Congratulations! You’ve gotten your students set up with a blog.  Now what?

Blog Posts Should Be Long, Right?

One of the most common questions I get from teachers about blogging is, “What should my students write about?”  There’s a bit of a misperception that says that blog posts should be long and lengthy, like a mini essay.  I don’t think this is true.  So, let’s start by saying that a blog post can be anything from a tweet to a (somewhat) lengthy post.  Generally, posts tends to be between 400-600 words (at a high school or adult level).  Most of us won’t read anything much longer than that anyway. That’s the general length I set for my students, but to be honest, I don’t count words.  I’m more looking for complete thoughts.

Quarter 1: Start with the Basics

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Usually, especially with new bloggers, I start the year by giving them things to write about.  Often I’ll create blog series focused around whatever we’re studying in class.  For example, my sophomores were reading Frankenstein and Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde, so they did a blog series about monsters.  This included prompts asking them about how we decide what makes a person a “monster” and determining who is responsible for the actions of the “monster” (the person perpetrating the acts or the person/events who created the monster), among other things.

During this first quarter, I also teach them about spacing, headers, images and media (and giving credit), and other important things that make their writing more readable.  It’s amazing how something as simple as writing short paragraphs keeps the reader from giving up!

Student Examples:

Quarter 2: Getting the Big Picture

In quarter two, I often begin to give them more freedom in what they write, so instead of asking them to respond to specific questions, I give them a broader topic that involves some choice on their part.

This year we were focusing on integrating our boarding students with our day students more, so each student paired up with a peer who was from a different county or had a different religion (or some other significant difference).  Then they did a series of blog posts introducing their partner and exploring their partner’s life, interests, goals, etc.  To wrap it up, they  had to investigate something from their partner’s life that was a challenge.

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Some students wrote about what it must be like to leave everything they knew to go to school somewhere else, others wrote about the differences in the school systems, and others wrote about the challenges they face from stereotypes.

Student Examples:

Quarter 3: Gradual Release

The third quarter is all about choice, so I offer my students four different possible options for writing a blog series:

  • My Favorite Things – posts about some of your favorite things, why they’re so amazing, how to do these things, etc.
  • Oh The Places You’ll Go – posts about the places you’ve visited or lived, ideally with photos of your travels (taken by you, of course)
  • When I Grow Up – posts about the potential job(s) you’d like to have when you graduate from college, how you plan to learn about doing this job, what you need to do to be successful, etc.
  • I Have Issues – posts about the big issues (political, medical, social, educational, etc.) that you read about or watch (on the news, online, etc.) that impact you and bother you, ideally with possible (logical and realistic) suggested solutions.

They explore whichever series topic they’ve chosen, making sure each post for the quarter is somehow related to their series.  My students really liked this.

Student Examples:

Quarter 4: Be Free!

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This quarter, my students have free choice to write about whatever they want (obviously, while keeping it school appropriate).  It has been absolutely fabulous to grade their writing!  Every time they write I learn something new about them, and the topics they’re choosing to write about are really neat.  Some are expanding on previous topics that interested them, while others are doing series on issues that really matter to them, while others are mulling over their insecurities and fears, and yet others are writing chapters of fan fiction.

Student Examples:

Other Thoughts

Looking back at the year, I know my favorite blog posts have been the ones where students explore their interests. However, I do think it was helpful for them to have some structure earlier on to get a handle on the “art” of blogging. Next year, I think that I may accelerate things for my honors students (or maybe even all my students), and give them free choice in quarter 3.

However, just because this is one way I’ve done things, it certainly doesn’t mean that there aren’t a million other ways to think of topics and structure things.  You can use blogs to:

  • do daily journal writing
  • reflect on a news article
  • have students defend their opinion about something discussed in class
  • set goals and reflect on their progress towards those goals (I do this on a quarterly basis)
  • make and post infographics
  • analyze a character from a novel
  • have students teach a concept to their peers
  • follow a theme (or a biome or a math concept or the life-cycle of a molecule or whatever)
  • write critiques of books and movies
  • write a class novel or textbook
  • collect transformational ideas
  • write about favorite foods
  • teach a new skill (like crocheting, or photography, or breakdancing)

There are so, so many possibilities!  Have fun!

 

Coming up next: “How NOT to get Buried with Grading”

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