Can Blogging Grow Your Students’ Opinion & Argumentative Writing Skills?
As your students progress as writers through the 3 Stages of Independence (Read a little more about the stages here), finding flexible tools to accommodate each of them in the classroom can be a challenge. After all, one writer in your class may be an aspiring political activist who’s still learning the differences between one type of writing and another, while another student may be a diehard sports fan with an established voice and strong analytic skills. Can blogging really meet such diverse writers where they’re at, especially with shaping and honing their opinion and argumentative writing skills?
Yes, and here’s why...
Learning that every student’s a blogger
One principle that forms the bedrock of our philosophy at Writing with Design is simple, yet vital: every student is a writer. They have opinions, they have interests, they have passions. (They even have disagreements!) These are the raw materials of great papers. Add in a platform with many awesome (aka “free and easy to use”) services like Blogger, WordPress, and others, and you get a writing medium that can accommodate almost any student of any level.
We’ve got the first step covered… every student can participate. What’s next?
Recognizing, establishing, but also presenting their positions
Essentially, blog articles are a form of public discourse where authors often voice strong opinions or (on some sites) make arguments to present a point. Sites explore topics from news to sports to ethics to even things like space travel. (Stop and think about all the educational blogs we read that do the same thing!) In addition to providing strong writing examples for students, blogging lends itself to allowing them to argue or express an opinion in a consumable, focused medium that they already understand. They know the importance in this medium of presenting their ideas for consideration.
Researching and exploring the writing of others… and linking to them
One hallmark of a good opinion or argumentative essay is research and support. While some students may even struggle on understanding how to quote and cite material in a paper, blogging brings this practice into better focus. Imagine for a second that diehard sports fan in your class… once they’re blogging, at his or her fingertips, they have blogs that explore the history of a team or sport alongside detailed analytical pieces about which player really hits the mark. Yet, because they love the subject, they likely differ in perspective from these sources. This is a wonderful opportunity for them to research, explore, and yes, even cite other blogs and authors who they respect…. or even disagree with. All it takes is the click of a button to link their ideas to others.
Organizing their opinions and arguments
We also love that blogging still lets students use Mind Designs (email us here for a quick walk-through of this tool) and other avenues to refine those organizational skills. While blogging might be a more informal style of writing, there’s no reason you can’t break out your rubrics and charts. This is especially true for writers in our Established Phase who want to fire off several articles in rapid succession. With each new article they start, they further grow their sense of independence and their unique voice. They’ll also be able to learn the differences between a piece that explores cause and effect vs one that is a problem/solution piece. They’ll have an opportunity to mix facts, statistics, personal stories, and more into one piece. They really get to make sense of what's already on their mind.
Responding to criticisms, rebuttals, explanations, and comments
The Internet is one diverse public audience. Yet, it matches up people from across the globe who are interested in almost everything you can imagine. When you let your students choose their topics for opinion and argumentative essays, you may feel a little out of your league providing feedback that excites or energizes your students when it comes to the latest trends in gaming narratives or hockey games (and that’s okay). Not so with the Internet. While you’ll need to keep an eye on any abusive blog comments and there’s no promise that an article will attract attention, blogging gives other students in the class, at the school, or even half way across the world a chance to talk back. In turn, this gives your students growing room to develop their abilities in responding to people who are passionate about the same topics, but who may disagree. And you still have the power to offer your own comments and thoughts.
So, if you haven't given it a try yet, consider letting your students start a blog or two. You'll be surprised how much they'll love it as they learn.