Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Students Blog in 8th Grade Math

I recently watched a video (2010)  in my graduate class about a 6th grade teacher, Kathy Martin, who integrated blogging into her classroom and how effective blogging can be.  This also got me to thinking about how we as educators do things differently versus doing different things in our classrooms.

I am an advocate for writing across the curriculum - yes - even in math.  As an 8th grade teacher in the state of Georgia, I am aware and understand the importance of writing in every subject.  Our 8th grade students must pass the Middle Grades Writing Assessment (MGWA) in January in order to promote to high school.  It is expected that students are exposed to writing in each class,  not just in Language Arts.  

I have my 8th grade math students keep a Math Journal.  Students respond to questions that often lead to class discussions.  Questions could be about how students feel toward the subject, a concept, a project, or even homework.  Questions can also be about real-world relations to mathematical applications.  Students may also respond to lesson or unit Essential Questions (E.Q.'s) in their journal.  Rather than having my students do this in a composition notebook, they can post their responses to a blog.  In addition, students can read their classmates responses to the journal questions, and respond to one another, thereby generating a discussion between students.  

The math journal blog would promote appropriate writing practice for 8th grade students, as well as encourage participation from all students.  Sometimes when we hold class discussions, not every student has the opportunity to share, ask questions, or comment - mainly due to time constraints.  Blogging is a fair way for students to do those things "in front of the class" as well as to interact with each other and even communicate with students that are in different class periods.  

The use of an online math journal in the form of a blog, could eventually lead students to a place where they can publish their technical writing pieces for all to see.  Students could be given a rubric to review their peers' written works.  In this case, students could "Comment" to each other with editing remarks based on the rubric.

I foresee ultimate engagement, enthusiasm for writing, participation without ridicule, and enjoyment in 8th grade math.

~ Malissa Sauciunas

Laureate Education, Inc. (Executive Producer). (2010). Spotlight on technology: blogging in the classroom. Baltimore, MD: Author.


  1. I love your idea about utilizing the blog to incorporate math journals. We also use a lot of writing cross-curriculum and focus on excellent writing skills and developing ideas in mathematics. I also have my students complete journals at the beginning of every class and this is an excellent way to allow them to share their ideas with their entire class or grade. I agree that it provides every student the forum to communicate their thoughts.

    In regards to problems you may face there is always the proverbial question of what to do with students who have poor typing skills or physical disabilities and cannot type. As these students are mainstreamed, it could take an entire class period for them to post their work. In addition, students with a writing disability may require planning through graphic organizers or webs before posting their thoughts. This could become time consuming and potential take valuable class time away from instruction. How would you accommodate students with specific disabilities or needs?

    Another problem that you may face are students not understanding how to set up a blog and comment on their peers' walls. While this may be an easy remedy, you will have to continually address students understanding of this new concept. This could also be very time consuming in the beginning of introducing this new method.

    How will you utilize this concept outside of the classroom? Will you use responses as homework? Will you incorporate video feeds that may address certain blog posts? How are you involved in this blog as well? How will you make your presence known and support the students' ideas?

    While these are all problems that have a solution, they are elements to think about when planning and beginning to incorporate this into your lessons.

  2. Hi Jennifer!

    While I may not have THE one and only answer to your question(s), I will share my ideas with you. I will also answer your question(s) with regards to my own personal school/teaching situation.

    In response to your question regarding students with poor typing skills or disabilities which must be accommodated, I may consider the following when planning for my math journal blogging lesson(s):
    1. Allowing extra time opportunities for these students either (a) before school in the open computer lab, (b) during Extended Learning Time (E.L.T.), which is like a study hall built into our school day, or (c) during appropriate times during the class period at the student computers in my classroom.
    2. Having a Peer Leader assist with those students.
    3. Having parent volunteers or the collaborative teacher assist those students

    I believe in the philosophy of allowing for time on the "front end" so that there is ample understanding of what is expected and time for application. This goes for any introduction in my classroom - setting my procedures and expectations for the beginning of a school year, explaining project guidelines/rubric, or even setting up a blog for an online math journal.

    Questions from the students may arise, however, I don't foresee myself having to continually address the students' understanding of this concept. In this case, time management is vital. In response to your concern of students' understanding of the "how to's" of blogging, I plan for time on the "front end" as well as taking it a step at a time. Math jouranling is year-long; therefore, each time students blog, they will become accustomed to it.

    I will not utilize the use of the blog outside of class. My school is very particular about what is published on the internet by our students. I must adhere by my school's rules. The blog will not be utilized as homework. Again, this is part of my school's guidelines. So, blogging must be done during school hours, or class time. Hence why time management is critical. I, as their teacher, plan on commenting on my students' posts, just as our online instructor does in our graduate class discussions.

    Again, let me stress that blogging, or integrating any other form of technology in the classroom for that matter, should never take time away from instruction or the objectives. It should be a tool that enhances teaching and learning.

    Thank you for your questions, as you have posed elements that I will definitely think about while planning my online math journal blogging lesson.

    ~ Malissa Sauciunas

  3. This is a great idea and i like the fact that you are having your students have a discussion about what has been posted in the blog. Blogs are a great thing however they cannot be the only strategy used. There needs to something combined with the blog to help bring the students into the lesson even farther. This definitely gives all students a chance to state their opinion, answer questions or provide feedback. I find that there are some students that are too shy to talk in front of there classmates, however they are not afraid to talk when typing what they are trying to say.

    I can see a few problems that may arise while using the blogs. A student may have an issue with another student and could post something about that student for everyone to see. Kids will be kids and it is hard to control everything. Bullying seems to be becoming a trend and more and more is happening. How would you combat this situation?

    Also i will bring up the point about students not having computer access or not being very computer literate. I have found that there is a mixture of students who fall into each category. Would you spend a few days going over the blog and how to use it? Would you have the previous grade just introduce it to the students?

    I know that some parents are very strict about there kids as far as computers and the use of them. Would you mention this to the parents at an open house or send letters home to inform the parents about the blog, what is it and what it is used for?

    Again, I think this is a great way to utilize the blog and i wish you much success!

  4. Hi Ben!

    Prior to the introduction of the online math journal blog, I may hold a discussion with students about various social networking sites and what they are used for. When I introduce blogging, I will set forth my expectations, as well as convey the district's guidelines to the students. I will stress that the blog is not Facebook, and shall not be treated as such.

    I would certainly have to take time discussing procedures, expectations, guidelines and rules prior to students publishing to the internet blog. This may be new to the majority of my students, so we would have to take it a step at a time.

    You brought up a valid point - having the previous grade level introduce blogging to the students would be a wonderful idea! The 7th grade math department questions the 8th grade department every year wanting ideas on why they could do with their students during the last 3 weeks of school (after standardized testing is complete). Having the students set up a blog would really help to save 8th grade teachers time. Definitely something to think about for next year! Thanks, Ben!

    Yes - parents will be notified that their students will be utilizing various forms of technology at our school. The school and the district communicates technology expectations and guidelines to parents and students. This is via our technology department which states that each student have Technology Education class in each grade level. Speaking from my own situation, I am grateful for the support from our technology department. I will, however, take into consideration your suggestion of informing parents of our online math journal blog. I think that's a great idea!

    ~ Malissa Sauciunas