Purpose: To explore the potential of conversations with an authentic audience through blogging for enriching in the young writers the understanding of the communicative function of writing, specifically language and vocabulary use.
Design: We situate our work in a language acquisition model of language learning where learners develop linguistic competence in the process of speaking and using the language (Krashen, 1988; Tomasello, 2005). We also believe that language learning benefits from formal instruction (Krashen, 1988). As such, in our work, we likened engaging in blogging to learning a language (here, more broadly conceived as learning to write) through both natural communication (acquisition) and prescription (instruction), and we looked at these forms of learning in our study. We were interested in the communicative function of language learning (Halliday, 1973; 1975; Penrod, 2005) among young blog writers as we see language learning as socially constructed through interaction with other speakers of a language (Tomasello, 2005; Vygotsky, 1978).
Findings: The readers and commenters in this study supported young writers in their language study by modeling good writing and effective language use in their communication with these writers. Young writers also benefited from direct instruction through interactions with adults beyond classroom teachers, in our case some of the readers and commenters.
Practical Implications: Blogging can extend conversations to audiences far beyond the classroom and make writing an authentic endeavor for young writers. Teachers should take advantage of such a powerful tool in their writing classrooms to support their students’ language study and vocabulary development.
McGrail, Ewa; McGrail, J. Patrick; and Rieger, Alicja, "Learning Language and Vocabulary in Dialogue with the Real Audience: Exploring Young Writers’ Authentic Writing and Language Learning Experiences" (2017). Research, Publications & Creative Work. 37.