Blogging benefits student voice

This year my class is blogging on an Edublogs site at  The inspiration for starting these blogs has several main purposes.

  1. Students should be writing more than any teacher can read. To paraphrase Kelly Gallager, not every paper that a student writes needs to be proofed, edited, graded, and scored by the teacher.  Grade certain assignments for certain elements and here’s a shocker…not everything students write has to be graded or even read (yes, I said it) by the teacher.
  2. Students need an authentic audience for their writing. So if I am not pouring over every word my students write how can they be held accountable? They need an authentic audience. I found this authentic audience with a team of other AP Literature teachers who also have student blogs. Melissa Smith (our blog coordinator and all-around Twitter poetry goddess) created a simple system for our students to comment on each other’s blogs on a rotating basis this month.

My original plan for blogging included having the students follow a living, writing poet and analyze one of his/her poems each month in a blog post.  This assignment has been hugely successful as I am seeing complex analysis  and thoughtful writing each month.

However, what I did not realize the full potential of are the “other” things that my students would use their blogs for outside of the required assignments.  I have five student blogs that I would like to share.  Please click the students’ name to link directly to their blogs.

  1. Anna Catherine Kueng This senior’s blog focuses on “learning, living, and gracefully tackling the last year of high school.” Sandwiched between book reviews and poetry analysis, I was so pleased to read her own tribute to her grandfather “A Tribute to my Daddoo on Grandparent’s Day.”

For anyone that thinks that teenagers don’t know how to express grief, Anna Catherine’s reflections will make one reconsider.

    And I know 86-years-old seems like a pretty long life, but man, only getting to be alive for 17 years of your 86 is difficult.
      I wish I could have known you in your previous lifetimes, back when you were a lifeguard, back at 15-years-old when you fell in love with Nana,… I wish I could have seen you in the role of a new father and a new resident of Danville. I wish I could have known you the day you held my mom for the first time, her body wrapped in pink cloth.
      There are so many days I wish I could have lived along with you.
      But, instead, I just knew you as my grandfather, my “Daddoo.”
      That was enough.

2. Zoey White If you asked Zoey if she thought she would ever write a poem that moved other people, I guarantee you the answer would be a resounding “No.” However, an assignment to use a Clint Smith poem as a mentor text turned intensely personal as she recounts her own grief following the death of her brother. Her first stanza is excerpted. Click on the title to read the full poem.

Ode to the Empty Vase

I feel your pain

The way you were once

full of yellow daisies.

Now you’re collecting dust in the corner.

I too,

was collecting dust.

3. Lexi Toufas One of our first writing assignments of senior year revolves around writing the college essay.  We discuss the merits of the good essays, the pitfalls of the bad essays, and the gamble associated with writing a risky essay. A risky essay certainly contains an element of risk (hence the name), but these essays are just right for a student who has a certain wit and style. Lexi took a risk when she wrote a narrative piece entitled “Jenny and the Training Bra.”

There, … was a pasty, faded yellow training bra. A hand-me-down no less. When I found my cousins at church the next Sunday, I let them have all of my anger until my face was red… In return, I received answers I never wanted about the person I had always trusted. Jenny, that back-stabbing, childhood-robbing monster. My mother had betrayed me for a cloth bra.

4. Morgan Harris Another place students have a take a few risks with college essays are when college limit students to 250 words per short essay.  Morgan took a risk with her short, “open topic” essay “My manifesto for the next four years.”

I will be bold.

I will not hesitate to laugh at myself.

Nor will I hesitate to cry.

I will leap out of my comfort zone, both academically and socially.

I will oversleep, but I am trying to work on that.

I will procrastinate (but I’ll work on that later).

5. Leah Dowdy Most recently Leah took to her blog page to express grief, concern, and disbelief in her post  “An open letter to those we’ve lost to suicide.” Leah was able to put into words what many others were feeling.

I am sorry. I know I shouldn’t make this about me, and that’s not my intention with this letter but I just need to get that out of the way first. I’m sorry I wasn’t aware of what you were experiencing, whether it be depression or bullying or just not being able to cope with the thoughts in your head. I’m sorry for not offering you my hand when you needed it the most. I’m sorry for not noticing the signs, for not being there for you. I’m sorry you felt that life was no longer your thing. I’m sorry for not making you aware of how loved and wanted you are. I’m sorry. I am sorry.

Thank you to these students for allowing me to share their often personal work. It takes a brave soul to put the vulnerability of the written word out for all to see. If you have comments for them please leave them on their blogs or leave them here and I will pass them along.

Bottom line: Students have something to say. They just need an avenue that gives them more than 280 characters and opportunities to write.

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