Friday, November 21, 2014

Let's Blog It

My tenth grade English students have jumped in, feet first, to our #HavPassion inquiry research projects.  Last week, we mapped our passions as we tried to narrow our research questions. This week, not only did we share our initial inquiry questions with one another, but we also had an opportunity to connect with fifth grade students at an elementary school in our district.  We used Google Hangouts to share our inquiry topics with the elementary students, and they in turn, shared their research questions with us.  In the coming weeks, both groups of students will be using Google docs to collaborate. We'll be looking for connections with our inquiry questions, building our knowledge together.

And, as a way to share our process and reflections, we set up our blogs.  This is a new adventure for me.  In the past, I have had students blog on our closed website, a Ning, which made it difficult for students to reach a readership outside of our classroom. But this time around, I'm jumping in feet first as well.  We're using Blogger, allowing for a greater connection to a wide range of readers.

Another change that I have made this year is spending a bit more time deliberately introducing the concept of blogging to my students. Today we examined the 20% time blogs of the Nerdy Teacher, Nicholas Provenzano's high school English classes as well as blogs from Mrs. Scheffer's Burlington High School students. Rather than standing in front of the room and dictating a list of what to do and not to do when blogging, I had the students use a shared Google doc to come up with the list themselves. Before they began, we reviewed our earlier discussions on the impact of written and digital rhetoric, and I asked students to pay attention to not only what they were reading on each blog but also how they were reading. Here's what they noticed:

What Works?
Having looked at a number of sample blogs, use the space below to note what works. What do successful bloggers do to engage their readers? Take into account both written and digital rhetorical choices made on the part of the author.

  • No longer than 2 paragraphs.
  • Black/white or blue/yellow text (contrast makes text easier to read)
  • Times New Roman font is easy to read.
  • Some posts are long and detailed, and others are simple and sweet. A mix of lengths, which is something that I like.
  • I like how they give a brief description and then explain what they did to accomplish their task.
  • Short headers, capitalizing works well and use of colors to separate sections of a post.
  • Explain why they chose what topic they wanted to use for the project and the story behind it.
  • Pictures!!!! Make it interesting.
  • Actually title the post. Please don't title it Blog Post #3 and the date.
  • Spell check!!!!
  • Bullets are okay, but numbering is boring.
  • Keeping posts short lets readers read the post without losing interest, while in a long 5 paragraph blog post, readers could lose interest.
  • I like when they have pictures of themselves and when its colorful, not just boring white.
  • Bold letters with color emphasize important points.
  • Make sure the background picture doesn't distract from the text!!!!!!!!!!!!
I shouldn't be surprised, but for both sections of my tenth grade class today, we were hard at work to the last minutes of class.  In fact, I had a couple of groans in each class that our 90 minute class period had come to an end. On a Friday!  Students wanted more time to write. What more could an English teacher ask for!?
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