Not so, with this group of 8th graders. In this case, they each have their own blog, and I'm not using this as a writing lesson so much, as how to create and keep up with a blog. After they initially created their own blogs through edublogs.org, we began discussing what it is that they might be writing about, since it was more or less up to them. The main thing I encouraged them to do was to choose a theme for their blog, so that they were always writing about the same general topic (like sports, movies, school news, etc.) I explained this by saying that people were much more likely to want to read their blog on a regular basis if they knew what was going to be there and if they're interested in that topic.
While I know that kids don't like to be told what to do, I was quite surprised at the level of resistance they had to essentially being required to limit their writing to one general idea. In fact, not only did they not want to choose a topic, they didn't understand why it was necessary in the first place. This was perplexing to me at first, but then I realized that it made perfect sense for the developmental level of 14 year olds. 1) They don't want to do anything suggested by an adult, which at 29, I guess I am. 2) Their entire brain is essentially designed to be focused on themselves right now. They just cannot fathom why someone wouldn't be interested in every single thing about themselves. 3) Culturally speaking, our culture is excellent at emphasizing the beauty in randomness. The best example of this is, of course, the ipod, in which kids can carry all of their music with them at all times, and switch instantly between any genre, artist, or song at the drop of a hat. Hence, the idea of limiting themselves to just one topic seems like a huge drag.
So, what can I do to remedy this? I think I'll start by using non-examples of random blogs from other students that won't matter to anyone outside of themselves. Then, I think I'll track down some high-quality student blogs that address one topic that other people would care about, like the excellent OmniTechNews blog. [If you have any suggestions or additions to add to my list of quality student blogs, let me know!] Hopefully, this will clear up the distinction that people do care what you have to say IF its something that they are also interested in and know where to find it.