people.  Writers need to understand their voice will be sent into the world so there is an obligation to being thoughtful about our contribution.  Additionally, in blogging there is a responsibility to comment, collaborate, grow conversations, and interact responsibly.  

It seems considering blogging as genre with particular form, content, and style would allow us to open new doors for young writers.  If we use blogging in the traditional ways we've asked students to write so we know if they understand, we have missed the greater possibilities provided through blogging.  Blogging allows writers to extend their voice out into the world.  By allowing students to use blogs in the way they are used by readers and writers in the world, we open the door to new possibility.  Literacy is power and students can learn this by interacting in these connected environments.  

I'd love to hear your thoughts.  What do you think we need to help students to understand about blogging?  How does it change learning?  Can it be considered a genre or is just another place where writing can live?  


  1. I have never thought of blogging as a genre. More a platform for expressing ideas I guess. As such I think it has HUGE potential for students keen to express their thoughts and opinions. The world is an authentic audience for sure, or teachers can limit that world to a virtual classroom, so its truly versatile.

  2. Thanks for opening this conversation. I believe that if we want students to experience blogging for what it is, we need to let them do what real bloggers do. They write about what is important and interesting to them. They connect with other bloggers through their comments. I've seen kids do amazing things when they are given the opportunity for authentic writing experiences.