Innovative Practice - Clever blogs

17th February 2012 at 00:00
A mission to get the world to blog together on 29 February will hopefully inspire scores of young writers

The background

Heathfield Primary in Bolton has already gained an international reputation for encouraging its pupils to blog. Deputy head David Mitchell introduced classes to the idea in 2009, and since then they have been busy posting their writing online.

Mitchell - known to his thousands of Twitter followers as @DeputyMitchell - believes that giving pupils an audience outside the classroom makes them more enthusiastic about writing.

"I asked the children what it was about having an audience online and why they listened to them more than to me," Mitchell says. "One boy said `It's because they're real - you're not real, you're paid to help to us.'"

One problem Mitchell had noticed was that bloggers tended to give up if they did not gain many readers after the first few months. To tackle this, he developed a system where three other schools would team up with his, and each week one of the school's blogs would be the focus for all the children's attention, guaranteeing an audience and encouraging the writers in the spotlight to impress the rest.

Since then, this simple system, which he called Quadblogging, has taken off internationally and more than 40,000 pupils from 1,000 classes in 30 countries have formed groups to share their work.

Yet Mitchell still believes that too few teachers are making the most of blogging.

The project

On 29 February, leap year day, Mitchell will be encouraging pupils, teachers and anyone else, anywhere in the world to write on the same blog. The blog will begin as soon as 29 February starts in Tonga and end 48 hours later when it reaches midnight in the Western Pacific.

Everyone will be able to add postings to the blog with a few clicks, Mitchell says, and he hopes the site will help to create a global picture of people's experiences that day. "Who will be the youngest? Or the oldest? Will there be any marriage proposals?"

The blog will be moderated by Mitchell and other teachers and volunteers, including, he hopes, some at schools outside the UK. Schools can get more information at:

Tips from the scheme

Mitchell's general tips on blogging include:

- Teachers should "let go" and resist the temptation to demand corrections to all spelling and grammar mistakes in their pupils' postings.

- Do your own research into what blogs work best for schools, including asking for advice on Twitter. Pupils should also be shown examples so they know what good blogs look like.

- Make sure your pupils will have an audience. This can be achieved through schemes such as Quadblogging.

Evidence that it works?

Since Heathfield Primary introduced blogging, it has seen a sharp increase in its pupils' writing results, including those for boys. The proportion of pupils gaining level 5s rose from 9 per cent to 60 per cent in just 12 months. The past two Year 6 classes at the school made double the expected progress in writing in their final year. Ofsted has also noted Heathfield's "particular success in engaging pupils in writing through innovative use of blogging", and the school has been showered with technology awards.

However, Mitchell says he was personally more excited by the comments from pupils, which suggest they have developed a love of writing. One pupil, John, said that blogging had transformed his relationship with his father, while another, Binyamen, told a workshop at last year's BETT education technology show that "It's changed my life".


Approach: Getting the world to blog together on 29 February

Led by David Mitchell, deputy head



Name: Heathfield Primary School, Bolton

Pupils: About 200

Age range: 4-11

Intake: A higher-than-average proportion of pupils speak English as an additional language

Ofsted overall rating: Satisfactory (2011).


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