“A blog is in many ways a continuing conversation.”
~ Andrew Sullivan
One of the best ways to get students learning beyond our classroom walls is through blogging. We can set up a class blog where we showcase student work and post assignments or we can allow students to reflect in their own blogs. I prefer individual blogs. Writing online means they can always go back and see how they’ve grown. It also means they are digital publishers and get to share and interact with peers, friends, and family from around the world. They can add images, videos, and embedded multimedia to visually support their thoughts. Not only are they able to write but they are able to create the context for their ideas. Setting up a class or student blog can be challenging, especially motivating students to contribute to their blogs on a regular basis. The resources and tips below will help you with these challenges.
Students can also microblog safely via Edmodo and Twiducate. Microblogging is a popular way many people communicate on the web and consists of small chunks of writing, about 200 characters or less, supported with links, images, videos, or other multimedia. Twitter is the most famous platform for microblogging and some teachers use it as a learning tool with their students.
Motivating Students to Blog
Teachers will have their students blog as an additional activity that isn’t graded. Many of our students are motivated by grades. However, many teachers have been successful in getting their students to write and respond to each other regularly through their blogs even without grading them. Below I share some of these tips and resources.
Many students are motivated to blog when they receive visitors and comments. To help your students gain an audience, you can share their blogs on Twitter with the hashtag, #Comments4Kids, or add your blog to their website, Comments4Kids.com. This project was started by a teacher, William Chamberlain, @WMChamberlain.
Another way to gain an audience and connect with classes globally is through Quadblogging. This initiative was started by David Mitchell (@DeputyMitchell). Four classes form a network. Each week one class blogs on a certain topic and the other three classes respond and comment. Sign-up for free at Quadblogging.com.
Leaving a quality comment takes skill. Linda Yollis’ students have created helpful videos with tips on how to leave a quality comment in this post, Learning How to Comment.
Set weekly challenges to inspire students. These can be related to the topic. For example, if the theme is visiting a restaurant, students could invent a restaurant, post reasons why they love to eat at a certain place, or invent a new healthy menu item at their favorite drive thru restaurant.
Your students can meet weekly challenges posted by the Student Blogging Challenge along with 100s of others students worldwide.
Tara Benwell writes monthly blog challenges, especially designed for language learners, on my EC. This is a free social network with over 100,000 language learners and teachers.
When I taught teenagers, I would write a daily prompt for them and give them the first 5 to 10 minutes of class to write in their journals. I would collect these bi-weekly. Now, students can view prompts on a website, digital calendar, Instagram account, or through posts on a social network. John Spencer’s Photoprompts Tumblr has tons of writing prompts accompanied by fun images. You can also find incredible visual prompts aligned to the common core on Luke Neff’s Image Writing Prompts site. I share more sites here, Inspire Writing with Digital Prompts.
Change up the writing. Students shouldn’t have to write essays for each post. Instead, they can create emails, digital postcards, collages, scrapbooks, stories, poetry, dialogues, fake text messages, or comics. There are many free comic creation sites and apps for students of all ages. Make Beliefs Comix has over 350+ free printables, including prompts, for teachers. They are sorted by topic, event, and holidays. Students can create their own comic in multiple languages. Adult students might enjoy WittyComics.
Many of our students are expressing themselves through viral images and sayings. A famous one is the What People Think I Do, What I Really Do. We can use memes as writing prompts. View my presentation, Let’s Go Viral!, for more ideas.
Get students to practice the other skills, listening and speaking, by having them create with free web tools/ mobile apps and embed them in their blogs. Your students will enjoy creating Voki avatars, YakIt talking images, Audioboo podcasts, GoAnimate videos, Voicethreads, Buncees, and more! There are thousands of free web tools that allow students to embed their creations. Find many on Edshelf, a free web tool search engine for teachers.
Learn more about these great projects and from edubloggers around the world at the Spring Blog Festival, March 14 to 16th. This is a free online event where you listen to bloggers live as they present via their webcams. You can chat and connect with other participants. Check out presentations from Tara Benwell and me, http://bit.ly/sbf2014.
Do your students blog? In what ways do you motivate them to keep blogging?
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