Literacy across the Curriculum: Using Personal Experience Narratives and Blogging with Struggling Writers

By Kigotho, Mutuota | Literacy Learning: The Middle Years, February 2018 | Go to article overview

Literacy across the Curriculum: Using Personal Experience Narratives and Blogging with Struggling Writers


Kigotho, Mutuota, Literacy Learning: The Middle Years


Introduction

This research project investigated the blogging and composing experiences of female pupils in a school in rural New South Wales. The study reported here involved the researcher working with a classroom teacher on literacies in English, mathematics and science. It sought to extend the body of research into blogging and the use of personal experience narratives, particularly among struggling writers within the middle years.

Review of related literature

In the teaching and learning sphere, teachers do their best to enhance proficiency in literacy among all their pupils, including struggling writers. In the competitive academic world, a literate person is taken to be one who possesses sound writing skills. Indeed, as a literacy skill, writing receives considerable attention in schooling. One method that could be used to encourage struggling writers to engage in writing is the use of personal experience narratives. For instance, Robin (2009), writing about personal narratives within digital storytelling, notes that 'personal experience narratives revolve around significant events in life and can be emotionally charged and personally meaningful to both the author and the viewer' (p. 224).

In developed countries such as Australia, computer usage has become very popular as personal devices such as laptops, tablets and iPads have become more affordable. Robin (2009) further states that 'the combination of powerful, yet affordable technology hardware and software meshes perfectly with the needs of many of today's classrooms' (p. 222). However, Robin argues that it is not so much the tool that is significant, but what teachers do with the available tools to enhance learning and teaching.

The term blog is the shortened form of weblog, itself defined as 'a coffeehouse conversation in text, with references as required' (Blood, 2002, p. 1). Blogs are 'a form of online diary writing' (Felner & Apple, 2005, p. 15) and online discussion forums in which pupils can produce, share or use information (Wing Jan, 2015, p. 221). A blog, then, is a regular updated journal or diary made up of individual posts shown in reverse chronological order. Some teachers loathe blogs for their poor or non-standard English (Sullivan, 2008). Others love them for their authenticity and liveliness. Whether teachers like them or loathe them, blogs seem to be here to stay.

The main attraction of blogs is that they provide opportunities to write and publish authentic texts without fear of being reprimanded by an editor. Even shy writers may freely express themselves in blogs. Within a classroom situation, pupils can share their ideas in a teacher-created blog. Blogging is 'writing out loud' (Sullivan, 2008). Sullivan goes on to state that blogs are immediate and 'the deadline is always now'. Once published, a blog is instantly public. New and emerging technologies such as blogs and wikis can strongly motivate pupils to read and write (Ljungdahl, 2010). Blogging has the potential to improve pupils' writing skills and build their confidence as writers (G. Morris, 2015).

Teachers can use social networking tools such as blogs, as well as platforms such as wikispaces to teach writing. At the Sweetland Center for Writing at the University of Michigan, teachers report the many benefits stemming from the use of blogs. For instance, the Center makes the assertion that 'blogs can improve students' writing skills and build their confidence as writers' (G. Morris, 2015, p. 1). In addition, Morris explains that 'students can take ownership of their writing, become better observers of others' writing, and develop a more immediate and powerful understanding of audience' (p. 1).

Further, blogs encourage pupils to experiment and take risk with their writing. As Morris (2015) states, 'blogging blends both the freeing aspect of short pieces, that can be written in a relatively low-stakes environment with the sense of claiming one's own voice and learning how to develop analysis, and articulate ideas to a larger public' (p. …

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