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PORTFOLIO: I felt that the students would benefit most from sharing all of their writing with readers through their blogs. This focused their attention on creating scrubbed and polished pieces of writing that they would be proud to have others read and comment on.

FORMAT: Everything written went up on the blog, giving students a real audience, starting with peers, growing to selected “trusted adults,” and finally expanding to the wider world! Students wrote "Free Posts" every so often to develop ownership and voice, and to give writers a chance to speak their minds! At first, I kept control of the blogs by necessitating teacher approval of both posts and comments (work intensive!), but gradually gave students more responsibility, culminating in a final piece I didn’t see until it was posted.

PROCESS: Each piece was drafted, peer reviewed, revised, graded, and finally polished before posting. We want the students’ ideas and words to shine; published works were “clean” of errors as much as possible. Classmates read and commented on each others' blogs in thoughtful, non-teacherly ways. I gave points for comments at first (to monitor quality) and later just credit (as they internalized what was expected).

GRADING:I gave students an overall "Blog Work" grade every quarter based on the following: All pieces posted?
Cleaned up and formatted nicely? Tags, links, graphics? How much “love” did they put into their blogs?

I loved doing this for the first time! To see the students develop “voice” as writers is so exciting. I’m not sure I even believed seventh graders had much of a voice before I did this -- I’m sure that THEY didn’t believe they had a voice. Now we all know they do; they really blossomed as writers through blogging. I am confident my students understand that no matter what writing tasks they face in the future, their voices are valued and worth keeping, developing, and using!

Blogging forced students to take that last step of “cleaning for publication.” In the past, after a piece was graded, it was filed away. This year, each piece was polished one final time before posting; that is an important step gained when students are publishing “professionally.” Correctness becomes a matter of pride. I like that. They want it clean as much as I do!

I hope to always have my students blog from now on. Blogging offers so much benefit for the effort!