One effective use for a blog in the classroom is the Character Study blog. As a Language Arts tool, it reinforces written communication, probes novel comprehension, and provides an opportunity for students to use this study as an online collaboration excercise.

Say, for instance, your class is reading Hatchet, by Gary Paulsen.  As the teacher, you could present character questions based on that day’s chapter. During literary circle centers, students would take turns getting online, reading your prompt, and then writing their response. In the time left before that rotation is over, they can also question or respond to other students’ writings.  At the end of centers time, the teacher can pull up on a tv or projector the blogging done that day and debrief the student resonses.

Another great use of the literary blog is having a character study led by a student. This week, Bobby will respond to student comments based on a teacher-given prompt.  Brian Robeson gets frustrated after the storm. Bobby writes an initial post describing what Brian may have been thinking. As students rotate through, they can ask ‘Brian’ a question or respond to his comments.  This could be a great enrichment for the advanced learner (Bobby) as he must fully comprehend and expand on the novel.

I really enjoyed having the the written reponses designed to compare the class novel with their own novels.  The prompt would be created so that students had to show knowledge of the class novel and also compare the two texts or sets of characters.  As students read their peer’s writing, the students are exposed to other novels they may wish to check out later. Also, when the comparisons involve so many other books, the student that comes to blog late in the rotation doesn’t have to worry about all of the ‘good answers’ being written already.

Key to the teachers success is the ability of the student to self-assess.  Clear guidlines or rubrics need to be established for the expected student product so that feel confident in their efforts since the work is being shared immediately with the class.  How many sentences are expected in a good post? To encourage depth of writing, do you acknowledge a relaxing of spelling expectations? Did you create personal-safety guidlines and are they followed?

How would you incorporate a Character Study into your classroom blog?