Gosh, I'm starting to realise more and more that it is really hard to take over a class half way through the semester. There are a lot of little things that I take for granted, that maybe another teacher wouldn't even be concerned about. I guess one of those things would be how I see the role of blogs in an academic writing course.
For me, I take it for granted that blogs are a complete different genre than normal academic writing. That means, all of the rules and conventions that the students are learning in class might not necessary apply when they are writing their blogs. For one thing, blogs are a totally informal forum for the exchange of ideas. When writing a blog, it isn't a one way flow of communication like it is in an essay. Hopefully, in a blog, I can get lots of comments so that this blog is more like a dialogue between me and the world. Also, while the stiff formality of the traditional academic essay has it's place, I feel that worrying too much about academic vocabulary and formal ways of expression will stop the flow of ideas, which is the whole point of the blogs. Anyway, I guess what I'm trying to say is that it is okay to use your everyday language in a blog, and you don't have to worry about stuff like thesis statements, and topic sentences. Also the point of blogs is to get your ideas out of your head. Thus, I don't want people worrying about stuff like spelling, correct grammar, the perfect vocabulary word, or the right punctuation. The most important thing is just to get the ideas down into the blog. In fact, when it comes to vocabulary, if you can't think of the perfect word, just keep typing. You can type around the word, for instance. What I mean is, if you want to say the word "ladder" but you can't remember it, you can say this: I put a thing like some stairs up against the side of a tree and climbed up to pick an apple. See . . . it's the same thing, everyone knows what you are saying, and you don't have to waste your time looking words up in the dictionary.
Also, I find that when students type directly into their blogs, they tend to think in English. There isn't enough time to translate back and forth between their native languages and English. This helps to increase the speed the students can think in English, and it helps them get used to approaching writing tasks in English. However, if they start to worry too much about what they want to say, they might be tempted to start to think of their ideas in their native languages first. If that happens, I generally find that the grammar problems start to get worse and worse.
Anyway, I guess the point of this rant is that I take it for granted that blogs are an informal fun way to practice English and read what the rest of the people are thinking about in class.
Keep it fun!