Blogs are intended to be chronologically organized posts that allow for feedback.  There have been several universities that have maintained a website that assumes the identity of a particular historical figure. For instance, students could write Thomas Jefferson, ask him a question, and get a response.  A classroom blog could do the same thing in a couple of different ways.

One project a class could undertake would be to have the whole class assume the identity of one historical person. The class would write introductions and post some support background. Each week or two, they could post a new story about their person.  Readers could reply to the blog with questions about the historical person and the class could continue that dialogue.

Another way of impersonating people would be to have a shorter-term blog where the teacher gets to be James Lipton (Actor’s Studio guy) and pose broad questions to be answered by students.  Students can be in small groups and assume the identity of a person.  Mr Lipton could ask, “What was the defining moment in your life?” One group could respond as Abe Lincoln while another responds as Harriet Tubman. After answering the initial question, the historical person could also respond to something someone else said in that series of replies.  I wonder how well Dolly Madison and Susan B Anthony would get along in the same blog. J

For the younger students, a class blog could be just weekly posts without the need for responses.  The class could invent a character to write about together. The blog would be his own ‘Day in the Life’ blog as seen through the eyes of the students. The students would collaboratively write about the character’s day, about his likes and dislikes, and even create a family for him. By the end of the year/project timeline/, the class would have a substantial story created that would undoubtedly reflect the attitude and opinions of the class without giving any personal identifications of the students.  After the character has been ‘alive’ for a while, have your own Flat Stanley project by inviting family and friends from across the country to write a response on a blog entry.   Creating that opportunity for communication with others would benefit the students in ways that seeing Flat Stanley come through the door would do.

Impersonating fictional characters, famous historical figures, and creating a story character are great purposes for a classroom blog. Maybe some of these ideas will help you find a new purposed for a writer’s blog.

“But Mr. Martin, I can’t blog with 125 students!”

The point in blogging is that there is two-way communication organized in a chronological order.  I loved it as a tool for my 30 fifth graders because we did have communication going on and I was involved. However, it is a growing pet peeve of mine to have a blog environment where every student has a blog, knowing that the teacher may or may not read their ideas. So, it’s a valid concern, having a 125 student blogs for one teacher to use in a true blogging sense.

It’s a concern, but not a big barrier though. If my blog is my communication tool for my students, and I have several class periods come through each day, I need to rethink my process. One alternative that came up in discussion today was having small groups in each class blog as a group. Oral discussion in the group can be followed up with posting their group ideas online. Groups can then bounce ideas back and forth online, constructively using the feedput from other groups.

One such blog tool is I wasn’t a big fan at first because it was a tool for one teacher to create and maintain a list of student blogs from that initial site and I didn’t want a blog for each student. But this seems to work well with the class I’m in right now. Off on the right side of the window, there is a drop-down window with all of the student blogs for everyone in the class to use. You can easily go to the other blogs to communicate to anyone in class.

My personal turning point was the idea that teachers with large numbers of kids could organize into groups. The teacher could propose the question or post it on the main page. The individuals in each group can post their comments, recording each person’s ideas. Then the group’s ‘reporter’ can post a summary of their ideas on the class blog. As the groups read the summaries, they could visit the group blogs for more in depth understanding of why they came up with their particular summary.

Just like my dad would find his good screwdrivers with huge chunks taken out of their heads, (I’ll blame that on the oldest sister’s chiseling attempts), you’ll always find someone using internet tools for various reasons. I would suggest that if you are truly blogging, make every effort to make it a teacher-interactive, 2-way communication tool. Getting students to blog in small groups may just facilitate more teacher interaction.