Why I Blog: The One Year Anniversary of Used Books in Class

July 3, 2012 — 10 Comments

A bit of self-indulgence here. I have been blogging for a year on July 3, which means that the Used Books in Class blog is a one year old “toddler.”

I started this blog for two reasons. The first was a response to Kelly Gallagher’s Readicide, a book I have mentioned numerous times in posts on this blog. I was determined to increase reading in the classroom per his suggestion through “book floods,” and I began purchasing used books for the classroom libraries at Wamogo High School (Region 6 in CT). Fortunately for me, in the Fairfield and Litchfield counties in Connecticut there are numerous sources for excellent quality used books available for $1.00 (or less) through public library book sales held generally in the summer and Goodwill or other thrift stores.  I wanted to share how I had added entire class sets of books ( for example: The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, The Kite Runner, The Bluest Eye, A Walk in the Woods) or increased books in classroom libraries for independent choice reading in grades 7-12.

The second reason was that this past year I required students to write using blogs. At each grade level (9-12), the Wamogo English Department teachers used blogs in the classroom in order to increase student reading and writing collaboration. Our Lord of the Flies unit included “survival activities” on team blogs for 10 graders. The freshmen classes used a blog in different ways: to record individual book reports and to respond to questions associated with whole class reads.. The journalism class’s newspaper format is a blog, and we have also had students blog responses to Hamlet or record their progress on Capstone projects. If I was requiring that students blog, I needed to know how to blog as well.

I researched the use of blogs in the classroom. According to Trey Martindale and David A Wiley,  in their paper Using Weblogs in Scholarship and Teaching, “Clearly two keys to effective blogging are knowing who one’s audience is, and knowing that that audience is in fact reading one’s blog. My students were motivated and willing to write regularly and with clarity, knowing that fellow students and the instructor were reading the blogs.”  I recognized that most student writing is read by the teacher, so our students needed to understand how to target an larger audience. I emphasized this question for my students by having them identify the audiences of other blogs, and then consider the question  “Who am I writing this blog for?” and “Who will be able to read this post?”.  Similarly, I had to apply the same consideration for this blog.

I also researched whether blogging was an effective strategy to increasing reading and writing in the classroom. Would student blogging rather that standard writing (papers, essays) improve comprehension skills? In one study by N.B. Ellison and Yuehua Wu, “Analysis revealed no significant differences in comprehension between blog and paper assignments, although students reported spending less time writing in the blogging condition.” However, in another study by R. MacBride and Lynn Luehmann using blogging in science and math classrooms, “Findings indicate that (1) teachers’ intentions focused on creating additional forms of participation as well as increasing student exposure time with content; (2) blogs were used in a wide variety of ways that likely afforded particular benefits; and (3) both teacher and students perceived the greater investment to be worthwhile. “

I found the same to be true for this blog, Used Books in Class. My first post (7/3/11)  received 8 hits! I was surprised anyone would be interested in this blog about used books, but those first hits motivated me. Now, after a year, the focus of the blog has shifted from “used books” in class to posts discussing “how books are used” in class. I have drifted into other areas of education, namely the English Language Arts Common Core State Standards, but these issues directly or indirectly impact teaching in the classroom.  26,518 hits later, I still am still surprised at the interest this blog has received. Honestly,  it’s not like readers could use yet one more education blog; there is some serious competition for attention!

Yet there is one more reason that I discovered for blogging as I wrote over the course of a year. I found other blogs to be informative on issues in education, and their comment sections were one way to enter into online discussions. I had followed Shelly Blake-Plock who authored Teach Paperless from 2009-May 2012. In his post, Why Teachers Should Blog, he offered one line that stood out:

Because to blog is to teach yourself what you think.

I had no idea how true that statement would be for me this year. Blogging has allowed me to frame an evolving philosophy of education, and I had to think about my own teaching practice every time I sat down to write. Blogging has provided the platform for me to articulate my responses to issues in education, and I had to think about how public my response would be every time I sat down to write. Blogging has let me practice my writing voice, and I had to think about how this voice needed to attract the reader and keep the reader reading every time I sat down to write. In summation, blogging has taught me over the course of this year how to think in order to write about education.

Thank you for reading posts on this blog. I am heading into year two with this “toddler”. When I started, I wondered if I would have enough topics to write about. I do not worry about that any more because this blog has taught me how to write what I think, and I  am thinking all the time. I think, therefore I blog.

10 responses to Why I Blog: The One Year Anniversary of Used Books in Class

  1. 

    Happy anniversary! How glad I am that you started this blog, for I really appreciate and enjoy your thoughts/ideas–very useful, interesting, and even inspiring. Plus, you’re a damn good writer. Keep it up!

    • 

      I must respond in kind-
      Quite a compliment from a damn good writer! I am glad I found your blog (your title was the give-away)…always interesting!

  2. 

    Congratulations! Terrific post, as always. You are an inspiration!

  3. 

    You blog because you care, deeply, about educating students, and you know that the key to opening minds is literacy.
    Congratulations on birthing this blog, may it continue to grow in body, mind, and spirit.

  4. 

    Blogging makes me a better writer, more aware of which of my thoughts are worth wrestling with in more depth. My blog is a responsibility to myself as a writer.

    My students’ blogs are an exercise in authenticity. When they know their writing will be read by others around the world, they take their writing to another level and consider it more seriously than they do when it’s just the teacher and maybe a peer or two who will see it.

    Blogging is the centerpiece of my professional development.

  5. 

    Congratulations and Happy Anniversary! I love your blog and have shared it with many teachers throughout DE.

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