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Jennifer Larkin: Middle schoolers review and interview authors

Jennifer LarkinJennifer Larkin is a high-energy teacher at Ellington Middle School in Ellington, Connecticut. She has founded a successful blog through which her students review young-adult fiction and interview authors. Check it out at http://blogs.ellingtonschools.org/larkin/

Q: When did you start up your blog?

A: We started the blog in April of 2009.

Q: What inspired you?

A: I love reading and wanted to hook my students into reading more and writing about their reading. Young-adult blogging seemed like a great idea!

Q: How does it work, especially the kids’ involvement?

A: I ease them into it! We get them all logged in as followers, they then get experience commenting and checking out other young-adult blogs, then – after months of seventh- grade practice with writing and responding to literature, they all pick current releases (partners, small groups or by themselves) and we start reading and writing!

Q: What response have you had from students and their parents??

A: The response at first was confusion – not many people were familiar with blogs and blogging. But we’ve grown every year and this year, by far, has been the best in terms of student writing and growth. They really became invested and knew that it was their blog – they wanted their reviews and posts to be great and were very anxious to see their work live online!

Q: What special encouragement do you give to those less inclined to get involved?

A: It’s all about loving what you’re reading – finding that perfect match between student and novel. If they love the story, the writing comes naturally.

Q: What advice would you offer parents or teachers interested in doing something similar?

A: It’s hard to build a following – to get your work noticed. I’m passionate about this because it is my students doing most of the work – and there aren’t a lot of blogs out there where seventh- and eighth-graders are doing the majority of reviewing! So take your time and make sure that your students – and your school – value reading. You have to have a real culture of reading to be able to get all of your students behind it.

Q: What kind of following have you built?

A: We grow each year! Through my attendance at Book Expo America, I’ve been able to meet a lot of authors and we’ve done a lot more on the blog with author interviews and giveaways – that always helps to build hits and more. And my students are always thrilled when an author agrees to an interview – highlights this year were our interviews with Tim Green and Marie Lu! My students loved the book Legend and were so excited to get a chance to interview her!

Interviewed by Pam Withers

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