It’s time for some cooking magic in the classroom as we dip into practically perfect world of entertainment and culture guided by none other than Martha Stewart. As Martha says, “you should love playing with learning.” Blogging has become the new playground for writing in my American Literature classes. In the past, I have had students read and study blogs but never implemented a full scale, student-owned blog in my classroom. Until this year.
After researching many platforms, I found that Edublogs was the easiest and most user friendly for me as the administrator and for my students as bloggers. It meets Martha’s standards for creativity and perfection rolled into one beautiful package.
Not sure how to start? Training provided by Edublog is available as a series of video podcasts on their own YouTube channel. These videos provide step by step guidance on each element of establishing and managing a blog.
Edublogs allows for customizable ad free sites. The dashboard is simple to follow with administrators having the ability to manage the site from one screen. I can even manage multiple blog sites from this dashboard. With full functionality, creating multimedia blog posts without having to be an expert in HTML takes no time.
Best of all, an Edublog site fits a teacher’s budget. Free.
Not wanting to go live with my 150 students all at once, I created a small blog with students members of the school’s National English Honor Society. Their blog consists of a weekly book review of current and classical literature. Students are 100% managing this blog including creating, updating and posting content each week. So far there have been no complaints or issues.
Once I felt comfortable with the platform and had tested it out with my smaller group, it was time to turn my 150 budding bloggers loose. As part of our study into transcendentalism and Into the Wild, we examined our reading making cross text and personal connections. I created the initial thread not wanting to bring down Edublogs with a bunch of newbies trying to figure out how to create a stand alone post. For this post I kept it to just text and pictures; however, if you review other posts of mine on this blog, you will find videos and hyperlinks embedded. Honestly, they are super easy to create.
Students were tasked with responding to my post. 166 comments later suffice it to say that I think my students have mastered step 1 of blogging: responding to others in a thread.
We even started responding to one another through the comment reply feature. Students were so excited to see that someone had commented on their writing. They had an audience and that sparked them to write more.
Our discussions have been robust and span multiple classes bringing together students who never have an opportunity to interact.
There’s even some lively debate about character motivation! To quote home making maven Martha Stewart, “it’s a good thing”.
To ensure that our blog was not filled with such meaningful comments of “yeah, I agree” I wrote a set of expectations. We were after all discussing literature in this blog so I wanted text references (with citations). Students treated this like a mini-paper where they stated opinion, cited evidence, then supported that evidence with commentary.
Next on the menu, students will be creating their own original blog posts about our next unit of study. This time I will show them how to embed videos and pictures to spice it up. Linking student blogs to mine is as simple as sharing a unique join code located on the dashboard.
Writing for authentic audiences is essential for developing student authors. Blogging proves to be an easy and engaging approach that excites even the most reluctant blossoming writers. Check out our blogs and give this a try yourself.
Blogging is indeed a good thing.
WVCTE wants you to contribute to the conversation. Have you tried blogging in your classes? Leave us a comment, Tweet us your thoughts @WVCTE, or connect with us on Facebook!
Cheryl Stahle is a contributing blogger for WVCTE. She teaches at Parkersburg High School and is the Co-Director of the Central West Virginia Writing Project based out of Marshall University and is the Vice President of the Greater Kanawha Valley Reading Council. She is a not so regular tweeter @msstahleclass but you can find her on Instagram at @stahlecheryl. Cheryl presents professional development at local and state conferences throughout the year—make sure to stop by and introduce yourself! Besides teaching American Literature, her other classroom goal is to teach 1970s classic rock to her students. This year, Cheryl is working on her Superintendent certification….more to come on this.