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Showcasing Hillary Meeler and "Blogs"

"The best part of blogging for students is receiving the comments [from others]," says Hillary Meeler. "Every week, my students are filled with anticipation and excitement as they open their blogs to read the new comments. Having an audience encourages them to focus on their writing. They realize that people are reading their posts, and that they do have a voice. They enjoy being heard."

During their first week, the fifth-grader bloggers in Meeler's Weblog Class at J. H. House Elementary received comments from New Zealand and Great Britain. And the Conyers, Georgia, students were hooked!

The blogging began when fifth graders at the school took part in a pilot project to incorporate weblogs into the curriculum. Anne Davis from Georgia State University worked with students for two hours per week, and Meeler assisted. The success of that project prompted Meeler to continue the program this year with a new group of students, selected by their homeroom teachers.

"Because our focus is on writing, some teachers select students who need to improve their writing skills," Meeler told Education World. "Other teachers select students who have above average writing skills, to push them a little harder. I let the teachers select the students of their choice, which usually gives me a wide range to work with."

The students meet one morning each week. Each session begins with students reading any new comments about their previous weblogs. Then they type in their new posts. Meeler then discusses writing traits, writing tips, proofreading, and more, and students begin work on the next week's posts. Students compose their posts -- which usually focus on articles related to current events -- for homework.

"After posting, they also get time to comment to other blogs," Meeler noted. "That's one of their favorite parts of the activity. They enjoy commenting to Mr. Brune's fifth graders in New York and to Mrs. Davis's high school students at Convey's Rockdale County High School."

Although Meeler set up the blogs at the beginning of the school year, to give them a feeling of "ownership," students had the opportunity to offer input about such design elements as color and layout.

The students' hard work has been a source of encouragement for Meeler. Bloggers have to make up the work they miss while they are in the weblogs class, and they have to do the extra homework assignments for the course, yet they rarely complain.

"The learning connections made so far are unbelievable," reports Meeler. "Because our blogs are open to the public, the students have the opportunity to communicate and interact with people from around the world. That allows them to express themselves and to tell their stories with great pride and insight."

The blogging experience has convinced Meeler that even elementary level students can participate successfully in blogging. She believes that every student has a voice that can be heard through the instant publication of a post, and that everyone can learn something from the different voices of children.

"I suggest that teachers start out with a weblog of their own," Meeler advised. "Then, as they find ways to incorporate blogging into the curriculum, they can allow students to comment to the blog. As their comfort levels increase, teachers can set up weblogs for their students."

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If you're a teacher who has completed an interesting or unusual activity with your class -- or if you know of a teacher who has -- please let us know about it. E-mail a brief description of the activity, along with your contact information, to [email protected]

Article by Cara Bafile
Education World®
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